Mawaru Penguindrum – 24 (Fin)(Retro Review)

Originally posted 24 Dec 2011 – Shoma confronts his brother, who has Himari’s dead body and is working with Sanetoshi, but Himari convinces him to stop the madness and let go; Kanba disappears. Ringo is confident she knows the words that will transfer fate even without the diary. Doing so means she’ll be swallowed up by flames, but Shoma sacrifices himself in her stead. Life returns to normal, but Himari and Mario are both healthy, Himari is friends with Ringo, and Shoma and Kanba are little kids walking by from the first episode, talking about the penguin drum.

Reset! Well, in this series, a reset made sense; the entirety of what we saw until now had taken place in a world where everyone was cursed from the stalemate between Sanetoshi and Momoka. Despite how fun and filled with love the Takahara siblings’ lives were, such a life was unsustainable. Kanba had to pay a considerable moral cost, and all the care he acquired for Himari would eventually be rendered ineffective, resulting in her death. With the curse lifted, Himari and Mario are no longer constantly near death, and Ringo can be herself. The cost was that family structure, and the new world we see lacks a painted house and a whimsical bedroom. Only the teddy remains, with a note from her no-longer-brothers stashed inside, somehow immune to the fate transfer.

For an episode in which Shoma and Kanba had a lot to say as youngsters, it’s a little disappointing that the producers didn’t secure good, authentic child voices. This has actually been a problem throughout the series, and it was hard to ignore during crucial scenes. But that’s pretty much our only gripe with what is the first series of any length we’ve rated 4 out of 4 (by our old v1.0 rating system, that is) for its whole run. No series throughout that run has come close to its attention to detail and unique mix of mystery, romance, sci-fi, metaphysics, and slapstick comedy. It fleshed everyone out and had terrific buildup to a fantastic finale. We’ll miss it.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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Mawaru Penguindrum – 23 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 16 Dec 2011 – Himari only has one night to live, and Shoma doesn’t leave her side. She tells him in a dream to save Kanba, who has fallen victim to a curse that turns his love against the world. He is Sanetoshi’s puppet, and Sanetoshi wants to destroy the current world. Sixteen years ago, he and Momoka met. He killed her, and she killed him, but each only halfway. She ended up within penguin hats, while he ended up in two black rabbits. Sanetoshi uses Kanba to lure Ringo to the aquarium, where he burns her diary. There’s still hope as long as the hats survive, but Shoma can’t do anything without his brother.

Does this episode border on the overly melodramatic at times? Yes, but as far as we’re concerned, the series has earned it, and it always keeps things grounded with the cartoon penguins. It’s taken twenty-three episodes, but nearly all the pieces have fallen into place. We know Sanetoshi is the villain, and he’s recruited Kanba with the promise to save Himari if he helps him destroy the world. Kanba only cares about Himari and nothing else, but could that attitude be the product of the curse brought upon the Takakura siblings sixteen years ago? In any case, Momoka and Sanetoshi had a spat, came to a dead draw, and now that duel is about to continue, with proxies on both sides.

Remarkably, this episode was yet again able to draw out some really strong emotions without resorting to the killing off of anyone; it appears at first as though Kanba shoots Shoma in the gut with a real gun, but it’s only penguinshot. Then a teddybomb explodes right before Ringo, but she’s relatively okay, and only her diary burns. But now it seems that while the loss of the diary is a blow, it doesnt mean the end. It was only a record of spells of fate transferrance, the object itself wasn’t important. Everyone’s still alive for now, but if things are going to stay that way, the brothers are going to have to make up and take out the ghost that haunts them. Can’t wait for the finish.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 20 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 25 Nov 2011 – Flashbacks recount the story of how Shoma met Himari. While his father was giving motivational speeches to the members of the Penguin/Kiga Force, Shoma happened upon her. They take care of a kitten together, but it’s killed by the rules. Himari heads for the Child Broiler to be made invisible, but Shoma saves her. Back in the present, the Kiga force continues to plan, and Kanba is intimately involved.

That was a bona fide tear-jerker. This was one of Mawaru Penguindrum’s best episodes, a feat considering week after week this series has rocked harder than anything else out there. Last week it said Shoma and Himari were soulmates, which threw us off, and this week it just came out and flat-out proved it without a shadow of a doubt. Himari would be long gone if Shoma hadn’t chosen her. The thing is, Shoma, Kanba and Masako, whatever they are to each other, were the children of members of the Penguin Force. Shoma blames himself for Himari’s fate because he’s the one who brought her into the “family”, i.e. the cult of penguin-loving eco-terrorists whose “survival strategy” isn’t limited to buying only local and organic.

The group believes they live in a bleak, “frozen” world full of corruption, divided between the chosen and unchosen. The unchosen die, after becoming invisible, as Himari almost did. (We’re not sure what good bombing (or apples) will do about this). Speaking of invisible apples, Ringo has had a much smaller role as we hit the home stretch. This is such a weird show, making us believe for so long the Takakuras are biological siblings, then setting up two love triangles – Shoma/Himari/Ringo, and Kanba/Himari/Masako. One of many things we’re still pondering: is the world and everything we saw this week the way it is because Momoka was killed? Was she the only one who could’ve made it better?


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Mawaru Penguindrum – 18 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 11 Nov 2011 (11/11/11!) – Tabuki kidnaps Himari, puts her in a bucket suspended by cables, and blows the cables up one by one as Kanba tries to reason with him. Tabuki wants to punish their father for killing Momoka, who was his savior, that of all mankind, and his only reason for living. When the last cable breaks, Kanba provides a lifeline for Himari, at the cost of his hand, but she is saved, and Tabuki slinks off, warning Ringo, imprisoned in the elevator the whole time, not to turn out like him. She swears she won’t.

It was pretty inevitable we’d get a Tabuki episode this week, and it was suitably dark, befitting someone now so lost, he’s prepared to kill poor innocent Himari as payback for losing Momoka. Like Yuri, Tabuki was abused as a child, first emotionally, as her mother demanded prodigal talent in exchange for love, and then physically, when his hand was slammed in a piano, ruining his future as a pianist. Things get a little symbolic with the “Child Broiler”, but suffice it to say, he’s about to be crushed into oblivion when Momoka saves him, begging him to live for her, who loves him.

Up until the last couple episodes, Tabuki has done a bang-up job concealing both his hatred of the Takakuras and the fact that the one person he chose to live for is gone. For years it stewed in him, culminating in the desperate ultimatum he issues Kanba. For a minute, we really though Himari was history, and the show played it that way, but seeing Kanba’s selfless love for Himari must have reminded him of Momoka, and so he spared her. We’ll tell ya what, now we’d like to meet their father and give him a good punch in the face for what he’s put his poor kids through…only it’s all fate, the good and the bad. Will what the parents do ever be revealed? It would be nice, but at this point unnecessary. This is some sublime drama.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 17 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 4 Nov 2011 – Himari is getting better thanks to Sanetoshi’s medicine, but the Penguin hat possesses her once more to reiterate that if they neglect the penguin drum, her bros will lose “what they treasure most” – but hesitates when asked whether the diary is the drum. Meanwhile, Yuri and Tabuki’s grudge against the Takekuras for their loss of Momoka comes to a head when both prepare an assault against Himari. Masako intercepts Yuri, wanting the other half of the diary for Mario, and they duel with words and weapons. Tabuki isolates Himari and Ringo, and makes his intentions known.

Wait…what is this? There’s too many episodes left, there can’t be a showdown! And yet, that’s exactly what we get, on multiple fronts, too. All the players and motives and vendettas continue to intertwine like strings of yarn in a sweater or subway lines on a map. Everything’s, like, connectin’, maaan. This episode gives us the warm highs of a happy, reunited group of siblings, and all the while the wolves wait at their door, wanting blood as payment for their parents’ crimes. It give just about everyone a little bit of screen time too, evoking a real feeling of…penultimateness.

The Penguin hat wants the drum, for what reason we still don’t know. Masako wants the diary to save Mario at any cost. Yuri wants it to transfer fate; for revenge. But most (and least) surprising is Tabuki, who we’ve hardly seen at all recently. Even after playing the Devil’s Advocate with Yuri, he turns out to be no less dead set on punishing the Takekuras. And then there’s Sanetoshi, whose minions warn Himari better hightail it back to the hospital, or they’ll punish her. As for Kanba, it’s hinted that his heart – the thing he’s using as currency to keep Himari alive – is the penguin drum. Well, both have a beat. Hey, why not?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 14 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 14 Oct 2011 – Now that he knows his parents killed Momoka, Shoma can no longer bear to see or hear Ringo, and warns her to stay away from him. Kanba continues to struggle to find the cash to save Himari, and Masako confronts him directly. Ringo goes to a bathhouse with Yuri, who not only knew Momoka, but believes she was her soulmate. She drugs Ringo and proceeds to have her way with her…

Poor Ringo! First she receives the full brunt of Shoma’s angst, only to be spirited away by Yuri in her Jaaag for reasons heretofore unknown. Ringo acts surprisingly normal here; it’s Yuri who completely goes nuts. And of course it all comes back to Momoka. Yuri was the one who stole half the diary. Not an episode of this series takes place anymore that doesn’t contain some twist or turn that changes everything. It’s why it’s stayed so good and so fresh.

While Ringo is on her wild ride, Himari and Shoma are both very moody. Shoma’s angst comes from knowing what his family’s responsible for, but it’s still unfortunate he pushes Ringo away. As for Himari, her illness, whatever it is, has prevented her from reaching her dream, and she feels worthless compared with her celebrity idol friends. Here’s hoping everyone cheers up a little next week. Look on the bright side, guys: your subway system rules!


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 13 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 7 Oct 2011 – “Dr.” Sanetoshi makes a deal with Kanba (somehow involving his heart) In order to administer a serum that restores her back to life. The episode deals with a host of flashbacks that document that fateful last day the Takakura children ever saw their parents. The police placed them in a hotel room as they searched their home for further evidence of their parents’ crimes, which resulted in deaths, including Momoka’s. Sanetoshi muses about fate, and whether it truly exists.The Tokyo Sky Metro celebrates its tenth anniversary. Ringo sends an email to her father stating she knows of his second family; she believes it was fate to encounter them.

Nothing in this world is pointless. Apparently, nothing in this series is pointless, either. The series continues to squeeze as much as it can out of every scene, every setting, every word…and every sign. Hints trickle down here and there, but like any good mystery, only enough to hold our interest; no more. This much is clear (which wasn’t earlier); the siblings’ parents did awful things. After all, they were “senior members” of something, for chrissake…that can’t be good. Also, the Metropolitan Police doesn’t send a battalion of detectives to your house on a whim.

While we’re piecing together more about the past, we’re wondering more and more how much longer Kanba can keep up whatever he’s doing to pay Sanetoshi to keep Himari alive, possibly tempting fate. Since the day their parents disappeared, the three “haven’t amounted to anything” by society’s standards, but they’ve stayed together as a family. The pain their parents caused to both Ringo, her family, and Tabuki through Momoka’s death is something Ringo always thought could be healed by becoming Momoka. I like how Tabuki seems to set her straight.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 12 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 1 Oct 2011 – Shoma describes to Ringo how his family killed her sister Momoka on the day she was born. It involved some kind of multifaceted operation that somehow resulted in a subway accident that claimed Momoka’s life. With Shoma and Kanba unable to retrieve the penguin drum, Himari weakens, and the headdress loses its power, which would result in her death. Kanba won’t allow that, and gives his own life energy to her, as he had in the past to revive her, but it’s not enough, and Himari flatlines…

It can be tempting to feel like you’re being strung along with Mawaru Penguindrum. It’s constantly shooting out hints, but it keeps so much below the surface sometimes, you start to wonder: how much of this will make sense by the end, and how much will just never be explained? Is the “Destination of Fate” a future setting? What’s with this talk of taboos, followed immediately by Kanba kissing a nude Himari? And what is the librarian doing with those oompaloompas?

The last few episodes were actually quite revealing from a storytelling standpoint. We now know for certain that Kanba made some kind of a deal to save Himari; it wasn’t a miracle. Shoma too seems to know more than he’d let on early in the series. It could well be that phenomena like helper penguins and survival strategies were old hat to the bros before the series even started? This and many, many other questions still abound. Fortunately, Mawaru Penguindrum has plenty of time to address them. So we’ll remain patient and have faith it will all come together by the end.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 11 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 23 Sept 2011 – Kanba confronts Natsume at her manse, where he dismisses her as a crazy stalker. He demands the diary half back, but she refuses, as her little brother Mario is in the same situation as Himari – wearing the penguin headdress and with pink eyes. Shoma recovers and Ringo decides to continue Project M by memory, using another frog ritual to make Tabuki fall madly in love with her. It works, but only for one night, and when he advances on her she demurs. Yuri suggests it could be because she’s actually in love with Shoma. During a survival strategy session, Shoma confesses to Ringo that he and Kanba were born on the same day as she was, and are responsible for her death…

Wait…what? What? What was that? By golly, week by week this series keeps churning out pure awesome mania. While we knew Ringo probably wasn’t actually over or done with Tabuki, we weren’t expecting her to actually succeed in seducing him (albeit with a disgusting frog ritual), and I sure as hell didn’t expect her to choke when the time came to lay the guy. Not after all that determination and nudity we’ve seen from her previously. The past couple episodes, her mind has been on Shoma more than Tabuki, which is huge. But because she’s so messed up in the head vis-a-vis Momoka, she doesn’t even realize that she could be in love with Shoma.

As for Curry Day…it was an exceptionally busy one. Not only were Ringo, Kanba, and Shoma born on the same day, Momoka died. Also Natsume and Mario are somehow involved. How the boys killed her, we haven’t the foggiest idea. How would they remember something that happened the day they were born anyway? Whatever they know has to have been second-hand info from their parents, right? Where are their parents, anyway? And why didn’t IMAGINE girl demand the penguin drum this time? Curiouser and curiouser…


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 10 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 16 Sept 2011 – Shoma survives the car accident and wakes up in the hospital, where Kanba and Himari are with him. Ringo apologizes profusely. The redhead then kidnaps him. The ransom is the half of the diary Ringo still possesses, which Ringo is willing to give up to save Shoma. After Kanba fails at subterfuge he’s sent on a psycadelic wild goose chase, where the redhead teases him. Ringo gives her the rest of the diary, abandoning Project M and her duty to become her sister Momoka. Also, Shoma hopefully learns now NEVER TO EAT ANYTHING GIVEN TO HIM.

We can’t believe we’re only ten episodes in, this series so jam-packed with stuff. Some of it can lead to near-critical levels of Whimsy, But we’ve not yet tired of its rich imaginative-ness (IMAGINE!), because this isn’t just about eye candy. The candy is just that, icing on a cake that is a really good, rich, clever, intricate mystery. Hints to its answers are hidden in plain sight. There’s terrific action, but it doesn’t overpower the proceedings. And then there’s the characters. The redhead is still an enigma (what is the ‘it’ she insists ‘must be crushed soon’? Kanba?) but she showed some playfulness for the first time, suggesting we may learn more about her soon.

Kanba and Himari have a cute talk about gifts from girls (in which gifts are described that Redhead later provides). And then there’s Ringo. The shock of seeing her slave boy hit by a car seems to be enough to snap her out of her derangement. She didn’t mention her unrequited love Tabuki once this week. Nor did she mention fate or destiny. Instead, she did something very redeeming: she gave it all up for Shoma’s sake, after he saved her life. Just when you though she’d gone off the deep end, she’s human again, and a nice one at that.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 08 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 3 Sept 2011 – Ringo’s measures grow more and more drastic as she attempts to fulfill her destiny as written in Momoka’s diary, attempting to rape Tabuki in his sleep twice. The second time, she has drugged him with cake and is stopped by Shoma, just as Yuri arrives. They escape, and Shoma learns Ringo’s true motivations. The diary takes a fall, and is snatched up by a passing motorcycle – likely the woman with the black penguin. Shoma is hit by a car after saving Ringo’s life.

Ringo just happens to see her estranged father at the zoo gift shop…with his other family – definitely a potential blow to one’s mental balance – and she didn’t have much to begin with. She tells Shoma (and us) that she has to carry Tabuki’s child at all costs – not for her, but her duty to her family. That’s why she’s going so far to bed him. All this attempted rape and obligation to get pregnant juxtaposed with such silly romantic (and western) daydreams present quite the stark contrast.

The line between Ringo and Momoka is definitely beginning to blur, and her obsession has progressed from creepy to downright life-threatening (not to mention morally and ethically wrong). She is now responsible for Shoma getting hit by a car. I doubt this will snap her out of her percieved duty and it surely won’t convince her to enter a more normal, reciprocal relationship with Shoma (if he lives), but in any case, she’s lost half her diary – and with it the complete map of the path she believes she must walk.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 07 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 Aug 2011 – Plans are being accelerated left and right. Yuri the Orca aims to marry Tabuki, who is firmly under the spell she’s cast upon him through really tacky singing (so to speak). So Ringo takes more and more drastic measures (dragging a hapless Shoma along for the ride) to ensure that what is written in the diary will become reality. There are lots of bathroom signage extras this week; I personally think they work as a money-saving device: they enable the core cast to have a very impressive wardrobe (i.e. not just school uniforms).

Last week showed that Ringo truly has more screws loose than tight, and this week only reinforces that. Not only are there more whimsical period daydreams, she tries to get a seasonal frog to lay eggs on Shoma’s back for a love potion (Penguin #2 gobbles them all up…perhaps by design). She’s also not above fully exploiting Shoma’s love for his sister by ordering him to do increasingly strange things. But after everything these two have been through, it’s really fun to watch them interact, despite the fact Shoma is totally submissive to her. His resistance is limited to complaining.

When the occult fails her (in a gross egg-laying scene), the diary tells her the M in Plan M is for “maternity”. Combine this with Kanba and The Hat’s suggestion they simply get the two in bed together, and Ringo decides to break into Tabuki’s house and somehow get pregnant with his child. Procreation is a survival strategy, after all. However, we don’t actually see who’s under the covers when Ringo enters the bedroom.

Meanwhile, the shifty redhead continues tailing Kanba, who receives another envelope of rent cash from the trenchcoated stranger on the metro. Also, this is the second straight episode where they don’t even bother showing Himari in her non-possessed form. The survival strategy song-and-dance happens rather randomly. I would hope at some point they shorten it. It’s starting to remind me of Star Driver’s Tauburn summoning…we don’t really need to see it in its entirety every week.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 06 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 19 Aug 2011 – Whatever screw is loose in Ringo, it’s getting looser by the week. Kanba’s woman troubles are far more serious than he had predicted. Shoma is no closer to ‘obtaining the Penguin Drum’, drawing the ire of The Hat. The animated displays on the Metro warn of an impending trap. Yes, it’s a typical Penguindrum so far: jumping all over the place, yet totally cohesive and monstrously entertaining.

Somebody has it in for Kanba in a way that makes his other exes’ scorn seem trifling. This mysterious woman with orange hair and blue eyes is eliminating the memories of Kanba’s exes. Holed up in her ginormous mansion full of marble busts, she vows to methodically destroy Kanba. She claims to control fate. Who is she? Momoka? (Wild guess.)

Momoka supposedly died years ago, and was Tabuki’s first, possibly only true love. Ringo inherited her diary and believes it is her destiny to become her sister – which means being with Tabuki. Her obsession is starting to have physical consequences – she has a high fever, and is prone to uncontrollable actions that – ahem – scare Shoma and make her mother get the wrong idea.

This is all deliciously excellent buildup. We’re itching for more answers, as always, but in the meantime the show does a superb job keeping you constantly interested in what’s going on, not simply longing for what’s to come. “Plan M” is something both Ringo and the mysterious “memory assassin” mention as well – it probably doesn’t mean “marriage” or “matrimony”, but could mean “Momoka” – another reason we suspect she could be Ringo’s sister.


Rating: 9 (Superior)