Mawaru Penguindrum – 02 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 July 2011

“Which holes do her legs go through?”
“Fool, those holes lead to the Cosmos.”

-Shouma/Kanba @ a lingerie store

Good lord, that was an awesome, brilliant piece of entertainment. If anything, better than the first episode, since some things were already established. This just added more. More places, more people, more layers of story, more comedy, more mysteries; more lingerie and more stalking!

It’s all in the details: For instance, there’s a little animated PSA on the Sky Metro in which warns against groping in no uncertain terms…then Shouma is accused of just that, groping a girl on the train because his preguin friends (whom no one else can see) did so. That girl just happens to be friends with the person Shouma and Kanba are tailing – Ringo Oginome – the proverbial apple in the OP and ED. Ringo loves fate.

Hardly anything we’d seen from Ringo seemed all that suspicious, but it turns out she’s far from normal, compulsively stalking a teacher she’s fallen for (lying on a blanket under his house listening to him) as the brothers stalk her (with their penguins acting as their eyes and ears). While Himari is wearing her penguin hat, she has another “Incoming Message From The Big Giant Head” moment, ordering the bros to fetch the Penguindrum from Ringo. Problem is, she doesn’t tell them what it is.

So now, having followed Ringo, and learned the stalked is also a stalker, they have to gain possession of something they know not what from someone who is clearly unstable. Hell, she herself could be the drum thing. Who knows? All we know is, this episode was fantastic, and we can’t wait for the next one.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 01 (Retro Review)

Rather than posting nothing during the weekly gap between Monday and Thursday, we’ll be posting “Retro Reviews” of episodes we’ve watched in the past, cleaned up a bit and updated with our new ratings. We’re starting with three of our favorite series of the past couple years: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Shiki, and Mawaru Penguindrum.

Originally posted 8 July 2011 – Wow…very nice! we weren’t expecting all that. We like surprises, and with Mayo Chiki looking so disappointing, we picked this up series instead. We almost immediately liked it. It has such a bright, shiny, colorful presentation. Its characters are full of life…even if they die briefly.

Brothers Shoma and Kanba have to take care of their terminally ill little sister, Himari (Amazingly, she doesn’t sport white or silver hair). Funnily enough, their hair (blue, red, and yellow, respectively) is the same triad as Star Driver. Anyway, after a lovely day when she’s allowed out of the hospital, she suddenly collapses and is rushed back, where she dies. Shoma muses about the age old question of why God lets bad things happen to good people.

But then something happens he knew to be impossible: Himari wakes up. While wearing a creepy penguin headdress he bought her at the zoo gift shop, she seems to be possessed by some strange entity – which may be an extradimensional penguin. She’s good as new, so they go home, and a frozen package containing ominous ice eggs awaits them. Like the dragon eggs in Game of Thrones, these are valuable things.

When they hatch, they become adorable little blue penguin helpers that only the siblings can see. But the opening credits write some big checks that suggest the three siblings will have to pay those extradimensional beings back in exchange for the miracle of extending Himari’s life. What exactly that recompense is, we’ll learn more next week. Really fun and zany introduction. Major style points throughout. We particularly like how Tokyo Metro signage is used in all transitions, and the coaltar of the deepers ED rocks.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Working’!! – 03

Souta’s youngest sister Nazuna starts working at Wagnaria, and upstages Aoi. She also gets the wrong idea, telling her writer sister Izume that Popura is his love interest. After seeing a photo, Izume thinks Popura is underage. When Nazuna learns Yamada feels threatened, she breaks a plate and asks for help, boosting Yamada’s confidence.

When it comes down to it, Working!! is a show about nothing, but that nothing is very well-presented. Things happen, certainly, but rarely anything of lasting consequence. No huge conflicts. No villains. No ultimate goal. It’s all about the in-between; the minutiae; the creamy middle. And the details. And so far, Working’s second season has all that down. This week was as pleasant as Nazuna is tall for her age.

This episode focuses a lot on Takanashi’s four sisters, particularly Nazuna and Izume. It’s pretty obvious there are two camps in the Takanashi household: the givers and the takers. Souta, Nazuna and the eldest, Kazue, are the former; while Kozue the flirt and Izume the struggling author are the latter…it’s just interesting how each sibling makes use of their energies, and how the family manages to stick together just fine. Everyone has their role; just like at Wagnaria.

Rating: 3

Mawaru Penguindrum 12

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 I’ll remain patient and hopes this makes a little more sense eventually.


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum 1 – First Impressions

Wow…very nice! I wasn’t expecting all that. I like surprises, and with Mayo Chiki looking so disappointing, I picked this up instead. I almost immediately liked it. It has such a bright, shiny, colorful presentation. Its characters are full of life…even if they die briefly.

Brothers Shoma and Kanba have to take care of their terminally ill little sister, Himari (Amazingly, she isn’t rail-thin and white-haired). In fact, their hair (blue, red, and yellow, respectively) is the same triad as Star Driver. Anyway, after a lovely day when she’s allowed out of the hospital, she suddenly collapses and is rushed back, where she dies. Shoma muses about the age old question of why God lets bad things happen to good people.

But then something happens he knew to be impossible: Himari wakes up. While wearing a creepy penguin headdress he bought her at the zoo gift shop, she seems to be possessed by some strange entity – which may be an extradimensional penguin. She’s good as new, so they go home, and a frozen package containing ominous ice eggs awaits them. Like the dragon eggs in Game of Thrones, these are valuable things.

When they hatch, they become adorable little blue penguin helpers that only the siblings can see. But the opening credits write some big checks that suggest the three siblings will have to pay those extradimensional beings back in exchange for the miracle of extending Himari’s life. What exactly that recompense is, we’ll learn more next week. Really fun and zany introduction. Major style points throughout. I particularly like how Tokyo Metro signage is used in all transitions. Oh yeah, coaltar of the deepers end music…nice.  Rating: 4