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 – 22 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 10 Dec 2011 – Hikari and Hibari visit the Takakura residence to thank Himari for the scarves, but she’s no longer there. She took off to try to convince Kanba not to throw his or anyone elses’ lives away for her sake. He won’t listen, and would sooner turn the world to ash than let her die. Masako also tries to get him to snap out of his obsession, but he starts an operation of car bombings that get him surrounded by police. He heads down into the bowels of Tokyo to escape, but they’re there too, and he gets shot. Masako decides to protect him by acting as bait.

Kanba’s stint as a terrorist leader is short-lived this week, as he initiates several brazen attacks with his car bomb smartphone bowling app (!), and essentially escapes too slowly. Neither of his siters want him to continue to serve the “curses” of Sanetoshi and the dead Takakuras. But Kanba is a stubborn kid, and he’ll to absolutely anything to save Himari. Her and Masako’s feelings just bounce off him. He’ll die for her…and by episode’s end he’s well on his way to just that.

Kanba, Shoma, Himari, Masako, Mario: it would seem fate was against all of them. Even Momoka couldn’t escape her ultimate fate of oblivion. Love is certainly losing out to fate and curses at this point, but we’re not about to throw in the towel and lebel this series as fatalist or pessimistic. Love, and life, are down, but not out. Double-H didn’t just show up at random at this point in the story: they have to have some deeper purpose.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Mawaru Penguindrum – 19 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Nov 2011 – Tabuki flees, leaving Yuri to bring back Momoka on her own. Himari is relased from the hospital and enjoys sukiyaki with Kanba, Shoma, and Ringo, but fears Sanetoshi only let her go because she’s going to die anyway. Masako enters the Takakura household with a bone to pick with Himari. She tries to fire a blue recollection ball at her, and Shoma and Kanba stop her. But an exhaust fan trigger’s Himari’s memories of the Child Broiler anyway.

In this topsy-turvy, twisty-turny, noodle-churning, downside-up series, what is the one constant throughout? That Kanba, Shoma, and Himari are siblings, right? That’s what we…wait, what? Even that’s not true now? But…but she knit them sweaters! And she’s in all those photos! And what is the thing Masako is always talking about crushing soon? Perhaps he wants to crush the lie…the lie of Himari being their sister? Does that mean Masako’s his real sister??

O Hai, Takakura parents! Just hangin’ out at a ramen shop in Ogikubo, huh? They certainly don’t look like mass murderers…but now we know it’s them passing packets of cash to Kanba. In envelopes marked “Kiga”, just like an apple Shoma offered Himari a lifetime ago – the fruit of fate. So it seems we’ve got Sanetoshi, the Takakura parents, and the late Momoka all playing with fate like a chemistry set in their own ways. We remain utterly enraptured.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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 – 16 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 29 Oct 2011 – This week delves into the life and the past of Masako Natsume of the incredibly wealthy Natsume Clan. Her grandfather Sahei seemed determined that his family never be happy, and drove his son, her and Mario’s father away. She continually dreams of killing Sahei in elaborate ways, but when she wakes up, he’s always out in the yard practicing with a wooden sword. A poorly-stripped blowfish finally does him in, rather than any action by Masako, but he returns from the grave through Mario and challenges her to a similar blowfish challenge. She eats both plates, and while her body works out the poison, she dreams of a train where Kanba and her father are now servants of Dr. Sanetoshi, chosen to “put the world back on track…”

This series seems to know when a character is getting either too mysterious or too annoying, and then comes up with an episode that lifts that character up to a far more sympathetic and likable stature. Enter Masako, who finally gets some meaty backstory. She comes from strong stock; as not even death by blowfish could keep her gramps from messing with her life. As per usual, the devil’s in the details this week, and all the details here work.

From Strauss’ Blue Danube playing over a day in Masako’s life, to the hilariously random ways she dreams of killing Sahei, to Sahei’s equally hilarious and ridiculous feats of strength, and all his misogynist “Saheisms” like this nugget: “I like my tea like I like my women: as young as possible.” But also telling is how much Masako takes after the grandfather she hates. She too has a will of steel. And at the end of the day, her ultimate goal is the same as her stalkee Kanba’s: to protect her younger sibling and have a happy family. But it would seem she’s not quite ready to make the same sacrifice he made to save Himari. She wisely does not trust Sanetoshi, and neither do we, at least not until his backstory is told…


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 – 09 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 9 Sept 2011 – From the aquarium gift shop, Himari follows Threetie to a massive, bizarre library where she meets the librarian Sanetoshi, who reads from numerous books stories that reflect events in Himari’s past, focusing on her former best friends and Hibari and Hikari, who she broke up with. They are now famous idols.

Well, for those who wanted a dedicated Himari episode, and we count myself among them, look no further. Beginning, middle, and end, this was All Himari. That’s because it was all a dream…but what a dream! We learned things about her we never knew. We credit the series for including so many little foreshadowing visual puzzle pieces which this episode proceeded to assemble to create a picture of her past. The fact it was all a dream also allowed for some pretty cool Willy Wonka-esque visuals. The library itself is an architectural gem.

Now we know who the girls in the subway PSAs are! Now we know the significance of the three girls in the ending sequence! Now we know that pink-haired girl in the opening…isn’t a girl! Himari was a spoiled brat who scarred her mother for life. She also could have been in a idol trio named “Triple-H” (a name you can be sure the WWE would have a problem with), but blew it. So much new information, so many new questions. Sanetoshi is real, despite appearing in a dream. And he calls Himari the “Bride of Fate.” Himari wakes up to the news that Shoma has been hit by a car. Not a great way to wake up.


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)