Posted by psgels on 28 October 2011 with categories: Mawaru Penguin Drum



Right after episode 14 is a popular time for characters to come with their backgrounds. I just love the way in which this episode did it, though. Natsume’s background was awesome in its presentation. It was completely over the top, but it fits this series really well. It was a really hilarious episode, and especially Natsume’s dreams were hysterical.

What’s more is that there still is order within the chaos: you could really see traits that give no mistake that she and her grandfather were related. This episode did a great job of explaining her background, her role in the story (although please: couldn’t they have gotten a younger voice actor for the young Kanba?). Also, the penguin hat isn’t dead!?

Overall, in a way I can understand where the people are coming from when they say that this show throws random stuff at the viewer. I have this same problem with most Shaft series, like the later series of Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei and Bakemonogatari: the creators there really seemed to throw in just whatever the hell they’d like based on shallow wordplay that eventually got way too predictable in its unpredictability. Penguin Drum however has for me achieved the perfect balance between chaos and order: everything is related, but the things it throws at the viewer are all very creative and imaginative, and yet all of it is meant to flesh out the characters. And the thing is that this show is continuously changing: it still has the same style and mood, but it keeps finding new ways to play with its scenarios in lots of different ways.

And granted, Utena WAS better at this. It was completely un-rivaled in how well it used its own repetition to create excellent drama. However, we have yet to reach the ending of this series. Overall it’s a bit hard to compare two series of different lengths at this point, but what I can say at this point is that Utena’s brilliance lied in how much it did with so little. At this point it too still hadn’t shown its trumps yet, but instead of trying to be the roller-coaster ride that Penguin Drum is trying to be, it really tried to go for an as elegant series as possible. And with that it ended up being un-rivaled.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

35 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Hopefully this post won’t get to 100+ comments. Although I have to say with the exception of a certain poster I found most of the posts both positive and negative to be interesting to read. Everyone is going to like different things in the end and yes get something different out of fiction.

    Anyways while I admired Utena a lot I personally never felt connected to it like Penguindrum. I also felt that series maybe could have used a trim down (26 episodes instead of 39) Although it’s ending was marvelous and I only hope the PD ending will be half as good.

    Also I don’t really feel anything is that random in Penguindrum and I think most of the symbolism has a purpose to tell us more about the characters, the world, & the story itself. Of course we can’t fully judge this series until it’s over. I think some people just naturally dislike this type of storytelling: where even if we get some answers more mysteries are created. We probably won’t get all the answers until the end and even then some things might be left open to interpretation. That’s fine not to like these type of stories but it’s not a problem with the storytelling itself.

  2. Dalek-baka says:

    Should i say spoilers? :>
    did someone caught what was this time on those metro signs?

    and everything seems to be centered on Momoka and what she did (with that puting world into order at the end)

    btw dreams were hillarious :D

  3. hurin says:

    I wish I had noticed this sooner, Natsume and Kanba have the same eyes, they’re brother and sister.

  4. random lurker says:

    …I have never been so confused by this series until now….

  5. Oroboros says:

    @Hurin
    You’re onto something. That little boy in the garden with Natsume was Kanba, wasn’t he? His hair was all black.

  6. BlandUserGsEf says:

    “Everyone went nutso” indeed.

  7. wendeego says:

    @Oroboros: why was his voice so deep, though? I’m betting that it’s a case similar to Utena, where Anthy is able to take on the form of other people in order to manipulate events. Maybe Sanetoshi plays the role of her soul mate in order to lead her along? Could be totally wrong, though.

    Could also be that Masako is related to Kanba. Maybe she’s a bastard child of some sort? That would add a totally new level of squickiness to their relationship, as well!

  8. jzar says:

    As always a good show but boy oh boy…..I think I am dazed and confabulated. So I didn’t get a lot of that …..

    maybe ________
    the changing of fate turned the world onto the off track where = world dies . In order to get the world ‘back’ they have to change what was changed.?

    See it makes my brain hurt like a black penguin was beating on my temple with an apple that turned into a pear.

    Could she please visit me in my dreams and make me strip? Then I would feel better.

    Seriously enjoyed the episode it lets hope it goes someplace worthwhile.

  9. PL says:

    Nice review.
    Thanks for toning the love down, psgels.
    I can’t guess at anything, only watch.
    So that’s what I’ll do.

  10. VyseLegend says:

    Funny episode, the dreams + grandfather segments started to remind me of Excel Saga…

    This show could resolve itself intelligently and turn out to be a pretty great show. I just hope they don’t botch that and make this a train wreck of confusion instead. I don’t think the show will top Utena, though. Its just way too quirky for that.

  11. Mormegil says:

    what

  12. Endon says:

    Okay, am I the only one who noticed Sanetoshi and Himari’s exchange that ended with Sanetoshi telling Himari that she’s an adult, too? What did they do, or am I just look at it weird?

  13. ljf says:

    well that’s nice, now we have two incestuous relationships brewing…

  14. kero says:

    It didn’t make sense, (not like it never really does) but why would Kanba be visiting Natsume in the garden at that age, what?

    Also yes Natsume and Kanba do look alike! and we all know the scene where we’re they mentioned Himari’s mother had given birth to ONE son.

    @endon, yeah, that part where he says Himari is an adult? What is the meaning behind that??

    My favourite part, was the survival strategy written on paper bit!

    And.. I forget, is the symbol on those mens clothes at the end with Kanba the same symbol that his dad used, if that was his dad?

  15. c160 says:

    Not really awesome material for me, would rank it more like “good”. And yeah, Kanba’s kid voice was really something. With the new theory of Kanba being Masako’s brother, it seems Kanba will never escape the siscon label XD Oh and I think the people on the other train are trying to fix the changes that Momoka made with her diary.

    And I think you summarized what was so good about Utena perfectly, they really had so little and yet the end was really good. With penguindrum I really hope the ending will be as good, what’s with all the things they’ve thrown at us.

  16. kevin says:

    The symbolism in Penguindrum is pointless. I personally prefer much more reserved and more human portrayals of characters. I love when a character’s expression can tell you everything you need to know about what they are feeling. That is real, that is honest. Cowboy Bebop was a perfect example of that, you look at Spike and you can read him like a finely detailed book, that is powerful, that is meaningful. That is more telling of a character than this bullshit Penguindrum subjects us too like something that’s supposed to be a birth canal or some stupid shit like that. haha.

  17. Lord of Socks says:

    @ Kevin:
    ok i am not fan of Cowboy Bebop… well it was pretty boring for me to be honest – so I may misread that reading thing.
    But whats wrong in pointless symbolism? If autors are making fun of viewers thats fine, as long as they are doing it in inteligent way. If all those things are put there just to confuse, well I am not against it – that one way you can go with plot.
    And if the end it will appear that it has very simple or even no solution/meaning I still will think it’s a good series – because I enjoyed watching it.

  18. kevin says:

    I am just stating that I prefer understated symbolism and character development.

  19. Kim says:

    As for character development: the scene when Ringo called herself Shouma’s stalker was just great. Even if Shouma doesn’t have faith Ringo will not give up on him

  20. Kim says:

    And my comment was cut off for some reason :/

    I also said I liked that we saw little Kanba with little Masako so we can see that they did have a connection since they were children (the part with Kanba talking in that deep voice just made me laugh).

  21. Puran says:

    Funny how you claim Utena WAS better, when Utena only got *really* good in the last 6 episodes.

    Replace Utena’s last 6 episodes (or, heck, even only the last 2) with average “good” episodes and it becomes a good, but unremarkable series.

    What I’m saying is, don’t compare an incomplete series with a complete one.

  22. AidanAK47 says:

    Exactly Puran. You see that’s why endings are so important. No matter how good your memory is when you look back on the show a year after you have seen it the only things you will recall are the defining moments where as the mediocre to bad slip from your memory.

    As for whether the symbolism in penguin drum is pointless or not, I say we left the judgement till the show is actually finished. Then we can decide what was pointless. However practically all the symbolism in episode 13 pointed out that the penguin hat personality was dead. And now she comes back to tell off a peeper, say Haiku, strip her and take pictures. I would be shocked if that scene had a point besides outright comedy. Still I do love the penguin hat personality and I admit that I laughed at survival strategy on paper.

    I am still half and half on this show. From what I see it looks as if the writers have no idea where they are going with it because the past few episodes have been stalling the plot with flashbacks. But I still enjoy it.

  23. Kim says:

    @Aidan

    Did you ever think just maybe the characters’ past are important to the present plot?

  24. Aidanak47 says:

    @Kim

    A characters past helps develop a character however unless something in there past has to do with the present plot it is nothing but sideline exposition.

    From seeing Natsumes past we have found out that shes a manager of a company, met Kanba when she was young, and Mario died because his grandfather possessed him somehow and tried to make him eat blowfish and Natsume pushed him aside causing him to drown instead.

    Thinking of that this episode was roughly 90% pointless. We knew Natsume was well off, we knew Mario is the reason why shes looking for the diary and that he died.(But nobody could guess that ridiculous death) And we knew Kanba met Natsume sometime and when or where is irrelevant.

  25. Kim says:

    @Aidan,

    There were actually things in this flashback that could be important to the plot:

    1) Kanba telling Natsume they have a bind bond binding them together and that is why he will stick by her even if she is cursed..why?
    2) Natsume’s father saying the 4 of them can be together as a family? I don’t think the 4th is the grandfather do you?

    3) And yes the flashback also developed Natsume’s character.

    Also the scene with Mario & the Blowfish was not to show us how Mario died.

    Natsume already knew who Sanetoshi was in that scene & she was not surprised about her brother only seeing her father & Kanba with the men in black. We do not know why Mario “needs to be saved” yet, except he is apparently possessed by her grandfather.

  26. italo says:

    I really feel that the blowfish/grandpa spirit possession was uncalled for. She basically drowned Mario. He was up to his ankles in that pond!

    Anyway, this show feels like utena more and more by the day. As it’s word is not as supernatural as Utena’s, I think something bad might come out of it if this continues. The pink haired doctor is just a very pink copy of Utena’s prince.

    I’m nervous the writers kill this show for me. Really nervous. But the way, momoka’s hair from her funeral was not pink.

    What Oroborus said is still ticking in my head though. There was something different with Kanba.

  27. Stuff says:

    @Aidan
    Im pretty sure that scene where masako eats the blowfish at the end of the episode and pushes him in the water is NOT how mario died. (i didnt consider that scene to be a flashback) He was already dead, since masako already knew who sanetoshi was.

    @italo
    momokas hair is purple in her funeral picture. If you look at the very very bottom of her hair you can see the color. It’s just the way her picture was lighted which gave us the impression that it was another color

  28. AidanAK47 says:

    “1) Kanba telling Natsume they have a bind bond binding them together and that is why he will stick by her even if she is cursed..why?”

    That’s not really an answer. That’s just another question.

    “2) Natsume’s father saying the 4 of them can be together as a family? I don’t think the 4th is the grandfather do you?”

    I assumed it was her mother. I can’t remember hearing anything about her mother being death or otherwise.

    “3) And yes the flashback also developed Natsume’s character.”

    Like I said. Sideline exposition.

    “Im pretty sure that scene where masako eats the blowfish at the end of the episode and pushes him in the water is NOT how mario died. (i didnt consider that scene to be a flashback) He was already dead, since masako already knew who sanetoshi was.”

    I thought that might be the case. So that means that the scene with the grandfather taking over the boy was pretty much pointless.

  29. Kim says:

    @Aidan,

    Why on Earth do you think we should get all the answers now? There are still 8 episodes left. We probably won’t get most of the answers until the end of the series.

    I thought that might be the case. So that means that the scene with the grandfather taking over the boy was pretty much pointless.

    What do you mean pointless? You have no idea if that will come back later or not. Maybe it is pointless. But you cannot say it is until the series is over & we actually see what was important or not.

    And you know what even if everything was pointless (which I highly doubt) this was still a brilliantly surreal episode.

  30. Perrin4869 says:

    Life is pointless we all die

  31. AidanAK47 says:

    “Why on Earth do you think we should get all the answers now?”
    Did I say that? I don’t want all the answers. I want just one or two. The reason I want some answers is because we are more than halfway though the series. If these massive number of questions is left till the end then the last episode will be nothing more than full out exposition. Which would be a dull climax.
    I myself said at the beginning that one shouldn’t expect answers from this show. Now I find myself seeking them.

    It is pointless until this series proves otherwise. Which contrary to your expectation I highly doubt. If the directors past has taught us anything it’s that this scene will probably never be referenced again and be left up to the hardcore fans to invent a scenario up using vague symbolism.

    Don’t misunderstand. I am not a villain. I like Penguindrum. I am just disappointed that one of the one of the shows I looked forward to watching has had a drop in quality. Not just in plot progression but even animation. I mean they don’t even bother to draw character faces sometimes now. You can’t tell me it’s because the animation budget ran out because this show hasn’t exactly been full of movement.

  32. Kim says:

    @AidanAK47

    Okay I am not going to debate with you anymore, I think we just have different expectations from this series. That’s perfectly fine. As I said in my first post this type of storytelling is not for everyone.

  33. wendeego says:

    Thing is, though, we have been given answers over the past couple of episodes. A couple of things we’ve learned:

    -Sanetoshi believes himself to be Momoka’s soul-mate (Momoka obviously does not agree)
    -Momoka’s diary (with or without Momoka herself) has a real, tangible effect on the world–it’s not just a sentimental object.
    -Whatever power fuels the diary probably fuels Himari’s penguin hat as well (the infinity symbol the penguin hat made as it fell in episode 13 is too similar to be coincidental.) Whether this means that it contains Momoka’s soul or not is up for debate.
    -Both Yuri and Tabuki were Momoka’s dual childhood friends and soulmates. On that note, the Tragedy of M was early foreshadowing that Yuri is trapped in her engagement to Tabuki! Imagine that.
    -There is almost certainly something more to Tabuki than what we’ve seen–that scene of him kissing Momoka’s foot in the OP, coupled with the cage behind him, is too sinister to be otherwise
    -Also on the note of OP stuff–the shards of glass flying past as Himari falls! Remember all those mirrors that kept falling on the Takakura parents?
    -The secret organization that Kanba is working for is not only a terrorist organization, but Sanetoshi’s terrorist organization, devoted to “putting the world back on track.”
    -Shouma is a lot more unhinged than he initially seemed
    -Ringo’s finally gotten over her problems!
    -Natsume picked up her belief in winners and losers from her grandfather constantly drumming it into her skull, leading her to become a “hunter.” This parallels Yuri in how both women became reflections of the very qualities they initially feared and despised–Yuri becoming an actress despite believing herself to be horrifically ugly, Natsume embracing the “dog eat hog world” to save her brother
    -Moreover, when Natsume is given the chance to descend to Kanba’s level in Sanetoshi’s organization by the leader himself, she REJECTS HIM!
    -Possibly most important: SACRIFICE IS KEY. Momoka’s diary requires a sacrifice to change fate. Shouma risks his life to save Ringo in episode 4. Sanetoshi can get around this for a short while with his vials of life-giving chemical, but ultimately the only lasting changes are made by putting your life on the line for somebody else.

    Finally, Sanetoshi is supposedly trying to “put fate back on track.” Assuming that fate was put “off track” by the intervention of Momoka during the Sarin Gas Attacks (as I think we can theorize by now, considering what we know) the main conflict of this series might be a case of one reality trying to override another. In this case, fate has already been changed–by Momoka–and Sanetoshi is attempting to return to the previous track.

    I’m aware that a lot of Penguindrum references other stuff, books and art and symbols, without explicitly confirming much in terms of plot or character. It can be very infuriating that way. On the other hand, if you look close at what’s going on (reading other blogs helps!) I think that a giant, interconnecting framework linking everything together is pretty apparent.

  34. wendeego says:

    Also, not everything in Penguindrum has to have a point! Ikuhara has said multiple times that the secret to Utena lay in Miki’s stopwatch, but I think everybody knows by now that the stopwatch was a running joke and that Ikuhara was just trolling people (as he does quite frequently)

    So yeah, the haiku battle and picture-taking? Plainly ridiculous. The dream montage? Same. Everything else, on the other hand…

  35. Jared says:

    On the penguin hat: as has been noted by others (also, by the penguin hat!), the absence of the penguindrum equates to the absence of the penguin hat. The reverse should also hold true, and we already know that Shouma got half of the diary from Yuri.

    Those dreams: not pointless, they’re exposition. A.k.a. Natsume is OBSESSED with her grandfather: it’s her personal mental defect. It may also relate to her concern for Mario: she thinks that if her grandfather has a hand in Mario’s raising, then Mario will die. She might be wrong, though we’ll have to wait to see.

    The possession kinda fits with the ‘fate/destiny’ thing.

    The… photo-shoot is similar, but unless the maid becomes a recurring character, it’s really only important for informing us of the penguin hat’s return.

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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 10:53 PM)
    Fuckin autocorrect!
    Me=Remind Me
    Elle=Eple
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 10:52 PM)
    @K-off: their style is very creative and flexible, almost every track has a distinctively different feel to it. These are a few must-see videos of the band:
    Only This Moment: http://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=90GR25U8qtcRemind Me: http://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=1Xhdy9zBEws
    Elle: http://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=tf_ieWnu-SE I’m sure you’ll dig ;-)
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 03:46 PM)
    @Bam Nice. I fucking love hard hitting electro music.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 10:29 AM)
    I freakin love the Norweigan electro band Röyksopp. Their videos are also award winning works of art which hit all the surreal chords that I adore:
    http://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=ADBKdSCbmiM
  • Asuka111
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 08:21 AM)
    @K-Off She’s so gorgeous X3
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 08:17 AM)
    @Asuka I know Francoise Hardy, she’s amazing. http://youtu.be/LNEEVsZt8vI
  • Asuka111
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 08:10 AM)
    Amyone listen to European music? Stromae for one.
  • WyattX
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 07:41 AM)
    @Vincent Well, Japan has its own pop scene, so I don’t think that really equates.
  • Vincent
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 07:32 AM)
    @WyattX In Korea, it’s about the same, except indie bands turn into pop bands rather than shouty bands and anyone who’s not relatively good looking is eventually kicked.
  • WyattX
    (Tuesday, Sep 30. 2014 07:28 AM)
    But going back to Miyavi real quick, I remember being really impressed with his guitar slap. But now I just roll my eyes. A lot of these Jbands have fallen and have been replaced with this generic, shouty music.

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