Posted on 4 November 2011 with categories: Mawaru Penguin Drum



How rare: a Penguin Drum episode devoted to build-up. Or at least, it’s promising a ton of stuff for next episode and its pacing was surprisingly quiet for this show’s standards, aside from one over the top confrontation between Yuri and Natsume. It did not lack in the plot twist department at all.

In fact, in terms of plot twists, thi episode can actually be seen as a turning point, where most of the things that we had to assume in the first half are canceled. The Penguin Drum isn’t the diary at all, and Tabuki has a very clear hidden agenda that he kept very well hidden. And heck, I just realized the parallels between Yuri, Tabuki and Momoka, and the main trio of this show. Add that to the rumors that Shigeyasu Yamauchi (the director of Casshern Sins) will be working on next episode, and yeah: I can’t wait.

I do want to say a bit about the music, though. It is very good, but in the past weeks I have been rediscovering Utena’s soundtrack, and I’m blown away by the utter difference between the two. The biggest thing is that Uterna’s soundtrack spans a whopping 7 disks in total! The creators went and composed a traditional soundtrack, and then they contacted like, three different musical groups to sing in and compose the different themes for all of the duels. This way they had a different song for every single duel in styles that evolved perfectly. Cowboy Bebob had this too.

Modern soundtracks just don’t have this. And yet, with smart production decisions this can still easily be possible. I mean, those different EDs are nice and all, but the creators could have easily used the budget they used for Triple H’s songs to actually compose songs that fit inside the series, instead of stuffing them into EDs. Having a huge soundtrack gives a lot more freedom and expression in terms of storytelling.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

27 Responses

  1. Puran says:

    Mmmm…. You make a good point, but there is also value to music repeating. It binds certain scenes together with the same feel and it can be used to remind you of previous scenes.

    All I’m saying is that it’s probably more of a creative choice than a budget issue.

  2. C160 says:

    I think Tabuki’s punishment won’t be all that bad. Judging from the preview, it’s probably just him telling Himari about the her parents. If he does decide to get physical like Yuri, here’s hoping that the rumor about Casshern Sin director is true. Ringo vs Tabuki,Casshern style anyone? :P

    About the music think, I also thought its kind of a waste.

  3. Perrin4869 says:

    Well, the main gripe I have against the endings are that they are just forgettable pop songs… while the duel themes for Utena are truly memorable and pumping and… It’s by far the best I’ve heard of Japanese music.

  4. Puran says:

    @Perrin: Isn’t that all about taste though?

    I also hate OP and ED songs and find them forgettable (Although I liked the first penguindrum ED, the shoegazing one), but I also found Utena’s duel music to be nothing remarkable. It obviously helps that I dislike with passion most of progressive rock.

  5. Perrin4869 says:

    @Puran: Sure it is about taste, but still, I guess that in a way, Utena’s soundtrack was more original. At least I’ve never heard something like it, and what’s more, I love it. Penguin Drum’s music just sounds like normal pop to me. Of course, I love rock and I usually don’t like pop, so yes, it IS about taste in the end.

  6. Stellvia says:

    @Puran: As someone who writes and listens to a lot of prog rock I would say that the Penguindrum soundtrack only has a few elements from that genre in it. That being said, I do enjoy how the soundtrack makes use of a wide range of texutres, from rock to pop and classical, and in cases like the OP’s manages to blend all the different elements together. That’s one of the big reasons I enjoy soundtracks like this, as well as prog :) As always though, it does come down to personal taste for every indivdiual. I love both OP’s (especially the full versions) but none of the ED’s have really grabbed me at all.

    I agree with Puran in that I believe that the use of the minimal amount of soundtrack material is a creative choice by the directors. I think that having too much in the way of soundtrack material would probably detract from the atmosphere, and since everything else in the series seems to link to everything else having a small amount of repeated musical material reinforces those links.

    Just my opinion, and it’s still a pretty good soundtrack nonetheless :P

  7. kevin says:

    PSGELS are you 12 years old? Why is it that so many of your “reviews” are filled with really obvious spelling mistakes or just plain childish talk? By the way, it’s Cowboy Bebop not “Bebob” and it’s Utena not “Uterna”.

    Also just want to make a point regarding your final statement. Size of soundtrack has nothing to do with story-telling. It can set an atmosphere but it shouldn’t tell the story.

    The problem I see with Penguindrum is that it relies very heavily upon bizarre imagery and music, to give the impression of a story unfolding when as a matter of fact, very little has happened in this series thus far.

    Not only that but this series screams narcissism. It is very obvious that the people working on this want to flaunt their colourful imagery (which really is meaningless), to the point that I personally find it irritating and above all too much of a distraction from what really could be a somewhat decent story.

    If only the people working on this were focused enough on putting out a good product instead of stroking their own ego, this could be a somewhat coherent and interesting series. But unfortunately they all have their heads too far up their own asses to see that.

  8. Snowolf says:

    SHIGEYASU YAMAUCHI IS DIRECTING THE NEXT EPISODE OF PENGUINDRUM????!!!!!!!!!!!

    !!!!!!!!

    *______________________*

    !!!!!!!!!!

    /flails

  9. Pink says:

    @kevin

    It’s called typos, genius.

    psgels never said anything about music telling a story, maybe you should quit calling people childish and learn how to comprehend and read English first.

    Do you even know what narcissism is? Narcissism is a self-absorbing interest in one’s self (originating from the Greek myth where the youth Narcissus stares into a pond and falls in love with his own reflection). Is this series about Kunihiko Ikuhara and the show’s creators, producers and developers? What does this show focus on? Fate, different forms of love, parental neglect, sacrifice and death. How are any of those themes narcissistic when they’re universal and humans have attempted to answer questions about them throughout history?

    Just like cubism, fauvism and the more modern movements of art deviated from traditional realistic depictions of subjects, Ikuhara is more of a symbolist, a very post-post-modernist thinking anime director who likes to explore things in his way. If that’s narcissism, then call every musical artist, band, painter and writer narcissistic for having their own style and focusing on the themes they care about.

  10. Snowolf says:

    Oh look Kevin the Troll has strolled in again what a ~surprise~

    For the sake of not having a 100+comment argument let’s not feed him, por favor?

  11. kevin says:

    You don’t have to respond to me. Just thought I’d get my thoughts out there.

  12. kevin says:

    @Pink, I personally believe that they are overly self-indulgent, to the point that it hurts the product. I didn’t ask for a history lesson mate, just wanted to voice my thoughts like the rest of you.

  13. kevin says:

    Also I was talking about the over zealous and ultimately meaningless art and animation style as well as the music, not the themes. Troll better Pink.

  14. kero says:

    I think maybe my enthusiasm for MPD is flagging, today I didn’t really care that much about what was happening, maybe because nothing much happened.

    The duel between Yuri and the other girl was boring for me.

    I guess Tabuki’s promising to reveal something, so that’s something to look forward to in the next episode.

    Overall it didn’t engage me as much as some of the previous episodes.. and I do wonder if I’m tired out by the consistent lack of payoff. Hopefully next episode will blow my mind.

  15. Hogart says:

    I have to say that I preferred this episode’s lower-key symbolism and straightforwardness to some of the more jarring exhibitions the show has had.

    Sometimes it’s nice to not have to constantly study the over-indulgent subtext, and feel instead like the show has actual confidence and isn’t just distracting me away from potential flaws with kanji cards or campy 50′s western parodies.

    I think kero has a point, though. There is a danger that this will give some people enough pause to come to the conclusion that the show’s been genuinely pretentious.. to the point they’re unable to take it seriously anymore.

    I always feel like the weirdo here.. I don’t hate MPD, but I’m not a huge fan either. I like it most when the show isn’t going overboard, but I don’t hate it outright for all it’s excess. The benefit is that I can enjoy it without caring whether it’s pretentious, which is a strange and rare feeling for me.

  16. wendeego says:

    Utena’s music is a lot more distinctive than Penguindrum’s, true. Although that’s only to be expected, since Utena’s was J.A. Seazer choral prog rock, and Penguindrum’s are for the most part remixes of ARB songs from the 80s.

    What makes Penguindrum’s insert songs interesting, though is how they tie into the story. I don’t mean how the lyrics relate to the plot–that’s more Utena’s deal. What I do mean is that the songs exist in Penguindrum’s universe as songs by Double-H. It’s a constant reminder, along with their presence on the subway train, of Himari’s broken dreams and the fact that she will “never amount to anything.” During the ROCK OVER JAPAN sequence, the song is sung by Triple-H: this being Himari joining forces with her two former friends, at least in her own personal world.

    So yeah, as music Penguindrum’s soundtrack isn’t quite as impressive as Utena’s. Realize though, that the soundtrack is an active piece of the show’s massive mystery/tapestry, and your head explodes just a little bit. Makes you wonder exactly how much thought went into planning every little thing so that every element of the story, from the visuals to the soundtrack, was relevant to the central mystery both metaphorically and literally. Mindboggling!

  17. Pink says:

    @ kevin

    Try to limit triple posting, “mate.” I’m not sure that your opinions are related to each other coherently in any way considering you can’t explain why you think the art and music are overzealous and ultimately meaningless.

    I responded because you don’t have to be so condescending and nasty to psgels who just happens to be blogging MPD, a show you hate and feel the need to continually troll.

  18. Puran says:

    @Perrin: Ok, I’ll agree on that. Utena’s soundtrack was definitely more original. I didn’t really love it, but I can appreciate its originality and the mood it was trying to create.

  19. zesty says:

    As much as I enjoy the way Penguindrum’s current cycle of music is used, I do agree that it could use a bit more expansion. I hope they’ll add at least one or two more songs in the coming eps., but I’m skeptical. Still, I get the artistic choice – it’s all about repetition in this show – and I’m definitely getting the OST even if nothing’s added.

    Also, a minor detail, but it looks like the subway track diagram at the half-way point in the episode is – and has been for at least a few episodes now – showing where the story is and is headed, structurally-speaking anyway. Just after Sanetoshi’s monologue about the “war” beginning, we saw the position marker/the show’s name move fully from the diagonal to the straight part of the track. If that doesn’t scream “plot shift,” I don’t know what does. Obviously, this doesn’t help predict the specific content of the story, but I do find it interesting. Just another neat little thing I love about this show.

  20. psgels says:

    People, you’re not really helping by trolling back….

    In any case, Kevin: I’m not young? (I’m actually double that age), I’m just a bit chaotic. I do check for the most obvious typos I make for each entry, but there are always a few that slip by.

    Also, I can sortof see where you’re coming from. The thing you mention about how this show distracts with bizarre imagery, I have that with Shaft series, which way for me just way too often try to insert all sorts of flashy colours to hide the fact that they really don’t have much substance. I disagree that Penguin-Drum doesn’t have much substance, though. Sure, it’s not as fast-paced and huge as the likes as the Armed Librarians or something, but on a smaller scale I do find that it created a bunch of interesting characters, with well developed places in the story.

    Also I really disagree with you about the music. For me, music has always been a core part of storytelling, and creating an atmosphere. To each his own, I guess.

  21. commenter says:

    This show has gradually been going down the hill for the last couple of months. I don’t feel the thrill and the enjoyment of earlier episodes. It seems like nothing is going on since episode 9. Perhaps the tell-tale sign that this show should have been shorter. They’re killing time with dull uninteresting characters like Natsume and yuri. A pity. Especially the episode on Yuri’s background felt forced and ridiculous at the same time. There’s only so much before the show changes from interesting and devious to just plain random events.

    By the way, the length of a soundtrack has little to do with how good it is. Kaiba had perhaps sixteen songs in total with just a couple of variations on them. It was amazing for the show. Casshern had mainly one song that was used as a leitmotif and it worked wonders. Escaflowne had a bigger soundtrack, but repeated a handful of songs all the time(shadow of doubt and a far cry, both songs not written&performed by kanno yoko by the way) and it really, really worked. Its crowning song is probably the one you hear when volken and van revisited fanelia. The quality of a soundtrack is not measured in size, and most of the time you’ll be comparing oranges to apples anyways, so don’t compare them. It doesn’t work out.

  22. hikaru says:

    No comments about Himari/Penguin girl losing all her clothes in the dream sequence? XD I was always wondering why she had to lose bits and pieces of her outfit as she walked down that weird bridge but I guess that was all just a set up for this episode lol.

  23. Raggers says:

    Psgels, i’m assuming you didn’t have much time on your hands when you wrote this.

    this episode can actually be seen as a turning point

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the sequence after the ads, where we see the circle move to the next point. This ep it moved past a turn. I saw that coming last week.

  24. marktheknife says:

    Alternate POV here: I strongly disliked Utena’s admittedly unique soundtrack. Though it had lots of tracks, in my head they’ve all meshed into “The absolute destiny: apocalypse” and a less-bombastic remix of it (excepting the few classical/jazz/ballad numbers). And did anyone really like the overly-relevant lyrics sung during the battles?

    MPD’s soundtrack on the other hand is much more varied and energetic. It sets a mood, and ties in thematically, and in Himari’s story as wendeego pointed out. Also, it just sounds cooler and hits emotional notes better – Utena’s soundtrack in comparison dips into a goofy sort of romanticism that combines the cheesiest aspects of prog and ballads.

    Actually, in general, having started on MPD, and then going back and watching Utena, Utena is a vastly inferior product. I’m honestly kind of shocked to see that people compare it favorably to MPD. It makes me feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

    Its storytelling is meandering, with the middle 2/3 of each season just beating on the same few themes and ideas with little variation. Its descent into more symbolic, non-literal storytelling is somewhat abrupt, too broad in its focus to give much clarity to the viewer, and honestly not very engaging. Its world is not fleshed out (perhaps intentionally, but it’s still unsatisfying). Its character development takes way too long, and many characters are absurdly two-faced, often to the point they seem to be two separate characters. Its aesthetics are interesting at moments (particularly its more surreal ones), but overall it’s a very dull-looking show.

    Not to completely hate on Utena. I found it to be a fascinating flop, one that kept me watching for its moments of brilliance even as it kept me disappointed. I could see it being noteworthy for what it did with anime storytelling back in 1997 (with subversions galore). I’ll also give that its theme of true love vs. all the broken forms of love (transference, the pain of losing/not having it, sexual/seduction-based) is pretty interesting. And I’m open to the possibility I just didn’t “get it.” Maybe I’ll give the movie a try!

  25. iwasherexD says:

    @hikaru
    “Anyways, Nadine then begins to walk down the staircase (vagina), stripping all of her clothes off. I’m going to say that this is her path down “rebirth”, and the taking off of clothes symbolizes being “born as a baby” with Himari’s new life.”
    source: http://catchercatch.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/pengidrum1/

  26. wendeego says:

    @marktheknife: I see where you’re coming from. Not that I agree, mind! Pretty convinced that Utena’s the second best anime ever made, right after FLCL, so different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    I think that an important part of appreciating Utena is comparing it to its shoujo roots. Ikuhara came right off of Sailor Moon before doing Utena, and so like the latter, Utena has a ton of stock footage, an incredibly flowery aesthetic and a whole lot of alternative-sex relationships. The difference is that the stock footage is both lampooned and used to make a thematic point, the aesthetic is absolutely brilliant and the alternative-sex relationships go into even stranger territory, from Utena’s bond with Anthy for Akio’s connection to…yeah, won’t spoil it for anybody reading the comments.

    Watching Utena requires a certain tolerance for melodrama, and about as much patience as it takes to watch Penguindrum. I do think that Utena’s a lot more comprehensible, though, since it’s pretty firmly grounded in the shoujo genre in comparison to Penguindrum which isn’t really based in any genre at all.

    So yeah–in my opinion, Utena uses repetition better than just about any anime ever made; its soundtrack is both iconic and massively influential (count me in as someone who liked how the dueling song’s lyrics relate to the plot); the symbolism is perfectly comprehensible so long as you were willing to think; and the cast of characters are almost uniformly not who they seem. Also, the school was basically an illusory construction, so I didn’t have much trouble with the lack of worldbuilding since the school was pretty distinctive otherwise?

    ‘s okay to not like Utena, though. It’s a very strange anime and probably not for everybody (although you could probably say the same for Penguindrum as well.) Word of warning, though, not sure if you’ll like the movie any more than you’ll like the show, since it relies a lot on what you already know about the characters to make coherent sense (and isn’t quite as deep and a whole lot more obtuse besides.) It is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen, though, so there is that!

  27. jreding says:

    psgels, I completely agree re Utena’s soundtrack! It has been a favourite on my ipod for about a year now. The songs during the duels are just – for lack of better words – “epic”.

    Btw, I recently discovered the soundtrack of “Galaxy Express 999″. Of course is a completely different musical style but it also fills several volumes and enhances the mood of the show a lot.

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  • ninjarealist
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 08:00 PM)
    IMO Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka is a must-watch for fans of moeblob shows. It’s some of the best moeblob I’ve seen in a long time.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 06:16 PM)
    @JaK: Thing is, I’ve already read up about the world and characters abilities (no plot) from the wikia. So at this stage, I expect I’ve already taken the “good stuff” from Mahouka and expect nothing good from the adaptation.
    Which leaves me open to being pleasantly surprised, should it become entertaining at some point.
  • JaK
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 06:02 PM)
    you’d have to make it through the really boring enrollment arc for the hype to be justified though raggers :( ( also the arc manga covered hence the bad publicity)
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 04:09 PM)
    Oh, and have a look at http://www.overclock.net/t/1480764/oopsie-its-a-program-that-reopens-folders-or-programs-with-customizable-keyboard-shortcuts
    A very useful program that’ll make you wonder why M$ didn’t incorporate it into Windows ages ago.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 04:08 PM)
    My bad, instead of “must watch” I meant “truly great”.
    I’m watching Mahouka partly because the hype demands it, and partly because the universe, and it’s rules, are very, very interesting. The hype reason is why I watched SAO, and the first half of GC (though I couldn’t handle more than that). Need to watch enough of it to have a valid opinion on it after all.
  • lohengramm
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:45 PM)
    Ah, and Mekakucity, because of Kagepro.
  • lohengramm
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:44 PM)
    i’ve read the mahouka manga and tbh i didn’t really like it … have yet to try the anime, though! for me so far the only shows i’ll definitely be following are captain earth and sidonia no kishi, most probably no game no life, and maybe hitsugi no chaika … (sorry for randomly inserting myself in here)
  • Jalapeno Bagel
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:42 PM)
    whatever people say, that’s going to be one of the most talked-about shows of the next two seasons, need to watch at least a little bit of it.
  • Jalapeno Bagel
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:42 PM)
    Raggers, you’re missing Mahouka.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:04 PM)
    @moshokosho: There are 5 “must watches” this season IMO. In no particular order:
    Mushishi S2
    JoJo S2
    Baby Steps
    Isshuukan Friends.
    Ping Pong

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