Mawaru Penguindrum 2: Perspectives

I have to apologize for how late this is, as it’s a combination of both how long it took me to move all my stuff to my new apartment (well, really, my friend’s, since I’m moving out of the state next month) and a large-scale movie binge with my friends. I was thinking of releasing this article as a combination between episodes 2 and 3, but that ruins the fun of episode-by-episode discussion, and I already had half this written up by the day of this episode airing, so I figured that I might as well.

I think it goes without saying that PengiDrum is one of the most talked about shows of the 2011 summer anime season. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of bloggers’ insight on the show, as well as forum discussion as I’m rather limited in my scope for forums, but it seems that way.

That having been said, I immensely enjoyed the second episode of Penguindrum. And I mean, way more than I probably should have. The character interactions throughout the episode as a whole were charming, and the penguins were awesome. I strongly suggest that before reading this post, you complete the viewing of episodes 1 and 2, as there are going to be huge spoilers here.

I love the word "fate."

Quickie on the choice of a toilet as the opening image for this episode. I believe it was chosen for the fact that when you flush a toilet, all the contents of the toilet head towards a singular location. Call it a stretch, but I think it’s a nice, fanciful idea that the water in the toilet would represent “the world”, so to say. The stars? Note that in the opening image, the number is 4. There are four important characters up to this point. Perhaps the stars coming out of the toilet suggest that the four “stars” of the world are escaping the mandatory? Something to think about.

And so, the second episode starts out with the focus of the episode, Ringo Oginome, giving us her speech on “fate.” Right off the bat, the most noticeable thing is that her perspective of fate is completely contrary to that of Shoma’s, to which we were treated to at the beginning of episode 1. Long story short, she loves the notion of fate. Let’s take a look at each of the main characters’ perspectives on fate.

Kanba - Judging from his actions after Himari’s death, it’s rather obvious that Kanba views tragedies as something “that happens,” although the subtext runs contrary to his demeanor in that scene. He appears to be deterministic in his view of fate, but only on the outside.

Shoma - Shoma bears much in difference to Kanba’s interpretation of fate. Shoma doesn’t actively rebel against the notion of fate, per say, but he finds that the idea is one that is sad, and from the scene following Himari’s death, he wants to be able to. As he says in his episode 1 opening segment, if there is such a thing as fate, then God is truly a cruel minister. 

Ringo - As I stated above, Ringo loves fate. However, her view of fate stems from a romantic notion, that of “fated encounters.” To further compound her understanding of the notion, she shrugs off the “bad things” that happen due to fate, instead bouncing it off the Principle of Sufficient Reason. 

Intriguing. We have three different characters with three differing views of fate. “But what about Himari,” you might ask? Himari is a special case, as she is the subject of the fate at hand in this show. We’ve yet to see any expression on her part regarding the idea of fate, and yet, she’s obviously the one most affected by the ordeal.

Alright, we’re back to (almost) normal, after the insanity of the first episode. We still have the penguins floating around all the time (including RAID Pengi, who is the most awesome penguin).

Nevermind. Well, now we’re pitted back into Boushi-sama’s (Nadine wasn’t her name, apparently) world, and she establishes the task that she wants the brothers to perform. Interesting to note about the brothers’ reactions is this: Shoma remarks his lamentation that “last night wasn’t a dream”, whereas Kanba immediately gets to the point and demands that Boushi-sama give him the information necessary to find the Penguindrum. By diametrically opposing their reactions, Ikuhara further elongates the rift between the two characters’ views of fate. Recall back when Himari died, Kanba was planning on what “to do”, rather than “what happened”? Boushi-sama’s interest lies in the future, and thus she sees Kanba as the more suitable candidate. She wants the boys to meet Oginome Ringo, who apparently has the Penguindrum that Boushi-sama desires.

"She has the Penguindrum"

...probably.

I think this small exchange was masterful. From her declaration that Ringo will be carrying the Penguindrum, we gain a sense of superiority and confidence. In cinematography, this is the classic “villain” shot – a shot from a low angle focusing the subject’s face that is usually shaded in some fashion. The shot is used precisely because the idea that the physical high ground (height or location) can translate unconsciously to a sign of “power.” Even better: this shot is taken from the brothers’ perspective. Is Boushi-sama necessarily the villain? No. However, does she appear to be one to the brothers? Yes.

It’s from this platform of confidence that she degrades her position to that of uncertainty with that “probably” in the next shot. Not only has Ikuhara assuaged the menace that could be interpreted from her “classic villain” shot, but he revealed something very important about Boushi-sama. What/oever it is, it only comes from the “destination” of fate. It does not know what happens alongside the way, in the classic notion of a destiny. Her exclamation and execution implies that there is no way to change the “destination” or the “end”. But the question is, if the means to the future CAN be permutable, like her “probably” suggests, can the “end” actually be changed should conditions be right?

Pretty standard anime stuff after that, penguin shenanigans while the boys wait to see Ringo. Shoma gets accused of being a molester, and Kanba drops in to save the day with his good looks and manly charm.

RAID Penguin continues to be awesome. So they see Ringo on the train, courtesy of the girl to whom that rear above belongs to, and decide to follow her to her school. Kanba pulls up a database on the all-girls school, numbers the penguins, and sends them in to do some reconnaissance.

In the process, we get a dialogue between Kanba and Shoma, once again setting up why I believe that Kanba was chosen instead of Shoma by Boushi-sama. Shoma is concerned with the present actions that the penguins are doing, as he feels that they are not morally correct. Kanba, on the other hand, literally says the one line that any person who has briefly studied ethics will recognize instantly.

"The ends justifies the means"

“The ends justifies the means” is an incredibly controversial statement, and a result of a subset of ethical theory called consequentialism. Consequentialism essentially holds that the morality of an action, or set of actions, is justified as long as the consequence of the action(s) is a positive one. Ignoring the fact that the idea of a “positive” result differs between parties, as that’s a debate all on its own, consequentialism is largely based on the interpretation of future events. Consequential ethics observes things after-the-fact, not the action itself. Clearly, this shares something in common to Boushi-sama’s approach. She has messed with the natural order of death, manipulated the feelings of the brothers, and holds their sister in hostage in order to obtain what she wants. It only helps that she  has observed the “after” or the “consequences” of the siblings’ fates. In contrast, Shoma is concerned with the process of “should be”, rather than “could happen.” His concern belongs to the realm of deontological ethics, focusing on “principle” and what is determined as the “moral code” to abide by. This is not something that Boushi-sama even considers.

So, we’re back to the school scenes, watching the girls eat.

And this guy.

Soon, Ringo announces that she has to go, and Kanba and Shoma decide to track her to find out where she’s going. They follow her all over the place, through a lingerie shop…

Take note of the spirals...

and watch her risk life and limb to take picture of a bird’s nest. After that, she meets with the teacher from school, who she’s obviously been waiting for, and shows him the picture that she has taken.

Ignoring for the moment how creepy that is, did you notice that she has a black penguin holding an apple as her cellphone keychain? Where else have we seen black penguins? Well, that would be…

Boushi-sama

and the OP sequence

several times, in fact.

So, what can be said of the black penguin? It’s interesting. Obviously, the black penguin in the second picture does NOT look like Boushi-sama’s hat. That would be the black penguins in the third.  What’s with the third image, anyways? Well, let’s take these two sets of black penguins apart.

First of all, focusing on Ringo’s black penguin. I don’t think it’s all that unnatural for a teen to have some kind of animal as their cellphone keychain, and the apple the penguin is holding is most obviously a reference to her own name, Ringo, which means “apple.”  However, why a black penguin? Any other colour would be fine, but why is the black penguin the one Ikuhara has chosen to represent Ringo in the OP sequence? This will be explored later.

Now, let’s take a look at Boushi-sama’s penguin. The most important fact of it, I believe, is the number 95 in the center of the picture from the OP. 95% is considered the “confidence interval” in most applications that require a form of “confidence” presented in numbers. It’s not absolute, but it is the threshold at which most things are considered “certain”. Once again, we see a tie back to the notion of destiny, and the question I asked earlier: is the “destination” of the siblings’ destinies changeable? Is that 5% something that can be used? 

But anyways, the sensei begins to leave soon, and then Ringo cracks a devious smile:

And the brothers follow her to her house and confirm that she has been stalking the teacher, and that he’s her love interest.

Complete with underfloor dwellings!

And then she pulls out what is likely the Penguindrum: a dairy.

According to her inner dialogue, the events of the future are already written in here. I’m not sure if that means her plans for the future, or the actual future itself, but I’ll just assume the later. An interesting juxtaposition, although it’s been done before: the fact that the future is written in something to record the past. I’m hesitant to talk about the imagery that this image carries, as I have a feeling that I’m missing some Japanese folklore of some type, here. I’d talk about how, just like the cherub and apple of episode 1, the entwined snakes carries an easily confused notion between the caduceus and the rod of Asclepius. But I have a large feeling that I’ll be dead wrong about that, and it’s just my ignorance leading me to a false conclusion. If anyone has clarification on this aspect, it would be welcome.

However, if you’ve noticed, there is an aspect that stands out about the design. This is spiral imagery. I’m talking about the individual serpents on the diary, by the way, since the two of them together produce a helix. For reference to what I’m talking about, refer to the above picture of the lingerie shop. The common feature linking both of them is the presence of a spiral. I think it’s interesting to note that a spiral starts at a beginning and “spirals” out further and further. The first spirals were in the lingerie shop, where Ringo passed through to take a picture and presumably buy some lingerie, if Kanba’s observation is accurate. The second ones are on the diary, which presumably tell the future (albeit, only of Ringo’s interest). I think the spiral is important for two reasons, here. First, clearly, it parallels in its natural deviance the deviant behavior that Ringo is displaying. Secondly, I believe that the spirals are very important to the notion of fate because of its deviance. Once again, the imagery seems to be asking: can enough deviance be achieved to alter the future? (or I’ve been watching too much Steins;Gate).

And so, we end the episode on the notion of destiny. Interesting stuff, and looking forward to what’s going to be done. As a personal bit of speculation, I assume that the reason that Boushi-sama wants the Penguindrum, if the diary truly is it, is that it will allow her to find out events prior to the “destination” that she knows, and control what’s happening. Or, perhaps, she’s a good guy, and wants to save the siblings from a cruel fate? Hm.

OK, so I promised I’d talk about Ringo’s black penguin, so I will. I’m primarily interested to see why exactly the black penguin is holding the apple, which I assume to be Ringo?  Take a note that the black penguin in the OP sequence has a face in the shape of a heart. Perhaps it’s the notion that her world, the apple, is being controlled by love? Or is it something deeper than that? And with that, I wait for tomorrow.

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9 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum 2: Perspectives

  1. The number 95 might refer to sth else altogether http://penguindrum.livejournal.com/8226.html The diairy reminds me of the castle in The Endless Story by Michael Ende, but I’m sure it has nothing to do with it… the serpents in that story form an 8 not a caduceus. The helixes are interpreted by others as a reference to DNA and thus in fate.I loved the visual interpretation of Boushi-sama’s take angle- visual literacy at work is just love :) The black penguin imagery is indeed a strange one; I can’t wait to see what’s next. Ikuhara plays wild with us. The good thing is the familiarity of characters: can you see Touga, Miki and Shiori back? :P

    • Oh I forgot… the use of peach for the word destiny is also an interesting one- does peach associate with love here?. I’ve also read somewhere that Ringo’s name in Chinese is read as penguin…

      • Oh, wow, definitely missed it with the 95. And to shame, since I’ve actually read Underground.

        I believe that in most Asian cultures, the peach is a symbol of longevity. The question was, for me, what would that tie into? I kind of just left it out of my post, since I couldn’t think of anything. Also, didn’t know that Ringo’s name could be read as penguin o_O. A nice tidbit to keep in mind.

        The reference to DNA is a good one, and upon reflection, it makes a whole lot of sense, actually. In that case, can we interpret the two brothers’ positions inside the black bear of the transformation sequence as testicles, carrying genetic information? Even better, that would advance the notion of Boushi-sama’s choosing Kanba, as he appears to her as the “fitter” of the two.

  2. Cool. The Penguin Hat shot is definitely classic villain. And your match up for the toilet stars makes sense.

    Ringo’s obsessive behavior could lead to the sort of doomsday cult belief that set off the ’95 sarin gas attacks indeed….but I’m not sure Ikuhara would go there. And I do associate the helices with the DNA, and how everything is programmed from the start.

    As for Penguin Hat’s black penguin with the crests, see here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudyptes

    These guys always lay two eggs but only one of them ever hatches. That’d be nice motif to play around with!!

    • People keep pointing out the double-helix as reference DNA, and I keep feeling really bad for missing it. And I’m a student of medicine, too. It just makes so much sense.

      I had a feeling that I’d seen a penguin design like Boushi-sama’s before, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. However, I did NOT know that the penguins lay two eggs and only one hatches. Very, very interesting there. Now, the question is “what”; what will Ikuhara do with this? I can already see it (like so many things) in the transformation scene, but will it tie into something greater? I am hyped for this.

      • Well isn’t it obvious which of the two eggs will hatch, if it hasn’t already? And his name is Kanba.
        I mentioned peach, because there’s this phrase in Tatami Galaxy ‘rose-peach colored campus life’ and also due to Momotaro (http://www.japanippon.com/fairytales/momotaro.htm) as well as the meaning of peach blossom in japanese language of flowers (http://www.oocities.org/tokyo/gulf/9949/flowers/Flower_List.html). I think I remember also faintly that ,while I was studying about folklore and I chose to translate Momotaro from english to greek, I’ve read that the shape of peach (like an ass) and its rumour as aphrodisiac are associated. And perhaps this is connected to Ringo’s conception of fate…perhaps…

      • Yep, when I mentioned the transformation scene, I was talking about the choice of Kanba as the one who “survived”, or was “chosen.”

        I was actually unaware of the peach blossom’s flower language. Perhaps it goes a ways to say that the difference between what the peach represents (longevity) and what the peach does (bridal hope) displays Ringo’s misguided intentions, along with the fact that a peach has long been considered similar in curvature to a woman’s body.

  3. Ooh nice note on the spiral imagery. The spiraling out can be a symbol for deviation from the plan, from fate.

    At the same time, helices have a very structured design. In fact, the intertwining snakes and the helices reminds me of DNA, which often lies at the heart of the debate between determinism. Are we in control of our own choices? Or are we pre-programmed to act in a certain way in certain situations? … I’m probably thinking way too much into this, and drawing wild connections…

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