Penguindrum 5: Doom and Grounding


To be honest, I didn’t have all that much to say about Pengidrum last week. Sure, there were things to say, but I didn’t feel any urgent need to express them, so I ended up not making a post. However, I’m pleased to say that with the fifth episode of Pengidrum, I have found quite a bit to say. I absolutely love how much Ikuhara is able to pack into a single episode.

Aren't they adorable?

We get a flashback of a time when the three siblings were children to start off the episode. The backdrop is that a storm is raging, all the ambulances have been dispatched, and Himari is sick and needs to get to the hospital. Their father, realizing the situation, decides to do what a good father should do: rush your child to the hospital in the middle of a storm. The two brats, Shoma and Kanba, decide to follow their father out of worry for their little sister.

"I wanna go!"

Just a small bit of interesting insight into this. Have you noticed that something is always holding Shoma back from doing what he wants to do for Himari? From previous episodes, we have his sense of morals, obviously absent in Kanba, which prevents him from taking any extreme measures unless persuaded into it by his brother.  The conflict between his sense of what is “right” and what is “wrong” has been the centerpiece of conflict between the brothers, who otherwise don’t seem to be at odds much too often. And now, we’ve added another dimension: Shoma is physically unable to go to the extent that Kanba is able to, for whatever reason (in this case, his mother).

Once Kanba gets to his father, he calls out to him, and something (presumably a window) carried by the wind comes out and shatters ambiguously. And then the always-loved opening sequence begins its reel.

And so, we’re back in the present, watching Himari knit in the hall of the hospital while waiting for Shoma, who’s inside talking to the doctor about Himari’s recovery. In the background, a girl with black pantyhose walks by carrying a bouquet for a person. Interestingly enough, Shoma actually brings up the topic of the hat, which the doctor laughs off as a joke. He obviously hasn’t seen enough anime.

I would say this is symbolic, but "durrrr"

Not much wait is required before we see that Ms. Pantyhose (Natsume) is visiting the girl wearing the red shoes (Asami) that was pushed down the escalators yesterday. They enter a conversation about who pushed Asami down the escalators. It’s interesting to note that in the last episode, someone wearing black pantyhose was standing behind Asami as she fell down the escalator.

Quite an interesting set of shots here. As they delve deeper in Asami’s memory, the lighting becomes more dramatic, and the camera shifts to accomodate a tilted angle. I think it’s an interesting choice, using a tilted angle in addition to a far shot (far shots are typically used in film to indicate objectivity and truth, which Asami cannot grasp). And then, all of a sudden, she remembers, and we cut to a shot of the white flowers. Asami’s answer is ambiguous, saying that she saw “him” before she was pushed down the escalators. Interesting. Natsume proclaims that she has “heard enough”, and proceeds to take out a ball with a penguin inscribed upon it, put it on a laser-sighted slingshot, and aim it towards Asami’s head before we cut away from the scene. So, who exactly did she see?

I feel that the previous question is not as important to figuring out what is happening/going to happen as the following two. The questions to be asked here is whether or not Natsume wants Asami to really remember, and what exactly the penguin ball does. If the idea that Natsume pushed Asami is correct, it would contrary to Natsume’s interest that Asami remember. And in any case, what Asami remembers isn’t about Natsume, but rather an unspecified “kare”. Why does Natsume chose to fire a penguin ball at Asami (which I assume is a malicious action) after she remembers? I fear that there are way too many possible answers to the second question, and I’ll sit back until I get some more evidence to support any idea. Next episode is going to be an incredibly important one.

Now on to the flowers. I love flower symbolism ala Utena, and it’s these little flairs that make give a great insight into what Ikuhara prioritizes and puts to the foreground. The different colours of roses have many different meanings. The white rose is symbolic of purity, unity, marriage, and love. I take it that the flowers here represent the state of unity and love; that way, everything falls into place. The single flower falling from the bouquet here serves a double purpose: Asami’s remembrance would be of a betrayal, thus the use of the pronoun “kare” that she uses; and what Natsume is about to do is in betrayal of Asami’s expectations of her.

And so we see that the siblings are in financial straights about the house, and Kanba is working to find a way to keep the payments rolling in, and shows his determination in a fit of indignation.

Cutting to Ringo, we see that she has a date with her father. This is an a very juicy scene. From the get-go, we get a reference to a certain work that people who have either watched Elfen Lied or are connoisseurs of modern art will recognize: “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt.

Klimt's most famous work.

Let’s talk about “The Kiss” before I tie it back to talking about the show. First of all, there are many, many interpretations of this work. The most prominent one is the interpretation of the art being a measure of the liberation (found in the extravagance of the gold, and the positioning on the cliff) of love, in a sexualized context (the shape of a penis). Simply said, the picture depicts the richness that is capable of being pulled from sexuality. The woman embraces the man and lets go of all restraint into his hands, hands which direct her lips to his. The difference in clothing helps to accent the difference as man and woman, but the fact that they are both strictly geometric accent the humane love in the depiction.

A less popular one, one which I believe is most accurate, is that in which the female is unwilling. In my opinion, the female’s face is not an expression of pleasure.The man is dominating over the woman, his hands at her head and neck, forcing “the kiss” from her, and she is unwillingly giving in. His crown is indicative of the dominance of a king, a regal presence. The garb that the man is dressed in, rectangles, compared to tangent circles of the woman’s clothes accent the opposition. In my view, everything becomes malicious – it sees the cliff as, rather than a romantic and liberating presence, the fact that the woman is cornered and on her knees, with no recourse.

Of course, there’s a lot more to the analysis to this picture, extending to the medium, the metaphysical, and even choice of material. But admittedly there are people far more qualified to speak of these aspects, and I digress.

Pengidrum's version

Obviously, the version put into Penguindrum is a much, much more romantic version. It would be impossible for me to justify that this version does not borrow on the “love” interpretation of “The Kiss”.  In Pengidrum, we see Ringo leaning up towards Tabuki, who’s face is fully seen and loving. The embrace takes a romantic turn now that the “man” of the picture does not overbear into the female. It fits wonderfully in that, as forced on to the viewer from last episode, Ringo is the “starry eyed” dreamer, and a romantic scenario just as this is perfect for her. I believe that this also presents intentional irony on Ikuhara’s part. In the original interpretation, which this takes after, the woman lets go into the man’s controlling hands. Ringo, in Penguindrum, is the commanding force of her one-sided romance – she uses her hands to force her love into becoming “destiny” or truth. While the reference to the picture can be taken as a joke (and to some extent, I don’t doubt that this is also meant to be somewhat humorous), I feel that, reflecting on what I’ve said up to know about this picture, this is a pretty sad picture. It shows just how desperate Ringo is.


Then Ringo’s father goes to answer a phone call. I have some speculation as to Ringo and her father. Why is he not using the penguin key chain, if Ringo said they all have matching key chains? It doesn’t seem like he remembers past events, either. This forces me to raise the question: is she really his daughter, and did those events in the past that Ringo claims happened, really happen?

Not sure if this is a reference... I'll call it "Mother".

And then we get a shot of this piece of artwork that’s in the restaurant Ringo and her father are at. At this point, I might be grasping at nothing, but I believe that the following sequence is in line for some incredibly heavy foreshadowing. I prefer to break the picture up into two parts. The first part is the part with the five at the bottom on the picture. I believe that a reference to Himari and her brothers is intended here, and the spoof of her radiant forehead as being the halo of the angel is brilliant. Ringo, as being taken up into the “family” as Himari did in episode 3, is likely the cherub going up to Himari. The stars help me consider that one to be Ringo. So, the question to be asked is, who is the one left in the cloud?

Now for the second part, which I say is the one with the four cherubs playing in the cloud above. It seems like they’re having fun, and the number are four. Four, as in Shoma, Kanba, Himari, and Ringo in the “family”? Well, I certainly don’t hope so, because….

This is what is on top of Ringo’s version of “The Kiss”. Note that here, we have four as well, and that this can apply to either the first half or the second half of the previous picture. The choice to separate this unto a different work is a clever one, as it’s decisively out-of-place in “The Kiss”, thus suggesting that it truly doesn’t belong there. Of course, we have to raise the question: is everything in “The Kiss” to be taken as a whole, or separate? I believe that anything in “The Kiss” is to be taken after course from “Mother”, as the embrace of that kind is Ringo’s ultimate goal, whereas she has been accepted into the family already. I also believe that Ikuhara’s choice to separate the main part of “The Kiss” from this ominous scene was to suggest a discontinuity – “here are the possibilities”, so to speak. So, is this the second or the first half of “Mother”? If it’s the first half (the one with Himari’s halo), then it could be taken as representation that Ringo’s choice to be accepted will cost her dearly (the influence of siblings will be a tragic one). Don’t ever forget the notion of “fate”: we have three grim reapers here; they carry the notion of the “timely death”. If it’s the second half, then it could be the interpretation of the first, but there’s also the possibility that it’s not the main character group. Interesting. I look forward to seeing if it actually plays out like this.

Well, OK, now back to plot.

Knows more (higher), but is left outside. Great shot here.

I’m really glad we’re back to Ringo’s creepy stalker antics. It’s just forcing Ringo deeper and deeper into desperation, and I like that kind of build up. I really do feel sorry for her, though.

After some more flashbacking with Kanba (and underhanded dealings), we’re at the siblings’ place, and Ringo, Shoma, and Himari are having a meal together. I personally love the differences between Shoma’s and Kanba’s methods of getting at things. Shoma decides to play the “good guy” and asks Ringo if he might be able to borrow her diary. Naturally, she refuses, asserting that her fate is written in it, and therefore she needs to keep it on her at all times. She turns the tables on Shoma, then asking his reasons for needing the diary. He begins to explain, and like any sane person, Ringo doesn’t believe it. And then SEIZON SENRYAKU.

Jesus Christ, how horrifying.

And thus marks the first time that Ringo’s ever gone into what I like to call Boushi-sama’s dreamscape. Frankly, I love how in-charge Boushi-sama is in this scene, and verbal abuse is always fun to watch. At the same time, there’s a rather important thing to take out of this conversation: it appears that Boushi-sama doesn’t know what the Penguin Drum is. She refers to Ringo’s diary not as the Penguin Drum, but rather the “Future Diary”. I think the only reason she’s demanding it is because Shoma shows particular interest in it. Perhaps she/he/it too was sent on a mission to retrieve it for a greater power, and doesn’t know what it is? After a bit of arguing, Ringo is sent down the hole Shoma has been sent every time the transformation scene occurred.

I love how powerful her presence is...





Well, as you can see, it’s become somewhat of a pleasure of mine to see the ways in which Boushi-sama has all the power over the twins, and yet is still vulnerable (this) and helpless (doesn’t know everything, and can’t do everything). Of anything, I think Ikuhara’s female characters are the most interesting, in that they show incredible strength of will. Ringo has phenomenal strength of will, it’s just difficult to see it sometimes because of Ikuhara’s style.

Ringo, being the hot-headed girl she is, throws the hat outside into the rain. Of course, she doesn’t know the consequences of this, and what is previously ridiculous then transforms into “oh boy” as the audience realizes that the hat is important. Shoma meets Kanba, and Kanba goes off to get the hat off of the car. It’s worth noticing here that Shoma is, just like back when he was a kid, unable physically to keep up the chase for “Himari”.

And so, after Kanba is done being a TOTAL BADASS (gee, sure is a lot of badassery going on around here, lately), he manages to bring back the hat and it’s a happy ending for the day. Well, after being dragged around the city on the back of a speeding car that has to have broken at least 10 city ordinances. But hey, already mentioned that this wasn’t going to be physically consistent in my last post.

At the end, Kanba mentions to his uncle that he managed to secure the funds to continue living in the house…

At what price?

So what now? We’re stuck with far more questions that we began the episode with. What’s Natsume’s ultimate goal? Did she really push Asami down the stairs? What do the penguin balls do? What is the price of Kanba’s money? The penguins, like I mentioned in my last post, act as the guiding force alongside the path to “destiny”. I’d assume the print of a penguin on something has to with fate.

And I’d prefer it no other way. I enjoy the stylistic ride that Ikuhara presents, and I can’t wait until everything is put into the light. The next episode will be of incredible importance to the series, and I’m very much looking forward to Boushi-sama’s reaction to what Ringo just did. It’s too bad we have to wait two weeks for it. 

Something big is going to come, I can feel it.

19 thoughts on “Penguindrum 5: Doom and Grounding

  1. I was also quite surprised how much Ikuhara managed to pack in a single episode. In fact, that was the first thing I said to my editor after watching this together.

    To be honest, I didn’t recognize “The Kiss” after viewing (I kind of skipped Elfen Lied OP after the first view), so I’m glad you’ve posted the painting’s interpretations here.

    The second picture really confused me because it seemed to represent Ringo’s father finding his new family, but your interpretation makes total sense now that I read it. I don’t want to spoil from the novel, but there appears to be someone who will fit the “one left behind in the cloud” in upcoming episodes.

    By the way, I started a blog of my own, so check it out if you have time! It’s nowhere as detailed or well thought out as your post, but there are some extra translations you might find useful :)

  2. There was a blog somewhere that interpreted Ringo’s crush on Tabuki as the yearning for a father figure in her life, and the restaurant scene sort-of supports that. It seems evident that Ringo and her father don’t have a great relationship (phone strap, oblivious to aquarium visit), which probably in turn causes her to look for a father replacement.
    Aside from the amazing similarities in appearance between Tabuki and Ringo’s dad, the image of Ringo and Tabuki in an embrace in “The Kiss” shows Ringo hugging him only after taking his glasses off. Without his glasses, he looks almost just like her father.

    • Very true. In fact, I almost thought that was Ringo’s father in the portrait for a second. The evidence to support that is definitely in the picture – but the romantic aspect confers otherwise for a “father figure”. I believe it’s more that she’s looking for a “man”, and the similarities that exist between Tabuki and Ringo’s father lie just like a case of an Electra Complex. Though, I do suppose a desire for Ringo to have a “male” presence of sorts in her life actually ties in quite nicely with the dominating “male” presence of the original “The Kiss”.

  3. Pretty sure that Natsume’s slingshot erases people’s memories. Right after you see her readying a penguin ball, it cuts to a television saying that Asami apparently does not remember exactly what happened. So maybe Natsume’s role in the organization is to run damage control?

    Actually, one interesting thing to consider is that Natsume and the company that sent the penguins may be competing organizations–one a penguin symbol while the other is a black/white penguin symbol. If that’s so, and if Kanba is receiving money from a corporation in direct conflict with his apparent interests, then what does that signify?

    • Erasing memories is the most likely. It might just be me grabbing for the inane, in this case, but I don’t think it’s just that. I think the penguin balls have something to do with manipulation of fate, even how incredibly often the penguin’s interfere with fate.

      I have to admit that when I wrote this post, the contrasting penguin symbols from episode 1 (the plain penguin) and the black/white penguin symbol from episode 5 completely skipped my mind. This adds another entire chasm of speculation that can be risen. I’m so very interested in the total goals of the “B/W Organization”. I do think, that if two organizations truly do exist, this is where the fairy tale aspect of the story will be played out in its foremost: Kanba’s will vs Reality.

  4. Great point on Shoma. I think while watching this episode with some friends (altair&vega), we also noted that he seems to always get the short end of the stick. Even the one time he does do something relevant (saving Ringo’s life), he doesn’t quite get the recognition. I think part of it may just be luck, but the other might be himself. He doesn’t quite have that fire to break through those obstacles; instead he is portrayed as a much more passive guy of the twins.

    Loved what you said about the Kiss. I actually totally thought it portrayed Ringo’s father, but I guess it kind of doesn’t quite make a difference for Ringo.

    • Now that I think about it, “The Kiss” in Pengidrum mirrors the dual interpretations that can be assigned to Klimt’s “The Kiss”. I’ve read some people who think (like you) that it signifies a parental attachment and desire, whereas others see it as Ringo’s desire to fall into Tabuki’s embrace (such as I). I think both interpretations are completely valid, and work quite well with each other.

  5. Do you think that in the first episode Kanba kissed Himari as a way to “go against fate”? Since they’re siblings and so the two of them together would go against natural laws?

    • I apologize for the delay in answering. I kind of forgot about the comment after I approved it.

      Anyways, this is a very interesting question, and it opens up the idea of social constructs. But for a short answer, my answer is “I have no idea”.

      It is important to note that the idea of inbreeding being incest is a social construct. In the animal kingdom, sexual reproduction between genetically related parents is not a taboo, as it furthers the continuity of a bloodline. There’s nothing “against fate” about it. Inbreeding in one population is as detrimental in pigs as it is in us; it increases the chances of detrimental recessive traits being passed down.

      However, on the flip-side, is it fair to argue as to whether “fate” could be loosely determined exactly BY such social constructs? Yes, and I think this is what you’re getting at. Since fate is such a vaguely constructed concept in real life, I think this is perfectly valid. Don’t society’s taboos bar and prevent some of our intentions and ultimately confine the range to which we may stretch our “potential”? The thing to consider here is “is ‘fate’ always, always determined?” I’m afraid that, until we reach this plot point again, there’s no telling what Ikuhara’s intention for “fate” truly is, and therefore no definitive answer to this question.

  6. Pingback: Colloquium: “The Kiss” in Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 5 | The Untold Story of Altair & Vega

  7. I would like to point out that while Kanba appears to be a total badass during this series there is a sequence in the opening which has been bugging me for some reason.During the last moments of the opening it appears that Kanba( I assume it is Kanba since he has his jacked unbuttoned all the time unlike Shoma whose jacket is buttoned all the time) falls or I should say fails to do something and proceeds to fall of the screen which I personally picture as despair, but then out of nowhere a hand appears to save him( which I assume is Shomas ) but he still fails to grab onto the hand and save himself from falling into despair. How, or should i say what could happen to someone like Kanba to take him down to the point that he needs to be saved by someone with a much weaker character like Shoma.

  8. There has been so much development lately, I was wondering, are you going to continue updating? I would really love to read your thoughts, they are so interesting!

  9. have you noticed the symbolism of the cockroaches?
    noticed how in the first few episodes, the penguin(s) were able to exterminate the cockroaches immediately. however, in this episode, its taking more than a few times to kill them. Quite ominous if you ask me.
    Also, i was wondering if the train (and the advertisements) were a symbol, and if so, of what?

    • Yes, I’ve noticed the cockroaches and their plot-relevance. Just like the penguins seem to house reflections of their respective owners, the cockroaches seem to stand in for something equally representative. Cockroaches, as is well known, are usually symbols of impurity, pestilence, and death. With the recent developments (and the lack of cockroaches lately), I think it’s safe to assume that they were the harbingers of the ominous events now taking place, culminating in their dropping all over Shoma’s penguin.

      As for the train ads, I honestly can’t say much about the advertisements other than the fact that they directly convey the theme behind the scene that they are placed in. The train, on the other hand, I feel is rather self-explanatory as of late, both as a vehicle to the path to death, and the various routes standing in for circumstances of past events.

  10. This is really an excellent series of posts on a fascinating subject. I just want to point out that the number 4 is a common reference to death in Asian cultures. The use of 4 entities in those paintings, therefore, is not only a reference to people in the show, it’s a near blatant reminder that death is everpresent in this particular story. Just something to consider.

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