I love the word "fate".
You know how everyone talks about this anime called Mawaru Penguindrum?
Just one single show can completely change your landscape.
Such a thought-provoking series is not made by mere coincidence.
It's definitely... fate.
Of course, it's not for everyone.
There are many mysterious, seemingly pointless story developments.
It's hard to accept abstract ideas that start with nothing but confusion.
But I think... Every line of dialogue, every object drawn in the show exist for a reason.
Nothing in this show is pointless.
What if I asked viewers what anime was like before they have seen Mawaru Penguindrum?
They've forgotten what it was like when they didn't?
You could say anime today isn't
hopeless thanks to this show.
The feeling of noticing perplexing symbolism.
Hearing the sound that you'll never forget.
Plot twists at startling rate.
This show can change your perspective of anime in a heartbeat.
Apples, diaries, penguins, and even the color of trash cans...
seemed like treasures filled with possibilities when I saw them with an open mind.
But... I can't go back now.
I can still watch generic anime.
Although, I can't recall what I liked about them.
Sometimes I wonder why there aren't more deep, meaningful anime like this.
The next season's lineup appear awfully uncertain to me right now.
Like Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki's cat.
A half-cute, half-round, manly cat.
On the other hand, if there has to be shallow series to make deep ones more enjoyable...
then everything must have a meaning.
That's what I would like to think.
Mawaru Penguindrum starts with mystery.
Storytelling here is like a true Japanese movie: Subtle.
Main heroine here is Oginome Ringo.
The stalker of main characters' teacher.
She builds an observation post below the teacher's house from scratch.
A charismatic yandere in modern Tokyo.
It's a penguin eat dog world.
The "real", heroine in the second half is useless in the first half.
Girls like her should just get netorare!
Gosh, you must watch this series to the end.
Mawaru Penguindrum will keep you thinking.
Abstract ideas here are like puzzles: Thought-provoking.
Main heroine here is Takakura Himari.
The sister of main characters.
She's sick from a terminal disease.
A tragic princess in the border between life and death.
It's a world of duality.
The brothers stop searching for an unknown object called "Penguindrum" and try to keep her alive from scratch.
Journeys like that should be more important than destination!
Gosh, I must watch this series again.
Do you like beautiful imagery in anime?
Do you like allegory and careful attention paid to every detail on the screen?
Of course you do!
I feel the same way.
Or rather, I can only love beautiful artwork.
After all, I am an anime enthusiast.
There are so much detail in every single frame that will make more and more sense by the episode.
That's why you must not only watch this series, you have to watch it again.
Viewers who don't do this are ugly and stupid.
They can't appreciate the art in Mawaru Penguindrum.
Listen well. No one loves mindless viewers. They don't have the right to be loved.
It's a pretentious anime, after all.
Artwork in 'Mawawru Penguindrum' removed the impurity in the background, such that only beauty remains.
Just as the great Ikuhara produced the magnificent 'Shoujo Kakumei Utena' from storyboards.
So, I have a favor to ask of you.
Give yourself the opportunity to see this masterpiece. Let yourself see the beauty in this series.
It's Fabulous Max!
Action, comedy, suspense, joy and sorrow, calmness and anger.
If BGM didn't reflect the mood on screen, then why do they even exist?
Because, ever since that very first episode, music in the background matched perfectly with the story.
The only thing we heard were true theme songs and BGM... Music to our ears.
Isn't it electrifying?
Listen, you lowlifes who will never amount to anything.
Obtain the TL notes from my blog.
Let's initiate the Survival Strategy.
Why are people born?
If people are born only to suffer through shallow anime,
is it meant as some kind of a punishment?
Or a cynical joke?
If that's the case, viewers who adhere to their innate curiosity programmed in their DNA...
are far more elegant and simple.
If there really is a 2011 anime worthy of watching,
then, it must be called Mawaru Penguindrum.
I love anime that deal with "fate".
You know how everyone talks about this anime called Mawaru Penguindrum?
If you were able to read through this wall of text, you probably have what it takes to enjoy this series.
I didn't write the review in this format by mere coincidence.
It's definitely... fate.
Of course, it's not for everyone.
There are many unpredictable twists and unexplained mysteries.
It's hard to fully understand the meaning of all the allegories and symbolisms in this series.
But I think...
Every line of dialogue, every object drawn in this series exist for a reason.
Nothing in this show is pointless.
Remember during an English/Literature class and your teacher would recommend you a book to read for an important exam/lesson? Some of the contexts contain what you may think as a simple room painted in "red" actually hides a message of violence and anger. Another example is the book "The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry" shares many symbols such as the rose being a symbol of vanity. Mawaru Penguindrum is definitely like a classic book. A classic book that uses objects as symbols.
Practically, the whole anime in itself is a pure symbol of what you may think is a child's play is actually much more
The thing that made me drawn into the anime was pretty simple, the cute little blue penguins. I barely took the anime that seriously because I don't really check out the summary of an anime just for an element of surprise and the picture cover of the anime made it look like a children's show. The first few episodes did turn out to be a joke and I had a great time laughing and admiring the fun atmosphere the anime was giving. But once the anime started to take the story in a different direction the anime turns into an anime worth raising an eyebrow for.
During the start of the anime, more likely the word "fate/destiny" does keep on repeating a dozen of times and mainly that is the general story line. Likely avoiding the destined future a person takes is not plausible -- and so that's when the penguindrum comes. Symbolism can never die down in this anime and it is unavoidable. What is unique about how the anime's flow of story goes is the endless amount of flashbacks you will receive in every episode. It surely is annoying and confusing because they do show you flashbacks in random but then it isn't much likely a bother if you are serious about getting to know this anime better. Another word you'll be hearing a lot of times in this anime is "punishment" and in life happiness doesn't come along the way you like it. There will always be hard times and consequences no matter how painful it is. The way I see with this anime a reward has to be equal to its punishment -- but I think that's just me. The greatest part of the anime for me was the ending. I think it was a pure masterpiece. I was overflowing with tears and anger but if you look at it in the story line itself and the meaning of destiny that ending did not fail to surprise me. An ending worth crying and worth inspiring.
Practically the reason is that once we see a colorful piece of artwork the logical meaning is "fun & happy" but that picturesque is just a cover up and so that's when the "Psychological" genre clearly explains it. The bright colors was well-spot on with the anime. I always loved the transformation part of Himari. The splashing of colors, the angle shots and the well-detailed animation are all worth praising for. The opening and ending animations are both done beautifully. If I may, the Opening Animation or even the title screen of Mawaru in itself holds a lot of clues. They sure took their time planting these clues very well and hiding it from the viewers and with these colorful images it is a very bright idea that the director was hiding the "main" plot.
One of the best soundtracks out there. I fell in love more with the OSTs rather than the Opening and Ending songs. What is so great about these OSTs is that the music is so perfect with the scene it was trying to match. My favorite OSTs would be "The Children of Fruit and Destiny" or "Unmei no Ko Tachi" -- listen to it and let the music feel you. I still cry to this OST and it still holds a deep meaning to me.
Excellent character development. The characters made this anime possible. Let me remind you, this has a psychological genre so more likely you'll see a lot of out-of-the-box characters. The anime didn't just focus on the four main characters but also all those characters around them had a big role in the anime and what can be more realistic than that. Today, we live our lives thinking that the people around us are just individuals who will be nothing more than just strangers not knowing that these people can change our life or more likely our destiny and that's how Mawaru Penguindrum explains it so well. The beautiful way of how the director connects all these minor/major characters makes you ask at how much more can this anime get more realistic as it is.
One of the most rare animes that truly uses my brain to unfold the story. As I go beyond the episodes it becomes more intriguing and exciting. So much were happening in this show that I actually grabbed a pen and paper (literally) to try to unfold the life of all of these characters -- and it was a bliss. For a show to be called as an "anime" that kept me pre-occupied with questions was something I haven't really experience in my time being of watching animes and that's what makes this show so special. Penguindrum also holds my most favorite anime quotes. This is so far the only anime that truly made me experience happiness, sadness, anger, suspense and even madness. It practically is the only anime that moved me to think over my life (I know, what the hell) and the great deal of Penguindrum being able to touch me so much is a much better work than any masterpiece.
Mawaru Penguindrum is not like any normal anime. It's a work of art that is in need of 100% of your attention and fairly "a lot" of brain power. Like any great literary piece, not all would understand the point of view of the creator but then if you are able to, most especially in Penguindrum, you'll feel how beautiful this creation is.
When someone on the Internet describes a work of fiction as 'visionary', it's usually meant as a form of praise, referring to a willingness to defy convention in favor of something more thought-provoking and enticing. As defined by a dictionary, 'visionary' refers to embracing fanciful and often impractical ideas.
Mawaru Penguindrum falls under both definitions.
What Kunihiko Ikuhara of Utena-fame has created here is a show that takes philosophical musings on themes such as fate, love and death; and combines them with slapstick antics involving ghost penguins and ping-pong balls that erase people's memories.
If that sounds difficult to take seriously to you, don't bother watching this show.
It's going to get a lot weirder.
The overall product is audacious, if nothing else; presenting the story 2 brothers, Kanba and Shoma, who promise to help a mysterious entity track down an object called the Penguindrum in a desperate attempt to ward off the death of their sister, Himari. Their quest has them run into a slew of messed up characters and situations, and before long the narrative turns into a complete mess.
There are several reasons for this.
A big problem is that the series has absolutely no regard for logic and consistency, even within its own narrative. At the start of the series, Himari is brought back to life after succumbing to an incurable disease. Her death and subsequent revival are treated as tragic and miraculous, respectively. Makes sense. What doesn't is that this is repeated several times over the course of the series, treated with the same impact every time. Viewers, however, might be puzzled or annoyed by this repetition seeing as it raises the question as to how severely this series treats the concept of death. This is exacerbated once another character reveals that he's been dead for over a decade, after which the story moves on, completely unaffected by the revelation.
Character development also tends to be very inconsistent. Motivations, personalities and even backstories can change from one scene to the next just to suit the needs of the plot. The aforementioned memory-erasing ping-pong balls are liberally used to retool previously established plot-points to the narrative's convenience.
Other, basic issues also plague the storytelling: many of the back stories feel interchangeable (crappy childhoods galore), some characters who get a lot of screen time end up being completely insignificant while others are introduced seeming important only to be forgotten about before anything could even be done with them. The latter goings-on of the story also feature hackneyed developments involving terrorism, delusions (it's all in your head!) and cliffhangers (someone was stabbed! but who?) that end up not mattering in the slightest.
Most damning of all, however, is the clumsy way the overall product comes together. The shifts in tone – from whacky to dark and vice versa – are as frequent as they are jarring, and it all too often feels that the subjects about which characters are philosophizing have very little to do with the story of two brothers who are attempting to ward off that which should be inevitable.
*WARNING! The following paragraph contains spoilers about the general tone of the ending! WARNING*
Speaking of which, the ending cops out on that in a major way. The series spends a lot of time emphasizing how ordinary people are powerless in the face of fate and that struggling against the inevitable will often result in greater tragedy. One would expect such a story to end on a tragic note as is befit for a something that fancies itself an exploration of fate, but the actual ending turns out rather bittersweet; mostly leaning towards the sweet considering the dark events preceding it.
All that said, the series must certainly be praised yet again for its unique style. This show isn't just different for the hell of it. Ikuhara combines audio and imagery in striking ways, constantly delivering scenes that will shock and surprise. Even if you end up disliking the series, there's a definite guarantee that you'll remember it. Which is more than can be said for a lot of other stuff.
In closing, I'd like to say that while many others would opine that the Mawaru Penguindrum's unique style, impeccable direction and interesting themes make for a wonderful anime, I think that there are too many issues with the overall product to really consider it great. Many of which, I feel, can't be chalked up to mere artistic idiosyncrasy.
Mawaru Penguindrum is a beautiful piece of art. It can inspire either much love or hate, and new details are discovered with each viewing. Intelligent symbolism and heavy themes span all of Penguindrum's 24 episodes. Despite its surreal delivery, Penguindrum remains very real.
The story of Mawaru Penguindrum is completely absurd. Not absurd because of the surreal elements, but how it makes something so imaginative and implausible seem real. We start off with a dying sister, her revival, and eventual search for a mysterious object, called the "penguin drum". Yet, somewhere along the way, the story becomes a situation of life, death, and existence itself.
plot takes a while to reach its climax. Half of the show is spent on character development, craziness, humor, and seemingly random events. The first half is exciting, and the absolute insanity never stops. However, this slow-developing plot is crucial; the characters grow on you. And if you have any siblings, it'll hit close to home. The second half, on the other hand, takes a dark turn, and the plot moves much quicker here. The development and random elements from the first half are pieced together, and nothing ends up being random or useless. Nevertheless, the show's thematic elements are certainly strange. There's comedy, terrorism/cult politics, moral ambiguity, philosophy, all tied together by the overarching theme of family and friendship. The story isn't just unique; it's relevant without being pretentious and forceful. As stated before, its absurd, but the themes, feelings, and other elements that Penguindrum invokes is very real.
Brain's Base put quite some effort here. As the makers of Natsume Yuujinchou, the art quality is outstanding. The story isn't the only thing that's surreal; the art is too. From the strange angles and fantasy-esque scenes, the art has a Shaft feel. How a studio is able to go from a calm slice-of-life, realistic style to flamboyant, Bakemonogatari-like flair is beyond me. The art truly complements the story.
Sound is just as great as the art. The music is simply stunning. The opening themes are performed very well, and their compositions are genius. The ending themes are mostly covers of ARB (old Japanese rock band) with a cool twist. Dear Future (first ending theme) is exceptional--extensive use of hemiola, polyrhythms, layering, and the most angry/painful sounding minor chords. In other words, the music was made for musicians while being very accessible. This isn't you regular J-Pop or J-Rock fair. The rest of the soundtrack is appropriate, but not exactly memorable. Sound effects are also well-done.
Again, character development is crucial to Penguindrum.
Kanba: You'll hate some of his decisions, but you'll always have sympathy for the Takakura siblings. He's a cool guy, and he will do anything to save his family, no matter the consequences. He does some immoral things.
Shouma: He's innocent but brave. He will only do what is right, but just like Kanba, he tries to protect his family whenever he can.
Himari: She's the little sister of the Takakuras'. She's rather intelligent and insightful, and unlike the majority of sisters in anime (or in media in general), she's not filled with moe/kawaii or tsundere-ness. The Takakuras are very likable, and each have their own quirky personalities.
Ringo: She'll creep you out for most of the show, but you'll eventually love her too. Confused but wholehearted.
Penguins: THEY ARE THE CUTEST THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE. They provide most of the comedic relief in the show, and each penguin takes its personality quirks from their respective owners.
The remaining cast are interesting, and they all add quite a bit to the story.
I loved Mawaru Penguindrum. It has its own peculiar charm through its humor and its tragedy. I thoroughly enjoyed Penguindrum's use of literary themes (foreshadowing, allusions, etc.) and overall artistic approach to everything. In addition, it made me feel a wide-range of emotions, from joy and confusion to sadness and anger, and by the end of it, I was left crying with tears of sadness and joy.
But that's not to say that you'll love it too. As with any work of art, it will inspire love or hate. In any case, if you happen to enjoy this show, it will open your eyes quite a bit--if you're not used to opening them. Otherwise, you'll be very amused. So, give Mawaru Penguindrum a shot. It will take the whole show to truly appreciate it, although I question your humanity if it doesn't make you interested.
Before I started watching this anime, even before I knew what it was called, I already had a feeling it was going to be special.
After watching the first episode, I said aloud: "This is the weirdest anime...!" But despite that, I was very drawn to it and kept watching. I wasn't disappointed.
Mawaru Penguindrum has made me both laugh and cry more than once, and after episode 8 I could hardly wait to watch more, putting all the other anime I had been watching on hold for this.
The story is very touching, and the Takakura family's close bonds with each other was something
I really loved. I was rather surprised at the plot twists(I won't give anything away, but beware- Penguindrum isn't all sweetness and light), but I do like anime that's darker than it first appears to be. The story also gets much deeper, and although by the end some things are still left unexplained, I think that's part of the magic of the show.
The artwork and soundtrack both left me speechless. I felt like the music fit perfectly, whether it was a moment of happiness, sorrow or a gripping dramatic scene. I also got incredibly attached to the opening and ending themes, both music and art-wise.
The characters are amazing. The Takakura siblings are all lovable, and some later characters (which I won't name because of spoilers) are just to die for. Ringo's existance annoyed the hell out of me, but now I've grown to love her as well.
All in all, I think Mawaru Penguindrum was a fantastic show. I couldn't reccomend it more, and it's one of the best I saw in 2011. Magic, mystery, love and tradgedy- it's all there. I've seen several people say that "it isn't a show for everyone", but doesn't that apply to most anime? I think it would be a shame to go through life without seeing it.
But watch and see for yourself-
Penguindrum may just leave you spellbound...
Mawaru Penguindrum is one of those rare anime that doesn't have some form of source material. It was created by Brain's Base, the same studio behind Durarara & Baccano. The co-writer and director was Ikuhara Kunihiko. You may not know his name but you probably recognise his other works. He created and directed Revolutionary Girl Utena and served as the director for large segments of the Sailor Moon anime. I have to say, this sounds promising. So far, the two anime I've seen from Brain's Base have been at least decent and Ikuhara does amazing work. If they screw this up I'm going to be
sorely disappointed. So, let's proceed with cautious optimism.
Our tale opens with three siblings, Shouma, Kanba and Himari. The three are living on their own since their parents went missing and things aren't going very well. Himari is dying of an incurable disease and her brothers have been told that she doesn't have long. They decide to do everything they can to make her final days happy and take her to an Aquarium that they all used to love going to. It's there that Himari collapses. She's rushed to the hospital where she dies only to quickly come back to life and start adopting odd mannerisms whenever she wears a penguin hat. She brings her brothers to a strange psychedelic space that even Lewis Carroll would find excessive, calls them worthless low lives and tells them that they'll have to find something called the “Penguindrum” to save their sister's life and things only become crazier and crazier from that point on.
As usual, let's begin by looking at the series' faults. The biggest one is that it's fond of bringing up really serious issues for dramatic moments that don't tie into the plot in any substantial way and are never brought up again after they happen. The primary examples being scenes where someone will very nearly be raped and the next episode they'll interact with the person who made the attempt as though nothing happened and it will just go completely unaddressed for the rest of the series. Which just begs the question of why something as serious as rape is being brought up at all if they aren't going to bother doing anything with it. Really, any source of drama should have some plot relevance instead of just being there for a cheap shock moment but there's something particularly terrible about using such a grotesque crime, and the number one cause of PTSD, in such a tawdry fashion. There are also quite a few humorous moments that fall short, mainly because they'll try to pull off humour at parts of their cheap shock scenes or really close to them which results in a tonal clash. The romance elements in this are absolutely atrocious. Most of it involves incestuous undertones, stalking and/or some other factor that makes it really skeevy. The problem being that a lot of it is played as uplifting or otherwise positive instead of having some self awareness of how messed up the situation is. Although, in all fairness, they do always show rape as being a terrible thing, even if they never bring the attempts up again after they're done with.
Let's move on to the positive aspects. I will give the series credit on three points. The first is that the premise is very creative and had a lot of potential, even if that potential was largely squandered by meanderings into the realms of pointless irrelevance and general stupidity. I'll also give credit for having some legitimately good dramatic scenes, when it's actually doing plot relevant stuff and can refrain from trying to inject humour into it. The series also does have some funny scenes, when it's putting them in at light-hearted bits instead of trying to cram them into really serious moments. So, the series does manage some good bits during the rare stretches when the writers were on their Ritalin.
The characters are, largely, not bad. Every single one does suffer from the writing's general lack of focus, but in terms of characterisation and development they aren't bad characters. They are, however, pretty standard with little, if anything, unique to define them. There are some really good familial scenes with Shouma, Kanba and Himari. They still aren't very complex characters, though and there are times when the series takes those bonds into creepy territory which does weaken that aspect.
Then we have the penguins. Those of you who have seen Utena might remember the little purple monkey that existed solely for comic relief but was bearable because he largely stayed in the background and did, in all fairness, have some funny moments. Now, imagine that same basic character with a more prominent role and with four slight variations running around. So, now you have four largely pointless comic sidekicks taking up screen time and being highly obtrusive. I would like to tell you that at least none of them makes any attempt at sexually assaulting anyone, but one of them does, albeit in a much more mild form than most of the similar scenes in the series. Because tying someone up and forcing kisses on them without consent is still a type of sexual assault.
The art is good. Ikuhara's fondness for symbolism that's extravagant and kind of bizarre is fully on display. The visuals are highly engrossing and appealing to look at. The character designs are very reminiscent of Utena. For example, Natsume Masako looks similar to Arisugawa Juri in terms of hairstyle, facial structure and even expressions.
The actors in this really put a great deal of effort into their performances. They do deliver their lines as over the top or seriously as the current scene demands. I appreciate the effort they're clearly putting into it and I won't say that any of them were bad, but I really can't call them good performances either. Due to the tonal issues, A lot of scenes require them to fluctuate from serious to exaggeration in the space of a few sentences and it just sounds awkward. There aren't many scenes that let them show any subtle emotional range. Most just have them fluctuating between extremes. Honestly, the music is the one thing I didn't notice tonal problems with. Maybe it does fluctuate during those horribly executed scenes and I was too overwhelmed by everything else to notice but, as far as I can recall, the music was really good.
There's certainly some. One of the attempted rape scenes is between two characters of the same sex. There's also a case of two female characters being portrayed as having had sex, consensual too as rare as that is for this anime and there are some scenes that definitely come across as homo-erotic, usually between girls. That being said, it isn't a huge part of the anime since a lot of the focus is on Shouma and Kanba. As such, the ho-yay factor is going to be a 5/10.
This anime is a classic example of style being valued over substance. It has some amazing visuals and it has some good scenes both dramatic and comedic and it does portray familial bonds pretty well. But taken as a whole, it doesn't hold up. The narrative is an unfocused mess with tonal problems and lots of dramatic moments that serve no purpose to the plot and come across as pretty offensive and demeaning towards serious issues. Because it's one thing to address serious issues and quite another to bring them up and then do bugger all with them. This series chose poorly and took the latter route. In the end, every good scene is over-shadowed by two or three bad ones and my final rating is going to be a 3/10. Next week, we'll ignore the requests for a moment because it's time to take another look at that franchise, in the name of the moon.
"Survival Strategy!" -That involves so many things, and so many of it is just amazing.
*This review will be updated as more episodes are available, It is up to episode 14, also I have yet to watch Utena, so I can't make completely accurate comparisons to it*
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Now this one's a real head scratcher, is it a brilliant new story that's trying to break into new boundaries? Or is it just pure nonsense with a penchant for philosophical babble? Or a comedy about watching penguins do funny and out of the ordinary things?
What I'm talking about (If you haven't figured it out yet) is the
latest bizarre anime that is causing a lot of buzz right now, Mawaru Penguindrum, a new anime by Kunihiko Ikuhara (Who has not been in the director's spot for more than ten years), the creator of a legendary (From the great things I have heard about this series to call it that) psychedelic anime series from the 1990's: Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Before the anime kicks itself into "Survival Strategy," it starts out to be a family tragedy drama story with an in-and-out-of-the-hospital younger sister of the twins Kanba and Shouma, Himari who's in poor health, who one day while at a family trip to an aquarium, suddenly collapses and seemingly dies later at a hospital only to miraculously revive, thanks to the power of a penguin hat... and soon insanity insures as penguins start doing chores around their house, but only the three main characters can see only them.
Here is when the story drops out of being something typical, and walks ambitiously into possible obscurity, now normally, I would be hesitant to jump into something as bizarre as this first episode shows it wants to become, but from what I hear about the director, I have no doubt that he isn't incompetent enough to just throw out something strange without wanting to show everyone something spectacular and fabulous.
But there is a lot of daring concepts that Mawaru Penguin is willing to dabble in, most noticeably right before the ending theme song starts to play: (Warning, spoilers coming up) *coughincestcough* and that is enough for anyone to want to avoid this show completely and there's enough philosophical speeches to make it seem arrogant or deep depending on how you take it, but I have enough curiosity and definitely enough interest to see where it wants to end up.
AFTER 14 EPISODES: And where it wants to end up... Is anyone's guess now, in a good way.
The brothers Kanba and Shouma have gone through quite a good bit of things as their quest for the Penguindrum continues and their only lead? A psycho of a stalker, (or maybe she's a normal stalker, I wouldn't know how a stalker operates) Ringo Oginome with a diary.
But that's not the only thing going on, other than hilarious penguin antics (One of them goes around peeping up girl's skirts), there are many things happening in the sidelines, but a good amount of focus goes to Ringo, with her motives for stalking, her sad past, and her attempts to date the one she obsessed with. And the way the anime ends off the whole thing with Ringo is done flawlessly, which all of that build up is used in continued use in the later part of the anime, with everything revolving around the "penguindrum" and a mysterious white haired man.
The anime also challenges the concept of forbidden love, which honestly can be very off putting, but none of it is shallow, and everything is used to great effect.
The anime constantly breathes creative animation, and drama to all who crave it, as this anime continues to keep you on the edge of your seat even as far as the show gotten so far, it is none the less impressive and shows that is the strongest to be best anime of 2011.
ANIMATION: I know what Revolutionary Girl Utena looks like, and Mawaru Penguindrum looks like an updated version of that show, in more of the lines of fitting in with the standards of current animation.
It has the look of shojo anime as the characters all look pretty (Both the girls and boys), and there is a lot of artistry in the back grounds, everything is very bright and colorful, nothing dull looking at all, especially with a certain scenes that involves the "survival strategy," it's nothing short of amazing.
And several episodes include very creative sequences going further than the previous episode, that are extremely reminisce of Utena.
SOUND: It's mostly the catchy pop back ground music that stands out, though the theme music is quite good.
The voice acting for the main characters is good and all, but I hope there isn't too many scenes with the sister yelling, it doesn't sound terrible and this is just a nit pick of mine but, the voice actor just doesn't sound capable to produce a yell, it sound like she's yawning actually.
+ This centuries' Revolutionary Girl Utena.
+ An anime that's willing to take risks right away with the story to try to be original.
+ Delightfully unpredictable.
+/- Dazzling and colorful animation. / Maybe too flashy and colorful much for some (Which is disappointing).
I'm willing to stick around to see what Mawaru Penguindrum is capable of doing, even if it falls flat on it's face, and hope others will be as enthusiastic as myself about this anime.
I strongly believe this to be very best of 2011, and hope the ending will blow me away.
Mawaru Penguindrum; also entitled 'I Have a Lot of Feelings'
I won't lie. This was amazing. Absolutely beautiful. Stunning script, clean art, a unique plot line and music that wrenches at your gut in the most despairing moments of the series, whilst enhancing the humour and light-heartedness that this series needed as a preventative measure for hearts breaking and tears overflowing everywhere.
Where should I even start?
The story itself was...definitely unique. I heard the title of Penguindrum and passed it off as a simple family orientated fantasy adventure, but when I saw that it was categorised as 'psychological', my curiosity was piqued and I began to watch
it. Boy, was I in for a journey. In typical Ikuhara-esque manner, the themes dealt with in this anime are at times questionable, offensive, immoral, philosophical; an all encompassing myriad of emotion and thought at the same time. I've actually had a friend I recommended this to, who refused to watch past the first episode as she found some of the themes unpalatable. Only a few directors are able to pull off such a jumble of themes as artfully as Ikuhara while retaining an appeal to a wider audience. Complicated, but watchable. I especially loved how all of the characters intertwined with each other, reminding the watcher of the underlying theme of 'fate'. Every character in this series is fated to meet in some way, to make an impact on another's life whether for better or for worse, and the sheer curiosity and interest behind the slow reveals and the twists in personalities are a joy to experience. Originally, I was going to drop the series as it started off so slowly. It was bizarre and it moved at a snail's pace, and the main characters did not seem to be going anywhere but in circles. It all changed around the halfway mark of the series, when the characters began to show their dark sides, their hidden personalities, their motives, the appearance of ghosts and the disappearance of logic and morals. Of course, the pace is uneven every here and there, but the variance in almost pointless humour and fast paced drama is a welcome contrast; it keeps you hooked and on edge, wondering what will happen next.
This isn't a story about just familial love. This is a story of revenge, passion, the futility and cruelty of humankind, of fate and of salvation.
The characters portrayed all of this beautifully. One of the most masterfully written scripts in terms of character development, characters whom you initially expected to be stereotypes found in anime (the playboy, the 'motherly' character, the girl with the crush, the beauty, the teacher, the Innocent) are all turned on their heads when the series comes to its climax and tapers to an end. Characters whom you initially thought unimportant are really the most important of all, and they are all linked so intricately together in a web that Ikuhara has spun to pull the story together, coupled with flashbacks of their pasts which explain their motives and their philosophies, creates such rich personalities. None of these characters are shallow. For example, when I first encountered Ringo Oginome I found her irritating and obsessive for what seemed like a schoolgirl's mere crush, but with her past tragedies being revealed as the story went on, as well as her understanding of her self and of others developing, I grew attached to her; I cried for her and I cried for her conflicting circumstances. The initial set up of all of these characters is for you to either hate them, then grow attached, or to love them and sympathise with them, then when the series hits its climax and their darker sides are revealed, it's hard to hate them, knowing what they've been through. Even the main villain, Sanetoshi, is charming and elegant, first shown as a miracle worker and slowly evolving into a darker entity, but even then I didn't hate him. Sure, I was angry at him, I was angry with what he had put our heroes through, but the initial charm still lingered and I couldn't bring myself to outright hate him (also because damn, smooth talking while attempting to break humanity? Let me have some of that).
The art as well. Oh, god the art. I've always been a fan of Lily Hoshino, so when I found she was doing the character designs I was immediately interested. The animation is smooth and fluid, with a clean style and bold colours. However, there are discrepancies within the animation at times, with one episode (the episode at the hospital where Natsume makes her debut) being horrendously animated in comparison to the rest of the series, but I can forgive this for the outstanding beauty that the rest of the series brings. It's not just the clean, pretty style that makes the animation stand out; its the symbolism. During the series, the backgrounds are often a plain colour, interspersed with small symbols such as penguin logos, apples or train signs. It's not until the end of the series when you recognise their significance that you fully appreciate the bizarre symbols. What you thought was artistic bloodshed, you realise to be a symbol of love and fate. What you thought was a strange, alien ritual, you realise to be a portrayal of sexual intimacy. You realise things, the second, the third, the fourth time around. You don't stop realising things even when you know the script off by heart. The art is so rich and intricate, that even small symbols and inconspicuous posters have a meaning to them That's part of the beauty that Mawaru Penguindrum has so carefully placed and has me rewatching to find all of these subtle nuances.
But really, what has me coming back to this series time and time again, to rewatch and analyse and have sudden epiphanies is the thematics that Ikuhara plays upon. The anime starts off with Shouma Takakura stating that he 'hates the word fate'. 'Okay,' you say to yourself. 'An anime about fate. Interesting. Goes along nicely with the family love theme.'
It's at the end of the series where you realise that you were so very wrong.
So very, very wrong.
You kind of wish that someone, a reviewer, a kind, hopefully non sadistic friend or a big caution sign had warned you of the emotional journey that you were about to embark on.
You see, this anime isn't just about fate. Okay, well maybe a large proportion of it is, but that's just the running theme. Fate is the cause; fate caused grief, passion, murder, revenge and sacrifice; in turn these caused each character's own unique motive. The futility that all of the characters feel in the face of their destinies is heart-rending, and their efforts to change their fates, and the fates of their loved ones is valiant and littered with tragedy.
When I finished watching this series, I cried. There is a sort of melancholy beauty that accompanies a bittersweet ending and this was no different. Some would call it a happy ending, some would not, but in each case the emotion behind the climax and the finale of the series was so utterly raw that you cannot help but grieve and rejoice at the same time.
Because when you finish watching, you realise that this wasn't an anime about the futility of the human race in the face of their destinies. This was about the hope, the courage, the unwavering love for another human, or the love for the entirety of humankind to FACE their destinies head on and sacrifice their being for someone to have a better fate.
This was a story about salvation through sacrifice.
You finish watching, and you think about the themes and subplots. You think about YOUR fate. You think about the sacrifices you would make, the extremes that you would go to to protect what you love. That's what makes this such a though provoking series, because really, as hard as it may be to imagine, all of these characters are like us (but hopefully without the tragic backstory). They just want normal lives, normal families, normal relationships and an unconditional love (unlike Sanetoshi, who was probably there to hate everything). I cried during the series out of laughter, but I also cried watching the gradual loss of innocence and hope that each character suffers. I cried because I grieved at the end, but I also cried because I sympathised with our heroes' final decision and I cried because I was overwhelmed by the lengths that they would go to to protect what they loved. In this series, you realise; sacrifice is the ultimate act of love.
Enjoy the music while you watch the series for the first time, because believe me, at the end of it, just one track will have you blubbering on the train during rush hour. The mood is set beautifully by each track, be it humorous, tense, sad or pensive, and enhances the emotion during these scenes. I can't listen to either 'Ash-Grey Wednesday' or 'I Love You, Sons of Destiny' without getting a lump in my throat anymore.
If you're wavering about this anime, don't be put off by the weirdness. Don't be put off by the somewhat bizarre relationships that each character has with each other, and don't be put off by the erratic pace and initial characterisation. It's a beautiful series, it really is. Art-wise, music-wise and story-wise, its a masterpiece in all fields. Watch a story unfold before your eyes and watch as secrets are revealed to you.
Most of all, don't be surprised when you finish, face damp with tears, that you begin to wonder about humanity, fate and salvation.
And I assure you, five months down the line, you'll watch it again for the fourth time and catch all of the symbols and hints that you missed the last three runs, and your newly gained knowledge won't soften the grief any more.
I applaud you Ikuhara. I applaud everyone on the production team. It truly was a work of art.
Honestly, I feel that Ikuhara had many good ideas in terms of the plot. However, the end result is a clusterfuck of stories and themes mashed together. On their own, each arc stands up quite well, and a lot of ideas are well executed too. I liked the Child Broiler idea for one, ignoring the fact that it was a tad overused.
The plot is extremely convoluted and confusing. Unlike other anime that explain their convoluted storylines like, say, Kyousougiga, Mawaru Penguindrum does not make any attempt to do so. The viewer is left wondering what the fuck is going on as plot development after
plot development happens without any explanation whatsoever. In the last 8 or so episodes in the series, everything just goes completely apeshit, with characters suddenly changing personalities and sudden "twists". The viewer is not given any time to think about the twist or what the plot development means. Instead, the show simply shoves the ED in his face and tells him to deal with it and watch the next episode.
Don't even get me started on how pants-on-head retarded the ending was...
PRODUCTION QUALITY (ART+SOUND)
The art was very well done. Unlike some others I have no problem with the cardboard cutout background characters since a blurry or improportionate man would distract me from the show even more. The environments were all very colourful and varied. The vibrant use of colours was a major plus point for me too. Animation is smooth enough, and there aren't any noticeable drops in quality.
As for sound, voice acting was great. Nothing out of the ordinary though, but that's perfectly fine. I greatly enjoyed the soundtrack, although I got a bit bored of them playing the same tracks in the second half of the anime. The sound direction was very good too, with the tracks playing a prominent role in many scenes to create a bigger impact.
Production quality was definitely up to standard. However...
I would suppose the characters in the show are just decent. I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable or interesting. They're kind of like background characters. Himari takes on a minor role of the damsel in distress. Kanba is your typical angsty teenage badass.
The only characters I liked were Shoma and Ringo. I feel that both had a significant amount of character development by the end of the series. They also have very good chemistry, and I enjoyed their scenes together.
No, I did not enjoy it at all. Except Ringo x Shoma.
"Warning", Spoilers of the ending following this. I recommend you just read it and spoil yourself so you spare yourself the pain of watching this.
All in all, the show had some great ideas, but failed to execute them well. It would have been way better if the director didn't have such big visions for the show and fall short completely. Perhaps he should have used his ideas for different anime series. There is also a stunning lack of attention to detail, which is something that continuously broke immersion for me and annoyed me immensely. The ending was just shit too, why the fuck did Shoma and Kanba die and be revived? And why the fuck was Himari's penguin walking with Kanba and Shoma at the end(lack of attention to detail, see)?
Mawaru Penguindrum, like the Kyousougiga TV series and Kyoukai no Kanata, is a prime example of why every anime needs a solid plot, not just good production quality to be good.
Do yourself a favour and take this out of your backlog.
Mawaru Penguindrum. What can I possibly say about it that hasn't already been said? Pretentious. Confusing. Beautiful. Terrible. A Masterpiece. Overrated. Genius. You could say anything of these things and you would be correct. But, in my eyes, Mawaru Penguindrum is an anime unlike any I have ever seen. It pushes the boundaries of the medium in a way that hasn't been done since the End of Evangelion movie.
Story(9/10)- Penguindrum's story is one wrapped in what seems to be endless layers of symbolism. One can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of it. Everything from a single line of dialogue to an unusual camera
angle is there for a reason. It will probably take many years for this show to be fully deciphered, it goes to show us that A LOT of effort was put into this story. The reason why I hesitate to give story a perfect score is because of how hard it is to fully comprehend. I must admit, I almost dropped the show in the first few episodes because I had no idea what was going on. Undoubtedly, most of you reading this review probably did the same thing. But, if you are willing to stay for the ride, I guarantee that you will be thankful for doing so.
I cannot simply talk about the story, without talking about the themes Penguindrum covers. It ranges from Rape, Nihilism, Existential Longing, and isolation. But the biggest theme here would have to be, "Fate." What is fate? Does fate truly exist? The show starts off with narrator saying he hates fate. These themes are tackled in an unconventional manner, using slap-stick comedy and symbolism. The mood generally sways between both drama and comedy. Ultimately, the ending itself, I found it to be cathartic yet bittersweet. A saddening, yet fitting end to such an audacious show.
Art(9/10)- The art in this show is great to say the least. The presentation is bombastic and erratic. All scenes in this show are breathtakingly beautiful and will capture your attention. There is a meticulous level of detail in every scene. This is something that should be appreciated.
Sound(9/10)- The soundtrack is music to my ears, no pun intended. It is bold, unique and different. It varies from pop tracks, to melancholic soundscapes. You would be hard pressed to find a soundtrack better than this.
Character(9/10)- Penguindrum's cast is unique........to say the least. You won't be able to easily understand characters until later in the show. Still, the cast and antagonists are very well written. Their intentions aren't so cut n dry that you can understand them immediately. You will sometimes have to rewatch certain scenes, in order to fully grasp certain characters EX: Sanetoshi and Momoka.
Mawaru Penguindrum is probably one of the most mentally straining anime I have ever had the pleasure to watch. This is not a show for everyone as I mentioned earlier. It is a must see for those anime watchers who love having their minds stimulated. After watching this show, other shows that have been released seem mediocre compared to it. My final verdict is, a 9/10.
Mawaru Penguindrum is a zany, wacky, twisted, messed up jumble of an anime that is so absolutely insane, yet it surprisingly turns out to be an interesting and compelling story in the end.
Penguindrum is the brainchild of Kunihiko Ikuhara, who also conceived Revolutionary Girl Utena over a decade earlier. Penguindrum bears many similarities to Utena: the repetition, the odd humor, the heavy handed symbolism, and the silly yet loveable characters are all here. Fans of Utena will definitely feel right at home with Penguindrum.
The story goes a little bit like this: Two brothers, Shouma and Kanba Takakura, have a sweet little sister, Himari, who is
unfortunately dying from a terminal illness. On a trip to the aquarium, Himari collapses and dies. But she is oddly revived by the penguin hat that Shouma had bought her minutes before. The penguin hat’s miracle does not come without a price though. After having their sister’s body temporarily hijacked by the Princess of the Crystal in a flashy over the top transformation sequence, the brothers are informed that they must find the mysterious Penguin drum in order for their sister to keep the life she was so graciously given back.
But that only scratches the surface. Soon, the brothers get involved with shady organizations, a stalker schoolgirl, the homeroom teacher she’s stalking, his nutty celebrity girlfriend, a cold rich girl barring their path, magic mumbo jumbo, and a mysterious man who holds power over Himari’s life.
The diverse cast of characters is what really shines about the show. Aside from Himari, who scarcely seems like more than a plot device, equal development and care is given to a number of characters in this anime. They’re all a little nutty, but they’re also all unique individuals with their own goals, personalities, and beliefs. It’s also impressive to note how the anime ties all the characters together. Not since Monster have I seen such a large cast of characters who seem like they’d normally have nothing to do with each other tied together so intricately.
The two brothers, Shouma and Kanba are polar opposites and serve as each other’s foils. It’s also interesting to note how this plays into their roles in the family. Everything about Shouma screams maternal figure: He’s kind, caring, level headed, rational, and even takes care of the cooking and housework. Kanba can be seen as the more typical masculine father figure. He is smooth, articulate, hot headed, popular with the ladies, and also the sole breadwinner of the house.
Both love Himari dearly and want to save her, but they have drastically different methods of doing so that fit almost too perfectly with their personalities. It’s almost scary seeing Kanba’s apathy for the world and even his own body swell up as the story proceeds, blinded completely by his desire to save Himari.
We also have Ringo Oginome, a high school girl who is as obsessed with curry as she is with Keiju Tabuki. A big chunk of the first part of the anime is dedicated to her stalkerish obsession with Tabuki and her plan to win his heart, as told by a mysterious diary she holds. Her sworn enemy and rival for Tabuki’s affection is a pretty actress named Yuri Tokikago. Unbeknownst to Ringo, this woman has a far more sinister side than her well groomed façade lets on, as well as a hidden connection to the both Tabuki and Ringo’s pasts.
Masako Natsume is another character whose brother also has an unknown illness, but is being kept alive by another penguin hat. She seeks out the penguin drum as well, interfering with the brother’s attempts to get it. All these characters are revealed to be connected to each other in some way, as well as to the main villain Sanetoshi and Ringo’s deceased older sister Momoka.
Surprisingly, three small penguins are what really steal the show. These little buggers are hilarious; doing the most insane things even while the main characters are having a serious conversation. Whether it’s reading dirty magazines, putting panties over their head, trying on blond wigs, or spraying errant cockroaches, these hilarious little guys are always up to something. It’s also interesting to note that the 3 penguins’ actions, appearance, and mannerisms closely resemble the three Takakura siblings. The fourth penguin, belonging to Masako, is the same. Some may find them distracting as they act out in scenes that are supposed to be serious. And you’d be right to assume that they are there just for the cute factor. But they add a bit of charm and humor to the story. It’s hard to imagine the anime without them.
Now the story itself can be a bit of a confusing mess until the very end when mostly everything is resolved and cleared up. It keeps you on your toes and guessing until the very end, slowly unveiling one twist after another without being too ridiculous.
The first part of the anime seems more like a wacky slice-of-life, while the second part heavily leans toward the metaphysical and supernatural. That of course means the second part of the anime can be quite difficult to grasp at times. And that right there is one big problem with the story: it can be incredibly pretentious at times. Similar to Utena, some of the symbolism is very clever, while some of it just seems like it was thrown in there just because, making some concepts and plot elements needlessly complicated and confusing. The dialogue can be a little too much as well, with its constant rambling about fate, fate, fate. Like the symbolism, sometimes it’s clever, other times it just sounds pretentious.
As an anime heavy in symbolism, it’s important for the visuals to be sufficiently up to snuff. And it definitely does not disappoint. The animation is high quality, colorful, flashy, and smooth. The soundtrack is phenomenal, containing a plethora of great tracks for any given situation. The character designs are all beautiful and unique. No two characters look anything alike.
Overall, Penguindrum is an amazing anime that was clearly made with a lot of care and heart. It’s got almost everything, flashy visuals, amazing characters, a silly yet enjoyable story, and a great soundtrack. It’s understandable that some will be turned off by its confusing story and heavy symbolism at first, but sticking with the anime to the end is well worth it. Watching it again is well worth it; you’ll see all kinds of things you may have missed the first time.
This crazy, mysterious, psychological rollercoaster is one hell of a ride, and once you get on you won’t want to get off.
“What is Mawaru Penguindrum?“ If ever there was a more loaded question in the realm of anime, I’m not sure I’ve heard of it, because this show is an absolute enigma. Adequately reviewing this show is a daunting task for reasons that will soon be clear, but let’s give it a shot: First of all, what is this show? Well, it’s a lot of things. A moving story about the importance of love. A detailed commentary on the way society treats children. A unique perspective on mental health issues. An insightful interpretation about the concepts of fate and destiny. Etcetera etcetera etcetera. While
the vast majority of anime are driven by their plot or by their characters, Penguindrum is instead driven by its themes, style, and the artistic messages that lurk in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th layers of the show. It is extremely complex and jam-packed with more symbolism, motifs, and allusions than you can shake a stick at, but it’s simultaneously intriguing and investing enough that you could miss all of them and still enjoy the show. For that reason, Penguindrum is on the remarkably short list of shows that manage to have vast and flawlessly executed themes while simultaneously managing to have an engaging story and fleshed out characters. It’s one of my all time favorite shows and, as far as I’m concerned, a masterpiece.
Synopsis: Twins Kanba and Shouma Takakura lost their parents long ago, and now live alone with their younger sister Himari. They lead relatively normal lives until Himari is diagnosed with a terminal illness that could cause her to drop dead at any moment. Distraught, the twins attempt to make the best of the time they have left with their beloved sister, until she finally collapses during a family trip to the aquarium. Himari dies. However, when the souvenir penguin hat that Shouma bought for her finds its way onto her head, she miraculously comes back to life with her illness cured. The only condition to keep her alive? Find the Penguindrum.
The plot of Penguindrum has always been intriguing to me because, in theory, it should be a total disaster. You’ve got this unbelievably absurd concept of a penguin hat that grants immortality, an evil mastermind who controls your destiny with the help of two of his rabbit sidekicks, and comedic relief penguins who serve no immediately apparent purpose, yet you’re going to try to tell a heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal that delves deep into philosophy, ethics, and social commentary? I mean, does that sound for a second like it’s going to even remotely work? In any other circumstance, it probably wouldn’t have. Luckily, this anime was directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, who is also known for Revolutionary Girl Utena and, more recently, Yuri Kuma Arashi. Ikuhara, if I may be so bias for a second, is a complete and total artistic genius. I’ve said before that his style is not for everyone; the repetition of sequences, the abstract environments, the use of vibrant color dissonance, etc. It all serves to provide this show with a remarkable artistic flair that will dazzle you and ensure that there is never a dull moment.
Getting back to the plot, the reason that Ikuhara is so widely praised is for his ability to convey information without words; to connect the events of the show to the real world and make the viewer question what the meaning of it all is. Of course, the storyline of Penguindrum can be taken at face value by all means. It is complete with exciting plot twists, intense moments, and general excitement. The thing is, there are LOTS of anime that can give you those things. However, there are virtually NO anime who can give you those things on top of the sheer depth and artistic passion that went towards conveying a refined, emotional message to the viewers. This serves to make the humble story of the Takakura family all the more memorable, as it can only be described as a rollercoaster of emotions. Penguindrum will make you feel every emotion that you have over its duration, and I think that is saying something.
The character cast of Penguindrum adheres to the writing technique known as “The Mystery Box”. For those unaware, this is when the characters are presented to the audience, but the show has no intention of letting you get to know them at first. No real backstory is given; all you know about them is what you see. Then, slowly and steadily, you begin the learn more and more about them. Their pasts. Their motivations. And finally, their deepest darkest secrets. Every time you think you know everything there is to know about the large cast of Penguindrum, wham! Another twist! This is a remarkably impressive accomplishment because it is only through the viewers’ sheer exasperation after their perceptions of the characters get turned on their heads again and again and again do they begin to realize just how much depth that all of them have. Note the emphasis on the word “all”, because no character in Penguindrum is left behind. All of them, no matter how seemingly minor, are fleshed out and manage to feel real. The icing on the cake is that this anime manages to accomplish all of this without ever feeling contrived; these are not twists “just of the sake of twists”. They are all thematically coherent and well thought out. For that reason, I can’t see anything to complain about with this cast. They are likable, relatable, well written, dynamic, and they have depth. What more could you possibly want?
Discussing the presentation aspects of an Ikuhara anime is never easy simply because of how unique and simultaneously profound it manages to be. As I mentioned earlier, Ikuhara is a master of visual storytelling. He frequently conveys more information with animation and shot composition than he does with dialogue/monologue, and that’s something you just don’t see often. I won’t even try to describe the myriad of techniques used in this anime, because I don’t think I could do it well without writing a separate essay. Speaking purely in terms of aesthetic appeal, the art style of Peguindrum is extremely pretty. The colors are immensely bright and everything pops right off the screen. The animation itself is also very fluid, and even memorizing at times. In short, it’s one of the most visually impressive anime I’ve ever seen for reasons that are hard to describe without demonstrating specific examples. As for the sound design, I struggle to find legitimate complaints yet again. The OPs and EDs are both unique and worthy of listening to in your spare time. I can’t tell you how long I had OP 1, “Nornir”, on repeat when I first finished this show. What really makes the OST work is the directing; Penguindrum’s mood and tone fluctuate a lot, and the soundtrack never fails to provide the proper accompaniment. Songs always end right when they need to and begin right when they need to. By the way, the voice acting is spot-on. There’s not a single VA who didn’t totally nail the character they are attached to. Penguindrum’s story and themes may be its main talking point, but by no means whatsoever does the presentation lag behind; it is just as superb as the rest of the show.
What more is there to say about Mawaru Penguindrum? Well, a lot actually. I could quite literally gush over this show all day; it has turned me into a hopeless Ikuhara fanboy. However, fanboying aside, I think this show is an absolute must watch. Not everyone is into the whole symbolism thing, and I get that, but it’s an enjoyable show even without paying mind to the themes. For people who ARE into critical analysis, this is your dream come true. Penguindrum is a show that means a lot to me and has genuinely made me reassess several of my worldviews. The effort, passion, and sheer emotion poured into this anime is palpable, and rivaled only (in my opinion) by Neon Genesis Evangelion in terms of how well you can feel the creator’s pain. It is one of my absolute favorites and it is one of the few anime that I can say without hesitation is indeed a masterpiece.
This is my first review on MAL and normally, I wouldn't be too interested in writing reviews, because honestly, I'm not very good at it, but in the case of Mawaru Penguindrum, it was inevitable.
I felt like if I did not write what I'm feeling after watching this anime, then something inside my mind will definitely break...
So here I go.
I found out about the famous ''mawaru penguindrum'', when I overheard two girls in my college talking about how mindblowingly amazing it is. Perhaps , it was then, that i made a mental note to maybe check it out.
When I came home that day, I
searched it up:
"Best anime ever"
"I can't believe something as good as this anime exists"
I was super excited. I couldn't wait to watch it.
I waited until my exams were over and cleaned my room and brought lots of popcorn and turned off the lights and opened my laptop and put on the first episode.
23 and a half minutes later, I was a little confused.
OHH! this must be like those anime, you know...the ones that start out fairly weird but get super interesting a few episodes later.
I continued watching.
Exactly 144.5 minutes and 6 episodes later, I was very, very confused.
Frustrated, I googled: "Is mawaru penguidrum really worth watching?"
"ITS A MUST WATCH"
"You cant miss it"
"I strongly, strongly recommend it"
Are the answers I got. You see, I'm a simple woman. I value the opinions of my fellow anime fans. They have never let me down. 3 to 4 MAL reviews alone, guide me enough about the worth of an anime and 99 out of 100 times, I agree with majority, if not all, of the reviews.
But this wasn't the case with Mawaru Penguindrum.
I decided to watch it till the end.
576.5 minutes and 24 episodes later, I sat there fuming, with a burning ache in my head.
It felt like I had wasted a quarter of my life and I felt incredibly stupid for still not being able to find a single thing that was "mindblowingly amazing" (or even remotely interesting) about this anime that I had just finished watching.
I still go to blogs and MAL reviews sometimes, to find some explanation for this anime...an explanation that I missed, yet I always thought I was that one person that always searched for a meaning in everything I watched or read, which is one reason I like anime, because I believe that it is a medium of entertainment that is capable of conveying deeper meanings to seemingly shallower things, because everything can be visually explained.
At some points, I saw a bit of potential in this anime. Some scenes were nicely portrayed, the BGM was fitting. It even had a bit of nice comedy. The character designs were not bad. It could have been a nice romantic comedy or a heart warming story about two brothers trying to save their ill sister. Even earned some points from a psychological aspect (the stalker business and child boilers and terrorist organizations)...but it took all of its nice potential and smashed it together into a wannabe deep complex drama that was really just meaningless.
Everywhere I looked, they talked about some deep ''symbolism'', some ''hidden meanings", a "relation with art/history/religion/etc..".
At first it frustrated me and annoyed me, but now I just laugh.
Despite the fact that it was a ridiculous anime, that poorly conveyed/did not convey at all whatever hidden meaning it was supposed to carry to an average viewer, and that it was only meant to confuse people, and that it tried WAYY TOO HARD to become a psychologically thrilling masterpiece and for that it even tried to steal ideas and symbolism used to in many pieces of literature (such as night on the galactic railroad), it FAILED MISERABLY. And people like me, who were disappointed to see the anime they had such high hopes for fail so badly, forcibly tried to put it on a pedestal. These are the same people who gave excellent reviews and ratings to the most troll anime of 2016, "Erased" , that won everybody's hearts at the first episode but failed miserably by the last, but people couldn't deal with it so they refused to even acknowledge its failure...
Despite all that, I have taken a strange liking to Mawaru Penguindrum. It is my wonderland. My crazy world.A haywire fantasy. Because whenever I search it up, or hear about it, its like reading or hearing about somethingremarkable, something that only exists, but explodes and sparkles and flashes and shimmers...but is invisible to me.
But I did learn that it is possible to attach a meaning to anything if you try hard enough.
I do not recommend this anime to anyone.
If you're really such a fan of deep symbolism and hidden meanings, then I suggest you invest yourself in anime that successfully delivers at least SOME of it when you watch it. So I'd say go watch ghost in the shell, or perhaps even Angel's egg (yes, even that does a wonderful job with symbolism) and there's plenty more. You'll love those.
The first time I saw this anime I was expecting some easy-going plot with magical stuff all about and whatsoever, as the animation, art and mascots made it seem like it was so. However, I was wrong, and both in a good and bad way.
I'll give much credit where credit is due; I thought there was an interesting character development; I think Ringo's backstory was splendidly well done. She may seem annoying, creepy (what with every single thing she did and how far she went), but the reasons to how she behaves are acceptable (in the sense that one can be satisfied, and it answers
questions quite well). Nevertheless, there are way too many other characters with a lack of an intriguing backstory. Yes, they do have dramatic and drastic story, but they are bland and too similar to the "fate is everything" concept that is already attached to Ringo. They also behave in such an immature and unthoughtful way that it is so easy to get pissed off at characters, even if you have a bias. I did have a bias, don't get me wrong, but it was horrible to see that a character who seemed so interesting and mysterious get a lousy past with lousy raison d'être's. Honestly, I find it anti-climatic.
The storyline is not flawless. It may seem so because it is complex, with many links between the various characters who seem so out of the blue. Yet, the complexity goes overboard. It's that feeling you get when you've too much of something that the situation becomes as if you didn't have enough of it. Think of a parabola, after you've reached the top, the effectiveness starts going back down. The links between the characters are random twists, in my opinion, that were added in as if just to make it more complex on purpose, and I personally think that was not really needed and it ruined the plot, if anything. The thing is, if you want good complex plot, you need good complex material.
The anime started off light-hearted even though it was a rather serious issue going around (Himari dying etc). It even started to go nowhere with Ringo's arc, and only came around at some later point. The comeback was interesting for a little while and then it fell into the chain of twists. I thought the addition of mascots was strange. Nothing against it, but it doesn't add to anything. I love the penguins, though.
I disliked this series mainly because of personal reasons, I will admit that. I do tend to stay away from disturbing series with characters who've gone beyond perverse with no character development. Here I am getting character development, but it seems still too banal to me, save for Ringo's case. Yet, even for her case, she develops to a certain point, and stays at the same line for a while.
I also dislike that it is too focused on "fate" even though it is the main theme and is bound to be that way. I thought they were all too obsessed about it, and a variety of non-obsessed characters would have been a good idea.
However, because of the somewhat uniqueness it has that I cannot deny, I'd say this anime would still pass as a fairly okay anime.
Mawaru Penguindrum to me is a show that had lots of potential, but ultimately fell flat towards the end, due to a convoluted plot and wonky character development. Let me tell you why (I'll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible):
The show starts with our main characters in a state not that unusual in anime: orphaned teens living on their own, doing alright. The little sister is sickly, but is miraculously saved by a hat. While being possessed by the hat, she tells her two brothers that they must find the "Penguindrum", and that's our set-up.
The story follows our heroes as they
try their best to find this Penguindrum and with it, solve all their problems. The story is all over the place in the beginning, with some seemingly random events and flashbacks here and there. Towards the end it becomes too much. Too many themes and events are introduced to the viewers and it all felt quite silly in the end.
Not much to say here, to be honest. The art is nice, as it usually is nowadays. Pretty generic character design as well.
Great voice actors and a good soundtrack makes this the best part of the series. Short of a 10, but at random times the music would not fit the scenes.
Oh man, the characters. Some of them are pretty generic, like the naïve girl (Ringo) and genuinely good guy (Shoma). Most characters have some sort of twist though. The thing that bothers me sometimes with anime is that the characters have vastly different values and interests than me, and such is the case here. I simply can't put myself in their shoes and understand their decisions, because many of them are as if pulled from thin air to make the plot work.
One thing that especially baffled me is this: one character consistently is in the way or ruining the events and lives of the other characters, but nobody seems to mind. It is just accepted without much doubt and the bad events it causes are never mentioned.
I gave it a pretty low score, but I would be lying if I said that I haven't enjoyed Mawaru Penguindrum. The sad part is though, that I spent more time being infuriated with some of the characters and some very odd plot turns. There was more confusion and sadness then pure enjoyment for me, which is a shame.
I'll save the worst for last. "Fate." The word is prominent in the series and everything is circling around it. Fate is story-writer lingo for "this doesn't really make sense, but here's a word to make it better" to me, and having a series revolve around the shallow premise of "what ever happens, it's fate," is unacceptable to me, and it is the biggest reason I didn't enjoy most of my time with Mawaru Penguindrum.
Like I said, i felt like Mawaru Penguindrum had a lot of potential. It unfortunately throws that away and the end result is not terrible, but not that good either. Ultimately there is more good than bad and I'll weigh it in at a 6/10.
Despite the bad grade, I still think that this is an interesting series that might fit you well. If you consider yourself a believer in "Fate", this might be right up your alley. The series is quite quirky and fun at times and usually is quite light in atmosphere. I recommend you check it out if you find the plot interesting, and I hope you enjoy it more than I did.
Hi ya'll. It's been quite a while since I wrote a review, so I tried to keep it short and to the point. If you didn't like the interview, I'd love to know why. Hit me up with a PM or post a comment on my profile with any criticism. Also, if you'd like to know more about the series, I'll try my best to answer. Cheers.
I've seen many people compare this anime to a novel or another work of literary art. In a sense, they are correct. I found this anime to be very reminiscent of some of the books my english class had assigned in high school: well-written, full of symbolism and poetic imagery, but not engaging/captivating.
Story - My biggest issue with this show is the story. The basic plot (which you can read in the above synopsis) seems simple enough. However, there are many side stories, background stories, and things that are hinted at that are never resolved, explored, nor explained. Many times an episode would end with
a very interesting turn of events, only to have the next episode hand-wave it away and pretend that nothing had happened, in favor of focusing on the "main story".
The story in general felt unfocused, like several different vignettes were hastily strung together chronologically, and then some details were added after-the-fact to create some vague impression of continuity.
Characters - As far as characters go, none were very memorable; with the exception of the doctor who replied to everything with "how overwhelming". He was great.
The problem with this show is that you learn over the course of it that the character relationships between everyone are in fact very complicated, so complicated that it becomes difficult to keep track of each character's motivation and backstory.
I enjoyed the soundtrack throughout the show. The opening themes are by far the most memorable parts of the show, and the second one is especially well-written. The original Japanese voice acting is standard quality Japanese voice acting. Moreover, I would not recommend the dub. Some of the performances do not do the characters justice, and feel awkward to hear. However, if you're really inclined on not reading subtitles, then the dub is acceptable and you shouldn't run into too much trouble.
Art - The art is arguably the most interesting part of this show. There are many stylistic choices which make the scenes very interesting to watch from an outside perspective. Additionally, artistic themes are present throughout the show, all hinting at some deeper meaning and adding to the atmosphere of the show.
Enjoyment - Throughout the series, I was never thoroughly interested nor invested in the story. Even in the final few episodes I found myself wanting to put the show on hold because I wasn't very concerned as to what would happen. However, this isn't to say I was bored the whole time. There were some very memorable scenes and I did enjoy both the symbolism and the philosophical dialogue that was scattered throughout the show.
Summary - It's tough to summarize an anime like this. The writing and ideas had such potential, but the execution was lacking. The show is unique in that it is both not compelling and yet leaves something to be desired. Unless you really enjoy symbolism and don't mind it when plot lines go completely unaddressed, watching this will only disappoint you.
Firstly, let's get it out of the way. Mawaru Penguindrum is a show which is by no means an easy watch. It is not a simple show with a linear plotline, nor is it one that is willing to spoonfeed every single piece of information to its audience. Instead, it is a highly cryptic show that prides itself on its ability to pile mystery upon mystery onto the show, leave the audience thoroughly confused by blending reality and metaphorical imagery, and leave much of its message to personal interpretation.
If you are one who doesn't enjoy thinking too deeply into a show, it would be
best for you to avoid this one. Although there are many aspects which can still be enjoyed even if you choose not to look at the show beyond a superficial level, such as the excellently done humor and its slick sense of style, you would be missing out on the many small things that make this show special. It is filled with tons of literary devices, ranging from the constant usage of imagery and symbols to allusions to obscure works. It requires some work to fully get the show, and not taking the effort to do so will often leave you confused or even frustrated at your inability to grasp just what is going on.
However, if you are one that finds fun in figuring out what each of these little things mean, Penguindrum is the perfect show for you - it is easily one of the richest shows that the medium has to offer, exploring a wide range of themes such as fate, family, love and revenge, packing plenty of content within its short run within 24 episodes. One of the interesting things about the show is that things are often not made fully clear - and how each person interprets it can be completely different. It truly is up to you to make your own view of the show and its messages, so I won't go too much into that, as each individual will experience the range of events differently.
Despite having some of the cutest and adorable penguins in the show, it must be warned that this show is a very dark one. This is a show wherein the characters are very, very screwed up. A common thread around them is the theme of shitty parents - this show contains some of the most worthless and shittiest parents I have personally seen in most works. The development here is extremely well-done, managing to create a excellent balance of emotions within the viewer. We will often feel disgusted or creeped out at the many sick and demented actions the characters take, yet we will manage to understand why they might want to go to such lengths. It manages to paint them in a pitiable light whilst not downplaying the fact that yes, these people are messed up and are doing some horrible things. That aspect is without a doubt my favorite aspect of the show, managing to humanize horrible humans and make us care for them.
That is not to say that it isn't flawed. There are certain characters which may do a complete 180 and completely shift their personalities or motivations to fit the plot. Whilst some might argue that these instances are well foreshadowed and thus acceptable, it is in my opinion that some instances are poorly done. I would say that this doesn't happen too often within the show, but it does sometime feel that the show is creating a twist for the sake of creating one. Thankfully, as mentioned, this happens rather rarely, and the overall quality of the characterization is excellent.
Plot wise, this is undoubtedly a very intriguing show. What it excels best at is creating that sense of mystery - you never know what the hell is going on, yet are given enough hints throughout the show, many of which come full circle at the end of the series. It can be said that this show demands a rewatch to fully understand all the little things packed into it, and even then, it can be very difficult to understand what truly is going on. Things are very often left unexplained, and several plot threads are left hanging. Whilst some might feel that this is a good thing as it leaves more to interpretation, I personally find it a little too much, as many things make very little sense, and I am sure that there are many gaping holes throughout the plot which are never fully resolved.
The production values on the show are excellent, and there is nothing to complain about. The art style is gorgeous, and it's clear that plenty of effort was put into the art and animation, making it one of the more beautiful shows of recent years. It also boasts an excellent soundtrack that is used excellently, often bolstering the effects of many scenes. There are close to zero complains regarding the technical aspects of the series.
In the end, how you would judge the show ultimately relies on how much effort you are willing to put in the show, and how far you can let little flaws slide. It is one which I enjoyed, but didn't manage to love as I felt that things were often a little too cryptic. Everyone's response to penguindrum will be very different, but what is undeniable is the fact that it is a truly unique and daring show, one which dares to challenge the mediocrity of the industry, and mostly succeeds in doing so, delivering an engaging and thought-provoking product.
Mawaru Penguindrum is an anime unafraid to break conventional rules. Its story is lucrative and all over the place, and is hilarious yet profound. It has an extensive use of symbolism to convey its morals and message, similar to Kunihiko Ikuhara’s other piece, Revolutionary Girl Utena. It has a nice set of characters each with their own quirks that make them interesting and diverse. The animation is well-done and the soundtrack is stunning. But most importantly, it has irresistibly adorable penguins that you just can’t help but feel like hugging. Such qualities should make Penguindrum an outstanding anime. Unfortunately, various problems, such as its abuse
of drama and its messy form of narrative, plague the anime and bring it down from what it could have been.
Immediately in the first episode, we are faced with a serious issue: the world is not fair. The issues of the world are incredibly pressing and parallel very well to serious issues in the real world. Take, for example, the relatively recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. What did the children do to deserve such a tragic fate? Why did this happen to the poor innocent children? If God is omnipotent and infinitely generous, how could he let such a fate take place? There is no doubt that these questions went through the victim’s parents heads after the incident. Shouma and Kanba Takakura are faced with the same questions when their little sister, Himari, a kind, sweet girl dies an untimely death from her terminal disease. The tragedy of fate is explored throughout Mawaru Penguindrum as the two brothers try desperately try to save Himari from her inevitable death written by destiny and by God.
Though it may seem that this is a “weighty” anime, Penguindrum actually has many comedic and lighthearted moments, mostly in the first part of the anime. This bring us to an important point- The anime is, to many people, divided into two parts. The first half of the anime is something more familiar – it’s like a crazy slice-of-life romcom almost. Many people drop it in the beginning, but it should be noted that Penguindrum is not what it initially seems like. The second half takes a more psychological take, and its use of symbolism drastically increases. It also becomes more supernatural and magic becomes ever more prevalent. The introduction of magic as well as other elements make the second part much more convoluted and messy, leaving viewers often wondering “what is going on?” Multiple events start happening at once and at the same time we have flashbacks throughout each episode, making episodes go all over the place.
Many people say that Penguindrum’s story is “weird,” which is a legitimate complaint. The anime starts with two boys, Shouma and Kanba, losing their sister to an inevitably fatal illness. However, a magical penguin hat reincarnates her but will only keep her alive if Shouma and Kanba find the “penguindrum,” which we don’t know the exact information about. The first person they meet is a highschool girl that stalks a teacher in hopes of having a romantic relationship with him and carries around a diary that tells the future, which is suspected to be the Penguindrum. Sound strange? Well, it only gets more radical from there. They later meet the teacher’s famous, Yuri wife named yuri, a girl with a gun that shoots memory-wiping balls, and a pink haired, ghost doctor who uses magic to try and destroy the world. However, the different feel of Mawaru Penguindrum is also highly refreshing. It’s safe to say that Mawaru Penguindrum is unique and is not very similar to any one anime, making it a nice break from run-of-the-mill series. Its daringly eccentric story creates a fun and new experience. Its production is also very well done, making the story all the more captivating. The brutality of fate, the yearning of someone’s love, the pain of loneliness, among other things are explored through the anime.
What made Penguindrum awesome for me was its astonishing use of symbolism throughout the anime. Many symbols were thought-provoking and cleverly done, a real treat to someone who ponders on them. Some carry with them strong messages and morals of the story, making symbols a large component of the anime. Hell, Penguindrum itself is one grand, magnificent symbol. However, not all symbols were so spectacular. Some of them were one dimensional and had little thought behind them. Many symbols are open to interpretation just like a poem, so you take your own meaning out of each one. There isn’t a universal meaning for some symbols and you figure out your own, though some are flatly explained. Because of this subjective judgment for symbols, I’ll refrain from saying which ones are good or not, and let you pick your own favorites.
Probably one of the biggest problems I have with Penguindrum is its use of drama. A prime example of this is its use of death scenes. Death scenes are repeated over and over to a point they are meaningless and don’t deliver nearly the same effect as the first time (like medicine, to those who have watched it already). *spoiler (though not a big one): Himari dies so many times throughout the anime, and always comes back after a little mourning. When she is finally dead for good, or as we think, we have the crying scenes, the “fate is cruel” monologue, and are left feeling awfully depressed when the episode ends. Then the next episode, she’s alive again like nothing ever happened. A few episodes later, you’ll forget it ever happened. Death is only used as a dramatic component for sadness, but has little real meaning. The triteness of death is just one of the numerous examples of abuse of drama. Another example is meaningless and even misleading suspense. For example, many episodes end or scenes are cut with the main character in the face of danger, leaving us with suspense and excitement. This suspense turns out to be meaningless as the danger actually never existed. The anime deceives the viewers making them feel excited and scared for what is about to happen, only to say that it was just kidding soon after.
Another major problem I have with Penguindrum is its use of magic, especially in the second half of the anime. For an anime trying to depict the brutality of reality, the unfairness of life, and the powerlessness against fate, it’s not apt that the anime uses magic mumbo-jumbo. Now, the problem isn’t the existence of magic in the anime, but rather its use- it is used as a solution to real problems. Fate is brutal and written in stone… unless you have a magic hat of course. Then you can solve all your solutions by just resetting fate. The implementation of magic puts a strain on Penguindrum’s overall message, and makes the second part even messier.
But by far the greatest issue of Penguindrum is how crazy its narrative gets in the second half. Many things starts to happen at all once on top of frequent flashbacks to events in the past, leading to large confusion. The direction the anime takes is also very obscure and random at times. It attempts to do many things at once, and unfortunately does not succeed.
Penguindrum has a nice, diverse set of characters that have their fair share of strengths and weaknesses. In the Takakura family, we have 3 of the main characters, Kanba, Shouma, and Himari. Their parents have been missing for a while, so the siblings actually take different family roles. Kanba is the masculine head of the family, he’s cold and often resorting to dirty tactics to save Himari, who he dearly cares about. Shouma is the more maternal part of the family, he’s kind and thoughtful, and even cleans and cooks. The two highly contrast each other, and this contrast is further apparent as the anime goes on as their differences go to the point that they part ways as they take their own path to save Himari. The relationship between all 3 family members of the family is beautifully developed and portrayed. The side characters are for the most part interesting and each develop throughout the series. It should also be noted that there are adorable blue penguins that are representations of these three characters.
However, this part of Penguindrum is not all sunshine either. Though the characters do develop over time, the development is highly inconsistent and changes to suit the story. This is especially true in the side characters, whos motivations are enigmatic and always changing. Many characters are also forgotten about after their major part in the story, and end up having little impact on the outcome. A prime example of this is Ringo, one of the 4 main characters. The first part of the anime focuses on her quest, known as “Project M,” but soon after, she quickly forgotten. She appears again at many times after this, but by then is little more than a bystander and no longer plays such a significant role. The backstories for the characters are also sadly all too similar, kind of like the universal “daddy problems” in Neon Genesis Evangelion. They all are suffering similar situations (which, for the sake of no spoilers, will not be explained) and there isn’t much variety. And by the end of the anime, we still only know this much. Though similar and unknown backgrounds isn’t a major problem, it still is somewhat disappointing.
Another fault of the characters is the lack of individual development. Though the relationships between the characters is strong, development on a person basis is weak and highly inconsistent. This is especially prominent in the side characters, but for the sake of brevity,let's just focus on the main characters. We have Kanba, the masculine head of the family. He develops little until the second half, where he takes a radical turn into evil and doing shady business. This transformation made little sense, and was merely to conveniently match with the plot. Shouma doesn't develop much if at all throughout the whole series. Himari is also not a very strong character, as she is, in my opinion, little more than a plot device. She doesn’t develop much throughout the anime, and though she does have things like regret from the past, nothing really comes out of it.One side character with the most flagrant development that I'd like to mention is Dr. Sanetoshi. We know little about him except he supposedly died 10 years ago, his ghost lurks around and plans to destroy the world with magic.
Now let’s get to one of the brighter parts of the anime: its art. The animation is brilliantly colorful, and the image is clear and sharp. At times, especially later on, the art adds a more surreal effect fitting for the anime. Character designs are also very well done, and few characters look completely identical. The background characters are unmoving figures similar to those in bathroom signs. The soundtrack is also top-notch and beautiful, and there is a plethora of very well-done openings and endings, my favorite of which is “Dear Future.”The OST is just as spectacular, and fits into scenes seamlessly and perfectly.
With the flaws in mind, Penguindrum's refreshing uniqueness alone does not label it as an outstanding anime. Criticism aside though, I enjoyed almost every minute of Penguindrum, and despite its flaws, it was very enjoyable. Yeah, Penguindrum was a crazy, convoluted, wild ride, but in the end it definitely worth the experience.
As a longtime anime fan who has been watching anime since the 1990s, I divide anime into 3 categories of "uniqueness" , based on what I consider to be the composite average of all anime and how far a title is from that average core. First let us picture the most generic, average anime in existence to serve as the Sun of our Solar System. How about Naruto or Bleach? Either would be a good candidate as the most average an anime could possibly be. The first category are "inner planets" anime that are fairly close to the Sun. These are your generic anime
like battle shonen, ecchi harem, and slice of life. Next, you have the "outer planets" that are farther from the Sun, but not TOO far and still visible on a clear night like Jupiter and Saturn were for the ancient Greeks. These are the slightly unusual anime like Axis Powers Hetalia, Detroit Metal City, or Psycho Pass. Finally, you have the Trans-Neptunian Objects that lie on the very edge of the Solar System. These are the anime that are WAY far away from the average "Sun". Examples of these would be Kuchuu Buranko, Ergo Proxy, or Spice and Wolf. These don't HAVE to be surrealist, artistic anime as Spice and Wolf proves, but rather an anime that isn't like anything else and feels completely unique in the universe of anime. With a title like "Penguindrum", it shouldn't be a huge surprise that this is one of the Trans Neptunian anime. In other words, prepare for a bizarre and unique experience!
Story: Spoiler Free! I promise!
The plot of Penguindrum is that 2 brothers named Kanba and Shoma are highly concerned about their critically ill little sister named Himari, who was recently given a prognosis of only having a few weeks left to live. The 2 brothers decide to take her to an aquarium and show her a good time, since they used to have fun at the aquarium as kids. Shoma even buys Himari an unusual looking penguin hat. Unfortunately, Himari tragically collapses and dies right there. Shoma and Kanba take her to the hospital, but are told that it is too late. However, the penguin hat suddenly comes to life and resurrects Himari! It even seems to have cured her illness. However, the spirit residing in the magical penguin hat demands a favor from Shoma and Kanba in exchange for saving their sister. They must find a special artifact known as the "penguindrum" and bring it to the spirit of the hat, or their little sister will die! The hat tells the brothers that the first person they need to investigate is an unusual girl named Ringo, who is obsessed with fate and has a massive crush on the brothers' teacher. As the story progresses, you learn more and more hidden background and history about the various characters and the revelations are revealed bit by bit. This eventually makes Penguindrum a rather addicting and tense anime. However, the first part of the series is actually a little slow and some viewer's may not be used to starting on such a snail's pace. I don't want to spoil anything, but there are many plot twists and you will probably not see a lot of them coming! The only warning I will give is that this series does have some sad parts, but it is more bittersweet in its tone rather than ever becoming a full blown tragedy.
One of the most immediately likeable characters is the sickly little sister Himari. She is eternally optimistic and just oozes with kindness and caring. The 2 brothers Shoma and Kanba are quickly shown to be polar opposites, which is reflected by their red vs. blue hair colors. This is a reference to a Japanese cultural trope called "red oni, blue oni". Kanba is ladies man who easily just accepts things, even if a situation becomes completely absurd. If a giant demon penguin were to appear out of nowhere, he would simply accept that this is now happening and not even be shocked or disturbed. Kanba is also a moral utilitarian, meaning that he believes that the ends and the ultimate goal always justifies the means. Shoma is much more introverted, easily shaken up, and possesses a more traditional morality. Ringo is extremely obsessive, creepy, and at first seems to perfectly fit the "yandare" archetype. However, there is more to her character than the typical yandare, as you would expect from an acclaimed series like Penguindrum. There are actually quite a few more characters I could talk about, but I don't want this review to drag on forever. Instead I will just say that Penguindrum has an excellent cast of characters that you will slowly get to know better and better as the series goes on.
Themes and symbols:
Penguindrum is a philosophical anime that focuses largely on the topics of fate, free will, existentialism, the paradox of theodicy, and filial love. Penguindrum does a rather nice job presenting these themes and never feels like it is trying to be deeper than it actually is. It is not needlessly confusing, doesn't have throwaway allusions and symbolism that have no reason to be there, and basically feels comfortable with itself. Many anime TRY to be deep, but not all anime are able to execute their goals with the same precision. Penguindrum is top tier in this regard. You will immediately notice the extremely bright color palette that was chosen for the art in this series. This is because color actually plays an important role in the symbolism of the series. The most prominently featured color as virtually every critic before me has already mentioned is the color red. Seriously, only Suspiria can compete with Penguindrum in obsession with showing red everywhere! The reason for this is likely due to the "red string of fate" used throughout East Asian mythology and legends. Fate is an extremely important theme of Penguindrum. The red is also often interpreted as representing the fruit of original sin, which in Western art is often portrayed as an apple, even though the Bible itself makes no mention of apples. The fruit of original sin also makes an appearance in this series, so that is of course a distinct possibility. I don't want to talk too much more about the symbolism, because I fear I will spoil something if I go too far in depth. Just be aware that there IS plenty there to find, so be on the look out and pay attention, even during the seemingly boring parts!
Have you ever read a Haruki Murakami novel? Super Frog Saves Tokyo perhaps? This question is asked in Penguindrum, likely as a reference to the influence that Murakami's writing had on Penguindrum's writing. Murakami always seamlessly combines really weird stories, dark situations, quirky comedy, dense symbolism, and existential philosophy into a highly memorable package. I had never seen anything else that reminded me of his writing until I saw Penguindrum! I'm not saying Penguindrum is on par with the master himself of course and is HIGHLY unlikely to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, like Murakami almost inevitably will in the next couple years. However, Penguindrum is a great little series and is well worth a watch. The only strikes against it are some pacing issues, especially in the beginning of the series, a soundtrack that I personally wasn't crazy about, and an art style that you may or may not like. I will end though by saying that Penguindrum is well worthy of your time and I highly recommend it! I give it a very solid and well deserved 8/10.
Mawaru Penguindrum is not a show for everybody, but for those who are able to appreciate what this show has to offer, it is truly a treat.
This series, first and foremost, focuses on the messages that it wants to convey, and then weaves the plot around it. The show approaches things quite differently than most animes, and leaves us with a thematically tight, but quite confusing show. The premise is basically two brothers trying to save their younger sister from a terminal illness. She dies, but a mysterious penguinhat revives her and commands them to obtain the penguindrum if they truly wish to save her.
Mysterious penguins are also dropped onto their doorway. The first half of the series presents itself as a comedic slice of life with some supernatural elements, however the second half shifts in tone and mood completely. Basically, if you become too comfortable with how the story progresses in the first half, you're in for a rude awakening.
Much of this show often makes makes references to fate, and potentially defying it, but much deeper themes and messages comes to light as the series progresses. As stated earlier, this show can be quite confusing, as a lot of elements that are presented in this show become surreal. The fine line between abstraction and reality become blurred. Many plot twists are thrown at its viewers, and certain plot points remain ambiguous, leaving the audience to make their own connections. This show is highly symbolic, so it can be either highly compelling, or extremely frustrating. For those who are able to make the connections, and understand the symbolism in this show, it can feel very rewarding.
Music is fantastic. Some of the tracks are god-tier, while some are forgettable. What I noticed about this show is that certain tracks are only used once or twice throughout the entire series, showing how diverse the music can truly be in this show. Many many variations of the same tune are used as well. It's also worth noting that a lot of the songs that are in the show are actually redone version of songs that belong to an old Japanese rock band called ARB.
The animation in this show is gorgeous. The colors and characters are vibrant, and the the movement is fluid. It has wonderfully drawn background artwork, and presents very
interesting visual ideas all together. Much of visual ideas are reminiscent of fairy tales. This show also has an excellent sense of composition and lighting. Repetition is utilized quite a bit in this show, so expect some stock footage. However, there are very noticeable drops in production value for certain episodes. Despite that, this is probably Brain Base's most beautifully animated series to date.
The characters have a very cute design, sporting a sort of romantic comedy style. At first, it is difficult to become emotionally invested for a majority of the main cast though. The interest of the how the plot unfolds seems to outweigh what actually happens to the characters. Certain characters may even seem to be downright unlikeable. Fortunately, by the end of the show, you will most certainly grow to care for most of, if not all of, the main cast. The voice actors and actresses do an excellent job as well. Himari's voice actress might need some getting used to though.
What purpose do the penguins pose?
They are reflections of the characters inner selves. They do not really become plot relevant after the second episode.
This show is truly a breath of fresh air. While I would not call this the perfect show, what this show offers is so rewarding that I'm able to look beyond that. Ambiguity in a show does not bother me so much when it's done right, and this is definitely the sort of show worth re-watching. Despite the somewhat contrived plot and occasional frustration this show can bring, the ride while watching this show was a extremely exciting one.