Mawaru Penguindrum 21 and 22 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Penguindrum and commenting there starting at 1:00 p.m. EST. That’s one hour earlier than normal!

I will update with the chatlog after the chat.

ETA: Chatlog below the cut!

Penguindrum 21

[13:01] <@Sylocat> Uh…
[13:01] <@Sylocat> Ringo? Run.
[13:01] <@Sylocat> Oh, the tabloids…
01[13:01] <Froborr> That penguin watch is a bit suspicious.
[13:01] <@Sylocat> And the title of the paper was “The Weekly Truth – Penguin DX”
[13:02] <Arrlaari> Whoops, I hit 20 instead of 21
[13:02] <@Sylocat> Ah… shall we wait?
[13:02] <Arrlaari> I’m in preroll ads for 21
[13:02] <@Sylocat> Paused at end of OP
01[13:03] <Froborr> Also paused at end of OP.
01[13:03] <Froborr> And I also had the ad-free option, FYI.
[13:03] <@Sylocat> Yay
[13:05] <Arrlaari> in post op ad
[13:07] <Arrlaari> paused after ad
[13:07] <@Sylocat> Click
[13:07] <@Sylocat> “Panda egg?”
[13:07] <@Sylocat> Is that a real candy?
[13:08] <@Sylocat> The watch is important? Himari seemed to…
[13:08] <@Sylocat> Mika-Chan looks like Yuri
[13:09] <@Sylocat> Awwww
[13:09] <@Sylocat> …So that’s the eyepatch bear’s origin story?
01[13:09] <Froborr> This is adorable.
[13:09] <@Sylocat> That was a sweet line
01[13:10] <Froborr> Did… did that book say VALIS in Wonderland?
01[13:10] <Froborr> I would read the HELL out of that.
[13:10] <@Sylocat> So Himari remembers that?
01[13:11] <Froborr> Oh boy.
[13:11] <@Sylocat> Oh, this guy needs to get smacked down
01[13:11] <Froborr> Ah, that’s why she reacted to the watch.
[13:12] <Arrlaari> Supposition: reporter is an agent of Sanetoshi
[13:12] <@Sylocat> Does Sanetoshi have agents, apart from the rabbit children thingies?
[13:13] <@Sylocat> …And this is yet another part of their family dynamic we haven’t seen before
[13:13] <@Sylocat> Is this all part of the flashback or is any of this happening “now?”
01[13:13] <Froborr> Hmm, the ramen shop is really different from when Kan goes there.
[13:13] <@Sylocat> The heck?
[13:15] <@Sylocat> …Was he in that photo before?
[13:15] <@Sylocat> Well… that’s a bizarre way to reveal this
[13:15] <Arrlaari> ad
[13:15] <@Sylocat> Paused
[13:16] <Arrlaari> This at least, I think we all could guess
[13:16] <Arrlaari> If not that he would be in the photo, that Sanetoshi was behind the Penguin group
[13:16] <@Sylocat> Well, it explains how he’s able to move in and out of Himari’s subconscious
01[13:16] <Froborr> More or less–Sanetoshi is connected to Kiba, I think we knew that, and him being some sort of nonhuman entity was pretty clear.
[13:16] <@Sylocat> With him being a “curse” and all
[13:16] <Arrlaari> Oh, the ghost thing? That’s a twist I guess
[13:17] <Arrlaari> paused after ad
[13:17] <@Sylocat> Okay then…
[13:17] <@Sylocat> Click
[13:17] <@Sylocat> Kiba? Is that the terrorist group?
01[13:17] <Froborr> Kiga?
01[13:17] <Froborr> Whatever it is.
[13:17] <@Sylocat> This guy’s connected to it too
[13:17] <@Sylocat> This “reporter” is involved somehow
[13:19] <@Sylocat> What…
[13:19] <@Sylocat> She’s just having tea with Masako
[13:19] <@Sylocat> WHAT
[13:19] <@Sylocat> She’s… his “real” sister?!
[13:20] <@Sylocat> I thought she was a jilted ex
[13:20] <@Sylocat> (oh wait, it’s anime, she’s probably both)
[13:21] <@Sylocat> Was that a deliberate Makoto Shinkai reference?
[13:22] <@Sylocat> WHOA
01[13:22] <Froborr> Fuck
[13:23] <@Sylocat> What just happened?
[13:23] <@Sylocat> WHAT
[13:23] <Arrlaari> ad
[13:23] <@Sylocat> Paused. Fuck.
01[13:24] <Froborr> Calling it now, one of Yuri and whatsisface just shoved the other aside and took the stabbing.
[13:24] <Arrlaari> paused after ad
[13:24] <@Sylocat> Click
[13:24] <Arrlaari> Yuri was closer to the door, so it’d be Tabuki
01[13:25] <Froborr> So Kanba has been meeting in an intact ramen shop with his parrents who give him money, but everyone else who goes there sees an abandoned, ruined shop where the long-dead corpse of the father is lying on the floor.
01[13:25] <Froborr> Lovely.
[13:25] <@Sylocat> So is that another alternate timeline bleeding over into this one?
01[13:25] <Froborr> Possibly, possibly.
01[13:26] <Froborr> Or Kanba’s even more messed up than we thought.
[13:26] <@Sylocat> Also, since when do they have an “Uncle” who Blue Oniichan would trust with Himari?
[13:26] <Arrlaari> If Sanetoshi is a ghost, he is probably a boss ghost who can call on other ghosts
01[13:26] <Froborr> Also a possibility.
01[13:26] <Froborr> Or it’s just different depending on who enters it.
01[13:26] <Froborr> Or all of the above.
[13:28] <@Sylocat> …Huh?
01[13:28] <Froborr> Gahhhh
[13:28] <Arrlaari> The ED animation is new
[13:28] <@Sylocat> Yarp
[13:28] <Arrlaari> Or? Just a different intro to the same theme
[13:28] <@Sylocat> It looks different enough to me
[13:28] <Arrlaari> The music is new, I’m fairly sure
01[13:29] <Froborr> So… Kan is working with the terrorist group to get the money to treat Himari, who is pretending to work with them as well in order to stop Kan from becoming a terrorist. Himari is supported in this by Marshmallow Sniper. The terrorists are *probably* working with/for Sanetoshi.
01[13:29] <Froborr> And Shoma is left home alone, abandoned by his family.
01[13:29] <Froborr> Am I missing anything?
[13:30] <Arrlaari> post credit scene
01[13:30] <Froborr> Oh, okay, that makes things MUCH clearer.
01[13:31] <Froborr> Kanba and Marshmallow Sniper’s father left home to join the terrorists, which is why their grandfather hates him. He took Kanba with him, but left the other two children with their grandfather.
01[13:31] <Froborr> Kan and Sho became good friends, and when Kan’s father died, Sho’s parents adopted him.
01[13:31] <Froborr> (They seem to have already adopted Himari at this point.)
[13:32] <@Sylocat> I dunno, it just feels like I know less and less about these characters as we go on, and that makes it harder to build up an investment
[13:32] <@Sylocat> Next episode is preloading
01[13:32] <Froborr> Got the ad free option as well.
[13:33] <Arrlaari> I got the 1 ad up front uption
[13:33] <@Sylocat> I didn’t this time, sadly
01[13:33] <Froborr> Interesting, I’m not having that feeling at all.
01[13:33] <Froborr> I feel perfectly fine with having their backstories unfold slowly.

Penguindrum 22

[13:34] <@Sylocat> Are those Himari’s old friends traveling incognito to duck their fans?
01[13:34] <Froborr> Those are Himari’s old friends, aren’t they?
[13:34] <Arrlaari> Double H!
[13:34] <@Sylocat> Eeyup
[13:34] <@Sylocat> Oh, Ringo
01[13:34] <Froborr> The slogan on the train was “At last we meet,” too.
[13:35] <Arrlaari> “this time for real”
[13:36] <@Sylocat> Ad
[13:37] <@Sylocat> Paused after ad…
[13:37] <@Sylocat> click
[13:37] <@Sylocat> Yep, it’s them
[13:39] <@Sylocat> That would be worse, Ringo
[13:39] <@Sylocat> The heck?
[13:39] <@Sylocat> Now those sci-fi teddy bears are important?
01[13:39] <Froborr> I’m guessing they’re disguised bombs.
[13:40] <@Sylocat> Now I’m picturing a Yurikuma-Penguindrum crossover
[13:40] <@Sylocat> Or maybe they’re the Tediz from Conker’s Bad Fur Day
[13:40] <@Sylocat> Yep, Kanba’s parents are ghosts
[13:41] <@Sylocat> Or was it a dream?
01[13:41] <Froborr> So is this really Himari, or..?
01[13:42] <Froborr> Okay, I liked the penguins there–Himari’s penguin offering packaged fantasies and Kanba’s penguin grumpily ignoring her and focusing on his more serious books.
[13:42] <@Sylocat> Eeyup
[13:42] <@Sylocat> Yep, this is really Himari
01[13:42] <Froborr> Definitely.
01[13:43] <Froborr> The political is personal, the personal is political.
01[13:43] <Froborr> He’s transferring his anger at the injustice of Himari’s death to the injustices of the world in general.
[13:44] <Arrlaari> “If I hadn’t died”
[13:44] <Arrlaari> So, she is also a ghost?
01[13:44] <Froborr> No, she died and the hat brought her back, remember?
[13:44] <@Sylocat> But I thought she still didn’t know about the hat
[13:45] <@Sylocat> Huh? That was Masako and… who else?
[13:45] <@Sylocat> And who just slashed him?
[13:45] <@Sylocat> Huh?
[13:45] <@Sylocat> Was that her ex-girlfriend from the play?
01[13:46] <Froborr> Yep.
[13:46] <Arrlaari> Yeah
[13:46] <@Sylocat> Ad
01[13:47] <Froborr> This show has started moving FAST the last couple of episodes.
[13:47] <@Sylocat> We’ve got, what, four episodes to go?
01[13:47] <Froborr> Yeah.
[13:48] <@Sylocat> Paused after ad…
[13:48] <@Sylocat> Click
[13:49] <@Sylocat> “Their unmarked vehicles.” Let me guess, no one’s following?
[13:49] <Arrlaari> Police unmarked vehicles
[13:50] <@Sylocat> Boom
[13:51] <@Sylocat> Huh, I thought he was going to blow up all the cop cars
01[13:54] <Froborr> Nope, just all the cops.
[13:54] <@Sylocat> Ah, I was right the first time
[13:54] <@Sylocat> Ad
[13:56] <@Sylocat> Paused after ad…
[13:56] <@Sylocat> Click
01[13:56] <Froborr> Oh, it was Masako that got shot, not him?
01[13:57] <Froborr> Or him getting shot saving her, of course.
[13:58] <@Sylocat> The latter, looks like
[13:59] <@Sylocat> Uh h
[13:59] <@Sylocat> oh
01[14:00] <Froborr> Well. Guess Masako’s joining Team Ghost, huh.
[14:00] <@Sylocat> Looks like
01[14:01] <Froborr> Wonder if there’ll be another post-credits scene.
[14:02] <@Sylocat> Yarp
[14:02] <Arrlaari> another post ed scene
01[14:02] <Froborr> Was that Shoma?
[14:02] <@Sylocat> Or… not?
01[14:02] <Froborr> That was Shoma in the box, right?
[14:03] <@Sylocat> Yes, I think
[14:03] <@Sylocat> So… that happened
01[14:03] <Froborr> Hmm, would make a lot of sense if the whole family were adopted.
[14:05] <@Sylocat> To me, there’s a difference between “having their backstory slowly revealed” and “having everything we thought we knew about the characters’ inner lives and psyche turning out to be false, 3/4 of the way through the series”
[14:06] <Arrlaari> the reveals are not inconsistent with previous information
01[14:07] <Froborr> Yeah, that’s the key thing for me–nothing has contradicted what we actually *knew* of the characters before, simply complexified it.
[14:09] <@Sylocat> I know it’s not incompatible with previous “information,” as in, the concrete facts about what happened to who, when (though it’s uncharacteristic for Ikuhara to care about continuity where that’s concerned). It’s just that, finding out that Kanba apparently knew where his parents were this whole time, and that their whole family was adopted, and that Masako was actually his “real” sister, and, even more importantly, that appare
[14:09] <@Sylocat> …secretly thought their home was broken?
01[14:10] <Froborr> Your first thing got cut off: “even more importantly, that appare”
[14:10] <@Sylocat> It was “even more importantly, that apparently both Kanba and Himari secretly thought their home was broken?
01[14:11] <Froborr> Ah.
[14:11] <Arrlaari> Well, it’s natural that they would be ashamed of their association with the subway bombing
[14:11] <@Sylocat> I meant in terms of how the three of them felt about each other
01[14:11] <Froborr> I mean, it’s obvious that they love each other, that hasn’t actually changed.
01[14:12] <Froborr> They’re a family, and that’s why those early scenes before the backstory were important, so that we can see they actually are a “normal” family in the ways that matter.
01[14:13] <Froborr> And then in the last third of the series we’re learning that they’ve also got a lot of guilt about their parents, insecurity about whether the others love them, secrets they’re keeping from each other.
[14:13] <Arrlaari> The stresses of more recent events have eroded their resistance to the cultural norms which deny that they are really family
01[14:13] <Froborr> None of which is incompatible with them being a loving family, it just complicates it.
01[14:13] <Froborr> That too.
[14:14] <@Sylocat> I dunno, I probably just have to re-watch the whole thing (which I keep meaning to do), since right now it just doesn’t feel like that’s been organically built up to enough
01[14:14] <Froborr> Oh, there’s definitely been a lot of “shocking swerve” types of revelations.
01[14:15] <Froborr> But for me at least, nothing that doesn’t answer more questions than it raises, which I guess is one way of defining “organic.”
01[14:16] <Froborr> A lot of the swerves have been followed by me thinking, “Oh, that’s why…”
[14:16] <@Sylocat> We should probably have a long round-table discussion of this series after the finale… I’ll probably feel warmer to it then
[14:17] <@Sylocat> Meantime, I gotta get to rehearsal
01[14:17] <Froborr> All right.
01[14:17] <Froborr> Later!

7 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum 21 and 22 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

  1. Well finally got to this… and oh boy … and I thought everything up to the final episode would be easier to follow but the more I read your comments the more I realize myself how much this show inner logic relies on the kind of specific background knowledge your average Japanese would have just by media exposure and just having lived in the 90 but becomes really bizarre from western perspective. Guess I was just lucky that I had heard the basics and found the right kind of in depth bloggers at the time that was a popular topic on the web. E.g. MatPats video about Earthbounds relationship to 90s problems in Japan was a big tip off for me to that kind of stuff that Murakami kicked off with all of his art (books, painting, sculptures and this journalistic investigations about the 90s incident) and how influential this stuff got in “artsy”& weird anime/games. From Hosodas fantasys/scifi mix scenes in his films to Earthbounds sneaky references to Monogataris worldbuilding and maybe even Persona and anime like Paranoia Agent… most of this stuff have been linked to Murakamis theory of Superflat art / his style of magic realism or his general anti otaku philosophy.
    Ikuhara just as much as Anno and Kon are usually put into this category just for breaking so much with commercial industry trends and beloved otaku tropes and their ever present themes of dangers of escapism etc.

    —-

    But back to something simple: Mika-chan is an very obvious reference to Licca-chan which is basically Japans equivalent to Barbie (seems like Barbie itself failed in Japan). So both girls singing the jingle seems to invoke that kind of ads you would see in Saturday morning cartoon programming I guess.
    But I really liked how much this explains about their house and situation. First of it is connected to Shoumas later statement about “playing house” (aka “fake” family happiness). But it also reflects on Himari room and the house in general and how much it represents a constructed idealized version of their lives. Her room looks straight out of a fairy tales and those book beside her bed are very subtle clues about the nature of her (flashback) story. Its interesting how ambivalent this idea gets here. As a smaller child that was definitively what she needed to get over her horrible experiences but it never was a perfect solution (they broke the bear while “building” the house for her) and it also explains why the seem to be so repressed about all of reality catching up to them. But still they seem like the most functioning family of the show up to his point which fundamental to this shows broader themes.
    As for the name on that book: I think it just reads “ALIS” and IDK if there is any meaning in this typo. If you want to get a bigger picture (literally) just go back to ep1 where more of her desk is shown. Some of those book are definitively really clever foreshadowing for later events. Schneewittchen is German Show White and gives more context for Kanba kissing a sleeping Himari at the very beginning (and knowing Ikuhara its basically a forgone conclusion that his “princely” actions can only lead to tragedy later on XD ). Alice is linked to Himaris library dream sequence and especially the surreal elevator beforehand and gives another hint how much more psychological subtext can be found in that episode.
    Hänsel and Gretel is a really sneaky one because Hänsel is missing on the cover text. It just reads Gretel. Get it? The brother isn’t mentioned because there is no “real” brother. O_O Also lost children but that such a fairytale constant that it could be any number of other stories instead.
    The only one I never got was Jack and the Beanstalk. IDK how that applies to anything.

    BTW later on we also have references to …well Mary and her lamb stuff, Cinderella, Frog Prince and the most subtle of all: The Steadfast Tin Solder. And the scorpion story if that counts. ^^

    —–

    “Panda egg? Is that a real candy?”
    Basically all the cute mascot things in this show (mostly penguin logos) are either parodies of real life brands / products or just random cutely window dressing. I think even their elephant style water cooker thingy is similar so some real life cutesy brand. Read some comment about that once.

    Also the black teddies: yes they are meant to represent disguise bombs produced en mass and the factories look just like the ones where Kanbas father worked way back during the 95er attacks …. which becomes so much more fucked up when you know how much this resembles the real life attacks. Obviously it wasn’t a bombing IRL (most likely change out of respect for the real victims) but IIRC the real cult members disguised little plastic bags filled with liquefied Sarin in ordanary newspapers and put them on the trains. Then they just had to puncture them moments before exiting the train.
    What makes that sooo damn evil is that Sarin gas from what I understand can’t be noticed by smell or anything so its literally invisible death for unsuspecting people.

    But those two episode turned up the twisted symbolism about modern technology in general. There was also Kanbas smart phone app… I mean that caught me totally off guard. Up to this point phones were just normal ordinary means of communication and most of the kids in the show use them without much deeper thought. There were actually a few important, emotional exchanges that were not face-to-face but via text and then there was that whole cell phone strap thing with Ringo and her dad that represented her relationship to him. (Those are a thing in Japan it seems.) But now we have lame smart phone app as visual metaphor for terrorism via remote control bombing and and just as much the stuffed animals. And Masakos habit of threatening people with her sniper ball toy doesn’t seem so silly anymore either.
    I feel this contrast between everyday object and life changing terror enacted with them is just as much meant as a statement about the whole scenario of the show.
    And its wasn’t not last show to give up this jarring contrast. Terror in Resonance opening episode was even less subtle about the teen boy + phone -> bombing attack idea. Except that show went waaaay over the top immediately with its 9/11 shock factor imagery. But that a completely different story/problem.

    —–

    “Supposition: reporter is an agent of Sanetoshi” & Sanetoshis link the the MIB & being a curse/ghost etc.
    I think you are reading a lot of that stuff to literal or maybe phrasing it better your asking the wrong questions.
    The only “real” minions he has are those two bunnies. But while he seem to effect everything he has been a supernatural element of the story from the very beginning. Its much easier to analyze him structurally on the same level as Akio in Utena. His power over people always seemed very metaphorically to me and his rhetoric is also heavily linked to some of the very problematic attitudes of 90s Japan. (Especially his library monologue to an imaginary Momoka how he is special and understands the world but is still lonely as they are similar yet still at odds etc.)
    As for the picture with the arctic expedition: no he wasn’t there before. Skip back 5 sec and you see that he wasn’t even there when the doctor picked up the frame. But he was there all along anyways because he is a ghost / curse from the past haunting the people. People just don’t notice him until they look at him directly. See its all metaphor. He exists as much as the plot needs him to really exists so he can mess with people and everything is magic realism anyways in this city to don’t try to read that to literal. At this point in the story the idea of an concrete absolute reality underlying all the events is really shaky at best.

    ———-

    Which brings me to the other element of magic realism: that ramen shop. Oh boy…
    So Froborr got it right at the end: Kanbas scenes aren’t real. But the beginning of ep21 already spells this out with the way its framed. Kanba sees a nice shop full of people but what Himara sees can’t be the same shop because it looks run down and abandoned and right after that Sanetoshi talks about people seeing ghost (not just referencing him) and how that explainable scientifically.
    Once again much easier to argue with Utena style logic. Things exist because people think they exist. Remember Nemuro Halls very fuzzy existence. But read his meeting with his parents as metaphorical for his feelings of debt and obligation as a their “son” and it all makes far more sense. Notice how the father talks about his son exactly the same way as he would when they brought Himari to the hospital in the flashbacks. Easy to see that as Kanba imagining what his father would think of him or the MIB telling him just that. Remember the MIB guy leaves the shop with him. That guy from the organisation is really meeting him there but his parents have been dead all the time. (Most likely killed by the Kiga group for outliving there usefulness etc.)
    The fact that the corpses are rotting in the shop looks just as metaphoric to me.

    But there really is no timeline warping/twisting/overlapping or anything. That just flat out the wrong genre to apply for this show. That’s no Steins;Gate here. The rules have been consistent for this magical stuff from the beginning. Up to this point only Momoka could use magic to change fate and everyone who does pay a noticeable price. This kind of “Fate” doesn’t change on a the fly. You would notice if this actually magic at work here. The fact that Sanetoshi seems to hate/fear Momokas notebook even suggest that its needed for everybody else so he wants it destroyed to can finally achieve his goals. But he said he can’t destroy it himself because … well most likely because he is a metaphorical ghost entity.

    Oh and BTW the picture with the arctic expedition seems to be a reference to a movie named South Pole Story remade into an American movie named Antarctica which I have never see but the theme of abandoned sled dogs fighting for survival seems to be the relevant point for this weird reference. No real link to the eco terrorism angle from what I saw on Wikipedia so Sanetoshi showing up on this picture only fits in regarding his vague association to the group. He considers those people colleague at one point, right?

    —-

    And regarding flashbacks. That actually pretty easy to differentiate. Flashbacks always start with this train station bumber thing and IIRC also always get bookended with this woosh sound corresponding to the flashback intro SFXs. Everything else is basically just present day timeline stuff even if it doesn’t necessarily needs to be REAL real from an objective PoV. But thats Murakami style postmodern storytelling right there.

    —-

    And your last big discussion: how the show revealed all of the character motivations. I’m with Froborr on this one.
    The way they handled the backstories didn’t break my immersion or understanding of the show. Actually the fact that the kids always stayed kinda relatable throughout the show is my main reason I consider Yurikuma inferior. YKA characters most of the time felt more like walking symbols and I found it hard to care about them at times.
    But I get it. The constantly shifting status quo and the heavy reliance on SAAAAY WUUUUUT cliffhanger endings in the last third can get annoying. But I think they work for the most part. The only twist that felt cheap to me what bait and switch about the knife attack on Yuri. The setup seems obvious .. the MIB guys found them but no its just the angry lover who didn’t matter for this storyline at all and is really just a completely one note plot device at this point. That just doesn’t contribute anything to the current problems except getting both of them out of the picture.
    To me the other problem is still Masako. But I already mentioned how I felt about that. IMO the biggest problem about her arcs was how messing that transition between her red herring characterization for the first few episodes and her real intention as a messed up sibling with her own plans about the diary was. After all the scorned ex idea seem a complete mischaracterization and she is just as much a very obsessive person as Kanba is + switching sister complex with brother complex and add different childhood trauma. At some points she even feels like a straight up plot device and the idea about Marios hat just goes nowhere. Her link to the family via her grandfather works but everything else is just very weak compare to all the other arcs.

    Also remember how Utena had very similarly flat characters at the beginning. You would never guess that Anthy or Touga or Saionji would become interesting character studies from half of the first arc.
    Yurikuma also start with complete cliche archetypes in ep1. Ikuhara just likes to build up his stories that way. But yes it feels a bit backloaded in MPD. But the show doesn’t feel rush just dense. And what could realistically be cut from the 1st half to get better pacing?
    The development there seems vital to establish all the themes and personalities in their everyday scenarios. The fact that most of those character behave very differently (often hypocritical or completely at odds with their basic morality) when put into extreme situation feels like the whole point for this kind of development.
    And the kids barely got to catch a break anyways. First Himari “dies”, then they have their mission that already sets them on edge which then gets sabotaged when the notebook gets stolen, then people actively try to kill Himari and after that their whole identity gets questioned. And in between Sanetoshi also starts messing with Kanba in the hospital and later via Kiga group association. Shouma meanwhile had his stalker and heartbreak subplot which also brings him back to guilt and felt isolation. No wonder stuff goes of the rails later on. For all the other characters we only learn their real deal later because in some way the kids are still meant to be the PoV characters for this whole story so we only learn what up when we need to understand those person place in the bigger picture.

    —–

    There is also this whole other narrative about Ikuahra mostly from many apologist and I don’t really know if I buy it completely but lot of facts seem to line up. The story basically goes that Ikahara is only partial to blame for how messy all the stuff after Utena has become. The idea is that Ikahara may have his plan and structure in his head but higher ups down give him a lot to work with because he just doesn’t fit the standard commercial way so everything is compromise anyways. As I said seem very hard to prove inside baseball meta logic.
    The fact the fans constantly cite are how everything after Utena may have a gotten a good reputation among intellectuals but did really poorly in term of actually disk sales in Japan. And those shows also don’t leave a lot of room for effective merch. (And that still the be all end metric for success in the industry) Also doesn’t help that he has a reputation as eccentric diva type who hard to work with or that he likes to slap otakus in the face with his constant criticism of fan favorite tropes. Or just simple how abstract and convoluted most of his material gets towards the end and how non-commecial his whole approach appears as a whole. It’s also highly culture specific so also not a lot of chances as export product. Realistically the overlap between people that actually care about and “get” his style and those that also have the money to spare for those absurd disk prices should be very small.

    Well its all just assumptions anyways but the result is definitively visible. While the complexity of structure and multitude of themes in this show ramped up considerably he gets less and less episodes to work with. 39 -> 26 -> 13. Penguindrum in hindsight really felt like a show that would have been better of with 39 ep but that just not the way this works anymore. And Yurikuma felt really condense in parts to fit the 13 format. So it HAS to get harder to understand all of this when he doesn’t compromise by telling smaller stories.
    The technical aspect fanboy also pointed out how YKA has noticely worst visuals which seems completely irrelevant for his style but still would imply lower budgets or lower tier studios he has to deal with or something of that nature.
    Finally a very personal suspicion: The way YKAs opening was the only opening among his 3 series thats very loosely link to the actually symbolism of the show while Utena and MPD are great examples of constant stealth spoiler style summaries of all the characters and themes immediately make me question how much that was just a business compromise to bait at least a few otakus into giving the show a chance because nekkit girls. (I mean those threesome cuddling yuri scenes literally make no sense within the actual plot because we never get even close to such a character dynamic which those three… and this naked bathtub show could arguely be one of those very bizarre Psycho references in the show but on first glance is also just really random fanservice… could really convince a lot of people that this might be meant as reference)

    On the other hand End of Utena is just as much a mess and that is most likely the most undiluted form of Ikuhara we will ever get so maybe that guy just has some problems managing his storys in the first place.

    And one final note: The boys in boxes/cages(?) in the post credits scene are well worth thinking about… that actually a really important element of that whole mindfuck allegory puzzle and it gets introduces pretty late IMO.

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  2. I dislike the swerves in Penguindrum wrt the family, because the show doesn’t hold up on rewatch.
    In Utena, rewatching with full knowledge of the backstory makes it deeper, early episodes’ events more illuminated and devastating.

    Penguindrum’s previous episodes MAKE NO SENSE with hindsight, most notably everything to do with Masako and Kanba.

    Again, Utena’s reveals work because Utena actually was not in the know, having suppressed her memories of the others. The others’ actions don’t contradict their childhood history with Utena, either. But in Penguindrum, Kanba, Shouma, and Himari’s actions in the early episodes don’t reflect their knowledge that we now know they have. On rewatch, the characters’ bewilderment at certain events, meant to mirror the audiences’, feels false.

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  3. @AG:
    I totally agree that Utena is much more elegant then MPD in a lot of ways including fleshing out characters via flashbacks and hidden character depth (but also far less provocative in its topics and themes nowadays) and I already said I don’t like how they handled Masako for many reasons.
    But now I’m just curious what other elements seem contradictory early on? Most of the reveals in the 1st half are about other peoples secrets or “magical” stuff they wouldn’t have known beforehand either way.

    The only thing that always bothered me was how cold and aggressive Kanba acts towards Masako which seems unbelievably extreme for his intentions and that we never really know how much more Himari is in the know then she lets on about the stuff the brothers try to shield her from.
    But from Masakos side it seems fine (she has weird mannerism towards anyone and at least a halfway believable Freudian excuse) and for Himaras past there is a big implication about repressed memories anyways. Still a cliche plot device to go for selective amnesia but its handle better then in most anime IMO.
    For Kanba I always saw this as him getting dragged into opposite directions. He just ignores a lot of stuff right in front of him when his morals clash with his ambitions / felt obligations. And Shouma most of the time really is just that clueless / useless guy.
    So I’m curious which specific events you mean.

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  4. They could maybe have shortened it a bit but that arc serves more of a function then it first appears because her action contrast or parallel a lot of other stuff later on:
    – Her relationship to fate vs. the siblings vs. Momokas
    – Her obsession / actions / motives vs. Kanbas
    – Her relationship and delusion towards Tabubi vs. Yuri marriage / fake family topic
    and obviously her vs. everyone else regarding long-term effects of a messed up family situation

    And also the fact that it setup up her character growth for when it switches to the terrorism plot.

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