Why didn’t I see it before? That’s why there’s no Hansel! This week, we learn the origins of Ringo’s diary and also why she’s so hellbent on winning Tabuki-sensei’s heart. But first….
Hansel and Gretel
(For those already familiar with the Germanic fairytale, you can just skip this brief summary.)
An abusive mother convinces her husband to leave
Hansel and Gretel out in the woods. With a famine going around, the mother thought this decision made perfect sense. Hansel and Gretel wandered the woods, eventually coming across “a cottage built of gingerbread and cakes with window panes of clear sugar.” Hansel and Gretel descended upon the candied house voraciously, catching the attention of an evil witch. This evil witch liked to lure unsuspecting children into her home where she could eat them. To make a long story short, Gretel killed the witch by pushing her into an oven. She then returned home with her bother. All of a sudden, the father is now delighted to see Hansel and Gretel. As for the mother? She has mysteriously died from a disease.
How is Gretel of “Hansel and Gretel” remotely significant to Mawaru Penguindrum and, in particular, Ringo? I know I’m summarizing more than usual in this post, but bear with me. It turns out that Ringo used to have an older sister, Momoka, who has passed away long before the events of the anime. Unfortunately, Ringo’s mother can’t stop dwelling over the dead sister. As a result, she’s depriving Ringo of the love and attention she deserves. More importantly, the mother’s inability to cope with Momoka’s death has driven Ringo’s father away. Ringo now believes that if she can become her sister, she can repair her broken family. The parallels between Ringo and Gretel are starting to materialize.
Both heroines suffer from a broken family due to an inadequate mother. Both heroines desire a return to familial bliss, especially the embrace of the father. I suggest, then, that Ringo’s story very much resembles the Germanic fairytale:
“[‘Hansel and Gretel’] is a story about illicit desire. … Consider Gretel who wished her mother was dead. That is unreasonable, it can’t even be thought of… so you go into the forest and you meet a true anti-mother, the witch — she deserves to die. When you kill her — her double, the mother — is already conveniently dead. And so on her return, Gretel is at peace with her father…. In short, the story allows a symbolic compensation for having had the thought to kill one’s mother.” — E. S. Rabkin
Of course, I’m not suggesting that Ringo is, by any means, trying to kill her mother. Her story is a little different. Ringo doesn’t want to take her mother’s place; she only wants to take her sister’s place. Socially, this would still seem a little weird and taboo, so Ringo’s not going to literally take her sister’s place. Ringo will simply accomplish this feat symbolically.
To carry out her plans, Ringo cannibalizes Momoka’s thoughts and memories by re-living her sister’s life. She accomplishes this with the aid of her sister’s old diary, which painstakingly details Momoka’s relationship with Tabuki-sensei. And what should Ringo discover when she wanders out into the “forest” to fulfill fate’s decree? She meets Yuri, the symbolic anti-sister who is also after Tabuki-sensei’s affections. “Slaying” Yuri and winning Tabuki-sensei’s heart is a parallel to Gretel’s slaying of the witch, the symbolic anti-mother. Like Gretel, Ringo only hopes to reunite with her father.
According to Rabkin, “fairy tales collectively represent a world in which females exist in only three states: asexual girlhood, sexual adulthood, and post-menopausal old age.” If Ringo’s story resembles a fairytale, it is also a coming-of-age tale of an asexual girl crossing over into sexual adulthood. When she develops a fever in this very episode, and indiscriminately “attacks” Shouma on the couch, she might very well be literally sick with a cold. I will suggest, however, that she has also been consumed by sexual feverishness.
After all, Ringo makes constant references throughout the episode to feeling Tabuki-sensei’s breath up close. She repeatedly mentions the fact that she will experience her “first night” with Tabuki-sensei and it will be something special: “Tonight, our souls will touch for the very first time.” Hell, Ringo even brings a toothbrush to her “sleepover.” If that’s not suggestive enough, I don’t know what is!
• While all this brouhaha is going on, Kanba finds himself in the sights of the mega-slingshot lady, Masako.
The results? Some pretty wild scenes:
What is Masako after? Why is she targeting Kanba’s ex-girlfriends? Will her story resemble a fairy tale too? I guess when one mystery is revealed (Ringo and her diary), another one begins. Oh well, at least Masako appears to own a killer-looking penguin.
• With every passing week, however, the distance between the two brothers seems to be growing. I wonder, at what point, their stories will converge again.
• As for Himari, she’s barely in this episode. The inclusion of “Survival Strategy” almost feels like an afterthought: “Oh, Himari hasn’t had a line all episode? Let’s squeeze her in near the end of the episode….”
• Every time a story references Schrödinger’s cat, I always get the urge to yell, “Collapse the waveform!” The point of quantum physics is that all possibilities exist until an independent observer enters the picture.
So, y’know, when anyone whines about how their world is so mysterious and uncertain, they get no sympathy from me. You have the power to determine your fate — just open the box and look!
• There are few activities out there that could make me retch like the thought of downing an entire bottle of mayonnaise:
This is Shouma’s penguin so I guess his personality sorta does resemble mayonnaise: utterly cloying.