Mawaru Penguindrum Ep. 10: Another trip down memory lane

This week’s episode is such a jarring visual experience, but unfortunately, not for all the right reasons. Before we get to Kanba’s bizarre dream-like sequence, allow me to briefly explain what I mean by the previous sentence. Actually, words are pretty much unnecessary:

Since Mawaru Penguindrum depends so heavily upon its visuals, it is definitely disappointing to see the animation quality take such an abrupt drop. The biggest problem with the animation this week is that everything just looks so flat. The characters have lost all sense of three-dimensionality. I know it’s anime, but still. Oh well, there’s no use belaboring the point.

As always, a Mawaru Penguindrum episode toys with its audience’s understanding and this week’s episode is no different. For the first time in a long while, the narrative shifts its attention to the other Takakura sibling and the result is a trippy, little walk down memory lane. With that said, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the show.

Kanba’s other hospital
For the most part, the episode is visually dull until Kanba finds himself on the hospital’s rooftop. There, he finds himself surrounded by rows and rows of white hospital sheets swaying in the wind. The imagery here is arresting for, I think, a couple reasons.

First, the moment serves as a precursor to Kanba’s transition from the real world to the “other hospital.” What is the other hospital? Some manifestation of deeply-held fears buried within Kanba’s psyche? Ooh, we are getting rather Silent Hill-ish up in here. In any case, as Kanba chases after a mysterious assailant who we know to be Masako, it appears as though he is penetrating through multiple layers of “fog.” Might this “fog” represent a barrier between the real world and Kanba’s mind or some entirely different realm? The sound of the sheets swaying in the wind could also be interpreted as white noise. When Kanba finally escapes the “miasma” of white hospital sheets, the anime begins to ratchet up the craziness another notch.

More importantly, however, the white hospital sheets remind me of death. Although hospitals are places for recovery and healing, they are also ironically (but understandably) full of death and sickness. Horror movies and video games have often portrayed hospitals as fearful sites. If anyone has played Silent Hill 2, the game’s protagonist also finds himself in a bizarre other hospital, one where everything appears to be covered in white tarp. For the game’s hero, the white tarp was a constant reminder of his wife’s bedridden last days. As a result, I think the white hospital sheets in the anime might also represent an example of a recurring death motif. Himari said something interesting that I caught on a second viewing of the episode:

Himari (to Kanba): “You turned white as a sheet when the hospital called us.”

Here, she is referring to how Kanba had reacted to potentially grave news regarding his brother’s well-being.

After giving a short chase, Kanba stumbles upon a musical box. When Masako suddenly destroys the musical box, Kanba is knocked to the ground and passes out. Notice how the anime inserts a black screen into the middle of the scene as if to demarcate the events leading up to this point from the events to follow.

When Kanba finally regains consciousness, we see that the hospital environment around him has completely changed. A familiar penguin logo litters the floor while the walls appear as alternating white and black horizontal stripes. It would be reasonable to assume that the black screen from earlier had implied that our hero has crossed over into a different world. At the very least, it appears that Kanba’s mind is elsewhere even if the guy can still physically located in the real world.

Perhaps the most disturbing change in Kanba’s new landscape, however, is how the real world’s natural silence has been replaced by a persistent, dull tone that renders the entire scene quite hellish. This soundtrack, however, is also quickly replaced when the other hospital suddenly begins to play a song at a painfully high volume.

As Kanba navigates the other hospital’s strangely repetitious corridors, an obviously altered voice implores him to remember. He then comes across a series of doors that will automatically open only to have a gurney of some sort slide out of each room. Here, we again have an example of a death motif with the gurneys. We should also note that these gurneys emerge from rooms that are completely enveloped in a blood crimson color. Instead of containing dead bodies, however, these gurneys appear to hold some of Kanba’s memories — memories of the same gifts he had complained about just earlier in the same episode.

With each door, the disembodied voice continues to insist that Kanba remembers. The voice seems to belong to a spurned lover. In any case, the other hospital appears to contain Kanba’s “dead” memories. Perhaps a better way to put this would be to say that these are memories Kanba had, at one point or another, buried deep within his psyche. After all, what do we intend to do with the bodies in a hospital’s mortuary? We intend to bury them.

Do we now have enough information to take a stab at what these strange visuals might represent? If the other hospital contains Kanba’s “dead” memories, might this realm thus symbolize a part of Kanba’s mind? As our hero gradually descends through the other hospital’s floors, it is implied that he gradually regains his memories. Last week, we saw Himari dig deep into her own subconsciousness to recall painful events in her young life. Might Kanba be doing the same? Is he also delving deep into his own psyche?

Even so, why does the other hospital appear in such a stark way? Is this just laziness on the studio’s part, i.e. a way to save money by having Kanba explore a simplistic CGI environment? Maybe. Draggle, on the other hand, thinks the white and black bars resemble what prisoners might wear. As a result, the entire journey represents Kanba’s descent into a dangerous relationship. That’s plausible, I think, but since we are always seeking for different ways to understand the same story, let me nevertheless propose an alternate (though not necessarily conflicting) theory that focuses on the idea of memories.

If you’ve ever played computer games, you’ll often run into glitches where a program is unable to load texture data from its memory. When this happens, the video game environment loses its “identity,” so to speak, as the game’s objects and/or environments are instead covered in dummy textures to make up for the missing textures:

Dummy textures can come in all sorts of flavors. In our case, imagine if the dummy textures consist of both a penguin logo and… white and black horizontal stripes. Of course, this is all speculatory — the look of the other hospital could mean anything depending on the viewer. Still, this all might make sense if we consider the fact that the primary theme of the episode regards memories and the characters’ inability to recall them at will.

Himari (to Shoma): “Don’t you remember what happened yesterday?”

So if the mind resembles a computer, might it not load some dummy memory in place of a real memory it could not fetch? And if Kanba is wandering through a portion of his mind full of things he would like to forget, might his mind not resemble something akin to the other hospital? And as Kanba nears his destination, the white and black horizontal stripes gradually fill up with the penguin logo. What might this imply?

A new Ringo?
Perusal of a few anime blogs seem to suggest that a good portion of the show’s audience have lost their patience with Ringo. Well, I can’t really blame them; after all, she did almost rape someone. I wonder, then, how people will react to a softer, kinder Ringo found in this week’s episode. It appears that Shoma’s act of bravery has touched something in the deranged girl’s heart. After all, Ringo is even more willing than Kanba to depart with her half of Momoka’s diary in order to save Shoma’s life. Kanba, on the other hand, has other designs in mind, i.e. Himari’s well-being. Well, it’s either this or Kanba’s supremely confident in his ability to save his brother.

Still, what might explain Ringo’s change in behavior? Is it simply gratitude toward Shoma for saving her life? Oddly enough, Shoma came away from the accident with only bruises. In this case, one might assume Ringo could’ve survived as well had Shoma not intervened. Even so, gratitude appears to be the simplest and most plausible answer, but as always, we need not limit ourselves to the first explanation we come across.

In Ringo’s mind, her father is the one who implored her mother to stop obsessing over the deceased Momoka. Instead, they should focus on Ringo. Of course, reality often fails to reflect our deeply-held perceptions. Of either parent, it would appears as though Ringo’s father is the one who has moved on from his memories of both daughters. After all, during their last father-daughter outing, he seemed too distracted for his doting daughter even though he doesn’t often get to see her. As a result, Ringo’s father does not strike me as a parent who would pour all of his love into Ringo as her feverish dreams might suggest.

In any case, we now know why Ringo has been so desperate to win Tabuki’s love: the misguided girl is just trying to repair her broken family. To be even more specific, she’s just trying to regain her father’s love and affection. But if another person, e.g. Shoma, shows genuine care for Ringo, might this not distract the girl enough that she is no longer hellbent on fulfilling her original, twisted goals? We can only see how the rest of the story will play out. Still, I’m disappointed by the fact that Ringo is yet another female character with “daddy issues.”

Love and Momoka’s diary
We would run ourselves ragged trying to speculate what Mario’s introduction to the anime has in store for the rest of the story. As a result, I’m not going to trouble myself with a character we know hardly anything about. Instead, I’m more interested in the fact that no matter who desires Momoka’s diary, he or she appears to have love in their grander schemes of things. We’ve speculated last week how the diary might lead Himari to her one true love. As we’ve known since the start of the anime, her brothers desire the diary for their beloved sister’s sake although Kanba seems to have more incestuous intentions.

Likewise, Ringo thinks the diary holds the key to Tabuki and thus her father’s love. Finally, seeing Masako embrace and kiss Kanba passionately at the end of this week’s episode, this does narrow her range of intentions down quite a bit. What might her Project M represent and how might it differ from Ringo’s? Assuming that Masako is the one who gave Kanba all of those gifts he encounters in the other hospital, that cake sure does resemble one of a wedding variety. After all, it’s got a couple sitting on top and everything….

Everything else
• If we assume that the penguins represent facets of their owners’ personalities, what does it mean when #1 is desperately trying to look up a nurse’s skirt while Kanba is giving Himari an impassioned speech?

• Even the real world hospital appears strange. For example, it seems to have a bizarre-looking ceiling. This is not exactly the most comfortable sight for any patient opening his or her eyes for the first time in a long while.

• People have identified the song during Kanba’s sequence as Dvorak’s “From the New World.” I personally thought it was Ticheli’s “Shenandoah.” Listening to all three songs side by side, I’m sure the former is the right answer, but you can’t blame me for my mistake. After all, “From the New World” and “Shenandoah” both seem to draw from the same 19th century American pastiche.

• Masako repeatedly talks to herself, and she often refers to “crushing” someone or something. Of course, she hardly crushes anyone at the end of the episode. Is this just one of her character’s idiosyncrasies or is there something we’re missing here?

• When Kanba finally discovers where his brother is held, Masako alludes to herself as Ariadne and Kanba’s sweater as Ariadne’s red thread. For those unfamiliar with Greek mythology, Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of yarn to help him escape a labyrinth. She also fell in love with the hero only for him to ditch her after he had escaped. In a way, Masako helps Kanba navigate the labyrinth of his own mind to not only save his brother but to also recall previously forgotten memories.

Following this analogy to its natural conclusion, it would appear as though Kanba had also ditched Masako in the past. In the end, Ariadne became Dionysius’s consort. I wonder if there is such a character in Mawaru Penguindrum? Mario, perhaps?

• Himari can also be seen knitting a scarf out of reddish yarn in the first half of the episode. As others have suggested, the red yarn might also allude to the red string of fate, which would just fit this anime’s overarching themes all too well.

• How many times will poor Shoma get himself drugged through food? As I have written before, conspicuous consumption is dangerous.

• Someone should remind me to explain at some point why the penguins’ voicelessness is psychologically significant.

• On a lighter note, how do penguins leave behind lipstick marks?

• I prefer the original ED. Of course, doesn’t rock beat all?

33 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum Ep. 10: Another trip down memory lane

  1. Mere

    Welp, Ringo sure hopped off the psycho train fast.

    The animation was pretty darn bad this week. Shoma’s face in the first part of the episode was QUALITY.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Welp, Ringo sure hopped off the psycho train fast.

      Could be a temporary thing. Previews seem to suggest she won’t quit.

      As for the animation, it was pretty hard to concentrate on the story with the girlfriend laughing every other frame!

      Reply
  2. Meh

    The penguin’s voicelessness represents people’s unwillingness to say what they truly think, due to fear of being judged.

    I’m just making stuff up, I don’t even watch this.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I’m just making stuff up, I don’t even watch this.

      That’s too bad. It’s a fun show. I mean, we’re all just making stuff up.

      Reply
      1. Meh

        Actually, I rarely ever watch anime any more. The last thing I watched was Madoka, and before that I think it was…Gurren Lagann or the trainwreck that is Code Geass, whichever came later. I still pay some attention to the community to see what’s going on, though. That’s sort of why I frequent this blog; it’s less likely to fall into the usual pitfalls. Your average anime fan thinks battling maids, almost-yuri groping and neko knuckles are great things. You tend to over analyse, but hey, it’s certainly preferable to the opposite.

        I’m thinking about checking out Kino’s Journey and GitS, though.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          You tend to over analyse, but hey, it’s certainly preferable to the opposite.

          This would faze me if I thought each anime had a one true meaning that we’re all racing to discern, but I’m just “over-analyzing” to engender possible discussions. Nothing gets me more than posts that just go “I enjoyed this… this was enjoyable… yeah, it kept my interest” followed up by comments full of “Yeah I agree that this episode was fun.”

          Reply
        2. Meh

          When I say over analyse, I mean that you like to find meaning and symbolism where it most likely isn’t intended to be. Call me cynical, but I don’t think a lot of anime studios put that much thought into a deeper meaning behind everything. Like you (sort of) say, you throw out some crackpot stuff occasionally in order to create a discussion. Nothing wrong with that, really.

          And yeah, I’m with you on the pointless comment thing. “I agree” and “Good post as usual” just meaningless; I generally only reply to things if there’s a discussion to take part in or something to criticize. Or a bad joke/pun to make.

          Replying to my own post, can’t reply directly to yours.

          Reply
          1. E Minor Post author

            When I say over analyse, I mean that you like to find meaning and symbolism where it most likely isn’t intended to be.

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

            I know where you’re coming from and a lot of people are in your camp, but we have to move beyond the notion that intended meaning is the be all and end all of interpretation. Of course, we shouldn’t dismiss intent entirely, but when someone says “I didn’t mean to do that” with regards to a crime, we don’t completely absolve the person of guilt. A fair judge will take the person’s intent into account, but the perpetrator should still punished by the content of his or her actions. It’s the same way with literary analysis.

            The most important evidence should always be the internal content of any particular work. Authorial intent is external evidence. In analyzing shows like Mawaru Penguindrum, where the creator (Ikuhara) will often resist revealing his intent when questioned, all we can do is put forth our best hypotheses and then hash it out through discussion. If our interpretations hold up to peer scrutiny, then so be it. I just dislike the fact that so many people will dismiss any sort of analysis just because authorial intent cannot be discerned.

            Reply
  3. j

    I’ve seen speculation that Shouma survived relatively unscathed because his penguin took the brunt of the blow. Doesn’t explain the theatrical way in which his body was flung into the air, but there you go.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I’m sure someone out there will calculate the amount of force necessary to launch and spin a ~60 kg teenager into the air. C’mon, which bored physics major wants to step up to the plate?

      Reply
  4. Roghek

    The animation last week could only have been described with beautiful, so the contrast with this week is even greater.
    Also Kamba is a player, the siscon guy (and I like the siscon guy) only has interest for his sister, so we ignore how many girls have felt hurt by him, Masako seems to be one of them.
    So why is the penguins’ voicelessness psychologically significant? and how can we remind you of that?
    Also Mario looks younger than Himari, not like age has ever mattered in anime relationships but yeah.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Also Mario looks younger than Himari, not like age has ever mattered in anime relationships but yeah.

      The story’s crazy and mystical enough. It could be possible that something has arrested his development. I mean, Ringo seems emotionally stunted. What Mario was the opposite, i.e. physically stunted due to some traumatic event? Plus, if he’s dead, all bets are off. Ghosts never age!

      Reply
  5. draggle

    I like the idea of the dummy textures. The picture you put up kind of reminds me of the sliding puzzle door and that one weird background from last episode as well.

    Mario as Dionysus… I like it. Fits in well with the rebirth / resurrection idea. And if the rest of the show resembles anything like the Bacchanalia… I seem to be one of the few people who enjoyed psycho Ringo though.

    Now that you point out Ticheli’s version of Shenandoah rather than the lyrical version, it does sound quite similar. I think this must be the song it reminded me of at first as well, considering that I’ve performed Ticheli’s version before….

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I like the idea of the dummy textures.

      Personally, when I read your post, I thought the prison idea was more elegant, but y’know how it is: it’s fun to come up with different ways to interpret something.

      psycho Ringo

      I think it is more that people are too morally revolted by her behavior to really endure her onscreen presence. I can understand feeling this way.

      I like the idea of the dummy textures.

      Did you high school band director have a hard-on for Ticheli like mine did? God, I don’t know how much time we wasted on “Cajun Folk Songs.”

      Reply
      1. draggle

        Did you high school band director have a hard-on for Ticheli like mine did?

        Yes, this. Every single concert had to have some Ticheli piece. We played Shenandoah alone at least three times.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          I think my band once played one of his songs directly for him (it might’ve been someone else but I’m not sure) and I really wanted to ask why he had the trombones play such a strange chord. Unfortunately, my band director pretty much mugged the guy and never let any of us students ask questions.

          Reply
        2. draggle

          I don’t think my band ever had Ticheli come to hear us, but we had our share of other composers, and my director mugged them too. Celebrities in the world of high school marching bands…

          And you play trombone? Same here.

          Reply
          1. E Minor Post author

            It was either Ticheli or “Chorale and Shaker Dance.”

            I was actually playing the flute as a freshman, but the trombone section pretty much consisted of all seniors that year so the band director was scrambling to find anyone willing make the switch. I figured, “Why be the middle of the pack with flute when I could be first chair of the trombone section?”

            Reply
  6. Katherine

    As always I love your reviews.
    But my thought, when watching this episode, was how in the beginning how bad the animation was, then all off a sudden Kanba reaches the rooftop and suddenly the animation is (in my opinion) good again.
    When noticing that, I almost feel like saying the quality was bad on purpose?
    No other episode had this bad of quality.
    So maybe it was symbolic as to how everything was seeming to be good in the beginning of the ep. Ex. Ringo apparently losing her psycho-ness, Shouma surviving. Kanba being a good brother etc… But to still remind us that it isn’t all pretty?
    So when we start to get into Kanba memories, which we can assume was a dark place or just an negative area, the animation became good again better yet, clear again?
    As if to show when the truth comes out everything is more clearer? Whereas in lying everything is fuzzy and hazy.
    I dunno, I could just be over analyzing but I think it’s alright to do so with this show.
    Or perhaps I just wanted to give an excuse to the show for its terrible animation this week :)

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Y’know, when I first watched the episode, I was like, “Maybe Shoma’s in a coma and this is all in his head. This would explain why the animation is just so terrible.” Unfortunately, that speculation didn’t pan out. I’m not really surprised the quality dropped though. Sitcoms have something known as a “bottle episode” to help cut costs:

      “If you can stick your cast in one room (the “bottle”) on a contrived plot pretext, you can economize by doing a continuous shoot with no scene changes, extras, or guest stars.”

      I kinda feel as though something similar occurred here. Of course, the characters didn’t stick to a single room, but it did feel as though the entire episode took place in a drab looking hospital that wouldn’t require the animators to exert too much effort. If I had a more astute eye for animation, I’d try to explain the cost-cutting measures Brain’s Base took, but the post is already inflated enough as it is.

      Reply
  7. Ailia Kate Kira

    In the end, neither of the brothers will escape the force known as stalkers. If Shouma was forced to watch over one for an x number of episode (wherein x is a number I have surely lost count of), Kanba has to deal with a stalker watching over him. I don’t even know who has it worse now.

    As for animation… NO WONDER I THOUGHT THE FIRST PART WAS HORRIBLE. Okay, that’s just it. :))

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I get the feeling that Ringo’s character may undergo a bit of a redemption arc as the series continue, but that’s just speculation on my part. But if I’m right, I guess Kanba would have it worse.

      Reply
      1. Ailia Kate Kira

        I agree on the Ringo speculation portion. It seems that she’s being thrown towards a pair-up with Shouma though… or maybe that’s how I feel it.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          I’m almost inclined to think Ringo and Shoma are the only two that will make it out of this series alive… assuming they’re not already dead in some way.

          Reply
  8. ajthefourth

    As someone who doesn’t hate Ringo, I’m interested in many of the points you address in regards to her “new and improved” characterization in this episode. We see the two Takakura brothers in a return to their established character roles upon their reunion; Kanba as the more active/male and Shouma as the more passive/female (Shouma’s femininity was in no way helped out by a few of his off-model faces in the hospital ^ ^). We then see Ringo and Himari with slightly new characterizations. Himari’s minor changes in character are decidedly helped along by the perspective that the audience brings from her journey in episode nine, Ringo’s, as you mention, seem entirely due to Shouma, from her perspective, saving her life.

    Something is definitely amiss with Ringo’s parents, Ringo’s perception of her parents, or both. I recently re-watched the drowning scene in episode four for some perspective on episode 10. When Ringo thinks that she is about to die she apologizes to her mother for not being able to fulfill her destiny. The only thing she says about her father is that she wonders what he is doing at that moment, indicating that they probably don’t get to see each other often. (As you mentioned, the one time we do see them together, he’s distant and preoccupied). One has to wonder, based on her own childlike perception of her parents and their feelings towards her, how the heck did she end up with her mother? From her “final thoughts” in episode four it would also seem that her mother would have been the one to give Ringo the task of fulfilling her “destiny” and becoming Momoka.

    As an aside, there’s another oblique drowning reference involving Ringo with her mother being a kappa, whose common folkore involves drownings.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Until the anime ever delves into Ringo’s mother’s backstory, this is just pure speculation, but here’s my theory. For whatever reason, when society feels the urge to assign blame, I get the feeling that the dissolution of the family always falls more heavily upon the mother’s shoulders. To draw examples from another anime, I’m struck by how Usagi Drop seemingly puts the onus on the female characters throughout the show any time domestic strife arises. Even though we’re supposed to fall in love with the divorced, single mother (i.e. Yukari), she nevertheless exhibits some guilt for putting her son through the whole separation ordeal. The idea here is that her guilt presumably humanizes her character to the audience, but why should she feel any guilt if she was doing what’s best for her and her son?

      In any case, we don’t really know what drove a wedge between Ringo’s father and mother. We only know what Ringo believes. And I suspect that as a young girl missing her father dearly, blame may have easily defaulted to her mother. This is consistent with the idea that Hansel & Gretel represents Ringo’s story. For whatever reason, the mother is the evil figure in the fairy tale as opposed to the father, but the father is equally complicit in abandoning his kids.

      Reply
  9. Seinime

    Gah, I need to watch this, even if it looks more poorly animated this time. Haven’t got the time to, but an episode that finally involves Kanba seems too good to pass up.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Haven’t had the time? It’s a 23 min. episode. Do it so we can then sit around and act smart about a cartoon!

      Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Ah well, it’s a shame you won’t be adding your two cents about this episode, but at least a new episode is coming up.

          Reply
  10. Pingback: Notes of Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 10 | Organization Anti Social Geniuses

  11. Pingback: Terror in Resonance Ep. 6: Wild card | Moe Sucks

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