Friday, August 26, 2011

Mawaru Penguin Drum - 07

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I always feel a bit like the fish swimming against the current when I criticize this series, but there were some worrying elements for me in episode 7 of Mawaru Penguin Drum.  On balance I found it the most self-indulgent and least enjoyable episode so far.

I’ve already stated my piece on Ringo – she works all right as a side character, but she wears very thin as a lead.  It really does appear that she’s the main character of the series now, since she’s dominated most of the last five episodes, and that gives me great concern going forward. Whatever the valid psychological reasons behind her lunacy, her act is very one-note to me – it’s really the same gag played over and over.  I don’t find her especially sympathetic and she’s not the kind of crazy that can carry a series, like Haruko from FLCL.  She’s the annoying kind of crazy, and I feel for Tabuki if she indeed gets her claws into him.

Of course, Tabuki’s in a pretty bad place – caught between a yandere stalker with a daddy complex and what appears to be some kind of seductress control freak.  I don’t like either Ringo or Yuri much, which makes an episode of them fighting over Tabuki rather a chore.  We also had to suffer through the gag of Yuri’s bad singing again, although mercifully it wasn’t as drawn out as it was in episode 4.  The new twist on all this is that Ringo has officially made Shouma her slave, holding out the prospect of her diary as the Penguin Drum to get him to perform increasingly degrading and bizarre acts.  Really, that kind of humor seems beneath someone like Ikuhara at this stage of his career. 

And then there’s the entire witchcraft sequence with the frog.  I know it was supposed to be hilarious in a completely bizarre way, but I just found it bizarre.  And disgusting too, of course.  So is Ringo a witch, now?  That would explain the diary’s predictive power, I suppose, although it seemed more to me that the frog bit was the desperate act of a crazed schoolgirl than a real witch.  The worst part is, I don’t really care – I just don’t want to have to see it again.  We did find out what the “M” in Project M is – apparently anyway – “Maternity”.  Not “marriage”, or “Momoko” or any of the other interesting theories I’ve seen proposed.  Unless that was a troll, of course.

Of Kanba, we again see very little as he appears to be more a side character than the lead he appeared to be at first.  He’s familiar with the grayscale penguin balls that were used to zap the memories of his two old girlfriends, a point made clear as he asks the trenchcoat-wearing gent on the Metro about it while he accepts a fat packet of money.  That Kanba has sold himself to dark forces to try and keep his siblings in their home is clear, though to just whom and just how deep is still a matter of conjecture.  With Tabuki now engaged to Yuri and Ringo’s potential surrender of the diary hanging by a thread, Penguin-hat Himari takes up Kanba’s suggestion that they need to get Tabuki into Ringo’s pants as quickly as possible, reasoning that once he’s tasted a 16 year-old, he won’t go back to icky old Yuri.

Maybe it’s me, but all of that just left me feeling kind of repulsed.  There was an ugliness to the tone this week that I haven’t felt previously, and I really worry if this show is going to hold up for two long cours.  I can’t but marvel at how brilliant this show has been at its best, but I also can’t imagine enduring 16 more episodes like this one.  There’s only so much disorder and depravity I want to subject myself to if it isn’t cut with at least a little human decency, especially in a series that presents itself as at least partly a comedy.  That was always a concern for me but never so much as it is now.  There were a few comedic moments (Penguin #2 taking a bite out of all the sandwiches was a great sight gag) but smiles were few and far between for me.

On a side note – could that possibly have been Maya Suzukaze as “The Count”, Yuri’s co-star who later showed up at the party?  It sure sounded like her.

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11 comments:

  1. The comedy to this series has been bugging me for a while now. I mean, they've practically been reusing the same jokes for the past few episodes, where Ringo just goes crazy over her archrival.

    The comedy is taking away precious screentime from the more interesting aspects to this series, which is disappointing. Stuff like the penguindrum, the weird memory-wiping penguin symbol ping pong balls, the evil penguin and it's master, etc.

    At least it looks like things might get more crazy from here, though I hope Ringo doesn't delve into super-creepy yandere mode.

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  2. She's already there for me, my brother...

    For every Yuno Gasai that can be genuinely compelling at the center of a series as a whack-job, there's a busload of characters who can't. And Ringo can't. She's just not a MC.

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  3. I predict that the end is a fade out. She won't be getting Tabuki's pants. My prediction anyhow.

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  4. Yeah,I didn't mind episode 4 but at episode 7 this is starting to drag on a bit now,please obtain that diary and move on,and if I have to wait another 10 episodes before that happens I'll be disapointed.

    Still not quite Yuno level but ringo's getting there.

    But here's the very big difference between Yuno and Ringo to me

    Yuno's Yanderness made her into a badass action girl that was genuinly dangerous and fearsome

    Ringo's yanderness makes her into a bit of a pathetic stalking that's a little creepy,nothing more

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  5. totoum, pretty much agree with your last statement. Plus, frankly, Yuno is just a lot more fun - for a reader/viewer, anyway.

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  6. Well these past few eps have been interesting as Ringo's desire to be her older sister reaches to new heights. In my belief, Ikuhara is doing this to show that other than the bros, there are ppl like them who would sacrifice everything to have a return to status quo. O sure,I can see this as disgusting but in reality this fits into the theme of this show sacrifice. I mean look at the older brother who is just a playboy in toying girl's hearts and ädmires his younger sis similar to the Ringo-Tabuki relationship.

    So thus next ep, I think it will be a transition ep. back to the bros and their adventures against the unknown, while the ringo arc takes a back seat.

    Btw, does anyone have a guess into why ringo turns into flames in the op?

    Also PS. I am predicting this, but Yui Horie's chara will not be the "villian" but as more of a anithero.

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  7. I wouldn't feel too bad about Tabuki, from the way he is depicted in the opening credits, I think he knows way more about whats going on around him then he allows people to see.

    I agree that this was a very underwhelming episode. I wasn't bothered as much by the ick factor, as much as the fact that all of the characters were basically repeating their same patterns from earlier episodes, accomplishing nothing. This feels like a filler episode.

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  8. It feels more like the whole "humour" is supposed to be disturbing, as opposed to funny. Atleast, that's my opinion. I think that the intention is to make the viewer uncomfortable with Ringo's behaviour.

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  9. Yeah I thought this episode was pretty dull. Appeared to be a repeat of episode four, with very little relevance to the plot.

    Then I thought about that, read some comments online, and realized three things:

    1. Yui's play is called "The Tragedy of M." Not only is it a reference to the various project Ms that appear to be in play, but the dialogue in the play continue to reference fate and destiny in various ways. Reminded of the play "Eschatology and Genesis" from The Book of the New Sun, though probably nowhere near as important.

    2. If the M in Project M stands for Maternity, then what on earth are the implications of that? Is it the responsibility of the Momoka surrogate to bear child? Is Tabuki literally caged in a situation where he has no choice but to give seed? If Masako's Project M is the same, then what are the implications of that?? Seems to me that Ringo's choice of the word "creative" didn't mean so much "creative" as in imaginative but instead "creative" as in it creates life.

    3. Which leads to: If Project M is ultimately related to sex, then isn't Project M a kind of survival strategy in itself? What if it is THE survival strategy? That would prove, absolutely without a doubt, that all of the sexual imagery in the "survival strategy" transformation sequence is entirely deliberate. Could Project M and the Penguindrum ultimately be the same thing, or at least closely related?

    So yeah, the interconnected themes and imagery themselves remain consistent on an intellectual level. As a visceral experience, though, the episode fell pretty flat. How much of this scenery-setting are we going to get before the show really begins? Maybe next week?

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  10. Anon and wendeego, you raise interesting points. But really, we've had several episodes to grow uncomfortable with Ringo's behavior - I think we get it already.

    Yes, I believe Ikuhara has an overarching plan that ties all this together (although if he continues to avoid any exposition, that will get exhausting quickly). I'm certainly not doubting his intellectual depth, but I'm starting to doubt his dramatic execution. Repetition has been a worry of mine for a while, and never more than now. I really wonder if this show - like HanaIro - won't in retrospect have looked better as a one cour series.

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  11. I'm not totally convinced that Yuri is a "seductress control freak". I think it might be one of those cases where we only get to see her from the eyes of one of the characters - Ringo - and this gives us only her biased opinion to work with, à la Tatami Galaxy.

    I don't really understand why Yuri invited Ringo to the play and the party, though. Is she genuinely fond of her? Does she enjoy making a kid suffer? Does she also belong to some kind of group and is trying to obtain the penguindrum?

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