Mawaru Penguindrum 02: Blossoms
Well, that was fun! Not only was it fun, it was twisted!! How can this get so twisted so quickly??? That’s where the genius comes in.
There’s one thing that upset me, and it upset me a lot: the penguin spraying the cockroach. We’re dealing with a terminally ill girl who gets a second-chance to live, two brothers that have sworn themselves to do anything to make sure she stays alive, so it seems totally out of place to kill the poor little bug right at the beginning of the episode. If I were directing this I would have the penguin catch the cockroach and release it outside. I know people who do this sort of thing.
Ok, let me put that train map up again:
So the Penguin-Hat Overlady orders the two brothers, in between striking some amazing poses reminiscent of Touga and Saionji’s greatest hits, to find this girl Ringo Oginome. Notice first how Oginome and Ogikubo (the first station of the line, near where the Takakuras live) both start with the word Ogi (荻) which is a kind of grass (Amur silver-grass, in English).
Ringo means “apple”, but whereas this is usually written 林檎 (as for example, in singer Ringo Shiina’s name) Ms. Oginome’s name is spelled 苹果. This is a valid, though practically never used, variant for writing “ringo” in Japanese, and apparently the difference in nuance is that whereas the first and common word can be used for both apple trees and apples, the second one (used in Oginome’s name) can only refer to the fruit of the apple tree, i.e. apples themselves.
I’d say the writers just chose this characters because they look odd and thus cool. They’re so unusual that when her name shows up on screen in the park you can see little hiragana characters over them, presumably so that viewers can know what the heck it means.
Ringo Oginome lives near Higashi-Koenji station but goes to school near Shinjuku-Gyoenmae station, so her school is near Shouma’s. This right here is one good reason for the Mad Penguin Hattress to have chosen the Takakuras to further her aims, if indeed the Penguin Drum is with Ringo Oginome: Ringo and Shouma study in the same neighborhood.
Shinjuku-Gyoenmae station literally means “Station in Front of the Shinjuku Imperial Garden”. The Shinjuku Imperial Garden is very near the station, and it’s famous for its cherry blossoms. It was burned to ashes in 1945 (air raids) but it’s been rebuilt. It is no wonder then that Ringo’s school is called Oka Girl’s Highschool, where Oka means “cherry blossom”. Here again, the writers please the kanji fetishists by writing Oka as 櫻花 (traditional pre-war spelling) instead of 桜花 (postwar simplified spelling).
And of course, I have to mention the fact that in 1945 the Japanese were unleashing their suicidal manned Oka bombs on American planes. If that sounds nuts to you then how about them apples? I mean Apple!! I mean Ringo!!! She’s as nutty as they come!
And how convenient that her teacher lives in Ikebukuro, at the end of the same Marunouchi line. My mistake, I should say: how convenient that the swallow Ringo wants to photograph is in Ikebukuro, at the end of the same Marunouchi line…and the teacher she’s stalking lives in Ogikubo, where the Tatakuras are from!! I can’t stress enough how unlikely these arrangements are in Tokyo, where the norm is to transfer once, twice, often even three times to get to your destination.
NOTE: I like the dynamic between Shouma and Kanba so far. If I were to intervene in their ethics debate, I’d say one has to choose one or the other depending on the situation. That is, sometimes the end justifies the means, sometimes it doesn’t. The brothers balance each other so they should do well.
BLACKBOARD NOTE: After High School of the Dead I’ve learned to pay close attention to what gets written on the blackboards of anime classrooms. Ringo’s class is studying about the Holy Roman Emperor’s walk to Canossa in 1077. Henry IV had a fight with the Pope and was excommunicated. He crossed the Alps south to Rome barefoot (!) as penance. Pope Gregory VII finally agreed to take him back into the fold of the Church. When this happened, it seemed the Pope was on top of the world. Events later proved otherwise. Henry IV’s walk to Canossa was a great publicity stunt. He grew in power, organized an army, came back and deposed the Pope. He shrugged off a second excommunication like it was yesterday’s news. What does this have to do with Mawaru Penguindrum I have no idea, except how maybe Henry IV’s actions are proof that Kanba is right: the end justifies the (devious and humiliating) means.
UPDATE: Check Abandoned Factory’s post for something I totally missed the first time I watched the episode: the humongous significance of Ringo’s diary! I want me one of those!!!