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.

One cherry blossom you do not want to mess with.

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!!!

~ by Haloed Bane on July 15, 2011.

37 Responses to “Mawaru Penguindrum 02: Blossoms”

  1. @”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.”

    I hope not because I want to believe Ikuhara knows there’s a fundamental difference between humiliating yourself, like Henry IV did with this walk of his, and doing something to someone else, such as the brothers spying on the girls. I mean, everyone is free to do pretty much whatever they want to themselves, there’s no ethical conflict there. But involving someone else does carry an ethical implication to it and that’s what Shouma finds reprehensible.

    I really want to think Ikuhara is beyond such a misguided analogy. I hope so at least.

    • Well, Henry IV humiliated himself, but in the back of his head he was probably already scheming to do away with the Pope so…I think what he did already involved someone else.

      As to what moral code Ikuhara personally subscribes to, I have no idea, though my experience with Japan is that they tend to be very “flexible” in their ethical thinking (to put it mildly).

  2. Man you’re really reaching with that blackboard analogy.

    Taking power is not something thats really justifiable morally, is it? I mean, all popes and kings are just psychopaths when you get right down to it.

    • It depends on what moral code you follow. There are tons of people out there who would agree with you, as well as tons of people who would defend the right of Henry IV to do what he did (he is a German hero and a hero of the Protestant movement) and even more tons of people who would defend the Pope to the death.

      And everyone thinks they’re morally right.

  3. The Henry the IV anecdote is my favorite part of the whole thing… and I loved the whole thing. The stalking the stalker bit… the birds… the ledge-walk to get the photo… everything!

    The Pope is the Penguin Hat. Morals is not a survival strategy (only that it is, as a means of preserving one’s self-image — as righteousness is or can be a big part of mental survival for some).

    • I hate ledge walk scenes. I’m scared people will fall.

      Hmm. Interesting statement about morals. I just read that the Papal tiara has three crowns where the lowest symbolizes his authority over the Vatican (formerly over the Papal States), the second one his spiritual authority, and third one the fact that his spiritual authority towers over all other kings.

      Certainly the fact that the Papacy has lasted two millennia has had a lot to do with amoral (or immoral) strategies and actions..

      • Self-image and the ability to believe that what one does is “right” is I think a matter of survival. This is, of course relative to what one believes. But there is hardly anything more addictive than wanting and thinking to be right. Right?

        • Well, having others think you’re right is very addictive as well. Social approval baby🙂

  4. The teacher doesn’t live in Ikebukuro, he lives in Ogikubo.

  5. It’s interesting that the teacher lives in Ikebukuro. If the penguin hat deity comes from “the destination of your fate,” is that Ikebukuro (the end of the line) and if so then what does it say that the teacher lives there as well? The fact that the teacher looks so similar to the raven guy in the opening is pretty suspicious as well.

    What really puzzles me is when Penguin #3 was wearing that wig. It could be dismissed as an Ikuhara quirk (along with Penguin #2 killing things with bug spray.) But could it also be a connection to the similarly blond-haired woman from the magazine? If so, and #3 is meant to represent Himari, then is she connected somehow? I dunno, maybe that’s a stretch.

    Also, I certainly didn’t figure this out myself, but someone on the excellent Penguindrum Livejournal network pointed out that the design on Ringo’s notebook (sea dragons and a sea castle) could be meant to allude to the story of Urashima Taro. Not familiar with that legend though so I’m not sure if I can say anything particularly constructive there.

    • As anon commented, this was a mistake of mine. Ringo goes to Ikebukuro to photograph the swallow and buy some lingerie, but the teacher actually lives at the beginning of the line in Ogikubo.

      You’re right that the end of the line, the destination, is Ikebukuro in some sense. Just as Ogikubo is where everything starts.

      All I can say about the teacher is: poor man. I bet you he will suffer greatly before this is all over.

      Well, Penguin # 3 seems to be female, so it might be the Penguin-Hat in disguise or something, yeah.

      As for Urashima Taro, I don’t see it but who knows, there might be a connection. All I know is that dragons in Japanese mythology live at the sea bottom in castles and they are essentially gods…plus the Imperial Family is partly descended from them.

      • “All I can say about the teacher is: poor man. I bet you he will suffer greatly before this is all over.”

        Ha ha! That sounds like a safe bet.

        Thanks for the insight on the archaic spellings of Ringo’s name, and the Oka Girl’s High. It is still so early in this series that it is a bit difficult to tell if some things are significant, especially because there is so much in-your-face symbolism. I’m really glad, though, that this show has turned out to be so dense in imagery and philosophical themes. I find it highly entertaining and we have just gotten started.

        • I think it’s too early to determine how significant all of these things are. But I’m sure they all have at least some significance. Ikuhara is so deliberate😀

  6. I don’t understand your symphathy towards cockroaches…. THEY’RE PESTS!!! They bring disease, spread germs/dirt, disturb you… THEY DON’T DESERVE ANYONE’S MERCY. *spots a cockroach* DIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Interesting info on the blackboard. I think the message it implies that… crazy acts can become useful later xD

    • I agree on the blackboard.

      I used to kill roaches on sight too, probably because I was paranoid that if I didn’t kill one immediately it would multiply and I’d have an infestation. Then I lived in a place where it’s frowned on to kill insects randomly, and I stopped killing them. And guess what? I didn’t have an infestation, the roaches did whatever they did and I did my own thing and it was never a problem so😀

      • Maybe the place you’re talking about have people EAT cockroaches? I think cockroaches are even used as medicine o-O

        ” I didn’t have an infestation”
        = I think that’s just luck. Or maybe you don’t even live in very a polluted area in the first place, so lesser risks.

        • Well, they eat all sorts of bugs (though not your common cockroach), but eating is something else altogether. I’ve eaten plenty of cows and pigs. It’s the wanton destruction that gets to me.

          Maybe it was luck. I was careful not to leave food outside, so maybe they moved elsewhere🙂

  7. Good_Haro over on twitter might have found an interesting explanation for the writing of Ringo’s name: http://twitter.com/#!/Good_Haro/status/91928520510545921

    • None of those characters have anything to do with Ringo!! Are you sure this person is referring to this?

      • I believe so, I thought that was comparing how the kanji in Ringo’s name was similar to the kanji for fate (although I read basically no kanji so I could’ve misinterpreted that easily).

        • AHHH!! I got it. No, s/he’s not talking about Ringo’s name. S/he’s talking about the character in the word “Mawaru” (輪) for Mawaru Penguindrum. Indeed, that character looks like a mixture of the two characters for “Fate” (運命) . Kinda neat..

  8. I’m with the idea that the significance of these great details is still misty, but thanks for shining a light.

    With regard to the brothers: I’m with the idea that they somehow provide a balance to the situation, but it’s hard to pin if it’s opposing forces. My view might be closer to pairing them as Colour Rangers, where the ultimate notion is the same, but they represent different attributes/concepts. If we look at something like Saint Oniisan, Jesus and Buddha, we see the ends are kind of similar, though the means vary. (Not implying anything in the story of SO, just the representation of the religious icons)

    Maybe what Kanba and Shouma represent are different means to the same end. I’m just throwing stones at the mountain.

    • I guess the standard with which to measure how similar (or different) Kanba’s and Shouma’s ends are would be to figure out how they feel toward their sister. Is it the same sort of feeling or different? Also, their feelings toward and relationships with their parents, which I imagine we’ll get to hear about soon enough..

  9. Wikipedia says “Going to Canossa” means “to describe doing penance, often with the connotation that it is unwilling or coerced” This describes the brothers’ situation perfectly; since Kanba originally said Himari died for their sins, and now they are being coerced by the penguin queen to find the penguindrum.

    Ringo’s diary is indeed important, but I don’t think it’s magical, and I don’t think she wrote it. If you look at the writing, it’s very childish both in style and content. But most of all, it refers to the teacher as a classmate, so it can’t be Ringo’s writing. She’s inherited it from someone, and for some reason is obsessed with recreating the events inside it.

    • Wow!

      OK, on Canossa, I think your reading works well, especially if you tack on at the end the possibility that the brothers, having seized the Penguindrum, might not follow the Penguin Hat Lady’s program to the letter…and thus convert the penance into some sort of personal gain (making the brothers Henry IV and Penguin Hat the Pope).

      On the diary, I am 99% sure she didn’t write it. I commented on another blog that my guess was that it’s the Penguin Hat’s diary from long ago. Ringo is basically reliving Penguin Hat’s life, and Penguin Hat is (understandably) very upset. And the reason Penguin Hat cannot confront Ringo directly (even though she can travel back in time) is because she’s dead….and maybe Ringo killed her!

      Ha! OK, that’s too much speculation. The teacher as classmate is something I didn’t pick up on.. Must rewatch!!

  10. Humans deserve to live, and cockroaches deserve to die—I decree it so.

    The blackboards device may have started before this, but it’s most famous in SHAFT anime, especially Pani Poni Dash and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, throughout which there is different writing on the blackboards in every shot featuring blackboards, usually for a spattering of random references and puns and other jokes, plus some occasional symbolism (because what isn’t symbolic in a SHAFT anime). I wonder if this technique simply caught on, or if these are each unique entities.

    I think in the famous chalkboard scene from Serial Experiments Lain they were studying math, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t symbolic, Lain being Lain and all.

    • The cockroaches just told me they feel the same way about you!!!

      Hmm, well, I’ve only seen Lain and of course I don’t remember the blackboards but I read that one of them has C programming code all over it. The site I read this on comments on how unlikely these junior high kids would be studying this in real life.

      As for Penguindrum, I myself am pretty sure I didn’t study about Canossa in class. It is very unlikely that a Japanese teacher would go so far as to write about it all over the board (and the student’s notebook shows lots of notes on the Holy Roman Empire etc). It seems like the blackboards in anime are not at all about providing a sense of realism to the shows, but about getting subliminal messages across to their audiences.

  11. “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.”

    See, another evidence that this anime is sooo evil! >:|

  12. […] Animekritik on the significance of the geography of episode 2′s proceedings. […]

  13. […] Animekritik on the significance of the geography of episode 2′s proceedings. […]

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