Mawaru Penguindrum 03: Curries

I’ll come right out and confess I am a curryist myself.  I love all of the curries, well, most of them.  I am grateful to the stars that I get to eat Thai curries weekly, and Japanese curry once a month or so.  Alas, I hardly ever eat Indian curry anymore.  But I love it too.  The one interesting thing about Japanese curry is how monolithic it is.  You can get it in various degrees of mildness but essentially when the Japanese eat curry it’s always the one kind of curry.  Even though it’s limited in this way Japanese curry is still a force to be reckoned with.

Is it an exaggeration to say that your perception of this episode will depend to a large extent on how you feel toward curry?  I don’t think so.  Either curry fills your heart up, and this episode speaks volumes to you, or it leaves you empty, and then the episode will feel like just a filler.

I’m not surprised that Ringo’s head is filled with curry myths.  Not only is it indeed possible that the first food cooked byhumans was curry (mammoth curry maybe?) but I think it’s also highly likely that rank and position in our first societies depended largely on this food – thus the etymological origin of the phrase “curry favor with the public”.

You can suspect Ringo’s Mom of having an impaired maternal instinct, but there’s no doubt that she’s a devoted curryist.  Notice what she does when Ringo reminds her it’s Curry Day.  She doesn’t say she’ll skip it because of work, she says she’ll eat it outside.  That’s commitment.

I love how abrupt the transition from the dysfunctional Oginome family to the seemingly more functional Takakura sibings (who are actually way more dysfunctional since they engage in Survival Strategy sessions where little sis cosplays a penguin tyrant while keeping her big brothers in submission) is.  This particular session was hilarious!  For one thing: Cowgirl + Curry-cooking Girl (with momentous consequences) = Utena.  Throw in Pet which randomly sticks Everything in its Path into its Mouth and turns Various Colors as a Result in and you’ve got UTENA!!!

The fact that the Penguin Hat goes to the trouble of dressing up in a cow costume marks the tone of this episode as much more playful than the ones past, and things flow like that straight through to the end.  I love how she addresses the brothers as “kisamara”, which it took me a while to figure out was just “kisama” (“bastard, scum”, a term much used in anime) + <plural ending “ra”>.

This matter of illusions is always interesting.  Penguin Hat convinces the brothers that she exists by letting Himari collapse on the floor hatless.  But couldn’t this whole scene simply be another illusion?  Might the real Himari be giggling somewhere around the corner?  Who knows!  It’s like Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream.

I’m not even gonna comment on the bug-murdering penguin.  I will also refrain from trying to figure out the Rules of Engagement between the Penguins and the Material World.  As far as I can tell there is neither rhyme nor reason to it.

The flashback to Ringo eating curry with Tabuki had a big impact for me: sure she  is still a stalker, but you start to suspect Ringo’s feelings have gradually intensified over the years, and this is something that happens often enough.

The businessmen’s chat on the train came dangerously close to racist xenophobia.  It really did.  These days one of the ways people “politely” act out their racism is to point out how foreign things “smell differently”, often founded on different food ingredients.  I have witnessed this lots of time.  You might have too.

Now then, what are the odds that Ringo’s pot would look exactly the same as the one at Tabuki’s?  Forget chance.  This is destiny.  And yet, the interesting (and potentially super significant) thing is that the diary didn’t have it quite right.  Ringo did not eat the curry with Tabuki, he didn’t laugh like a kid.  Viewed in other terms, Ringo failed somewhat.  There was a mismatch, and Tabuki’s girlfriend (who was conveniently making curry at the same time) was definitely involved in Ringo’s failure…  I can guarantee it.  Is the diary fallible?  Is it a standard of some sort?  I don’t know.

Destiny strikes again and Ringo ends up at the Takakuras.  We see this lovely scene where Kanba quickly puts all the family pictures face down.  Shouma, rather than be non-plussed, looks at him sideways knowing full well what’s going on.  This is possibly the best scene in the whole episode.  I don’t know what it means, but it’s very meaningful.  Later on when Himari gets curious about Ringo’s Mom, Shouma quickly changes the subject.  Hmmm…

I said I was giving up on the Rules of Engagement between the Penguins and the Material World but I can’t help myself: if the penguins are eating curry right next to the others, doesn’t Ringo notice something really odd going on??

NOTE: There is another, more sinister interpretation of the word “kisamara”.  This interpretation is so evil, so twisted, so freakishly outlandish (and so utterly incorrect, I should add) that I had to relegate it here.  Could “kisamara” be a compound of “kisa” and “mara”?  “Mara” is an old slang word for “penis”, and “kisa” is an old name for the blood clam.  And since I dare not put a picture of a blood clam here I’ll just link to it.

~ by Haloed Bane on July 22, 2011.

45 Responses to “Mawaru Penguindrum 03: Curries”

  1. Very good read 🙂

    I didn’t really notice the “racist xenophobia” part, but you’re right. That conversation was definitely odd in that scene.

    As for Kanba putting the picture of his parents down, this happens a lot before someone is about to commit immoral acts in front of a dead person’s picture. Kanba does proceed to question Ringo about her plan. I think it’s a clear sign that despite Kanba being assertive one during search (and stalking in previous ep), he still has a conscience and feels guilty about what they’re doing to Ringo.

    “kisa” + “mara” is an over analysis though… “kisamara” is a very commonly used term. But it’s a really interesting interpretation nonetheless 😀

    • Thanks 🙂

      Yeah, look, when the guy says “oh it smells like gaikoku…” he sounded like he was really going to say “gaikokujin” (= foreigner). To this day Japanese curry is considered “foreign food” in Japan and curry can have a potent smell but there’s something about the scene (while the girls are washing the passenger in the public announcement)… I guess it gives some realism to the show!

      Great point about the pictures!!! But I want to know, why did Shouma avoid Mom discussions?? What are these boys hiding from Himari???

      Next time you hear “kisamara” you’ll think of my interpretation. I apologize beforehand for any discomfort the reminiscence may cause you 😀

      • I noticed how he deliberately tried to change the subject too, but I was puzzled at this as well.

        My guess is that there’s some traumatic event in the past involving Himari that caused her parents to die. Notice how in ep1, Shouma says “I thought even people like us had the right to be happy”, implying they’ve done something terribly sinful in the past. So, maybe he was just trying to change the subject away from anything that had to do with “mother”. I guess we’ll have to see what happens in following episode to see if that was the case.

        Another possibility is that Shouma somehow sensed it’s a touchy subject for Ringo, and changed the subject (he did notice the “Curry Day” on calendar while sneaking in). This is kind of a stretch though.

        Yeah, “kisamara” will definitely induce a chuckle the next time I hear it 🙂

        • I guess it’s highly unlikely that the Takakuras died in a great curry fire, but I will just put the possibility out there for everyone to ponder.

  2. I am amazed you can turn being annoyed about the smell of curry into a case of racism. This sort of over-intellectualism is pathetic.

    • Being annoyed about the smell of curry is one thing, being annoyed at the smell of the foreign is another.

      I’m writing from experience, not from an intellectual standpoint. There are, for example, people who will claim certain nationalities smell bad because they use certain spices in their foods so often that their skins exude this smell. I’m not sure if this kind of theory can be neutral (maybe it can) but more often than not there’s a racist prejudice behind the people holding it.

      • Yes, racism against South Asians (Indians) is common here in the Philippines due to their distinctive smell.

        • Same exact thing happens in Thailand. The Japanese have their Smellisms as well. One reason why I’m so sensitive to Smellism is that my favorite fruit is the durian.

  3. Excellent insights all around. The conversation with the businessmen definitely bothered me and I think you made great connection with something like xenophobia/hate for the unknown. It’s kind of interesting
    that Penguindrum juxtaposes this kind of fear with curry being that curry 1) seems to be incredibly popular in Japan 2) is possibly the first dish created by people.

    I would’ve never picked up the kisamara bit though when you did, my first gut feeling was back to Buddhist myth. After all, Mara is also the demon that tempts Gautama while he’s meditating under the Bodhi tree.

    I’m still working out the whole destiny thing so I’m going to refrain on commenting on it until I’m got my post up. Anyway, great insights all around.

    • Yeah, that’s one really weird thing about Japan. They make a strong distinction between “Japanese food” and “foreign food”, but since they haven’t updated the distinction since the Meiji Era in the 19th century, they treat homegrown adaptations of foreign cuisine like Japanese curry as somehow “foreign food”. I’ve also had it explained to me that if you have to eat something with spoon and fork in Japan, it’s “foreign food”. So “omuraisu” or omelette rice is considered foreign food in Japan, even though you can’t find it outside of Japan!

      Mara, yes. It was the demon’s name that became slang for penis, which sort of makes sense. I don’t think people use “mara” like this anymore, but I run into it often enough in Leiji Matsumoto’s manga from the 1970s.

      I’m looking forward to your post 🙂

      • I finished it yesterday though LJ’s been down for most of today from what seems to be yet another DDoS attack.

        But yeah, huh, didn’t know either of those things. Mara being slang for penis is like the best euphemism ever. It’s really quite fitting.

        • You can tell how ignorant and out of it I am when it comes to tech stuff when I tell you that when I first read your comment I thought you meant that LJ (which i assumed was your friend) had been playing too much MMORPG and hadn’t done any work (i imagined DDoS was some sort of expansion for Dungeons and Dragons Online). I was going to tell you I was about to start playing WoW etc.

          Now I get it. Livejournal has had a denial of service attack. I get it. Even more devastating than blood elves. Hope it gets fixed soon.

          About Mara, it’s a pity people don’t use it anymore.

          • Haha, my apologies then. I suppose that’s one of the problems with acronyms, unless you’re familiar with the context it’s all rather confusing. Livejournal’s up now in any case and hopefully they’re won’t be too much trouble–shall keep my fingers cross.

            About WoW–I promised myself never to get into MMOs. I’m easily, easily obsessed so like if I started one, I would totally fall off the face of the Earth forever. So, um, yeah…have fun with that?

            As for Mara–seriously. It’s brilliant. I tell ye, if I had a penis, I would totally call mine Mara.

            • Mr. Mara, SuperMara, McNaMara, Max Mara, Marady, Mara Thoner. The possibilities are endless 🙂

            • Just to let you know, I tried to comment on your analysis yesterday and again today and the comments won’t go through. Basically, after watching ep. 04 I think you’re right on target with your ideas on how the diary comes and doesn’t come true… I actually had written you disagreeing but now I see that’s what’s happening.

  4. Your binary about how one feels about curry as a pivot for how one feels for the show is false.

    Disclaimer: I am a curryist.

    The episode I think is plot driven. The whole thing is contrived to put the characters in the same house, adding intrigue and complexity re: their respective ‘missions.’

    That, and introduction to new character (girlfriend), and further fleshing out of the others.

    • I actually meant just this episode, but well, binaries tend to be false anyway.

      I agree with you: the episode is very content-heavy, not filler at all, but some viewers found it fillerish.

      What sort of curries do you have over there?

      • The ones I encounter often are in green sauce, and I do quite like it. Here’s a recipe: http://www.lutonilola.net/2011/03/recipe-17-chicken-curry/

        The most common local eatery here is called the Carinderia, from the root word Cari (Curry), as these were first introduced by the Sepoys in the 19th Century. A popular descendant of curry dishes is the Kare-Kare, which isn’t really curry but is absolutely stunning.

        Japanese curry is ❤ too.

        • Niiiice…. Actually, my favorite Thai curry is green curry with chicken, so it might taste similar.

          I read Japanese curry is technically a yellow curry which is interesting to me because yellow curry is nowhere near as commonly found in Thailand as green, red or phanaeng curries.

        • My god that looks delicious.

          Apologies to AK for not really having anything to contribute. Great read though.

          • Not a problem!

            I’ve gone through most of my life without contributing much of anything, and it works fine 😀

  5. I just eat curry…. can’t differentiate whether it’s Thai, Japanese, etc. haha

    “But couldn’t this whole scene simply be another illusion? Might the real Himari be giggling somewhere around the corner? Who knows! It’s like Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream.”
    = That would be interesting. But I can’t imagined Himari laughing at her brothers while the two so horrified upon seeing her death once again. But who knows, “innocent” Himari might actually be a bitch, o_O

    “if the penguins are eating curry right next to the others, doesn’t Ringo notice something really odd going on??”
    = maybe it’s just because she can’t hear them…. and didn’t look on the floor? ahaha

    “Now then, what are the odds that Ringo’s pot would look exactly the same as the one at Tabuki’s? Forget chance. This is destiny.”
    = Thought about that too. Well, either that or they do have the same cooking materials (you know… she’s a stalker after all)

    “We see this lovely scene where Kanba quickly puts all the family pictures face down. Shouma, rather than be non-plussed, looks at him sideways knowing full well what’s going on. This is possibly the best scene in the whole episode. I don’t know what it means, but it’s very meaningful. ”
    = Same here xD

    • I just commented on your blog 🙂

      Ohhh! What color is the curry you eat?? And what’s in it?? You can tell a lot from that.

      Ringo would be a stalking goddess if she actually went around purchasing the teacher’s silverware. Wow. This is a great show to pick up nice stalking tips from 🙂

      • Thanks for dropping by 😀

        Hmmm… yellow? Err… has chicken… then I think there was potato… or was it pineapple. It’s a little spicy…. *bad in describing food*

        “Ringo would be a stalking goddess if she actually went around purchasing the teacher’s silverware. Wow. This is a great show to pick up nice stalking tips from”
        = Haha. Stalkers could be really… something.
        But there’s also the possibility that her family had given silverware to Tabuki as a present. The mother knows him, he might be a family friend or something.

  6. […] smells foreign in here” the man in the train said. Apparently, Japanese style curry is still considered foreign food by the Japanese, as is Omurice (rice omelet), as is any food that can be eaten with as spoon and fork. This is […]

  7. if i may, re “curry favor”: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=curry

    curry favor: from O.Fr. correier fauvel “to be false, hypocritical,” lit. “to curry the chestnut horse,” which in medieval French allegories was a symbol of cunning and deceit.

    curry (v.): late 13c., “to rub down a horse,” from Anglo-Fr. curreier “to curry-comb a horse,” from O.Fr. correier “put in order, prepare, curry,”

    curry (n.): from Tamil kari “sauce, relish for rice.”

    • Allow me to clarify:

      Lord Hereticus was a great rider and he had a horse named Succulentus. Now, Succulentus was a naughty horse and would often escape from the stable and roam in his lord’s domain. And so it happened that on a cloudy day one of Hereticus’ vassals went hunting and shot Succulentus dead by mistake. The vassal panicked, as he knew that Hereticus was to visit him the next day. He took the horse back to his manor and left it in the kitchen. The vassal’s cook assumed that the horse was meant for the next day’s feast, so he went ahead and chopped it up and boiled it. The vassal was shocked. Not knowing what to do, he ordered the cook to make a curry of it, because otherwise the horse bits would obviously be exposed to Hereticus’ eyes. Alas, the great Lord Hereticus took one bite of Succulentus and thundered: “Jean, have you curried my chestnut horse??” (the horse was colored chestnut). Jean the Luckless was aghast that Hereticus knew his favorite horse’s taste so well (no comment). Lord Hereticus beheaded his vassal (thus named the Luckless) but had to admit it was very good curry.

      After this, whenever someone lied to someone else, they would say “curry his horse” then “curry” for short. That’s what MY dictionary says.

      • Do you have an equally amusing story for curry combing?

        • Curry combing can be easily explained. After Lord Hereticus discovered how delightful horse curry was, he developed a real penchant for it. It was a great blow for his stable boys who loved the many horses so much. What was the point of keeping them healthy if they were only destined to fill the sire’s belly? Hereticus was powerful enough that no one would raise an objection to his new found interest, but the King’s jester (who was untouchable, and who bore a great grudge against Hereticus because the man would not laugh at his jokes) made much of it. Every morning he would walk by Lord Hereticus’ stables and call out to the boys as they groomed the horses: “What, are you combing the curry again, lads? Very well, very well, it won’t do to have any loose hairs meddling in your master’s meal! Ha ha!”

          By the way, later on during Lord Hereticus’ trial it came our that the enmity between the king’s jester and him actually had to do with a woman. But that’s neither here nor there.

  8. > This is possibly the best scene in the whole episode. I don’t know what it means, but it’s very meaningful.

    Love it when that happens.

    I’ve never eaten curry, but I loved this ep, this post, and all of these comments.

    • What?? Ghost dropped the ball big time. What kind of apprenticeship doesn’t include a curry session or two??

      • He intended to take me but never got the chance. There were only so many times we could go out, and we had to balance what he, I, and Alecon were in the mood for.

        • Well, there’s always next time.

          • BTW I’d like to assign penises an yggality of 11.

            My inspiration for this is (besides first deciding to assign an yggality to penises) comes from the School House Rock song, Good 11. The chorus goes, “goooood, good good good eleven~ never gave me any trouble till after nine.” Referring to multiplication, but yeah.

            • 11 is already the yggality for grains of sand, and as the rules state: “Once an yggality has been assigned, it is eternal.”

              How about 119? That number is still free and it incorporates 11 and 9.

  9. While wer’e on the subject of curry etymology, it’s interesting to note that “curry” is also used as a pun throughout the episode. The title of the episode is a pun on karê (curry), karei (magnificence) and kirei (clean) : “soshite karei ni watashi wo tabete” (now eat me magnificently) as a joke on “soshite kirei ni watashi wo tabete” (eat me without making a mess) which can also be read “eat me along with your curry”. And the train advertisment about bad smells uses another karei (increasing age) and can mean both “curry odors” or “smell of aging”.

    • I caught the kare (magnificent) bit but I hadn’t realized the increasing age one. Wonderful!! It’s a curry world after all, to praphrase Disney 🙂

  10. >Either curry fills your heart up, and this episode speaks volumes to you, or it leaves you empty, and then the episode will feel like just a filler.

    Is it an “either or” thing? In my experience, Curry ALWAYS fills you up, then, 5-6 hours later, leaves you empty, pale, and hurting like a bitch. That’s Indian food for ya.

    >Now then, what are the odds that Ringo’s pot would look exactly the same as the one at Tabuki’s? Forget chance. This is destiny. And yet, the interesting (and potentially super significant) thing is that the diary didn’t have it quite right. Ringo did not eat the curry with Tabuki, he didn’t laugh like a kid. Viewed in other terms, Ringo failed somewhat. There was a mismatch, and Tabuki’s girlfriend (who was conveniently making curry at the same time) was definitely involved in Ringo’s failure… I can guarantee it. Is the diary fallible? Is it a standard of some sort? I don’t know.

    From episode 4 it seems that the diary is more ambiguous than previously thought.

    • I will watch ep. 4 today.

      Your experience re: curry is not mine. BTW, I want a modified version of this quote for my tombstone:

      “Either curry fills your heart up, and his life speaks volumes to you, or it leaves you empty, and then his life will feel like just a filler.”

  11. […] I love how abrupt the transition from the dysfunctional Oginome family to the seemingly more functional Takakura sibings (who are actually way more dysfunctional since they engage in Survival Strategy sessions where little sis cosplays a penguin tyrant while keeping her big brothers in submission) is. This particular session was hilarious! For one thing: Cowgirl + Curry-cooking Girl (with momentous consequences) = Utena. Throw in Pet which randomly sticks Everything in its Path into its Mouth and turns Various Colors as a Result in and you’ve got UTENA!!!” – Anime Kritik […]

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