Mawaru Penguindrum 04: Skunks

This post will be short because the truth is I was extremely bored with this episode.  I was so bored I spent the first third of it trying to recall what the 4th episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena was about, because I had a strong sense that by this point that show was intensely amazing (my memory’s awful so I couldn’t remember, but now that I checked it I can confirm that yes,  Utena ep. 4 was building up some awesome intensity).  Then I spent the middle third trying to slap myself for comparing this to Utena, instead of just seeing it in its own terms.

I didn’t yawn in the last third of the episode, though my mouth did remain open…in utter horror as the show insisted on referencing Utena and, to put it nicely, remembering love for that show in the most boring, uninventive ways.  So I’m sorry if I keep mentioning Utena, but it’s not my fault, blame Mawaru Penguindrum itself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this episode was a disappointment to me.  The “surprise” finale just added insult to injury, almost as if they knew it was bad and were desperately trying to shock me into watching the next episode and forget about this one.  But come on, you can’t do this kind of ending twice so quickly!!  Back in the second episode, you introduced Ringo and everything seemed nice and sweet and at the end we were shocked to see her under the teacher’s house.  Wow, OK, we got it, she’s creepy and capable of anything.  Good way to finish episode 2.  But don’t just repeat the same thing here!!  The first time is a great plot twist, the second time is just a gimmick.  Come on.

I hope next episode is better.

~ by Haloed Bane on July 29, 2011.

25 Responses to “Mawaru Penguindrum 04: Skunks”

  1. >Utena ep. 4 was building up some awesome intensity

    And some winsome wincest

    >The first time is a great plot twist, the second time is just a gimmick. Come on.

    Then what do you call the 38th time you hear ZETTAI UNMEI MOKUSHIROKU?

    I can’t say I feel quite as vehemently about episode 4 of MPD as you do, but it certainly is the weakest episode so far.

    This is just filler, and Utena had none of those! Right? It’s not AS IF cow Nanami grew old just as quickly as princess Ringo did. It’s not AS IF that entire episode was just pointless fluff akin to MPD 4.

    Utena’s a masterpiece! I’m sure that comedy relief episode could be seen as a metaphor somehow!

    • Say what you like about Utena’s Nanacow, but I laughed out loud in every one of those “filler” episodes. Here I didn’t laugh at all. I don’t think this episode was filler…the plot was being advanced quite a bit (now we know that Yuri lady is conspiring etc). I just didn’t find it compelling or even funny in any way.

      I don’t mind repetition. Actually, I love it. But not gimmicks.
      I don’t mind repetition. Actually, I love it. But not gimmicks.

  2. It’s not Ringo behind the murder. It’s most probably that girl with the gun from the opening. Although the technique is indeed similar

    On the contrary I found the ep quite amusing. We did get new piece of info anyway.

    • I guess you’re right. But Ringo confirmed it with her diary in her usual demented calculating fashion, or was that someone else reading the diary at the end? Are there two diaries?? I’m confused.

      I’m glad you found the episode amusing, because it was definitely supposed to be amusing. I didn’t like any of the jokes, and I usually love skunks 😦

  3. I did not enjoy the musical gag. I didn’t think it was that clever either. I do appreciate the unbalanced rivalry however, and how the lame twin is getting embroiled with destiny.

    The dick twin is headed for some conflict as well, and it’s obviously more interesting because his enemies are hotter females who don’t indulge musical gimmickry.

    the panty-obsessed penguin number one is amazing.

    I also lament the absence of Penguinhat Himari.

  4. I like musicals, so I enjoyed the episode. The noteworthy thing about the ending (and I think a lot of people missed this, including me), is that the diary actually says “elevator,” not “escalator.” Even though “escalator” is what Ringo says at the end… Small detail caught by others more observant than me, but one with possibly grave implications.

    • If that’s so, then it’d be interesting because you can’t throw a person down an elevator usually. What did the diary say in total? Did it actually say she died? And how? As far as I remember we only get a mention of the woman in red heels but nothing about what’s to happen to her.

  5. You know, I’ve talked to a couple people I know in RL and looked around online a bit and it seems this episode is polarized between the genders. Most of the girls I know love it while the guys were bored and/or annoyed. Wonder if this has to do with how one sees and views romance? Or rather, one’s opinion on shoujo? Because this episode borrows, and borrows heavily from various shoujo tropes and conventions. The gimmicks you seemed to be frustrated by, I interpreted as being a clever revival of old-school ’70-90s shoujo conventions. I can’t think of how else to put it because, besides this, this episode has just as much going for it as the last two and some of the knee-jerk reactions I’ve seen confuse me. Like episode 3’s theme had been curry, this one was (childish) love/romance put in the backdrop of old-school shoujo. I’m not coming from the position of “stop liking what I don’t like, stupidhead!!” but more puzzled than anything else that there’s such a split in the fandom and the only thing I can come up with is this difference in aesthetic taste.

    In any case, in terms of Penguindrum and Utena–their narrative structures are completely different. Like Utena is all about repetition and ritual. Each episode has a structure that is predicated onto the next. You watch one episode, you know what the next one will be like structurally. Penguindrum, on the other hand, is more fluid, each episode sequences into the next, at least so far in terms of the ideas that they bring up.

    Like the first episode is about changing fate, episode two is about loving fate. Episode 3 goes into love and the genesis of it, and this episode shows how one carries out that love.

    There’s so much that has just been hinted so far and we still haven’t gotten the full story. Like, with Utena, we got comfortable with the fact that Utena is a princess wanting to become a prince and the story would be about people fighting against her with they’re own ideals. Everything that proceeded after episode 1 was a variation of it except the Nanami episodes and review episodes (which repeated onto themselves). Here though we just have the idea of people acting upon fate, whether it is for it or against it. We haven’t even met the agents that oversee these. Compared to Utena, it seems more aimless, but I’m sure something will come of it. Because right now, Penguindrum is determined to flesh out these viewpoints in only to show how they can be overturned. I suppose it’s frustrating if you want it to get to the point given it’s almost impossible to guess what’s going to happen next.

    • Hmm, I actually thought about this issue too, but my hunch was that it had to do with a split between those who’ve watched Utena and those who haven’t. It’d be interesting to see if there’s something to this, maybe there isn’t. The reason I had this hunch is because I have Utena very fresh in my mind, and a lot of this episode directly referenced Utena and I wasn’t happy with the way it was done…therefore I wonder if I had never seen Utena I couldn’t really find fault with the references and I might have enjoyed it more?? Not sure.

      Maybe you’re onto something. I happen to like shojo, but I like the dark side of shojo (misery, pain, and love sure, but love gained after lots of pain and anguish) and this was definitely not to my taste. I also found the whole “discovery” that the actress was onto Ringo very trite and obvious. I mean, we all knew that she was a rival and knew Ringo to be one, didn’t we?? (maybe I have a paranoid personality but it seemed pretty obvious to me from the first time she showed up).

      The truth is I didn’t like the way Utena ended at all. Therefore it’s a good thing this is playing out very differently since it means this time around I might be more satisfied at the end 🙂

      Penguindrum is definitely less rigid, yes.

      • The point of the reveal wasn’t revealing to *the viewer* but revealing *to Ringo* as it’s a part of the snowballing loss of confidence that she experiences throughout the episode.

      • For the first and last part of your post–I don’t know. I have so much respect for Utena (the movie, TV show, and character) it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s pretty much the narrative that defined me back in middle school–actually, rather than saying that, I’ll claim that it’s pretty much the story I’ve always wanted and what I think all little girls should watch because of how important the message is. And so, the ending and the final arc you don’t feel satisfied by, I find it the most meaningful and important part of Utena’s story.

        Like, to sort digress a bit from the Penguindrum discussion, Utena (the show and movie) was never about the fairy tale story of princesses and princes in which the prince saves the princess from the evil witch. To me, it was about the _perception_ of these fairy tales and the _interpretations_ the characters have about them. There’s a distinct difference between the fantasy that the children make they’re playground (Ohtori Gakuen) and the reality that adults live in (The world where Anthy and Utena enter), and the absolute nihilism and villainy that Akio represents of the adult world. The point that is inherent in the TV show which is then brought to the forefront in the movie is that there is no such thing as a prince and a princess and, not only that, but these concepts are incredibly dangerous. Fantasy is an escapism and the princess is a role that makes its bearer powerless and completely dependent on others.

        I could go on for pages about this, but this isn’t the time or space to do so so I’ll get to the point: what I see as the essential meaning of Utena is that the princess must ultimately rescue herself and children have to realize that fantasy is not reality. I’ve only scanned through your posts/reactions on Utena, but I think what you said in your movie post was partially correct, it isn’t a sequel, but I think in many ways it’s a retelling with emphasis on a different role. The TV show focused on Utena, girl who made herself masculine in order to break free of the limitations of a princess; however in doing so, she still doomed other girls into the role of princess. That’s why she couldn’t save Anthy at the end–she can’t force the androgyny she bears onto another girl. Anthy, in the end, must save herself which she does by refusing to continue to play the role of princess (the Rose Bride). In the movie, the story is essentially the change, if only to become more literal. In the end, Utena rids herself of her notions of Prince (Touga) so that she can become the vehicle of Anthy’s escape, but Anthy here is far more proactive–she saves herself with the help of Utena. Where Utena was the main character in the series, you could make an argument that Anthy is the main/most important character in the movie.

        Anyway, I say all of this because this seems to be Ikuhara’s attitude about classic fairy tales and princesses–he finds them ridiculous and mocks them because of how it dooms not just the female characters, but also the males as well. So, yes, the Utena references in this episode are blatant and purposeful, but look at the way they’re used. It’s not a repetition, it’s a variation of Utena. Ringo is playing the role of Anthy–she’s both the witch and the princess to herself. She locks herself in her own fantasy only literally almost drown because of it. The show is mocking is playfully mocking her, repeating the meaning of Utena at her expense. So yeah, this is basically how I see it and with, this interpretation, I find no faults in the show.

        But yeah, as for Yuri, I agree with digital boy. Just because we know, doesn’t mean the characters know. Besides, it’s not just the plot of the reveal, but also the meaning ascribed to the reveal and what we get from the characters that’s important. We get to see in that reveal a glimpse of Yuri’s character.

        • I’m still trying to understand why I was so disappointed with the last arc in Utena. Maybe, just maybe, it turned out to be too conventional…maybe my expectations were too high at that point. I find Evangelion much more fulfilling in that respect. The Utena movie was very entertaining in its own way, as was the manga. Anyway, I just watched episode 5 of Penguindrum and I don’t really have anything to comment on it so I won’t 😉

          • Fair enough. I think anything beyond this point is just a matter of personal taste I dont’ see the point of encroaching on others . Still, I have to say that I consider Utena and Evangelion pretty much the pinnacle shows of their respected time and genre and that they couldn’t be more different not just in their target audience, but their execution. Utena had a unified vision and a message and was meticulously planned and laid out: it’s intentions are all there and its message clear to those who search for it. Evangelion, the original production, was a mess with Hideaki spiraling into depression, Gainax going backrupt, etc. It’s meaning is eschewed by that madness or perhaps it’s meaning is that spectacle.

            Personally, I’m a fan of the literary so I love Utena. Even though it’s ending is “conventional” in the sense that it was the logical culmination of plot–I love and respect how directly confrontational it is with challenging conventional beliefs and narratives and it’s ultimate meaning. And because I value that meaning, I appreciate it a little more than I do Eva’s end.

            But blahblah tl;dr. As of now, I don’t really have anything intelligent to say about this episode of Penguindrum either. Still, with this episode the cast has almost completely assembled and the next episode will probable the next turning point given by the eyecatch.

            • Yup, next episode will be an important one.

              As for Eva, we’ll see how the last 2 movies develop, since the chaos surrounding the TV series is (at least it should be, I would imagine) completely dispelled this time around.

  6. You fucked up this time, AK:

    1. Don’t you think it’s a thousand years too early for you to pin Ikuhara’s style for this show as “referencing Utena” when you haven’t even seen his pre-Utena work?

    2. I didn’t see any Utena references—what I did see was a shitload of Rose of Versailles references, including two direct ones (one where they called the series BY NAME), and as we all know, Utena has been compared to Rose of Versailles ever since it came out. However, Ikuhara has denied being influenced by Versailles when working on Utena several times—either he’s admitting something here, or he’s watched and loved Versailles in the time since and decided to pay it direct tribute.

    I thought the music segments had plenty of depth:

    Miss actress sings the “I’m an actress!” refrain constantly throughout the first song, as the level of her power and amazingness is drilled into Ringo’s head, crushing her confidence. In the second song, she takes on a whole new level of sophistication, saying lines of Marie Antoinette (again, Versailles reference), and speaking in English, making her even more princess-like and perfect.

    This episode is about Ringo’s confidence crumbling in the face of the enemy. In her first episode, she was scary confident in a way that made her feel powerful (to the viewer and to herself). In the next episode, she was faced with an adversary, but picked herself up to keep on fighting. In this episode, our hopes (or fears) for her as a viewer are crushed, as the complete futility of her attempts are made clear. She gets so flustered that she turns to petty insults and lies regarding the course of fate that even she can’t believe in. There’s a good reason she spends half of the episode sinking into her collar, and why that jacket has such a big fucking zipper on it. It’s like a bag to close her up in and toss her in the river.

    I enjoyed the musical segments, especially the third one, as Ringo has a pretty voice and there’s a talking tree that looks like it just walked out of a Kirby game. Is the episode silly? Yes. Filler? No and yes, certainly the amount of time spent isn’t proportional to the grounds covered, though I’m in no way in a rush.

    *Every* episode has had a surprise ending, by the way, not just two and four. It’s a formula, which Ikuhara is fond of.

    To me, the most important thing I thought I realized in this ep is that *Ringo probably has the Penguindrum.* When this was looking like a one or two-part episode, then we created the expectation that there would be a number of characters said to have the Penguindrum and all would have their own wacky stories. However, as Ringo’s story went into a third episode and now is still going, it becomes clear that either 1. the show follows an arc structure of large arcs, 2. Ringo is one of the most important characters in the show, or 3. both are true, but the search for the Penguindrum isn’t actually the major driving force of the narrative.

    • You don’t think Ringo’s idea of putting out a caterpillar to have herself be saved by Tabuki is a reference to Utena? And the fact that there was a snake involved? And that there was even a red octopus just prior?

      How about the drowning? You know the Utena movie, the manga and the anime all reference the girl almost drowning and being rescued by a prince (in the anime it’s only barely alluded to, but it’s the main incident in the manga).

      I just watched Utena, and it all came coming back to me. As to Rose of Versailles, I just read the 10 volumes as well and I can tell you: outside of playing with the name “Versailles, Rose” and some visual cues there is no real allusion to speak of. None of the scenes even remotely parodies a scene in Rose of Versailles (I haven’t seen the anime, but I hear it’s very faithful to the manga).

      I think Ikuhara is more interested in referencing the Takarazuka troupe here (who happen to have performed Utena). The songs do sound like what I’ve seen of Takarazuka, and have nothing to do with anything of Versailles… And since Marie Antoinette was French, and Rose of Versailles is extremely careful with historical accuracy, if Ringo starts speaking English then that’s uhm…not really very Rose of Versailles-y.

      I get what you say about what the episode is trying to do. Ringo’s confidence is crumbling and it shows. But I was very bored in watching her crumble.

      • Alright, I’ll hand it to you, you’ve seen Utena a lot more recently than I have—I don’t even know the references you’re stating (except the drowning, though that seems not like much of a reference to me).

        Referencing Rose of Versailles doesn’t have to mean being totally accurate to it, it just means referencing it, primarily visually. But that’s just the thing, Utena’s *visual* style was always put next to Rose of Versailles, and I can’t speak for the manga since I haven’t read it, but the anime certainly looked like this frequently (though never so lightheartedly).

        I still think we should be watching Sailor Moon S or something before saying that these are necessarily Utena references and not things that Utena was also referencing from the director’s other work (i.e. his latent style).

        • I’m sure you remember the episode where Nanami tries to make Anthy look bad by setting up all sorts of critters around (snake, red octopus).

          It’s true what you say about the need of watching his other works, none of which I have seen. At some point I’m sure I will..

    • If I said that I haven’t seen Utena and am therefore unbiased would that be a true statement.

      I personally feel like Penguindrum hit it’s high in episode one and hasn’t made me blink since then. The first episode had all the great things about color symbolism and the nature of fate and…well…I haven’t seen anything remotely like that since. Most of the enjoyment I get out of watching the penguins putz around.

      Though I will say I did catch the “I’m an actress” repetition Digiboy mentions and wondered how sincere is Yuri’s affection for Tabuki. Is it possible that she knows about the diary and is trying to fudge Ringo’s fate or perhaps push it in the right direction.

      But yeah besides that, this episode was an extended fart joke.

      • I think I might have to agree with you the first episode was the best one yet.

        Yuri knows a lot, I imagine. More than Ringo or the Takakuras I should think.

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