Mawaru Penguin Drum 3 ~ taste of happiness
July 23, 2011
We are still just getting started, so episode 3 shows the mystery of Mawaru Penguin Drum still deepening. This time we probed into Ringo’s home life, and came up with some more questions. We also witnessed the fated encounter (that was prophesied in PV 5). An interesting (and as always visually rich) episode. This show continues to impress me. It does a great job of setting up our expectations and then delivering something else entirely. As a result, this show continues to feel fresh, and I keep looking forward to being surprised and awed week after week.
Ringo’s family has a tradition of Curry Day, a special day on which the family gathers for their evening meal and eats Curry together. Interestingly, Ringo’s father is completely missing (except in a dream, maybe a memory from when she was very young?) on these family days. Is he dead, divorced? Even in the flashback we see of a Curry Day from sometime in the past, her father isn’t there, but a younger Tamaki is.
The audience is jerked around a lot in this episode. Part of this is just the nature of the intense themes that underly the show compared to the explicit humor that pervades every scene. Part of this is the presence of Ringo, who is emotionally unstable (as, perhaps, all teenagers in love can be said to be). But it is also quite clear that the director is jerking us, the audience, around intentionally, by setting up an expectational rug, and, once we have stepped upon it, yanking it out from beneath us. Note: I don’t mean this in a bad way; I think it shows incredible skill, and adds to the WTF-factor in watching Penguin Drum.
An example of this expectational rug yanking is the morning scene with Ringo and her mother. Today is the 20th (Curry Day) and Ringo wants to have her evening meal with the ones she loves. Her mother seems clueless, remarking that she has to work late so she’s going to eat at a restaurant instead, but don’t worry, she’ll make sure to eat curry. Hey, mom! That’s not the point! At first Ringo looks depressed, but after her mother leaves for work, she suddenly looks ecstatic. She’s going to make curry and eat it with Tamaki, her
stalkee crush. The change in tone is abrupt and extreme. It also raises a question, depending upon how you interpret Ringo’s diary (presumably the Penguin Drum), Ringo might have even prevented her mom from eating with her, instead of the other way around.
Another interesting part of this show is the contrast between the Takakura brothers. Kanba is ready to do anything, ODDLY READY. He even shows up at Ringo’s apartment with gloves and a fancy lock-pick set that he is quite good at using. Meanwhile Shouma is too pure-pure to enter a girl’s bedroom without asking her permission first.
A good example of the mood switching is the alternate reality scene (I don’t quite know what else to call it — “transformation world”?). After the now familiar transformation sequence, the brothers indicate they don’t believe in the alternate personality, and call the transformation world an “illusion”. Himari (or the hat that controls her) attempts to convince the brothers that she is not Himari by dressing in a cow suit, and drinking several bottles of milk. This doesn’t have the intended effect, so the hat kills Himari again. The juxtaposition between silly and serious, the sensational but implausible alternate reality that seems to point to all kinds of significance, without yielding a tangible meaning … the effect is overwhelming, but also hilarious, and kind of horrifying at the same time.
Ringo’s crazy obsession with Tamaki is at the center of the mystery. Even though she doesn’t get to eat curry with the man she loves, she considers her crazy misadventure a strange sort of success, “since everything went as it was written”. The fascinating thing to me is I can’t tell if we are still being toyed with. We see Ringo stamp her diary, and she makes a mysterious comment about executing the “fate already written down”. Did she write this stuff down, or was the diary already filled out when she obtained it? We certainly don’t see her writing in it, which makes it seem more like a book of prophecy. If she is writing these “fates” herself, this has some odd consequences. I mentioned before that she might be responsible for canceling her dinner tradition with her mother. But oddest of all is that she might be directly responsible for the unfortunate way she met Himari. On the other hand, the “prophecy” only barely seemed to come true. Is the diary really controlling anything at all?