Penguindrum 7, Natsume 8, Hanasaku 21

Through another rough work week and a head cold, I watch on …

Mawaru Penguindrum 7 continues with the sad and desperate Ringo story arc, which only gets worse, and buries us with another truckload of visual quirks that either have profound meaning or are the workings of my cold-addled head, I can’t tell anymore.

Sorry ...

But I will say I’m getting a little tired of Ringo’s story. In this episode they take her obsession and stretch it until she has only one course of action left. On the other hand, the whole thing is so much fun that I still watch, grinning, usually.

I don’t particularly like Ringo. I admired her when she punched Penguin-Himari, but that was because she was rebelling against an unfair situation, something the boys cannot do—granted, they have a compelling reason. But her obsession is liable to hurt a number of people and she doesn’t mind, because she has her own version of “fate” on her side. So I get enjoyment watching the oblivious Yuri defeat her again and again, finally through engagement to Keiju. We see this through Ringo’s POV; Shoma is just along for the ride, meekly tossing in the odd “Why don’t you give it up, already?” and undergoing her bizarre plan to create an aphrodisiac by having a toad spawn on his back. (His penguin eats the eggs; what that is THAT supposed to mean? For that matter, what was the point of taking one bite out of all the sandwiches? What is the food metaphor? I DON’T KNOW!) I can’t say I’m crazy about Shoma, either. So far all he’s done is meekly agree to whatever plan the other person has … for Himari, he tells himself, but his brother is more proactive at this. Alas, Kanda’s upcoming struggles with slingshot girl are still in a holding pattern.

All she needs is the laugh and we got Namami here.

Happily, Ringo’s POV is an imaginative one. And the show’s “real” moments aren’t exactly mundane either. We get another French Revolution drama where the character designs conjure up more Utena flashbacks. And we get another drama, this time in Ringo’s head. And killer whales. Meanwhile this week’s subway sign message is “Know when to give up.” That and the play title “The Tragedy of M,” is like the real world shouting at Ringo to just give it up, already. Well, she can’t go any farther than she does at the episode’s end, so maybe after they deal with the aftermath the show will move on.

After a two-parter with lots of plot and danger, Natsume Yuujinchou San returns to its usual pastoral ways in episode 7. And we meet up with an old friend, the Fox Kid, living on his own, learning to fight back against the bullies, hoping Natsume will show up again. And he does!

Oboyoboyoboyoboyoboy!

There’s little to say about the episode. The key word is time. The rock-guy tells Fox Kid that youkai, humans and beasts all live with different concepts of it, and of what one should do in life as well. We get that reinforced when we learn that Nyanko’s wounds from last week will heal quickly in youkai terms but slowly in human terms. Fox Kid finds a watch, which later breaks. Looking for Fox Kid, Natsume muses that, after all, he has a life of his own.

We can play “spot the metaphor” all we want, but its Fox Kid’s desire to meet Natsume again that carries the episode. Natsume is there on different business, and though he’d like to see Fox Kid, he has other concerns which keep them separated. I don’t remember too much about the boy from previous seasons, only that he is devoted to Natsume, which makes his disappointment and frustration sad to watch. And when they do meet it’s at a scene of danger and tragedy. This is where I don’t think the metaphor works. The watch breaks, signifying the end of Fox Kid’s relying on human time, but that suggests that it’s time he and Natsume should part ways forever. That’s not what happens. Well, Natsume does eventually leave, but there’s no indication that Fox Kid has changed his mind about him.

Mixed reactions to the marriage announcement.

I’m not sure of all the subtleties in Hanasaku Iroha 21, the relationship between wedding receptions and inheriting the inn, etc, but the main points are clear. Enishi and Takako, the two most idiotic characters in the series, are getting married. I smiled, because I knew that this would send everyone off in one tizzy or another and that we’d cheerfully jump from one to the next, with little slice-of-life asides thrown in. And that’s exactly what happens.

Minko has officially stopped making sense.

The most important tizzy involves Sui (well, she’s not the tizzying type), who is either for or against it depending on how you read her face. She is so intimidating that Takako asks out of it all before Sui breaks character and reassures her with a story of how she and her husband formed the inn in the first place. Then she throws the whammy: Enishi and Takako won’t. I can’t blame her at all, but on the other hand, who on earth is going to succeed her? Ohaha? Too young. Ohana’s mom? Yeah, right. What about Tomoe? Hmm … There’s no one in the small circle of Kissuiso staff capable of doing it. But all this can’t upstage the sillier tizzy that Minko has when she hears her beloved Tohru praising Ohana a little too much. Maybe because this one brings back Minko’s nasty sideand her insecurities, and includes a naked shower wrestling scene. As for the wedding, who knows if it will go on or not?

Ah, love.

On one side of No.6 you have the generic utopia/dystopia and its victims skulking around and within it. But now they’re playing up a weirder, mystical story involving peaceful forest people and their goddess, and a song which Rat somehow knows. Some people might find this departure from a practical adventure story a disappointment, but I am so indifferent to its poorly-executed clichés now that I find it a relief. We’re told in episode 8 (the mystical part) in dueling narratives that planners planned No.6 as a utopia, but then they turned bad. No explanation why or how. Who was responsible? Why didn’t anyone try to stop it? And, I guess, ever since then the city has been done the usual bad things, like abducting citizens, stamping out dissent, burning the aforementioned forest people out of their homes, etc. So give me some mysticism. It can’t be any worse than Sion discovering Safu was abducted by finding her coat, I mean, come on! Oh, Sion kisses Rat, and later punches him. Both welcome progressions in their little romance.

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