Penguindrum 10, Hanasaku 25, Natsume San 12

I suppose you could say we’ve started a new episode arc in Mawaru Penguindrum 10. Though attention is paid to Ringo and her diary, focus shifts to Kanba and slingshot girl. But it doesn’t feel like a new arc, it feels like a variation on a theme: stalkers.

But before we get to Slingshot Girl (whom I will call SG), let’s look at Ringo for a moment. She’s … normal. Maybe it was the shock of seeing Shouma hit by a car that snapped her out of it, but Keiji isn’t brought up once in this episode. Ringo worries about Shouma, feels guilty about what happened, and while she’s still possessive about the half-diary she has left she offers it freely when SG begins her “hunt” in order to save Shouma. I hope this marks the end of Ringo’s story, or at least her obsession. Bad news for our heroes, though. SG is a much more formidable opponent, well, partly because she’s after Kanba. Soon, Shouma is drugged (again … the second time in three episodes he’s been face-down in his food) and kidnapped, and Kanba goes on a bizarre trek to rescue him.

Earlier, Kanba had said too much to Himari about girls’ gifts he can’t stand, and now he’s confronted with everything he says. Cute bento, cakes, knitted sweaters … “Do you remember?” and you recall SG talking to other girls who had been spurned by Kanba. So is she taking it upon herself to get revenge for every heart he broke? Maybe. But when he reaches the basement, SG kisses him, and vanishes. So what exactly is her game? It’s further complicated when Himari, in Penguingirl mode appears to SG in the subway. Is she also in on this game? Is she taking a bit of revenge for the things Kanba said to her earlier, in spite of the fact that he blustered apologies the moment after? I don’t think so. Penguin Himari is not Himari, and there’s no way Himari would put Shouma’s life in danger.

And why does SG call Penguin Himari “Mario?” And on a thematic level, do the three floors Kanba stumbled down to reach the basement reflect the penguin numbers? Why Dvorak? Why so loud? When are they going to explain the “95” in the OP? Once again an episode of Penguindrum has so much going on visually that it makes my head spin. Which is one of the reasons I like it so much.

I never thought I'd see this.

Does anyone know what music they used near the end of Hanasuka Iroha 25, with chorus and orchestra? That music made an already great scene almost overwhelming. While the Kissuiso staff plus Ohana’s mom (and Sui, serving as a waitress) worked frantically to serve their customers at the height of the bonbori festival, it flowed along with them and gave the wildness a feeling of serenity. As it should. For the first time all episode the staff were working together on a single goal, to make the customers happy. Before that the episode was about conflicting ambitions and dreams. Indeed, the question of dreams comes up a lot. Ohana wonders what her dream is. Yuina wants to go abroad. Minko’s dream is to be with Tohru, at Kissuiso. In her mind there’s no other place for her. Nako feels that not everyone can find their dream, but they can latch onto someone else’s and make it theirs (a conversation overheard by Madame Manager). These thoughts are found between the working and fighting scenes as the threat of Kussuiso still looms over them. To add to the fun, Ohana’s mom shows up to work, and Sui lowers herself (quite happily apart from one dizzy spell) to being a waitress, meaning her weak-kneed son has to boss her around. You have to wonder if by doing this Sui has decided to buy into the dreams that the others have. Everyone’s thoughts and dreams have been so well shown by this and earlier episodes that the final montage with the choral music (It sounds old, not written for the show, but I might be wrong), which kept on through the closing credits, felt like a finale of sorts, but that’s next week. I suppose we’ll have to deal with Ko, and consider what Tohru meant when he told Ohana that she had changed. Ah, I’m going to miss this show.

Human? Youkai?

Natsume Yuujinchou San ends soon, too. For the penultimate episode Natsume is attacked by a youkai from his past, and as he recovers we see not only the history of the youkai but of his decision to move in with his current guardians. It’s an affecting story; the boy was so confused back then that he first considered Fujiwara to be another youkai trying to trick him. And we see the sad truth of his past. It’s not that his string of guardians didn’t care about him, they just didn’t know what to do with him when he would get all weird. It makes his encounter with the youkai all the more frightening. She senses his lonliness and decides to keep him as a pet, even playing a few psychological games to prey on his weakness. It almost felt like an adult making advances on a minor, and it was disgusting. But Fujiwara and her husband actually give him a choice. He can stay with him if he wants to. No pressure. No mind games. Natsume makes the right decision and, of course, the series has shown us how his life has improved. Next week’s the finale, and it looks to be a party episode, a good way to end the current season.

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