Penguindrum 20, Chiayafuru 8, C3 9 and Bakuman 9

Mawaru Penguindrum 20 was more low-key than others, but the confusion factor is raised yet again.

The show loves to work with phrases and images, such as “survival strategy” or, this episode “low-lifes who will never amount to anything.” But this time they are both said by the father Takakura at one of his secret meetings, before the attacks. He has never uttered them before, at least not on the show. It’s a shock to hear him say them. Then come the visuals. The young Masako is standing with Mario, beside Kanba. To her right is a crate filled with red balls, the ones she would fire at people later in life. And the wall is covered with notes, maps and pictures of the Antarctic, where penguins come from, including the picture the expedition the father went on, with penguins. “This is a frozen world,” he says, meaning the corrupt modern society he’s trying to rip apart. So what does it mean, that picture of him and his crew when they were, literally, in a frozen world? Also, it all suggests that he is behind the entire penguin thing the kids are undergoing. But that can’t be, can it?

Now, can someone tell me what’s going on with the families? It’s official that Himari is not related to the Takakuras by blood, in a oddly chilling moment, both boys acknowledge this in a way that makes it sound like they’re beginning to reject Himari. Either that or they’re trying to separate themselves from her for her sake, so that she won’t receive the retribution being unfairly handed down to them. If that’s true, it won’t work. The reason Keishu targeted Himari was to take something away from them, while they had to go on living with that loss. And rejecting Himari would please Masako no end. Because, apparently, she and Kanba are sister and brother. Great! Now I gotta go back to the Masako episode with that tool of a father she has, and try to figure out where THAT fits in. Meanwhile, it’s clear that her father and the elder Takakura are part of the same organization. How else are they related? And when she sees Shouma outside fooling around with an apple (another metaphor that’s driving me crazy, with not only it being the Fruit of Fate, but Ringo’s name …), she asks Kanba who he is. Kanba decides not to tell her (or HE doesn’t know, which would make me collapse from mental exhaustion). Either I’ve missed something obvious or they’re going to whip out more family links in the handful of episodes that remain. Probably both.

Much of the episode shows us Shouma befriending Himari. And more familiar metaphors show up, enhanced by another cryptic discussion between Himari and Sanetoshi, about running and chasing, the useless of trying and the useless of getting caught. All I got from it was that Himari is again worried about her place in the world, especially if her beloved boys go elsewhere. That and the fact that Sanetoshi is doing the chasing in his own game. But back to the flashback, where Shouma tries to chase(!) down a garbage truck that has their adopted(!) cat in it. They gave the cat a ribbon, which was removed before the landlords took the cat away. Himari has a scarf, given to her by Shouma, but she keeps it, and later, he rescues her. And later, the rescued Himari takes up knitting … Ribbons, scarves, yarn, red strings of fate, god my head is going to explode. All right, creators, I think you’ve done quite enough with the metaphors now. It’s time to take them all and wrap them up. No, that was not a metaphor.

Chihayafuru 8 brings the team one more member, and so it becomes legal, so to speak. I barely remember the fat kid. He went up against Arata early on and lost. Chihaya hasn’t forgotten.

More recruitment.

Porky, or, as he understandably prefers, Nishida, is on the tennis team, and in a nice rejection of stereotypes, is a splendid player. For the next ten minutes, however, that’s the only decent thing we see. Chihaya, doing her usual dorky stalking of potential, spies on him as he effortlessly fires one volley after another. She overhears him mutting 100 poets lines and instantly, miraculously, surmises that he’s using tennis as a coverup for karuta, that his heart truly lies in slapping little cards about. Sad thing is, she turns out to be right. He had loved karuta until he started playing to win and lost the sense of fun, and no one can beat Arata anyway, etc etc. So, we wait for the turnaround, which naturally comes from playing a match against Chihaya to get her off his back.

Chihaya sends another cameraman to the hospital.

Bit by bit, the show’s been sneaking in more karuta rules and strategy. Well, not really “sneaking,” since Taichi spends time teaching the newbies these things, which is about all they get to do this episode. I can’t follow the strategy too well, so I spent time trying to figure out if the rule about touching the wrong card on the same side was a metaphor about Porky, I mean, Nishida’s conflicting interests. Meanwhile, the match is close and fun to watch. And so Nishida rediscovers his love of karuta, though he loses out on a month’s worth of pork buns. Meanwhile, the gang have probably made an enemy of their science teacher/tennis coach. Not the most subtle episode, but now the team is complete and we can move on.

Like Penguindrum, C3 can be confusing too, the trouble is that it doesn’t intend to be. Episode 9 is a little lull between story arcs. We meet the adorable Kuroe, another doll-person, and just about the sweetest thing in the world. She’s working off her curse and is almost done with it. We also meet the evil person who’s after her, Alice. After some of the twisted facial distortions on other villains on this show it’s a relief to find one who’s so polite. When she first shows up and states her intentions I was wondering why Haruaki didn’t just invite her in for tea. Surely they could work out their differences. It’s also refreshing that Kuroe’s chanting when she casts a spell didn’t really mean anything. She just thought it sounded cool. As for the episode, it just lurches about between foreshadowing and fanservice until the end, where Alice, who’s just had Kuroe, her prey, cut her hair at Kuroe’s salon (that’s how polite she is) says something that, if she were a more unpleasant woman, sound threatening.

Bakuman II 9 came as a surprise. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect the boys’ series to be cancelled. It’s only when I look at the whole episode that I see it was inevitable. The hiatus didn’t help, and then when rankings stayed low they panicked a little and tried to throw in fan suggestions. The artists for Jack have always pandered a little to their audience, but it was a relief when Miura nixed the new turn. And Trap kept dropping and dropping. Nakai and Aoki are in the same position, and there’s nothing they can do but keep plugging away–until the inevitable. When, after they’ve been axed, they sit back and reflect that they had accomplished a hell of a lot for their age, I began to see the bigger picture. Yeah, it’s depressing to be cancelled, but this was their rookie effort. Now look at them: they’re still very young, but that means they have energy and drive. AND now they’re experienced pros who know something about the industry and their own abilities. And I was getting tired about hearing about Trap. Time for a fresh start! Besides, they can’t keep Miho waiting until she’s 40, right? Good episode.

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