I should have known. I wanted certain things in the finale of Mawaru Penguindrum and I knew there were things I wouldn’t get. I wanted craziness, wild action, I wanted a rock ‘n roll fight, something on the level of Kanba’s chase for the hat in that early episode. I got very little of that. And only one of my predictions came true: the finale was almost incomprehensible. Well, mostly.
Let’s go to the very end, after the transfer of fate, Ringo’s punishment being taken by Shouma, that “scorpion fire” phrase (I don’t want to even try and figure that out), to the point where Ringo comes over to eat with Himari. Good friends. Uncle and Auntie are late, so it’s just them. No brothers, just a stuffed bear and a strange note. And outside, the boys, much younger, walk by talking about the apple being a reward for those chosen to die for love. The apple that Kanba cut in two so that he and Shouma could both survive in their boxes, also the penguindrum, Shouma’s heart, which, when given to Himari, splits in half (And I had been wondering during the box scenes why Kanba didn’t just split the apple in two and give Shouma half. When he finally does it felt like an anticlimax), and let’s not forget the apple curry the girls are eating. Anyway, it’s rather a deep thing for two boys to be discussing, and then they go off … somewhere. The penguins, carrying bags of something, follow. I am assuming that they are now dead, or in another existance somewhere, taking on the curse and sparing the girls they love. Or so I think. But why? Is this their punishment? That’s the thing that bugs me. I can never accept that these kids deserve or need to be punished for anything. I also don’t accept the concept of fate. And why are the boys the ones to be “punished,” if indeed they are?
“Let us share the fruit of fate!” I knew Double-H’s song would come to play here. But after all we had seen, I felt a letdown when I learned the great, cosmic phrase that would start the transfer of fate, the uncoupling of fate cars, to the sidetracks of fate, or to become dining cars of fate, whatever. Just as I wondered why Kanba didn’t split the apple in half to begin with, I was thinking “that’s so simple. Why didn’t they recognize it before?” When you bring everything together into one simple phrase, it’s probably going to sound too simplistic. Yet, of course, I wanted something like this, because I wanted to understand what was going on. What does it add up to? They had forgotten what they had done for each other in the past, but not what had been done for them? They needed to be reminded that they were a unit that needs the love of each of them to survive this fate nonsense (which I’m just to declare is Ordinary Life)? But if that’s the case, why do they wind up split apart like that? Ringo was perfectly willing to share their pain, but, out of love, Shouma rejects her offer. Himari isn’t given a choice, either. And my mind just said “Well, the APPLE was split apart, so why can’t they?” and so now I have to shoot myself.
I could go on, watch it a couple more times, write more things like that last sentence, but I’m going to give it a rest. At some point I’ll go back and rewatch it, and things will make more sense now that I have the whole story behind me. But not yet. Mawaru Penguin is an amazing work, one of the best anime series of the year, but its challenging themes and strange imagery also work against it. It’s beautiful and entertaining, but HARD in terms of satisfaction, the way some great works of art are. Oddly enough, about the only complaint about Madoka that I agree with was that it at times felt distant toward the characters, that it was hard to emphasize with them. That’s often how I felt about Penguindrum. Maybe it’s my fault. Watching it every week I would get so caught up in trying to entangle all the images and words that it often became more of an exercise than an entertainment. Still, I’m glad, and somewhat amazed, that with all the talk about anime’s decline I’ve heard in the past couple years, you can still get a show this beautiful and difficult on the air. I look forward to the rewatch.