Mawaru Penguindrum Episode Two

Ikuhara does panties.

It was a bit jarring to see much ado about panties in this episode, as it contrasts pretty sharply with Revolutionary Girl Utena, in which nary an undergarment was seen. Of course, the entire phenomena of the panty flash is more or less a post-Utena thing, having come into vogue largely in the 00’s. This isn’t to say it was wholly absent prior to then (see: Blue Seed), but compare fanservice and fanservice-type shows now versus the 90’s and you may be surprised at the lack of panty shots from the older shows. Can you recall any such moments of animation from Tenchi Muyo, for instance?


In the first minute of this episode alone, I found a lot of stuff that piqued my interest. First off, the easier of the two – although, well, to be honest it is something I noticed in last week’s episode originally. The fansubbers have opted to use ‘fate’ as the translation for ‘unmei’ over ‘destiny’. This is true of both of the English language fansub groups that are currently working on the show (Nutbladder and gg); I downloaded both to see if they opted for different translations for the term. This is an interesting choice because although the terms ‘destiny’ and ‘fate’ have the same denotation, their connotations do vary rather sharply.

‘Destiny’ is a term which is more positive overall connotatively (English isn’t a dead language, fuck yeah!). Destiny is something one fulfills, which implies that, even as it is something that is prescribed, it is somehow something which one must opt into. Usually the consequences are unfortunate if one does not choose to fulfill their destiny, but the choice does exist. This fact also brings it into the realm of nobility – that one chooses to carry out their duty.

‘Fate’ on the other hand is a less active term, and has more negative implications within the English language. One succumbs to their fate. One must accept one’s fate. It sounds more passive than destiny does, often spoken of in terms of being unable to escape it. Just ask Oedipus.

So, given the different connotations, it is an interesting choice to consider. It is also interesting to consider it in light of the official translation of the term within Utena – ‘destiny’. Thus far, the ways in which the characters have spoken of ‘unmei’ have been in ways that lean toward the passive. On the other hand, Utena the character herself either embraced her destiny or fought against Anthy’s or even her own… either way you slice it, she took a course of action.

Moving along, Ringo makes a few statements worth mentioning during her monologue about loving the term ‘unmei’ (I’m going to at least this post opt to use the Japanese term despite the dreaded specter of weeabooism since I am a bit up in the air over which translation I prefer within the scope of this show itself). She says that it is hard to accept that bad things which happen to oneself are beyond one’s control, that it is as a result of unmei. This touches on the curious mindset that one is responsible for one’s misfortune but has no hand in the good things that come to them. It is one I myself am rather familiar with, as it is very, very common within American culture at large and specifically within my region. The ideas and beliefs of the Puritans really do die hard – that which is good is brought to us through the grace of God, but anything awful is borne from our own hands. Either we did something wrong which directly caused it, or we did something wrong with caused God to pour out wrath upon us. I suspect this is a pretty common belief among people, as it retains a sense of control within one’s life when it is most critical to feel that one has some control over their own life – when they are feeling beaten up and beleaguered. To accept in such a case that one isn’t wholly holding the reins or that one isn’t at all is terrifying in such a circumstance as it essentially suggests that one has no way to get out of the situation either.

So I was struck by Ringo’s statement of the necessity of accepting that bad things are beyond one’s control and are a part of fate (guess I opt for fate in the paradigm of Penguindrum). But it may be easy for her to say such a thing considering that she herself seems to be pretty happy overall and content with the way her life is going. Ditto for her determination that bad things happen for a reason. It is very easy to think such a thing is one hasn’t really ever encountered any difficulties in their life.

Finally, Ringo asserts that nothing is pointless in the world because she believes in fate. It’s a very intriguing way to put it, as it essentially makes fate itself contingent upon one’s belief in it, which would seem to fly in the face of the entire concept. Isn’t fate an external thing? Doesn’t it have to be? After all, if it is something one must imbue with truth from within, then that undermines fate as we understand it. It then shifts into simply being a frame, with a person saying “it was fate!” even though they also are essentially acknowledging that it is only such because they believe it to be such… which is a bit of a logical mobius strip.

Hopefully that made sense.

Moving along, the school uniforms. Ringo’s is vaguely reminiscent of the female Ohtori uniform, while the guys wear a uniform which reminds me of Utena’s modified female Ohtori uniform.

I’m trying to cut down on making references to Utena, by the way; it isn’t fair to compare the two.

Anyway, onto the rest of the episode.

So, the penguin hat is on a makeshift altar of sorts, which really does beg the question: what does Himari know about her resurrection’s provenance? She’d have to know it has something to do with the hat, otherwise its placement within their home would warrant questions from her. But it doesn’t seem that she is aware of the mission for the Penguin Drum, and it also seems unlikely that she knows she transforms, whips her brothers into another dimension, and tears one of their hearts out on a regular basis. Knowing Ikuhara, I see this variance in the information known by the different siblings coming up as a problem later on.

I’m hoping to see some more of Himari next week, as so far she is the character we know least about despite her presence as the axis upon which the whole story turns. It was disappointing to just have her at home, knitting, although admittedly it does make sense that she’d still be taking it relatively easy.

Then there’s our other lady thus far, Ringo, who apparently owns a Death Note. Or thinks she does. Or maybe its a Love Note. Either way, that got pretty creepy at the end of the episode. However, pale hair + ominous facial expression in the OP + Akira Ishida = high chance that Tabuki himself is a bit creepy and suspect. Time shall tell! I also am curious about his own bird tie-in; looks like the grating behind him in the OP may be alluding to a birdcage, particularly when the bird outline is taken into account.

I can’t help but feel that Ringo is planning some sort of murder-suicide scheme for Tabuki (or, as I like to call him, sexy sensei). The way she arranged herself after turning the radio on was just like how corpses are positioned within their coffins. I don’t think its a coincidence that she’s lying in the dirt, basically. The scene then switches her background such that she appears to be lying in water, in line with some Japanese folkloric beliefs about people being rendered unto the afterlife by floating there. Oh, and how about that skull right by her head?

this image was stolen from Moe Sucks since my computer doesn't agree with screencapping stuff on the Windows Media Player


Anyway, about the cover of the diary – looks like Pisces to me, personally, which would seem to bring us back to the brothers given that they’re twins.

I had wanted to talk about the ED this week, but I’m really tired. I’ll just leave it at pointing out that the other two characters in it are the mascot characters we’ve seen so frequently within the Penguindrum world, from the subway rules signs to the magazine Himari was flipping through. And that, yes, discussing the ED will bring me back to Utena… again. Ah well.

I’ll close with saying that I genuinely laughed at the antics of the penguins with the underwear. Its rare for underwear gags of any sort to be anything other than tiresome, quite frankly. Also, here are some recommended posts for further hashing over of Penguindrum:

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19 Responses to Mawaru Penguindrum Episode Two

  1. wendeego says:

    I was pretty uncertain about the lingerie jokes after seeing episode 2 of Penguindrum–it seemed pretty out of character for Ikuhara after watching all of Utena, in which no underwear jokes were made (although as you’ve said, Penguindrum is the product of a very different era.)

    Then I started thinking about how the episode is about stalking–the brothers stalking Ringo who is stalking her teacher–and came to the conclusion that maybe this isn’t the whole story? The viewer is watching the episode, so if you think about it Episode 2 is about the viewer stalking the brothers stalking Ringo who is stalking the teacher. That would mean that the lingerie jokes are meant to implicate the viewer as well.

    Alternatively, the lingerie jokes could just be there to draw attention to the fact that the brothers are violating (or molesting, as in the WH mascot video) Ringo’s privacy, just as Ringo is doing the same to her teacher. Or maybe it’s just standard surfing-elephant Ikuhara baseness. Or fanservice.

    Yeah, maybe I’m overthinking this.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Honestly, you probably aren’t. I also wonder if what Ikuhara said about Revolutionary Girl Utena would apply here – that, whatever you think it is, you’re right.

      And, hey, even if you are over-analyzing, well, who cares if its still interesting to speculate? Especially if you’re sharing those ideas.

  2. Caddy C says:

    I have no idea what this Penguin show is, but you had me at Penguins + Akira Ishida + Ikuhara 🙂

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Yeah, I think it is worth checking out. In some ways, very different from Utena, but it seems like there’s more and more the two have in common the more I think on it.

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  4. Son Gohan says:

    Technically there were no panty shots in this episode, at least not for the audience! Only Kanba and Shouma were able to ogle the girls’ panties on their laptop. I thought it was a tasteful joke for the sake of humour (and partly to show the difference in the brothers’ personality), not for sexual pandering.
    BTW panty shots have existed since the 70s at the very least, only they weren’t as prominent.
    In the 80s and 90s tv stations didn’t have any problem in showing bare nipples in kid’s anime like Ranma or Dragonball. In the 00s there was a sudden surge of bigotry and nowadays you can barely see a panty shot outside of late night anime. 😦

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Well, yeah, it wasn’t a recent invention, and it did show up in some shows – Blue Seed is a pretty notable example as is Project A-ko. But it is something that has become increasingly common in the past decade or so.

      As for not seeing panty shots outside of late night anime… not really. Panty shots have become fairly ubiquitous. Nipples on the other hand are a bit of a rarity, although I don’t think they were ever as common in “kid” anime as you think they were. Ranma 1/2 was not a children’s anime, by the way.

  5. Kim says:

    First of all sorry if this post is repeated (I am going to have to try not to post from my IPOD anymore)

    I am a little confused what Himari knows concerning what happened to her as well but I think thepenguin hat was the souvenir Shoma purchased for her at the aquarium so that would explain its presence in the house I think. Although I did find it interesting that compared to Sho, both Himari and Kanba seem to take penguin servants that only they can see in stride.

    Also interesting discussion about the meaning of the word unmei, I am going to try to think about the word (whether fate or destiny fits better) as the show goes on. I do find it telling that Ringo says she loves the word but then is following everything is what appears to be a pre-written diary. And my question is was the diary already written for her or by her? Either way it seems Ringo only loves the word fate because she believes she knows the outcome and it is what she wants to happen.

    Compare this to Sho who hates the word because it is beyond his control or Kanba who talks about ignoring it. In the end I expect neither Sho, Kanba, or Ringo fully understand the word fate and what it will or won’t mean for them.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      No, what I meant was the presence of the penguin hat on a makeshift altar, not its presence within the house. Within the house, it makes sense given that it was a present for Himari, but for it to be on an altar would be a bit odd if Himari was totally unaware of its role in her resurrection.

  6. It is my destiny to love this show, it is my fate to end up reading almost every fucking blog post about it.

    Spare me a few penguins to read them for me!

  7. Caraniel says:

    The emphasis on underwear threw me a bit as well to start with – really wasn’t expecting that from the show; putting it down to being a product of the times. Its not like it was handled poorly – there was quite a lot of genuinely funny moments (also that lingerie shop looked both scary and awesome at the same time!), and it didn’t really feel like it was just fired in for the sake of it. Still it really did throw me.

    The penguin-hat’s placement on the shrine was interesting. The twins clearly respect and feel indebted to the hat for resurrecting Hibari, but I don’t get the sense that they revere her given their interactions with her. Perhaps its a degree of superstition? There’s something quite miraculous and unbelievable going on, better be safe than sorry – the hat seems a bit flighty afterall, they don’t want to endanger Hibari’s life by pissing off the penguins!

    • The show is can expect contemporary anime is, and what’s incredible is how it’s showing us what anime can become while remaining an expression that is best suited as animation.

      It’s like Ikuhara wore the Penguin Hat when he made this: allegorically the survival strategy for anime (without failing like Fractale).

      Again, it’s too early to say, but I like making this bet.

  8. inushinde says:

    The more I see of the penguin hat, the less I trust it. However, the more I see the penguins wear lingerie on their faces, the more I explode into hysterical laughter. In the end, I doubt anything so evil or self serving would use such sources of comic relief in an otherwise somewhat serious show.
    But I see your point about it being on the altar.
    I didn’t give it much thought while watching, since I think they would’ve told Himari about what happened or she would’ve known somehow, but it seems a little off regardless of either fact.

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