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?
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: