Oh boy. Here we go.
If there’s anything [C] has taught (or reminded) me recently is that hype is kind of scary and it can lead to inflated expectations. Inflated expectations alone aren’t frightening, but it’s when they aren’t met that leads to vitriol. I loved Utena and I still adore it, it’s one of my top 10 anime. That’s why I was very excited for Mawaru. I think most people who’ve seen Utena and/or Sailormoon were looking forward to this, especially the Ikuhara fans.
Remember Star Driver? That had three people from the Utena team, writing, producing and directing it. And it was a fun ride, but not fun enough for me to stick with it for 26 episodes. No. Before airing, it was also hyped up a lot. Placed in a pedestal labeled something like ‘Utena’s spiritual successor’ or whatever. I think this says a lot about the current state of mind of many anime viewers: We want something as good as Utena again! That’s pretty sad.
UTEN– Oh wait, no.
Ikuhara probably doesn’t want Mawaru to be compared to his previous magnum opus but I greatly doubt that’s how most of his fans feel.
Mawaru Penguindrum could either be the biggest hit of the year or maybe not. But that won’t change the fact that currently, the expectations are high and as I mentioned earlier– the hype can either be an advantage or disadvantage.
I’m not sure what the hell the show is about aside from penguins and three siblings: Kan, Sho and Himari. Himari, the only girl suddenly dies but is revived by a penguin hat that possesses her, then some penguins arrive that only the siblings can see. Later, there’s some crazy transformation sequence and something about Survival Strategy and Kan ends up getting something ripped off his chest (could it be his *~kokoro~* desu?). After this, we find out he has incestuous feelings towards Himari and kisses her in her sleep. But this is anime, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t any incest.
The first episode of Mawaru Penguindrum was…okay. The visuals were out of this world, it’s extremely rich in imagery. There’s mystery that wafts over the show ominously. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the juxtaposition of colorful artwork and darker themes after all. I think it’s clear from the get go that there’s a disparity between reality and the siblings’ world. Mawaru doesn’t really give us a concrete plot, it does however attempt to console us by barraging us with bizarre events, flashy animation and unique visuals. Also, when people say it’s an amazing transformation I expect something mind blowing. I had loud pop music blasted into my ears and some elaborate strip show.
Mawaru doesn’t stop there though, I sort of decided to take down some themes Mawaru may or may not to tackle:
1. Man versus fate
2. Death and the afterlife
3. Survival Strategy – which I assume is the survival of the species by mating. I read up on penguins and I think it’s worth a mention that penguins tend to form monogamous couples for the breeding season. Ikuhara loves dabbling on sexuality so I’m convinced he has this in mind when he used penguins in the story. And then, the incest– which human society frowns upon. Unless that’s your kink, you dirty otaku!
4. Nihilism – “Those of you who won’t amount to anything, There is no god etc.”
5. The fragile state of reality – It seems that there’s a huge gap between the siblings’ home and their surroundings. Also, the fact that other people can’t see the penguins gives me doubts on whether anything happening here is real.
I may have missed a couple but I’m sure more people will be able to spot most of what I missed. The themes are what I’m mostly interested in as the main trio is pretty dull. I’m far more interested in the side characters seen in the OP, really.
None of the siblings or the penguins piqued my curiosity. And the episode seems too keen on proving that it has deeper themes, when in fact, most of the people watching this were expecting exactly that, that and fabulousness. I can imagine those unfamiliar with Ikuhara’s work could go and say: “Oh well, that was strange but at least it’s interesting” or “What is this I don’t even…”
The script isn’t very remarkable either, but this could be because of the weak voice acting and repetition of the cryptic monologues. I know mundane conversations are meant to enrich their personalities, an intimate peak into their lives. But here it’s just mostly things I don’t really care about. Like I said, maybe it isn’t the script at fault but the voice actors. Or maybe I don’t find the beauty in siblings talking about recipes.
So in the end, I’m more invested in the themes and imagery than anything else. I need something to take [C]’s place anyway in terms of a show I can take apart and scrutinize. I already have a couple of theories but I don’t know, I don’t feel like posting them without seeing more episodes.
This is only the first episode though, hopefully it’ll pick from here and improve. There’s a lot of potential in Mawaru Penguindrum whether or not it lives up to the hype is something we’ll have to wait and see.