28 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Mawaru PenguinDrum episode 1

I came in expecting Absolute Destiny Apocalypse, instead found myself watching Mr. Raindrop. Well OK, not quite, but I hope I wasn’t the only one who thought of Elizabeth upon seeing these penguins.

Ikuhara is baaaaaaaaaaack~!

I saw Revolutionary Girl Utena for the first time last year (originally in preparation for Star Driver, which didn’t turn out exactly as planned), and the comparison I found myself making with the artstyle, particularly in that baffling movie, was with Shaft. I’ve seen Utena fans froth at the mouth with this comparison before, but they have some similar stylistic quirks. For example, how there would be one key object of focus on screen, such as Utena’s pink hairdo, while the rest of the screen would be devoted to artsy fartsy whatever. Or how the architecture of the buildings started to overlap and become ridiculous as the silhouettes of the characters walked along a hallway. Given the timing of Utena, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Shinbo drew inspiration from it in his directorial style.

But we’re not here to talk about Utena though, are we? I just brought that up because of how PenguinDrum has that same visual inventiveness and embracing of animations ability as the stranger Shaft shows do. Mind you, probably a more accurate comparison would be to Trapeze, what with the cardboard cutout background people and the multicoloured rooms. The design of the settings feels very Kenji Nakamura, while the cuts and scene transitions feel very Shaft. I’m spending a rather long time talking about the animation style, but that’s primarily what you’ll be gaining your enjoyment from, because the actual dialogue and character interactions are rather dull.

When it’s being totally mad, PenguinDrum is a whole heap of fun. However in the downtimes between madness, such as when the three of them sit around eating oishii food and generally being insufferably nice to each other, it’s fairly dull. It doesn’t have the same sense of humour Utena did to get past those moments, and the dialogue doesn’t have the intelligence or the inventiveness of something like Trapeze. The down scenes are obviously important to contrast with some of the later totally mad scenes, but that doesn’t excuse them for being trite and boring.

But when it gets down to being totally and utterly mad, it’s fantastic. The bitchin’ transformation sequence is unashamedly colourful and inventive, with what looked like a stride down the most colourful spinal chord I’ve ever seen. What it does do well compared to Star Driver, the last supposed successor to Utena, is that you can already see the point to the story. It’s already flaunting its themes in your face, like a gay pride parade that just charged through your front door. In Star Driver, all its colourfulness and fabulousness failed to obscure the fact that, even after 8 episodes, I was totally failing to see the point of the whole thing. PenguinDrum is more than just pretty colours and bitchin transformation sequences.  I just hope their conversations get a bit more interesting from here on. Or alternatively, they could just ignore the mundane everyday conversation and keep to being utterly mad for the entire series, a direction I would be totally on board with.

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  1. KBKarma
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Hmmm. Something to add to my list, then. Thanks a lot; this season was looking pretty empty. I don’t actually think I even saw it on any charts…

  2. Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I liked the interaction between the siblings. :<
    It did build up their relationship, that they are a close family who care for eachother, and it has a ton of neat details in it that you recognize only while watching a second time. It would be kinda weird if it just started at the point where she dies. And just as you said, it means to contrast the crazyness in the second half. Also, I liked the Durarara-esque narrating style. Also, I remember you saying in a OreImo post that you would like to see a proper relationship between siblings and not all the incest again. But who am I kidding, this is kinda incest-y, right? D: Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she ripped his heart out.

    • mcm38
      Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I sincerely hope it has something to do with her ripping his heart out. Otherwise I’m gonna be realy pissed of for ruining the whole harmonius sibling relationship.

      • Posted July 9, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        I was getting incest vibes waaaay before that. Like, from the first ten seconds of the breakfast scene onward.

    • DesuSexual
      Posted July 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      I know I thought that the incest had something to do with having his heart ripped out by her too. And yet some people are already dropping this
      “It was fantastic but now I’m not gonna watch it”
      And I’m like hellooo did you even notice that part it wasn’t just for show.
      But um, even if we turn out wrong I won’t drop this over incest. I think I like it too much already >_>

    • Scamp
      Posted July 9, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Normal relationship between siblings!?! I’m with Yuki here, their relationship was a bit on the creepy side from the off. OK, I was kinda expecting incest anyway, given the director, but they were still blushing and fumbling their words around her from the off

      • Anonymous
        Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        their rela­tion­ship was a bit on the creepy side from the off

        You fucking hypocrite. At least this show gave a fucking explanation as to why they’re so stupidly nice to their sister. She’s sick and could die at any moment, which she did.

  3. mcm38
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that was pretty fun and cute to watch. I realy liked it. But Scamp I think the siblings being insufferably nice to each other wasn’t dull. Instead since it was something unusual for young siblings to be in harmony with each other I was totaly blown away.

    And the conversations were also unique so I didn’t think they were dull either. I mean which older and younger brother trade recipes with each other? That’s some weird topic.

    But the kiss at the end ruined it all. Why didn’t he just kiss her forehead. Another siscon, oh gawd~!

    • Nop
      Posted July 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      The incest was fairly obvious, from square one, from the point where Himari complimented the food and the facial reactions of Kanba and Shouma. It was inevitable from the first two minutes. We’re talking about anime, after all, and anime is made in Japan.

      I’ll be honest here. I’m not a huge fan of incest, I try to ignore it most of the time, but the kiss scene was probably my favorite in the whole episode. Why, it told us a lot about Kanba’s feelings and morals and made me feel unsure beyond measure, but curious at the same time. Not in a sexual sense.

      • mcm38
        Posted July 8, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        Well, gotta admit this was a realy well done siscon, but all the previous siscons gave a bad aftertaste. So whenever I see a siscon I always feel like puking.

        Besides I am one of those who has a lil sis and naturaly can’t see any female charms in his sister, besides a sister. At least if that brown haired guy was just a childhood friend of the other two, I wouldn’t have any problems with that kiss.

        Nevertheless, ‘Survival Strategy!’ ftw!

      • AzarelHikaru
        Posted July 10, 2011 at 1:47 am | Permalink

        I guess “Survival Strategy” is the key to the siscon element. The “queen” probably figured that though both had feelings for Himari, Kanba was the one who would likely fit her purposes more. And what better motivation for someone to look for a penguin drum than love?

        Ai da yo!

  4. Nebulous
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Sorry got to disagree with this one, this show was amazing from the start. The monolougues are thought provoking, even if they are a bit played out the questions posed stick throughout the episode as a nicely done backdrop to all the excitement. The droll, trite and boring scenes are exiting as we are slowly gaining the information about the world and the characters that inhabit it. When watching them eat my mind is asking why they are so suprised she likes the food? Why are they so attentive over her? Then it is revealed and we are left with another annotation under the theme we were given. Everything we are given, every scene has a reason and purpose and you are constantly trying to figure out the relevance of it towards the theme. The girls death was sudden and the dialougue around it was very good, with the contrast of the character’s thoughts and way of dealing with it. The revival was a bit stupid, but with the cost they will have to pay will determin whether the show can keep this running. The humour was excellent and wacky, but not so much to take away from the darker theme given. The incest was introduced exceedingly well, and it can be excellent for the show if done well (see Koi Kaze).

    Thought provoking, wacky, funny, artsy. What’s there not to like?

    “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” -Julius Caesar

    If the show builds on this idea that came to my head – and may or may not be used depends on how things go – could be epic.

  5. Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Not to beat a dead horse in your comments space, but being insufferably nice seems a bit different when one party is dying and the other two are trying to make her last days more comfortable. Perhaps we’ll see this change as the newness of their situation wears off.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 9, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      It fit the scene, but again, that doesn’t allow you to have the conversations be dull

      • Posted July 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        So, what do you think should they talk about?

      • Posted July 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        It is interesting, though, that they went back to talking about exactly the same dull thing the day after Himari came back from the dead. Makes me think of Utena’s repetitive staircase sequence, and what people like Ghostlightning say that did for the show.

  6. luffyluffy
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m… not exactly sure what I just watched…

    Only that it’s probably the best show of the season so far

    • Anonymous
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Only that it’s prob­ably the best show of the sea­son so far

      That’s like Scamp-su sticking his dick in a hooker and saying “This is the best sex I’ve had so far!” Not saying all that much you see.

  7. DesuSexual
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    A lot of people are saying it was confusing.
    I don’t really think it was confusing at all, but it was undoubtedly all the the f-ing place.
    I really really liked it though. Not to mention the awesome OP and ED.
    Best first episode I’ve watched this season. <3

  8. Mr. Anon
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    This episode was AMAZING.

  9. Kyubey
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    This show needs to be careful of becoming too popular else Cartdriver will start hating it.

  10. Someone Else
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Is it terrible of me to get turned on by the girl who is about to die of illness any moment (well she didn’t die but yeah I hope you get my point)

    Also were the two girls at the ending…with blue and red hairs… HER BROTHERS!?

    I wonder what’s the repayment needed by the queen. The kissing was a surprise too! Maybe they really have romantic feelings with their sister and because she was given a miracle to live again, they wanted to use the chance for her to know their feelings

    • Anonymous
      Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      well she didn’t die

      But she did. Were you taking a piss during that scene?

      Also were the two girls at the ending…with blue and red hairs… HER BROTHERS!?

      I think they’re the two idol characters we see merchandise of throughout the colourful house and on every monitor in that train. I thought the same thing for a moment as well though, it could be interesting/fun to see that become truth.
      >emperor penguin hat stealing hearts from brothers
      >puts them in girls

  11. romulus
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Soooooo yeah, that’s how it went. I thougt that this anime will be good and Í was right. I really enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster which I rode,the ride included Galaxy Express essence, slice of life, artsy scenes, bizarre comedy, thought-provoking things, and a death scene which was as well prepared as possible in one episode. Even that incest didn’t feel out of place, as sudden as it was it still only enlarged the existing picture, not destroyed it.
    The show used that ‘show not tell’ thing, since many facts about their lives were not rubbed in my face by overenthusiastic seiyuus.
    That insert song and the pictures not making much sense was pretty good. Somehow similar to the OP of Arakawa Unter the Bridge II.

  12. Posted July 9, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Glad I’m not the only one who thought of Elizabethsu.

  13. Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Please stop bringing up Star Driver when talking about the penguins, you ma scare them away. :(

  14. ubiquitial
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Congrats, you’ve won yourself a new reader. The comparison with Shaft is oft-quoted and somewhat fitting, but I’d like to note that a lot of both Ikuhara and Shinbou’s flair come from an adoption of some more cinematographic tropes. In other words, it’s not necessarily original, but it is a novel application.

    Something I noted was the use of text as an immersive element. You see it in the signs of Penguindrum, and everywhere in, say, Bakemonogatari. Though, that isn’t necessarily original either. Anno was playing with creative captioning long before either of those two.

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