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Mawaru Penguindrum #3

I’m actually having some kind of mixed, if not outright conflicting, reactions about this ep after watching it. Make no mistake, I still managed to enjoy it for what it was, but I got the nagging feeling that somehow, something was missing from the episode, that it wasn’t fully enjoyable enough, that there was a palpable lack of freshness and spunk in the whole thing. You’d think that for the third episode of what promises to be an unhinged, off-the-rail and almost controversial series that there would at least be one or two scenes that blow away everything in sight, that there would already be considerable chunks of development in the characters. Instead we have more of the same things we saw in episodes 1 – 2. For some people that may be enough of a turn-off, considering who the person in charge of the thing is, which is too bad. Personally, I think the pace itself is fine, but I’m beginning to feel that the continuous set-ups are starting to wear thin, especially after an episode as admittedly droll as this (compared to the first two, at least). I bet I’m just having growing pains right now, so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. And it’s also possible that this light, almost lackadaisical approach to pacing and development is the point.


So that means I don’t really have much to say about the episode itself, except that it was the natural extension of events in episode 2, where Ringo issues another attempt at seducing her object of desire Tabuki using what has become a notorious fixture in Ikuhara’s past show: the curry. People have noted the curry episode of his past show for being unabashedly crazy and bewildering, nonsensical enough to seem like it didn’t have any integral role in the overall story, instead being a random throwaway ep. All things considered, that ep actually was important in terms of showing off the creative inclinations of the director, and how far he’s willing to take any particular theme or motif. Actually, curry wasn’t the only element here vaguely linked to his past show, since there was also the cow at the beginning, but that wasn’t very important to this episode, so I don’t believe it has any merit. What’s different in Penguindrum, however, is that there wasn’t any insane gymnastics or absurd stretching of the story, rather it’s a more subdued and restrained affair using the element of curry to introduce the cast of characters to one another and bring the plot another step forward. I find that it’s a good scheme in that way, effectively differentiating this show from the past one despite having similar narrative elements. But in another sense, I didn’t find it as fun or as imaginative. I hate to compare both shows, but I feel that it had to be said here. At times I felt this episode was just going through the motions, following the steady rhythm of the past eps, but also easing off on what made the previous ep so fun–the vibrant goings-on and the funny antics of the characters. Simply put, I appreciated the episode itself for trying something different with the material, except it didn’t work as a whole that effectively. It’s the source of my mixed feelings. I would have wanted more stuff to happen between the gaps, even if they weren’t shamelessly brash.

Another new character has also been introduced in this episode, but she hasn’t done much yet. She’s the classy-looking lady in the OP who also appears to be Tabuki‘s girlfriend living with him, much to the chagrin of poor Ringo. I’m thinking there may be more juicy developments to come in the next episodes to come involving her. So far the only characters yet to grace the show are the girl who looks oddly similar to Jury and the young man who oddly looks like Utena–both are in the OP. I’m not one for speculation, but it’s safe to say they’re going to be involved in some crazy hi-jinks in the future. I do hope that this show doesn’t retread the same ground and copy the same expressive tools as Utena going by these characters, but I also hope that in going for a new, different approach they don’t end up making a dull and dreary product (like this ep). Somebody like Ikuhara has a much more powerful imagination than that.

While this episode didn’t have much in the way of pure entertainment value, I don’t necessarily think it’s a definite death-knell for this show. It’s not like they didn’t have a two-cour weekly slot to work with in the first place–they have enough time to do stuff in different ways. I like that they’re apparently not trying to be the same show as Utena, and that they’re only going so far as playfully referencing that show for this new one. You don’t just produce the same show all over again after more than a decade of hibernation. Episode 3 was a good sign for me in that regard, as ordinary and conventional as it was in comparison.

On another note, I’ve been curious about the different director credits for this show. Ikuhara himself is credited as director, but Shouko Nakamura is also credited as chief director. I’d always assumed that both posts do the same thing, like setting the tone for the show in terms of the style and look and guiding the staff towards the various goals they may want to meet for the series, stuff like that. The show even employs the standard episode directors–though I believe their job is more rudimentary (putting together the finished materials, and such). I haven’t seen this kind of set-up in anime, maybe ever, so I’m curious to see how their jobs are actually split up. Looking at it now makes it sound very redundant, though.

I’m still watching that new IG/Tsutomu Mizushima supernatural action anime Blood-C, and find it mostly entertaining, though it’s because of the fight scenes more than anything else. The show itself, aside from those, is boring, formulaic and predictable, and is only redeemed by the reasonably well-produced action sequences starting from the first episode. The quality is dipping little by little, though. This latest one is notable to me, however, since the action managed to be interesting yet problematic at the same time. Basically, I don’t really understand why they had to go and correct Yasunori Miyazawa‘s animation in ep 3. He was involved in the fight, as some parts of the blob monster’s wobbly, shaky movements looked and felt like his work, but the experience wasn’t as powerful as I hoped because of what I believe were heavy corrections, thereby lessening the impact of his animation in a tremendously jarring way. I won’t go so far as to say his work was downright ruined, but it would have been way better if his animation was left to pass untouched.


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