Mawaru Penguindrum Review
“Fate, diaries, penguins and apples.”
Fate. Do you like fate and just follows whatever fate lies in store for you? Or do you hate fate so much that you want to escape from your cruel destiny? This is Mawaru Penguindrum, where fate is root of everyone’s troubles.
This anime was written by Kunihiko Ikuhara, who made Revolutionary Girl Utena more then a decade ago. It is one of the most complex anime ever made, so much that it messes with your brain cells itself. Watching this anime requires some excess concentration and recollection, and even then, most of it still requires the viewer’s own imaginations to interpret the plot.
This is the foundation of the plot. Basically, three “supposed” siblings, Takakura Kanba, Takakura Shouma and Takakura Himari. Their parents missing and are so living alone. Himari is in poor health and was hospitalized quite a few times. Later on, the doctor claim that nothing can be done anymore and her death was closing in. It is Fate. It is destiny. Doctors aren’t gods, they can’t do anything. Ironically, a miracle occurs…
I admit. Seeing the synopsis doesn’t interest me one bit. I thought it’s just an ordinary show dealing with families dorama. Little did I know that the word “miracle” in the synopsis is more emphasized then I thought, so much that the things mentioned in the synopsis is only like 0.05% of the entire series. It’s the “miracle” part of the show that deals with the fate, mysteries and all that.
At first glance, the anime may be confusing. But the reason it is confusing is because they purposely leave out technical explanations for the viewer’s imaginations. Almost everyone has a different opinion as to what the apples mean. Almost everyone has a different perspective just how the penguins came about and just what are they. I, myself, would be obviously lying to myself and everyone if I said that I actually understood the series as I’m just as clueless as everyone of you who watched the anime. Nopy, in particularly, made a pretty observational post regarding this in his blog, showing his opinions and uptake regarding the mysteries of Mawaru Penguindrum.
Despite having such a vague plot, the characters are rather developed nicely. The anime shows us the secrets of of every characters, exposing their harsh past and perhaps even their “sin”. Yuri and Tabuki’s relationship is one such development. Ringo too, who also another one who drives the plot forward. There are also characters like Masako and Momoka who relates to the plot in a surprisingly major manner. Last but not least, the three siblings who are pretty much the main focus of the show, and by the last few episodes, their past could be nothing short of shocking.
One of Mawaru Penguindrum’s good-looking point is it’s intoxicating backgrounds. Sometimes the backgrounds are visualized in such detail you would think they spend more time and resources on the backgrounds then the characters themselves. This may actually be true as the non-plot related characters are mostly just shown in plain white model, something I actually hate in an anime, which I had previously seen in anime like Mayoi Neko Overrun. I just feel that doing this makes the whole anime feels unprofessional. There’s also the unnatural character designs and their awkwardly long eyelashes. There are also obviously reuse of the same scenes over and over again, lacking in much needed variations.
As for the sound part of the series, it is strangely mediocre. The background music isn’t any particularly memorable and having such niche opening and ending doesn’t help at all. The insert song may feel fitting, especially the moe rock song during Himari’s transformation scenes. However, I’m not a fan of such typical Jpop/Jrock songs though I’m the type who fawns over every K-ON’s songs anyway. I… don’t understand myself anymore.
The voice acting isn’t the greatest. There are people who did a fine job no doubts but my main complains are for Kanba and Himari’s voice acting. In my opinion, emotions are the most important whenever a seiyuu does voice acting and Arakawa Miho (Himari’s seiyuu) lacks that in her voice, I think it would be better if she voices cool or emotionless characters instead. In fact, I think her voice acting on her “alter ego” is even more better. Same problem befalls Kanba’s voice actor, Kimura Subaru. Though they seem like pretty new voice actors as they barely had any roles. Mawaru Penguindrum is pretty much Miho’s debut role for her seiyuu career now that when I think about it. Hopefully they would improve as time passes on.
Overall, although Mawaru Penguindrum may be a good anime. It perhaps could only please a certain number of fans. This is solely because Mawaru Penguindrum isn’t an anime you can take at face value. Watching it requires concentration, recollections and imaginations at excess levels. Mawaru Penguindrum is probably one of the most mind-blowing anime, in more ways then one…