Mawaru Penguindrum is a, well, not a difficult anime to review, but a complex one. It's a show that expands in scope exponentially right from the opening episode — confusingly so, to the point where for about 3/4ths of its run you may not know where you are, why anybody's doing anything that they're doing, or what the hell anything has to do with penguins in the first place — but it never loses track of its own important message about fate and its inevitability (meaning, is fate inevitable, or can personal will [or magic] overpower it?). I loved its bizarre story structure, but I'm still not 100% sure about how I feel about its ending. I mean, it's not a bad ending per se, and in fact it's pretty damn good... It's just not the ending I had desired. It ends on kind of a 300-like note — one which wraps things up well, gives us some good hope and vibes for the future, but some of the characters I was rooting for were destined not to survive the whole experience. That wasn't a spoiler now, was it? I mean I didn't tell you WHICH penguins died now, did I?
Okay, that's a good enough intro, now for the meat and potatoes. Mawaru Penguindrum is quite possibly the most original thing I have seen since that time I started hallucinating (giant direwolves singing and dancing with Robocops, while Japanese schoolgirls with roundshells and vampire high school boys juggled crabs, snakes, snails, and monkeys all around me) after consuming three boxes of Twinkies, two whole bottles of NyQuil, and the entire series of Bakemonogatari all in one night. It's filled with penguins and stalkers and altered realities, oh my!
At its base Mawaru Penguindrum is about three siblings (twin brothers Kanba and Shouma, and their younger sister Himari) trying to stay together (and alive) after their parents left them by themselves three years previous. It also deals with a teenage girl named Ringo who's stalking a teacher at Kanba and Shouma's high school with the enthusiasm of a shark trailing bleeding guppy, and her connection to a bombing attack that rocked Tokyo's rail system on the day she was born 16 years ago.
I'm now going to go quite a bit deeper into the plot of Mawaru Penguindrum, but I'll telling you this: if you're the least bit interested in some truly novel storytelling with great characters and penguins galore, don't read the spoiler text, just watch the show. If all you're looking for is the next Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, or Inu-Yasha shounen action-whack-off story, then you are a total faggot, and you should just get off my site before I reach through your monitor and slap your fat ass silly. God I hate you. Look in a mirror. Seriously. Now. THAT'S what other's see when they look at you... You are a fat fucking disgrace to the species.
SPOILERS!... I really, really mean it!
We start off meeting the abandoned teenaged Takakura siblings (the aforementioned Kanba, Shouma, and Himari) as the two brothers decide to take their terminally ill sister to the aquarium to see the penguins that she loves so much. Shouma buys Himari a strange-looking "queen penguin" hat at the gift shop, but she then wanders off, and before anyone can do anything she collapses, dead, at the entrance to the aquatic zoo.
While standing next to her cold corpse in the hospital later that day, the two brothers begin to argue with each other over their lots in life, and in the middle of their scuffle Himari rises from beneath the white sheet placed over her body, and yells "Survival Strategy!" before pulling the boys into a bizarre phantasmagoria and telling them that the body of their sister is now under the possession of the "Princess of the Crystal." This authoritative (and into S&M gear) Princess has decided to use her powers to extend Himari's life for a while, on the condition that Kanba and Shouma attain a certain item for her: the Penguindrum.
Both loving brothers immediately agree to find this Penguindrum, even though all they're told about it is that the thing's in the possession of a girl their age named Ringo. They begin skipping school in order to trail the girl, but they are soon totally appalled to find that Ringo herself is stalking the shit out of the boys' homeroom teacher to the point of setting up a little fort in the crawlspace underneath his condo, and listening to his evenings at home with the help of an electronic bug she secretly placed inside his home.
Because of the way that Ringo hangs on to a little pink diary, the brothers are positive that this is the Penguindrum that they're seeking. Shouma is soon put in charge of hounding Ringo until she's willing to part with the book, but she's not amenable to do so until she fulfills her mission of seducing the teacher that she's stalking because she believes it's the only way to make her broken family whole again. Yeah...
Oh, and did I mention that each of the Takakura siblings receives a blue, cartoony, silent, but intelligent penguin as an assistant after they get Himari back from the hospital? And that they're the only ones who can see these penguins? And the penguins do nothing but look up girls' skirts, eat, or knit? Honestly, the penguins are there for no other purpose than for comic relief, but I loved them; I can't explain why. In almost every scene, Penguins 1, 2, and 3 are doing something in the background — something totally pointless — but sometimes I had to watch a segment twice just because I was focusing on Penguin 1 fishing for panties out of Himari's hospital window, or I was watching Penguin 2 place stuffed bread under his ass in order to warm it up, and I missed the important dialogue going on in the foreground. This series goes here, there, around the block, and then to the moon... And it's fantastic for it.
Anyway, soon jealous girlfriends come into play, another character with a mysterious penguin hat appears, and a mysteriously mysterious deep-voiced doctor with two human/bunny sidekicks starts helping (or hurting) our main cast for unknown reasons of his own. Terrorist bombings, ping-pong balls that change people's memories, and a giant skyscraper in the shape of Michelangelo's David also have something to do with figuring out just what in the hell the writers are trying to tell us... I think. And lest we forget the Child Broiler that seems to make forgotten children invisible and unable to be loved ever again.... I. Wow. The brownies that the anime staff ate before starting on this project must have been something spectacular!
All these characters and events then culminate into a grand finale that places thousands of lives and the track of reality that our cast is currently riding on in danger. And like I said before, while the outcome is pretty damn tasty, I was hoping for Filet Mignon, but instead I got lobster. Still delicious, just not what I had my taste buds ready for.
SPOILERS OVER... And yes, as hard as it is to believe those really were spoilers.
At first, everything seems completely random and chaotic, but by the end of it all you'll no longer be confused by what you just saw (well, if you paid attention to every little thing shown and said, that is). I felt just like Towlie up to episode 20 of this 24 chaptered series (I kept staring at my TV, saying "I have no idea what's goin' on here," over and over again), but then all the gaps get filled in with creamy vanilla ice-cream, and every last loose end is tied up by the time the final episode was over. I seriously had no questions left about Mawaru Penguindrum after completing the last ep. Well, other than "Now what the fuck am I supposed to do?!"
Beyond that, I absolutely LOVED Himari's Japanese voice actress. I had never heard her before, and she sounded so sincere and innocent; she was a goddamn perfect match for the part. The character designs, although a bit too shoujo for my tastes, were very interesting and endearing — even the "plain" ones, like Ringo. And all the songs (all by the real pop-group Triple H) were amazingly hummable. All in all, other than that ending (that I just didn't WANT to happen, but understood WHY it did, and still liked it), I really don't have anything bad to say about Mawaru Penguindrum. Good times...
................................... I think this show fried my brain... Not only because of its plot, but because of all the goddamn penguins in it. There are real penguins, cartoony blue penguins, penguin brand apples, penguin coffee shops, penguin magazines, penguin stories, penguin hats, penguin eggs, and even penguin drums, apparently. Seriously, are penguins the next Hello Kitty fad that we need to be wary of invading our shores? If I see any penguin clothes or penguin stuffed animals at the mall the next time I'm there, I swear to GOD that I will burn down the Hot Topic myself. You know that'll be their first foothold on our soil...
Other than that, this thing was a cheap alternative to recreational drugs. Even cheaper than huffing 10 cans of whipped cream. So, if you feel the need to have your brain get all funky, by all means, give it a try.
Eheheheheheheheheheh... AWKAWAKAWKAAAAAAAAAWWWWWK! AWKAWAKAWKAAAAAAAAAWWWWWK! Eheheheheh.... AWKAWAKAWKAAAAAAAAAWWWWWK!