“You’ve forgotten what it was like when you couldn’t?”


ajthefourth:  If this episode made anything clear, it’s that some of its characters are alive, and some of them are dead.  The question, of course, is which characters are in which state of being?

This has been brought up by others previously, but it’s hard to tell who is actually alive and who is dead in Mawaru Penguindrum.  The series supposedly tells us who is what; Ringo’s sister Momoka is dead, Ringo is alive, Himari is …?  However, it’s impossible to take the series’s opinion at face value with so many things up in the air.  The continued frame of reference of Night on the Galactic Railroad and train imagery certainly don’t help matters, and serve to further call into question our protagonists’ state of being.  In addition to this, it is shown in this episode that the anniversary of Momoka Oginome’s death, curry day, March 20th, is also the anniversary of the 1995 Sarin Gas Attacks in the Tokyo subway.

One of the ideas brought up in this episode that reflects this uncertainty is the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat, a paradox used to both explain and question the superposition of states of being.  When does one thing in one state (for example, a human who is alive) cross over into another state (and become dead)?  The cat itself, as Tabuki concisely says to Ringo, is both alive and dead to which Ringo’s response of, “Poor cat.” rings poignant.  Regardless of whether we’re sure if Ringo herself is alive, or if the Takakura brothers are alive (there was a hint at this when Ringo’s mother paused at Shouma mentioning his last name to her) the state in which Himari has been presented within the story is a bit similar to the cat’s; torn between being kept alive by the hat and being physically dead.  Her superposition is fed by the refusal of both Shouma and Kanba to acknowledge her death.  Like the person peering in the box to see whether the cat is dead or alive, they must externally observe and accept it for it to be true.

This also applies to Momoka.  Ringo has flat-out refused to accept her sister’s death.  Instead, she has chosen to become Momoka in order to keep her family together.  Unfortunately, as the series has shown, this hasn’t exactly worked out since her parents are still separated, which calls into question why she still follows and adheres to the diary so religiously.  The tie in with the 1995 gas attacks is also very intriguing and I’m curious to see exactly where Ikuhara is going with Momoka and that tidbit.

vucubcaquix: The need to observe the respective characters’ positions regarding their state of living or death, brings into mind several questions about Uncertainty in this show that were brought up by astute commenters before as a possible answer to the ideas of fate and Determinism mentioned in our first colloquium. Schroedinger’s Cat as a thought experiment about an item’s superposition (living? or dead?) tends to be conflated with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which is more concerned with an object’s momentum and position  and the accuracy of measurement. The idea that the show broaches this subject at all shows that it seems as though it’s going to be adhering to this tack as a means to resolving the upcoming conflicts with Determinism and fate.

The Penguins resurrected Himari and hold her life hostage in a perpetual dual state of living and death in order to secure the Takakura brothers’ cooperation in searching for and obtaining the penguindrum. The original rage that Kanba Takakura felt against fate for taking his younger sister’s life is slowly going to be subsumed into a rage against the Penguin faction for holding his sister’s life hostage under the guise of fate. Tabuki, in his conversation with young Ringo, may have inadvertently described the flaw in the Penguins’ plan since he described the state of the poor aforementioned cat and the audience can draw the parallels with Himari’s condition, which will be forced into one state or the other perhaps through the observation of an outside third party.

Note the calendar in the background.


ajthefourth: Aside from her death day, and Ringo’s birthday, what I found interesting about Momoka was how infatuated Tabuki seemed with her.  Using the somewhat romantic imagery of being able to ride your bicycle, he spoke of her with a reverence that also seemed to be romanticized, almost to the point of being completely dependent.  When he describes her presence in his life, one wonders what their relationship actually was.  It would seem that she too was equally obsessed with him. Momoka has written out exactly what she wants to happen in the diary.  Ringo now possesses this diary in an attempt to assimilate herself into her sister.  Since the series (this episode especially) is so sexually charged and considering the fact that it’s Ikuhara, I’m wondering if the two didn’t have a sexually intimate relationship with each other as well as a close friendship.

Either way, it’s obvious that Momoka is very special, and her death is a key plot element.  If one looks further into the Sarin Gas Attacks, it’s interesting to note that only one person actually died in the attacks on the Maranouchi line, and it was on the train bound for Ogikubo, which coincidentally is the stop where Takakura family lives.

The Oginome Home.


vucubcaquix: There’s been a lot of visual references to peaches when the show focused on Ringo which had confused me up until this episode. With the reveal of Ringo’s older sister Momoka, and the conversation between Tabuki and young Ringo about the older Oginome sister, all of these visual cues have become unlocked. For those who don’t know, “momo” is the Japanese word for peach. When Ringo was young, she had that conversation with Tabuki about how he felt that Momoka was something eternal to him and that her death was perhaps fated, thus giving it meaning. Peaches in Asian tradition and folklore are associated with immortality, so with this and her conversation with Tabuki as a young girl, Ringo has conflated the idea of her sister with that of eternity, and is hellbent on using her sister’s diary as a roadmap for enacting that which she feels would give her life and those around some semblance of meaning after a senseless death.

Momoka’s Diary, complete with handwritten name and peach drawing.


vucubcaquix: Thus ends another week of Penguindrum, and another week of feverish discussion and speculation. Like I say every time, there’s just SO MUCH MORE we could say but don’t have the time for. For instance, the final shot of the show reveals Natsume Masako as having a penguin of her own, whether or not she’s an official part of the Penguin faction is up in the air. However, I did notice that her signature attack has a very apparent stylistic resemblance the Penguinhat’s assault on Kanba Takakura from the first episode, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in future weeks.

ajthefourth: In addition to this, she also mentions “Project M,” which could stand for any number of things although, in my opinion none of these options are marriage, which was the conclusion that Shouma jumped to.  There’s always so much to say about this series and so little time.  We’re both definitely looking forward to where the revelations of this week take the series in future episodes, so we’ll be back next week, right David?

vucubcaquix: We will indeed be back, Emily. Have a good night.

Recommended Reading

  • E-Minor over at Moe Sucks has a fascinating post that looks at themes in Penguindrum and the story of Hansel and Gretel.  Check it out!

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