penguindrum16

“SURVIVAL STRATEGY!!”

ajthefourth: Listen up you lowlifes who will never amount to anything, let’s initiate the survival strategy.

The glorious “Rock Over Japan” transformation sequence is back, and with it a reminder of the idea of the “survival strategy.”  If one recalls, in episode 12, Shouma tells us the story of his father, Kenzan Takakura, and how he initiated the survival strategy for, in Kenzan’s words, world peace, at the first announcement of his son’s birth.  Every time Himari transforms, she tells whoever she’s with to initiate the survival strategy.    When Sanetoshi asks Kanba if he wants to initiate the survival strategy in order to save Himari, he is alluding to far larger things than Himari Takakura’s life.

“We’re taking back the world.”

As Sanetoshi says, they are “taking back the world.”  In other words, Sanetoshi has become a bit of a Shoko Asahara figure, and is leading a new group of people to initiate another survival strategy that will change the world.  Kanba is in far deeper than we had initially perceived, and is now part of a new survival strategy.  Initially, in episode 11, the recycling symbols on the train had a 95 in them, for March 20th, 1995, the same date as the real-life Tokyo Sarin Gas Attacks.  These red symbols, and the majority of the red recycling symbols that have followed Sanetoshi throughout the series, are devoid of a date, indicating that a new attack may be yet to come.  Not only is Kanba involved (seemingly this would be his contract with Sanetoshi to save Himari’s life) but Masako’s father as well.  During the middle of this episode we see a short scene that alludes to Kanba and Masako’s parents already being linked to each other from the previous attacks, when young Kanba tells Masako that if she’s cursed, he’ll keep her company because he can’t escape his own similar curse.

The wild card in all of this is Momoka’s diary, which the previous two episodes did great lengths to explain how it worked and what Momoka could have possibly used it for.  If she used it to stop Sanetoshi’s plan, or simply change the events on that day for one specific person (Tabuki), then her actions didn’t change the fact that seemingly, a great number of people were injured or possibly died on that day.  This poses the question, “What exactly did Momoka change on that day?”  Perhaps this is why Sanetoshi has said all along that he and Momoka could never be together, or never agree on the direction of where the world should go.  Instead, he has been biding his time, and somehow gathering new followers based on their past transgressions.  It was fantastic to see Masako throw this back in Sanetoshi’s face.  Instead of being weak-willed like Kanba, she has this to say to Sanetoshi:

“I am not taking that train.”

As an aside in a comment for episode 12, it is also touched upon that the Natsume name could possibly be on the Takakura family sign at a point in time past when the names were ripped off…just a kooky theory, but it’s there.

vucubcaquix: Originally, I felt that I didn’t have much to say about this episode. Taken at face value we have what appears to be an episode that concerns itself mostly with Masako’s daily life as a child presented in an over-the-top melodramatic fashion. There were some issues with certain characters being off-model in mid-range shots but a lot of it was masked by caricature and exaggerated facial expressions by many of the characters.

Though what struck me again is the series’ absolute mastery over the manipulation of mood and tone. One moment, we have Masako downing two whole plates of fugu in order to save her younger brother’s life, and the next moment she’s lying on the ground suffering from hypoxia.

Part of it stems from the tight framing, the mood of the music playing at the moment, and the creepily matter-of-fact way Sanetoshi describes the effects of neurotoxin as Masako suffers the effects. But what popped out firstly and immediately, was the color. Both shots I’ve linked to above ostensibly show the scene occurring at night with a cool blue hue permeating her skin to simulate starlight and moonlight, but the second shot also increases the amount of gray on her skin to simulate her hypoxic skin. Oxygen is not reaching her skin, and it shows in her newly pallid state. The entire scene was effective in making me feel uncomfortable, as it made me recall training I had received as a basic EMT. The twitching, the loss of color, the shivering as a result of fallen body temperature and blood pressure, all of it added up to a pretty masterfully executed sequence of septic shock.

Septic shock can occur when an untreated or inadequately treated infection (usually bacterial) is allowed to progress. Bacteria often produce poisonous chemicals (toxins) which can cause injury throughout the body. When large quantities of these bacteria, and their toxins, begin circulating in the bloodstream, every organ and tissue in the body is at risk of their damaging effects. The most damaging consequences of these bacteria and toxins include poor functioning of the heart muscle; widening of the diameter of the blood vessels; a drop in blood pressure; activation of the blood clotting system, causing blood clots, followed by a risk of uncontrollable bleeding; damage to the lungs, causing acute respiratory distress syndrome; liver failure; kidney failure; and coma.
Initial symptoms of shock include cold, clammy hands and feet; pale or blue-tinged skin tone; weak, fast pulse rate; fast rate of breathing; low blood pressure.

What supports the idea that something serious was happening to Masako as she suffered on the ground was the status of her penguin, Esmerelda, as she lay dying. We’ve discussed how the penguins serve multiple roles, being reflections of the personalities of their owners, being extensions of their wills, and the last two episodes confirm that they also serve as metaphorical canaries to the coal mines that are their masters’ well being. Last week, #2 accidentally left out an obstacle in Shouma’s path which led to his tripping, blacking out, and generally being ineffectual. What looked to be on it’s surface a fairly violent scene, was played for laughs and was juxtaposed with #2 continuing to drink and eat without a care in the world. Whereas poor Esmeralda seemed to suffer every bit as much as her owner did despite the levity leading up to that scene.
Masako laid on the ground, her body convulsing violently in order to artificially raise her falling body temperature resultant from the lack of oxygenated blood reaching vital organs. As she began to succumb to delirium and coma, we saw her drift off to a realm where Sanetoshi waited for her and she came to a realization about Kanba and her father.

“Father?”

ajthefourth: Through all of these machinations and survival strategies taking place, it’s interesting to note that nearly all of the characters have some sort of specific issue relating to their fathers.  Yuri’s father abused her emotionally (and potentially physically or sexually as well); Ringo feels distant from her father and becomes insanely jealous of his new family (later learning to accept them, along with herself); Shouma tells us the story of his father specifically (with his mother conspicuously absent from being directly referenced); Kanba is well on his way to becoming his father (and this is foreshadowed through his likeness to Kenzan as well as his closeness with him as a child); and now Masako, who loves her absent father and despises her grandfather for labeling her father as a “loser.”

I don’t think that the series is trying to portray fathers in any specific light as a major plot point; however, it’s curious how so many of our characters’ relationship quirks revolve around their fathers.  In Japan, a traditional father used to be seen as the sole financial provider for a family.  In a way, the more the father was away from the home and off at work, the more successful they were in the eyes of their family.  Much attention is given to Kenzan’s back when he interacts with Kanba in the Takakura family flashbacks, and this is another way of denoting that Kenzan was, above all, a provider (his words to Kanba echo this as well).  Children would only see the back of their father when they saw him, because he would always be headed off to work.  Later this evolved so that the back also became a symbol of strength or dependability.

Not-so-coincidentally, the majority of Penguindrum‘s fathers are absent fathers.  Kenzan (from the flashbacks) was seemingly absent at work before the Takakura couple went missing, especially when one considers that he wasn’t with his wife at the birth of their child, but at work; Natsume’s father disappeared from the Natsume conglomerate, and Ringo’s father split up with her mother and has a new family completely apart from Ringo.  (Curiously enough, Yuri’s situation is one with an absent mother and an abusive father.)  However, the idea of an absent father in Penguindrum hardly speaks to one’s success or well-being.  This applies doubly for the emotional state of their offspring.  In addition to social commentary on the gas attacks, I’m still holding onto the idea that there is a larger commentary on Japanese society as a whole.  To steer this train of thought (pun intended) back to what I spoke to in my first piece, with Sanetoshi (and possibly Momoka) playing the roles of aggressors in manipulating society or events in time to their vision, I’m thinking that society as a whole is the Goddess in Shouma’s allegory; unforgiving, seemingly cruel, and with a multitude of taboos in place that must never be broken.

vucubcaquix: Masako has an idealized vision of what her father represents, and her grandfather is a direct affront to her perception. Sanetoshi is being set up without any shadow of a doubt at this point to be the main antagonist for the series. After each of little Masako’s delusions/dreams of her crushing her grandfather, we’re treated to a repeating frame of her looking out her window to see her grandfather proclaiming that he will not be crushed. After Masako comes to the realization of what Kanba and her father may be up to at Sanetoshi’s behest, she’s propositioned by Sanetoshi as well with the possibility of her younger brother Mario’s ensured safety.

With fiery determination in her eyes, we see her refuse him as he takes up the same position of the man who had antagonized her all of her life.

One last thing: I thought it was pretty funny hearing the voice actor for young Kanba being the exact same pitch as older Kanba. Emily and I wondered if it was a consequence of the voice actor being unable to properly act out a child’s tone of voice, or perhaps keeping with the comedic tone of the episode it could’ve been Masako’s idealization of Kanba in her memories. If she’s head over heels for him, maybe she remembers him as always having such a deep and masculine voice, heh heh.

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