ajthefourth: This episode was a visual feast, especially for anyone who pays any sort of attention to color, color saturation, and basic blocking and storyboarding. As a general rule, we tend to adjust the light/darkness levels on images before putting them into blog posts to make more striking or well-lit images; however, for this part of the post, I feel it necessary to note that I have changed nothing (light/darkness, or color saturation levels) in these images and they prove my point magnificently. This episode was beautiful.
As early as the first episode, it was apparent that this series was using color as another way to show the siblings’ affinity and close relationships with each other. In that episode I had called the visuals, “almost vulgar in their overtness,” an excellent example of which is shown in the first image above, with the abandoned siblings admiring their new house. The colors are more vibrant here than ever, and this is the start of the new Takakura family. We’re even treated to Himari’s face literally lighting up as she beholds the dream house that her brothers have presented her with.
However, this episode marks the end of this family. After the visual reminder of how close they once were when they were younger (or at the very least, the illusion of closeness that the three shared) follows an episode showing how the family is coming apart, piece by piece. In the second image, Himari waits for her brothers to share dinner with. At this point, she already has the knowledge of what Kanba has been up to, and although she couldn’t have predicted that Kanba would never return home, she can feel the weight of the world that has suddenly doubled its pressure upon her family. A sepia tone creeps into her colorful world and dark shadows appear in every corner.
Shouma is someone who certainly feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, now having been confirmed to be the boy whose birth heralded the Takakuras’ survival strategy. In addition to being that boy, he also is the one who chose Himari to be in his family. More color is bleeding out of the Takakura house, with everything taking a grayer, duller tone as Shouma tells Himari to leave.
The colors are even dimmer above, after Himari has left the house while Shouma pours over smiling faces in family photo albums. This scene is also darker, with more shadows creeping in to frame Shouma in his sister’s room. Now he is completely alone.
When the family finally reaches a breaking point, all color leaves the scene while the brothers violently attack one another. This fight is interspersed with more scenes of Himari waiting for the brothers to come home, much like in the sepia-toned shot at the beginning of this post. As the fight progresses, we see pans of Takakura family photographs. The color gradually becomes less and less saturated, while these shots are broken up by nearly black and white scenes of violence.
This applies in other areas as well, see above where Kanba spends an evening with his deceased parents. The ramen shop is brightly-lit. We see shots of colorful beer posters and steam rising from freshly dirtied dishes. Kanba confides in his parents, and while it’s not as colorful as when the three siblings are together, there’s a sense of warmth and comfort. That is, until we see what Himari sees below.
Taking this playing with color a bit further still, the Kiga Group is shown almost completely in black and white as well, perhaps a reflection of their unwavering ideology. Again, shadows are creeping in and framing the scene, except they are exclusively in solid black, almost like someone has spilled India ink on the edges of the scene. The moving boxes with the Kiga logo add to this effect.
I’m going to take a break from color now and talk about the blocking of characters in various settings which, in this episode, were mainly used to create distance or closeness between two characters. Moving away from the Takakura family, there are some great examples involving Himari’s trip to Masako’s mansion. It’s no secret that Himari is terrified of Masako, and this is again represented both in their relationship to each other while taking tea (see the image below) and their penguins actions towards each other.
Note how the two of them, although in close proximity, appear to be very distant from each other. The tea, the window, and the table act as physical barriers between the two, while their positioning and facial expressions show their exact relationship: Masako is in complete control of this situation, while Himari is subservient to her.
Now in this image, with the house taking priority over everything, we only see the grandeur of the house, nicely framed by trees, with the two women conversing on the porch. Suddenly, the house is so dominating in scale that the two seem a lot closer as they presumably form a plan to save their beloved brother from certain death.
There are many examples of blocking to create an illusion of distance involving the Takakura siblings themselves, especially the brothers, as shown below.
The above shot combines both visual cues of color and space to convey the brothers’ parting emotions. Notice that it’s actually Shouma, the “loser” of this particular fight who is portrayed in the light, in spite of being bested by his brother physically and sitting submissively on the ground. For all that he has been through, including this most recent loss to his brother, Shouma is still coming out of these situations with his morals intact.
Kanba, on the other hand, portrayed in the darkness and wearing less clothing by the end of the fight, has now been shown to the audience as a character in grave moral and physical danger. He’ll do anything for Himari, but appears to regard his other “sibling” as dirt. He presumably joined the Kiga Group in order to pay for Himari’s medicine; however, there is concrete evidence of his involvement with the group as early as Episode Five (which is not-so-coincidentally the episode where the brothers’ really begin to establish themselves as separate people) when he relies on their money in order for the Takakura siblings to remain in their house. He also speaks (seemingly regularly) with his dead parents in order to ask them for advice. At this point, Kanba is hardly on the edge of the precipice that Masako warned him about. Instead, he has already fallen into the water, and only time will tell whether he will be devoured by seals.
vucubcaquix: To begin with, I have to say that moevertures and AoiHime called it, that Kanba’s interactions with his parents were indeed a figment of his imagination. I didn’t outright dismiss the idea out of hand but I wasn’t too keen on it either since I didn’t glean any visual cues on it besides Kanba’s uncharacteristic cheerfulness that bordered on something smug. However, this wouldn’t be the first time where I was deceived by Ikuhara’s storytelling sleight-of-hand.
This does however confirm what I thought in my conversations with the commenters, that this makes Kanba a dangerously zealous proponent of his adoptive parents’ cause, with the added spice of being somewhat delusional over the whole thing. In aligning himself with the remnants of Penguinforce, the Kiga Group, Kanba heads down a path towards self-destruction. This is presumably a part of his will to sacrifice himself and bear the Goddess’s punishment in lieu of Himari, which is another way of saying that he’s willing to take on the social stigma of performing the acts he does to extend Himari’s life by an artificial means. And if the authorities were to ever really catch on to what Kanba’s activities were (terrorism plots, conspiracy, murder), then he’d be in for a hefty punishment indeed.
But while the extent of Kanba’s involvement is not in question (we can safely presume that he’s in some sort of leadership capacity), I’m rather curious as to how much influence Sanetoshi had on him. As my partner has stated, we knew as early as Episode Five that Kanba received money from the Kiga Group in order to make payments on their house, but we didn’t know in what capacity he interacted with them. Did he perform services? Provide information? Was he a low-level foot-soldier? Or was he already rising in the ranks?
I feel that while Kanba was always on this self-destructive path, Sanetoshi came along and exploited Kanba’s weaknesses and served as the catalyst that further enabled Kanba’s delusions and ascent through Kiga and descent towards darkness. Offering Kanba an opportunity to somehow save Himari’s life, Sanetoshi proffers him a contract for a medicine that was never meant to be a permanent fix, while securing a Takakura child to pass down his will to set the world back on the “right” track.
ajthefourth: Most interesting is the fact that this episode is titled, The Door of Fate We Chose. This implies that there was a choice to be made; however, this is in direct conflict with the definition of fate unless we stretch the meaning of “fate” out a bit. Let’s take the definition from one of our earliest comments thanks to Ryan A, and say that “fate” is the route which one takes to arrive at their “destiny.” This makes destiny the absolute ending (the destination) with fate as the route. If this is a train, destiny is the end of the line while fate is the journey.
As the series begins its final turn into the homestretch, it’s becoming apparent that it doesn’t plan to abandon its focus on fate or destiny anytime soon. If anything the varying references that Penguindrum has thrown in along with its narrative, including: various Haruki Murakami works (mainly Super Frog Saves Tokyo from After the Quake, and Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche), Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad, many fairytales, a number of biblical references including the fall of man, all have ideas of fate, destiny, and being “chosen” in common. The door of fate we or someone else chose in order to reach our destiny.
“I still don’t get it. Why did you choose me to be with you?” -Katagiri, Super Frog Saves Tokyo
The above quote from Murakami’s Super Frog Saves Tokyo expresses the incredulous reaction that protagonist Katagiri has at being chosen to save Tokyo from imminent destruction, and in a way, his reaction is spot-on. Choosing Katagiri, a no-name but competent salaryman with no family and no wife, out of all available Tokyo citizens is the equivalent of an action movie suddenly deciding immediately before the climax that the protagonist is now Random Background Character C. In another way, Katagiri is perfect because he is Random Background Character C. He was ordinary but now he is chosen. Similarly, there is the illusion of choice that Frog puts before Katagiri. Technically, Katagiri could have said “No” but he chooses not to. Saving Tokyo now becomes his destiny.
“Because, Mr. Katagiri, Tokyo can only be saved by a person like you. And it’s for people like you that I am trying to save Tokyo.” -Frog, Super Frog Saves Tokyo
Similarly, the Fall of Man also gives us a situation involving both choice and fate. Adam and Eve make the choice to eat the apple, in spite of God telling them that they must not. I mentioned this in a comment response following last week’s post, and now seems like the perfect time to bring it up again. The Fall of Man can be seen in one of two ways: either God is punishing Adam and Eve for their actions (by giving Adam and his male offspring exhausting toil in the fields until the day they die while giving Eve and her female offspring painful childbirth), or he is laying out a plan for them to survive (by working and bearing children) now that they no longer have eternal life. The latter implies that God knew all along that humanity would “choose” to eat the apple, and planned accordingly, describing what appears to be a punishment to them as a guide, their fate, that enables the survival of the human race.
These are only two of the examples among many that Penguindrum gives us of people choosing or struggling with what they perceive to be their fate. At the end of this episode, Kanba has chosen the Kiga Group, Shouma has chosen solitude, and Himari has chosen to save Kanba (in a way, she has chosen “love” above all else, to revisit a quote from the first episode). You could say that Double H’s slogan in this episode is descriptive of the siblings’ fate rather than a warning of a curse or punishment.
vucubcaquix: I noticed something about the female characters in Penguindrum after seeing Yuri’s scene with Tabuki in the ramen shop here. Every main female character that was introduced in this series had a bevy of problems associated with them whom we’d later learn the origins for. Ringo had delusions regarding the meaning and enacting of fate and its conflations in her mind with what it means to love; Yuri sought to soothe the ache of her life’s missing purpose with the accoutrements of the superficial, convinced that it was the means to a lasting love; Masako was a violent character who was motivated by a selfish view and interpretation of love; Himari was relegated to a passive role that we were convinced was a problem in overall characterization, but that I’m now convinced was the result of her brothers’ over-protection and coddling, acts that were borne out of their love.
Penguindrum introduced a tabloid reporter who served to highlight the status of several of the characters in the episode. We first see him interviewing Ringo on the Tokyo Sky Metro, asking her to comment on the idea of the Takakuras living as make-believe siblings. How does Ringo respond? By defending the Takakuras against the reporter’s accusations, exhorting him to not publish some “made-up story”. Whether or not the reporter had his facts straight was not the issue, Shouma had already explained his family’s origins to Ringo in last week’s episode, but Ringo instead defends their efforts at building a family around a name that has been tarnished by its actions in the past. This is a testament to Ringo’s character that she is able to see past the name of the family that was responsible for her sister’s death, and embrace them for who they are. The experiences that they’ve accrued together informing the love that she feels for that family.
We then learn that the reporter had contacted Himari as well. He tells her of her brother’s misdeeds in her name, and how the remnants of the group responsible for the attacks 16 years ago are financing her recovery. How does she respond? Well, I don’t know her exact reaction to the reporter, but along with Tabuki’s accusations against Kanba several episodes ago it gave her enough disquiet and concern to stay awake that night and hear Kanba’s excursion into the night. We’ve seen Himari sans penguinhat play a very passive role in the series so far, to the point that we began to feel that it was being detrimental to her characterization. However, her concern for her older brother overrode her fear of learning the truth about Kanba and she stepped out into the night, stepping into the role of protagonist for the first time in the story without the aid of any supernatural hats. Her love for Kanba, made her step out to see Masako.
Masako has been established as a character in opposition to Sanetoshi and his designs since Episode 16, but still remained antagonistic to the idea of the Takakura’s as a family. She was consumed by a possessive love for Kanba that set her at odds with Himari as recently as just two episodes ago. However, here we see her swallow an ounce of her pride and admit to Himari that she needs her help if they are to save Kanba from the Kiga Group. It’s a mutual love for their “brother” that allows Masako and Himari to set aside their differences and work together on a plan to save and redeem Kanba.
Kanba himself has regressed the most as a character. His misguided notions of love have him here directing the murder of this snooping investigative reporter, laying out the groundwork for a future attack in order to secure money for Himari’s treatments, and being bolstered by the memories of his long deceased adoptive parents. Parents, who while being portrayed as loving and doting on their makeshift family, are still the proponents of a so far still twisted view of how the world should be. They enact “survival strategies” for the sake of the love that they feel for their children.
Yuri had subtle developments here, but no less important. Where Tabuki felt he tracked down the Takakura parents at last and was going to enact his revenge, he and Yuri come into the abandoned ramen shop only to see that the revenge they sought borne from their mutual love for Momoka had been taken from them years ago. Tabuki momentarily seemed more lost than ever, but Yuri’s entrance and acceptance of the situation spoke to a very quiet strength that she had which I admired greatly. She was willing to forgive Tabuki’s transgressions against her in Episode 18, and willing to start anew with him through the fondness she began to harbor for him through the time they’ve spent together. She aches for family and for love, and wishes to cultivate it with Tabuki, free of the weight of the past.
Of course, whether or not Tabuki and Yuri can build that future depends on whether he is alive or dead… Poor guy can never be rid of Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment.
- Kylaran writes about the significance of the line and circle in highlighting Penguindrum’s themes and how they represent the contrasting philosophies we’ve seen in the show.