Now that Mawaru Penguindrum is finished, the characters were who we thought they were (or were not), and the symbolism-heavy ending has everyone loving or denouncing the series with all of their heart, it’s time to make good on a promise. Here are some interpretations of Double H’s train slogans from episodes 19 through 24.
Episode 19: “Truths born from lies.” This phrase resonates throughout this entire episode, the most obvious meaning being that what we know as The Takakura Family are actually three technically unrelated children. First, we see Kanba meeting up with his parents at the ramen shop after denying that he knew their whereabouts in the previous episode, even with Himari’s life hanging in the balance. Now knowing that Kanba’s foster parents are long dead, this lie is brought into sharper focus. Kanba’s “truth,” that he receives support from his parents is actually a lie; a lie that he’s bought into to such a degree that it has become truth to him. What follows is his ability to buy into further lies, which drives a wedge between him and his “family” of Shouma and Himari until the final episode. The slogan itself pops up while Shouma and Kanba are traveling on the train together. Shouma asks if they will be able to stay together like this forever. Kanba coolly responds that they will because he will always protect the Takakura family no matter what, and in this case (Tabuki’s threats to Himari in the previous episode), he’s already taken the punishment.
The most important thing to consider in this episode is Momoka’s diary. In Episode 19 we see both Yuri and Masako contemplating the meaning of the diary and why it is so important to their goals. Yuri laments the loss of Tabuki and sadly says to herself in her cold, empty apartment that only half of the spell to transfer fate is written in the diary. Note that the ambiguity of her words could be taken as her half of the diary only contains half of the spell or that the diary itself only contains half of the spell. Meanwhile, we watch as Masako goes to see Sanetoshi to ask what the meaning of the spell in the diary is only to have him respond nonchalantly that a spell is a spell and nothing more, like the words, “Open sesame.” Obviously, Sanetoshi is trying to goad Masako into destroying her half of the diary (which she does not) but his words are also true in this situation. The lie that Sanetoshi and Momoka are perpetuating is that the diary itself is what contains the fate transfer spell, when in actuality, as Yuri’s words suggest, the diary has the phrase written in it, but it will mean nothing without the proper love and sacrifice. When Ringo later discovers the words to the spell, she is able to use them not because of the words themselves, which like Sanetoshi says, mean next to nothing, but because of the friendships and love that she has been able to foster throughout the entire series. That is the truth (the real way to “transfer others’ fates”) born from the lie (the diary as an object).
Episode 20: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In this episode we discover that Shouma befriended Himari, a seemingly orphaned child, when they were both very young. This was how Himari was rescued from the Child Broiler and came to be a Takakura, which she later admits to being the only thing that made the punishment of living bearable. Himari was the trash who became Shouma and Kanba’s treasure.
This slogan also threads the needle in addressing some tricky territory that Penguindrum alludes to a few times in its latter half. When Shouma asks his father, Kenzan, about the Child Broiler, Kenzan says that it’s the destination of children who have been abandoned by society and that they will never amount to anything (reflected in Himari’s words, “Goodbye me, who would never amount to anything”). The implication being that it’s never been Penguinforce/Kiga’s motives that were incorrect, but how they were twisted to justify violence and terrorism. Kenzan obviously doesn’t agree with the Child Broiler; however, his solution is the polar opposite of his son’s; he decides to lash out at this society that so confines people into their boxes and creates unwanted children, where his son decides to simply befriend one of them and in doing so “saves her life.”
Episode 21: “Money and parents, don’t think they’ll last forever.” This episode’s slogan is a fairly straightforward one as this is the week where the viewer discovers that Kanba has been imagining his parents this entire time. Not-so-coincidentally, they (along with the Kiga Group) are the source of his money supply as well. Apparently, Kanba so idolized the Takakuras that he willed them back into existence in his own mind. We now know that these were his foster parents and his real father was the disinherited son of the Natsume Group. In Kanba’s mind, he hears Kenzan reiterate what a great decision it was to adopt Kanba into his family, while the echoes of his biological father’s final words to his son (which we don’t learn until the next episode) apologize to Kanba for failing in “family.” It’s unsure as to whether Kanba still remembers these words from his biological father, but perhaps they also play a part in why Kanba was so attached to the Takakuras.
Episode 22: “Coming right now to see you!” Double H are conspicuously absent from this slogan as they have finally ventured out from behind their curtain of train placards into the same world that the Penguindrum characters live in. This act of stepping out from the background for an episode softly echoes the Shadow Girls’ play episode in Revolutionary Girl Utena, with no less significance; Double H have revealed themselves in order to deliver the spell that transfers fates to Ringo in the form of a CD for Himari. The timeliness of their actions is reflected in the “right now!” part of the slogan, as their appearance also marks the final turn in Penguindrum‘s story as it hurtles itself towards resolution.
“Coming right now to see you” is also a reflection of Masako’s actions, as she finally confronts her brother Kanba and their biological relationship to each other is revealed. Yes, she has confronted him before, but never has she actively tried to stop him or cover for him as she does in this episode; the “right now” implying that this time, with Kanba so mired in Sanetoshi’s ideals, she felt it necessary to step forward and reveal herself.
As an aside, this slogan is also a movie reference.
Episode 23: “Two is better than one, getting along is beautiful.” This episode ends with Momoka, from the penguinhat, finally speaking directly to Shouma face to hat. She tells him that he must leave and catch the destiny express along with Kanba, and there the two of them will find their penguindrum. The spell to transfer fate, to stop Sanetoshi, to save the world, to save Himari, requires both brothers working in tandem. The love that these two “brothers” have for each other is what saved each of them (and in turn, Himari) from becoming invisible entities and fading from existence. Only by remembering that love for each other will they be able to save the ones that they love, Himari and Ringo, as well as the entire world.
Episode 24: “Welcome back.” Occurring after the fate transfer is complete, this slogan welcomes Himari, Ringo, and the viewer back to this new world of Penguindrum where new fates for both Himari and Ringo await them. It also can be seen as Ikuhara cheekily welcoming the viewer back from the craziness that was this entire series. Welcome back Himari and Ringo. Welcome back viewer. And following this episode, welcome back to a life without Mawaru Penguindrum. It’s not the end, it’s just the beginning. Thank you.