Anything involving analysis needs to be deep, so I get right up in it with this Mawaru Penguindrum 01 review. In this post I will examine the intro and the OP of the first episode. It’s deep, so put on a thinking hat and brush up on your Machievellian poetry. It’s about to get serious.
The show starts out with a baby blowing a horn announcing that he hates the word “fate”. It soon becomes obvious that the baby cannot speak, as it is neither knowledgeable of English nor a sentient human being — it is in fact a decoration. But why a baby blowing a flute? Could this be the harbinger of death? Could it be an angel fallen from the graces of heaven? Perhaps it’s not human at all. And what does that say about humanity itself?
We are being led to our own deaths by children not our own, and though we may be aware of this, we do not care. Humanity is akin to the sad fate of the lemming — suicidal tendencies gone awash, our own fates entrusted to the whims of a child.
Clearly, fate is indeed a concept to be hated.
The speaker then changes to a monkey-bear pirate, clearly an analogy for humanity’s tendency to lie, cheat, and steal, much like the pirates of yore. Its stomach is literally bursting at the seams — perhaps an allusion to one of the Seven Sins — Gluttony.
The concept of setting things in stone is brought up, bringing the viewer’s attention to classic English legend — Monthy Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur’s legend begins in stone. Perhaps his fate is much like our own. We humans must be pre-ordained for greatness or our failings. Fate is indeed cruel.
The speaker then changes to a picture. At this point, the viewer has come to the grim realization that there is active narration going on rather inanimate objects speaking. This confusion is to be addressed later, but for now the viewer must struggle with what exactly this picture means.
A lesser man might look and say “Holy fucking shit, there are penguins in that picture!” However, a great man would say “What is a penguin?” And indeed, that is the question I asked myself.
Turning attention to the line itself, the term Oedipus Complex comes to mind. Spoiler alert: The speaker in the question is one of the two boys in the picture. I had to rewatch this episode five times to realize this, but it’s true. The creator of this anime — a man of unparalleled quality — has hidden this deep in the first 30 seconds of the anime. The incestuous themes will resound throughout the rest of the show, which I will explain further in this review.
With the positioning of the camera, we are eventually able to realize that the narrator is a male who is looking down on a female in bed. Cursing God, he recounts his frustrations with fate — a common theme in this work of art. But this brings to mind the question: What is God? Are we God? Is God unfair and cruel or is just our perception of cruelty that is truly unfair? I have pondered this question while reading the complete works of Thorpe. I’m afraid I still haven’t come to an answer.
“That day”? Which day is he talking about? There are numerous days in a year and numerous years in a lifetime. Is he referring to a point in the past? The possibilities are endless and worthy of consideration.
In addition, he says “us”. That means there is more than one character in this anime. Truly, we are about to witness a masterpiece.
After this, the opening begins — a delightful smorgasboard of intellectualism.
In black and white, a single penguin looks at us. But is that a real penguin? No, it is but a symbol. “What kind of symbol?” you may ask. Well, the answer is right in front of you. The duality of the colors brings to mind the duality of the yin-yang symbol, but what else do the colors of the penguin represent?
The most obvious answer is the racial divide in 1960’s America. We are about to witness the telling of America’s history from a Japanese perspective. This is the point in time which the narrator previously spoke about. We are in for a true treat.
We see the backs of the penguins. “What does this mean?” Again, you ask a question. But it is the wrong question. A better one is “What doesn’t this mean?”
It doesn’t mean a countdown, we can be sure of that. So perhaps it’s leading up to something? A great event, perhaps. This demands further analysis.
An apple? No, wait… the apple. This is Eve’s apple from the Garden of Eden. Coupled with the phrase “a world that’s about to end”, we have clear religious symbolism indicating the downfall of humanity will soon be the downfall of the world.
This anime is clearly about the apocalypse. Going back to the baby in the first scene… it was clearly one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Wait! To the title!
… that’s funny. The title does not appear to be in English like it naturally should be. Let’s see what it means anagrammed.
Unaware, Drumming Up
We are unaware, but we are drumming up. Drumming up to what? Perhaps our own, sad finale. And we are the orchestra of the damned.
We must go, and there is only one path. But is this truly the way we must go?
Are these drugs or candles? Is there a difference between the two? The fate of mortality has become our own and we must grasp this fact by ourselves.
A black penguin! Clearly, the penguins which were counting up have now been stopped by this — a numberless being, signifying death. Truly, humanity is damned. It is our fate to die and the penguins know it. But really, don’t we know it too? Can we claim to be unaware? Ignorance may be bliss, but Kunihiko Ikuhara (the sensei who directed Mawaru Penguindrum) knows that sometimes we need to learn for ourselves the truth of the world.
I… I must stop. I am so overwhelmed by the symbolism that I am about to collapse. Mawaru Penguindrum, you are truly the greatest show of all time!