“I can’t leave you alone!” “The Conscience of a Grand and Creative Plan

ringo oginome, kanba takakura, mawaru penguindrum, momoka oginome, sanetoshi

Humming to herself, she carefully tucks a worn, pink-covered notebook into her schoolbag. It brushes gently against the penguin cell-phone strap and last night’s homework. Boarding the train with her chattering friends, eating lunch as a group while one of them drones on endlessly about the cute guy she bumped into the other day, and stopping by the grocery store on her way home for necessary dinner ingredients, her thoughts are always occupied with one thing: her grand and creative plan to save her family. Everything she does, it’s all for her family.

Every night, he talks to ghosts. Of course, he knows that they’re not real, that the warm and affectionate light and delicious steam wafting from a bubbling pot on the stove top do not exist, yet he feels them. He wills them into his existence, and swears to carry out their bloody legacy in order to protect his sister. Following the night he accepted that envelope on the train, a last-ditch effort in order to keep the roof over their heads, his hands have become dirtier and dirtier. But no matter, as it’s all for his family, and his sister.

Mawaru Penguindrum‘s Ringo Oginome and Kanba Takakura have similar character narratives. Both use their incredibly strong wills to enact that which is most important to them. In Ringo’s case, she feels that she must become her sister Momoka in order to save her broken family. In Kanba’s case, he must involve himself in his parents’ stained legacy in order to keep his sister alive. In both cases, it’s their misguided attempts at preserving their families that lead them further down their own personal rabbit holes. Additionally, they both work with similar mystical influences, Momoka Oginome and Sanetoshi Watase respectively, to achieve these goals.

ringo oginome, ringo dresses up as yuri tokikago, project m, mawaru penguindrum

For Ringo, saving her family is equated with becoming her deceased sister, Momoka Oginome. The day that Momoka died, Ringo was born. This, coupled with overhearing arguments between her parents and their eventual separation, leads Ringo to believe that she is a reincarnation of Momoka. Once she fully becomes Momoka, her family will be restored. With Momoka’s fate diary in Ringo’s possession, Ringo starts down the path towards becoming her sister by following what is written in the diary, beginning with Momoka’s apparent marriage to childhood friend Keiju Tabuki. Even when the odds are visibly stacked against her, Ringo enacts her own version of Momoka’s written word, and forcibly warps reality to suit her needs.

However, after Ringo is presented with a situation in which she can presumably become her sister Momoka – by having sex with a drugged Tabuki – she is unable to go through with it. Following a conversation with Yuri Tokikago, Ringo attributes this to burgeoning feelings towards Shouma Takakura, who was assigned by Kanba to follow Ringo in order to obtain her fate diary.

shouma takakura, kanba takakura, shouma and kanba break and enter, kanba goes into ringo's room, mawaru penguindrum

Kanba Takakura also bends reality to his will under the guise of protecting his own family and keeping his terminally-ill sister, Himari, alive. The second episode of Mawaru Penguindrum shows Kanba willing to spy on Ringo Oginome with no remorse, and the third furthers this idea with Kanba breaking and entering Ringo’s home. His brother Shouma protests the entire time, and attempts to, at the very least, stop Kanba from going into Ringo’s personal room. A specific turning point occurs in this moment, where Kanba tells Shouma to save his innocence for Himari, implying that he will do the dirty work so Shouma can keep his conscience clean. In the meantime, Kanba assigns Shouma to tail after Ringo in an attempt to acquire her diary. While Shouma and Ringo inevitably become closer, Kanba goes off on his own, further entangling himself in the bloody legacy of terrorism left to him by his parents.

ringo oginome, shouma takakura, underneath keiju tabuki's house, mawaru penguindrum

With all the parallels between Ringo and Kanba, it is interesting to follow the change in both characters once Shouma is designated to Ringo. All the while, Ringo continues her pattern of stalking Tabuki and fulfilling the words written in Momoka’s diary, with Shouma as the figurative angel on her shoulder, telling her how wrong and potentially dangerous her actions are. It is Shouma who saves her from drowning in episode four, and Shouma who appears next to her “honeymoon suite” underneath Tabuki’s house in episode seven with probing questions regarding Ringo’s grand mission: Project M. Most importantly, it is Shouma who tells her that he cannot leave her alone, recognizing that Ringo does not actually want to have sex with Tabuki, immediately before taking action to ensure that she does not make that very mistake. Ringo returns to this situation in episode 11, this time without Shouma. Left to her own devices, she is unable to go through with it and pushes Tabuki away.

Meanwhile, Kanba goes without his brother’s presence, becoming all the more mired and stained. Like Ringo, Kanba will do anything to protect his family, but unlike Ringo he crosses moral boundaries effortlessly. Upon re-watching Mawaru Penguindrum, I cannot help but think of what would have happened had Kanba not sent Shouma away.

2 comments

  1. I think what is particularly interesting about Penguindrum is how relationships can either ground an individual in humanity and consciousness, or drive them towards the edge of despair and self-destruction. As you say, Shouma and Ringo’s relationship progresses throughout the series from that of something unhealthy (selfish desires – Shouma wants the Diary, and Ringo wants Shouma as her servant to get Tabuki) to something honest (both reveal each other’s facades and help each other grow overall).

    Which makes me wonder why Masako could not do the same for Kanba, as she also had selfish but selfless purposes for chasing him. I think this stems from Masako’s desire to not only absolve Kanba of any Takakura sins he had been willing to uphold for the sake of family, but to also keep him for herself for romantic reasons. And in that sense, Masako’s pursuit of Kanba continues to be unhealthy – she invalidates his previous girlfriends, even threatens Himari, and drugs Shouma and ties him to a chair. She never speaks to Kanba honestly, and because their relationship is anything but healthy, I feel like Masako’s actions not only help Kanba’s inevitable downfall but perhaps, accelerates it. Or maybe it’s just the suicidal aggressive martyrdom that runs in the blood….

    Either way, wonderful post as always! Thank you for bringing new posts about this wonderful show, it’s lovely to watch it again and see new ideas come into mind.

    1. Ahhh, a Redux comment! ^ ^ So nostalgic.

      Sorry it took me so long to get to this. As you know, work has been insane lately.

      I love what you had to say about Shouma and Ringo, and completely agree. As for why the same was not true of Masako and Kanba, I think that, by the time they attempt to speak to one another, they’re already firmly entrenched in their respective thought processes and goals without having seen how the other came to desire said goal in the first place. For example, Shouma sees the worst of Ringo as she stalks Tabuki, but also comes to understand her when he discovers the truth of her family. Inversely, Ringo learns of Shouma’s own hardships and why he so desires the diary. This all occurs before their romantic feelings develop (or at the very least, are realized).

      Kanba and Masako have each traveled down their solitary paths for quite some time, with their only solace coming from Himari/Shouma and Mario respectively. Kanba left his initial family and went with the Takakura’s in an effort to protect them, while Masako took up the mantle of her wayward father, filling the traditionally patriarchical role. By the time they attempt to speak to one another in Masako’s house, both are so set in their own ways that the conversation is entirely in metaphors and difficult for an uninformed viewer to follow (an argument could also be made that it’s difficult for even Kanba to follow). Ringo and Shouma met early on enough while they were each attempting to inact their own plans, while Masako and Kanba were both on their own at that time. I think this is also a major factor in their inability to communicate with one another and subsequent failure to develop a relationship.

      Thank you so much for commenting. Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

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