“Anyway, do you really think those guys have a future?”
– Five, to Lisa Mishima, Terror in Resonance, episode 8
Five has a future. She chose – according to Nine – to stay in the Rising Peace Academy, and therefore has been able to fashion herself quite the future from this decision. Thanks to the academy, Five has a cozy gig with the ISA and does not have to worry about her career. She commandeers an entire airport, blows up an airplane, and bombs an apartment, receiving only the gentle admonishment of, “Please show some moderation.” from her superiors. She has little need to worry about her own future, provided that she meets their goals.
Terror in Resonance‘s eighth episode focuses heavily on various characters’ respective future outlooks. In their time away from the academy, Nine and Twelve’s focus has been trained on exacting revenge for the manner in which they, and the other orphans, were treated. Their actions within the scope of the series, and a bit outside of it in Aomori, have all been done with this goal in mind. Without the academy, their future is now bleaker than it would have been had they remained in their orphanages. Like Mawaru Penguindrum‘s child broiler, the Rising Peace Academy aimed to make the children identical to one another in order to cement their place as cogs in the societal machine. Nine and Twelve’s personal realization that the two of them have no future is instrumental in understanding why they would steal plutonium, why they would destroy Japanese government facilities, and why Nine now insists that they continue with their plan.
Mawaru Penguindrum explores this through the Takakura parents, higher-ups in the series’ version of domestic terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo and perpetrators of the 1995 Tokyo Subway Attacks. In episode 12, Shouma tells a story to Ringo that’s part parable, part myth, and part nursery rhyme, beginning with “Mary had a little lamb.”
“But one day, Mary awoke to a surprise. The apple tree in the garden had withered. It was the first tree in the world. The tree that bore golden fruit each year. It was Mary’s other dear, dear treasure . . . The apple tree’s light had once been the source of the world’s love, future, and dreams. Now the world is shrouded in darkness.Mary cried on and on and the lambs’ consolation fell on deaf ears.”
– Shouma Takakura, Mawaru Penguindrum, episode 12
Mary could be anyone. However, in this example, she is Kenzan and Cheimi Takakura, parents to three children with a presumably bright future. Shouma says that Mary couldn’t wait to spin the lambs’ wool into thread, meaning that the Takakuras were eager to see to the future of their children: Shouma, Kanba, and Himari. This all falls apart when, in Shouma’s words, the first apple tree in the world withers. Suddenly, the Takakuras could no longer see a future for their own children or anyone in the world. The consolation of those close to them, their own family, was not enough to stop them from despairing at how they felt about the direction in which they perceived the world to be traveling.
In Shouma’s tale, Mary breaks a taboo, earning wrath and an unjust punishment from an enraged goddess. In 1995, Aum Shinrikyo released the nerve agent sarin in a coordinated attack on the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and affecting thousands of others. In Penguindrum, the Takakura parents commit acts of domestic terrorism on the Tokyo subway system, forever branding their children in the eyes of society. Himari Takakura, an orphan taken in by the Takakuras, falls ill as perceived punishment for their atrocities. What is important is not the punishment itself, but how it resonates through the Takakura family. Kenzan and Chiemi are shown throughout the series as incredibly loving parents to all of their three children, but as they could not see any future for them in their current society, they resorted to terrorism and their children must live with that burden.
“A long time ago, when I was young, there were teenagers who threw rocks at the riot police and fought against the government. Even though Sphinx are called terrorists now, in a different time . . . they might have been called something else.”
– Shibazaki, Terror in Resonance, episode eight
Shortly following Shouma’s story, Penguindrum shifts, choosing to center on how people can avoid falling into this mindset, rather than what one does once this mindset is already in place. Penguindrum offers the solution of growing to love and care for others – the Takakura parents could have done this by listening and caring for their children but were unable to see a future in that alone – rescuing them from feelings of isolation, depression, and lack of a sense of self. Terror in Resonance focuses on the far more dangerous mindset of what one does once such feelings are already in place and, following Shibazaki’s words in episode eight, whether such actions are necessary in the face of continued systemic oppression.
“Don’t misunderstand me. I want to help them. They still have a chance to atone for their crimes right now. But if they do what they’re planning on doing next, they will be beyond redemption.”
– Five, to Lisa Mishima, Terror in Resonance, episode eight
These are the words that Five uses to coerce Lisa into telling Five how she knows Nine and Twelve. When Lisa tells her how they met, Five berates her, saying that she should have died. Lisa is unable to use her life for leverage, as Five tells her that even Lisa’s life is worthless. Her existence is worthless. She is another ant among hundreds of thousands with no future, while Five is a member of an elite special operations force. Five then asks Lisa if she believes that Sphinx has a future.
It is here where Twelve diverges from the plan that Sphinx had set in motion from the moment they escaped from the academy. Having befriended Lisa, lived with Lisa, eaten Lisa’s atrocious cooking, he suddenly finds himself devoid of the mindset needed for the final stage of the plan. A final stage that presumably involves the stolen plutonium from Aomori and a potentially devastating body count.
Nine has not formed the same relationship with Lisa – although he has come to care for her in his own way – and suggests that they leave her out of their plans for her own safety. He knows that, once they leap into the final stretch of their scheme, there is no turning back. Nine would rather see Lisa uninvolved than dirtied by their vengeful intentions. Where Five sees that Sphinx may have a future, provided that they are not allowed to move forward with their plan, Nine sees Lisa similarly. As long as she does not involve herself further, there is hope for her future.
Meanwhile, Twelve sees potential in a different future. One outside of the Sphinx and terrorism. He feels hope from building a relationship with another person, rather than a spray-painted word on the floor of a nuclear facility, and can no longer drum up the same despair that he once had.