Super Frog Saves H-trio — Himari Takakura and the divine

Himari Takakura’s first brush with divinity came years before she met Sanetoshi in the library.

Forgive me, for I am about to blaspheme (a bit).

A recurring theme of Mawaru Penguindrum is various characters’ encounters with the divine. Godhood comes the form of Sanetoshi, Momoka Oginome, or Himari as the Princess of the Crystal and transforms the lives of Kanba and Shouma Takakura, Ringo Oginome, Keiju Tabuki, Yuri Tokikago and so on. Following these life-changing, mystical experiences, these characters spend the majority of Penguindrum‘s runtime trying to reconnect with that fleeting Other, beyond the scope of humanity.

When these spiritual elements of Penguindrum are discussed, it’s rarely Himari Takakura who is featured beyond her role as the princess. Himari becomes the Princess of the Crystal after she meets Sanetoshi and this, along with her scene with Shouma in the Child Broiler, is perceived as her default brush with the spiritual. From that moment, Himari is bypassed as someone who is trying to somehow hold onto her mystic experience and instead becomes an agent for others (particularly Kanba). Of all characters who have brushes with the divine, Himari is the one who is most accepting of it as a fleeting encounter.

Her scene with Shouma is important in determining why this is, even if she doesn’t remember for most of the series that it was Shouma with whom she shared the fruit of fate. Shouma reached out to Himari and she was able to separate herself from the other children in the Child Broiler: a sterile, terrifying representation of societal pressures as a whole. As Shouma himself says in his opening monologue about fate, “Because, ever since that day, none of us had a future and the only certain thing was that we wouldn’t amount to anything.” This is the certainty of the Child Broiler. Desperate, spiritual desire is one thing that helps lift people from the Child Broiler, naming them as “chosen,” as Momoka did for Tabuki and Yuri, and Shouma did for Himari.

Revisiting Super Frog Saves Tokyo, there’s a specific reason why this short story was chosen above Haruki Murakami’s other works while delving into Himari’s psyche: it’s about an average person. When Katagiri is enlisted by Frog to quell Worm before Worm’s actions have more horrific consequences, Katagiri is, for lack of a better phrase, a nobody. Frog and Worm are divine beings of sorts, two complementary but opposed halves of a whole that are meant to represent, among other things, nature itself. In Katagiri’s specific circumstance, Frog is good and Worm is bad, just as for most of Penguindrum, Momoka is regarded as good and Sanetoshi is regarded as bad. But this is inherent to Katagiri’s situation and his actions more than it is a universal truth. Similarly, we see Momoka and Sanetoshi most frequently through their most prominent agents: Ringo, Tabuki, and Yuri for Momoka, Kenzan and Cheimi Takakura for Sanetoshi.

Super Frog Saves Tokyo is one in a collection of Murakami short stories called after the quake, an attempt to reconcile or accept the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Unlike Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche — another favorite of Penguindrum‘s and a source of Shouma’s aforementioned monologue — Super Frog Saves Tokyo is about coming to terms with a force of nature beyond human control, and one human’s momentary heroism at the behest of nature. The important part is the Katagiri is average. His actions give Frog meaning, and this is the heroism.

Throughout Himari’s conversation with Sanetoshi, divine curator of her memories for that moment, Sanetoshi repeats that Himari is special. She has been chosen by fate. She is the bride of fate. And she must go to the destination of fate. Yet, Himari is also just as average as Katagiri. It’s Himari’s reaction to this fate, that elevates her character. Despite active memory repression or simply not remembering her childhood friends, Himari’s reaction is not at all similar to her adoptive parents’ reactions — Kenzan and Chiemi were members of a cult not unlike Aum Shinrikyo and perpetrators of the Penguindrum version of the 1995 Tokyo Subway Attack. Much of this has to do with her early childhood friendship with Shouma.

Himari had another formative “divine” encounter years ago, in elementary school, through her friendship with Hibari and Hikari.

As the idol group Double H, Himari’s childhood friends Hibari and Hikari become a Greek chorus element within Penguindrum, cheekily winking at the viewing audience from their subway advertisements. During Himari’s first visit to Sanetoshi and his mystical library, we learn that her second divine encounter was with this idol duo now called Double H. They were originally going to debut with Himari as Triple H, until Himari was pulled from school and her parents’ crimes became public.

Year’s later, Himari discovers that her two friends went on to become idols in, as Sanetoshi says, possibly the most hurtful way: she sees one of their advertisements on the subway, and then sees them on television. Separated from them due to circumstances beyond her control (her parents were discovered to have been behind the terrorist attacks on the subway) she could have easily despaired and returned to the Child Broiler.

Himari, despite obvious jealousy and disappointment that she didn’t become an idol with them, later knits them scarves as a symbol of their lasting friendship — scarves are another call-out to her childhood friendship when Shouma “chose her” — from her hospital bed. She struggles with these feelings, ultimately giving up and throwing them away, saying that her former friends wouldn’t want presents from “someone like her,” implying that the weight of her parents’ sins carries over.

One of Sanetoshi’s more interesting decisions in Penguindrum is that he sends these scarves to Hibari and Hikari, despite Himari’s momentary despair. Like Himari’s discovery that Hibari and Hikari became idols at all, this discovery is also somewhat by chance via a television program. Even in the library, he continuously pokes and prods at this particular wound of Himari’s, but he never seems to be actively trying to recruit her into his post-apocalyptic vision as he did her parents. When discussing Penguindrum, Sanetoshi is frequently slotted in as a stand-in for Aum leader Shoko Asahara, but he’s also more than that: a divine element to be interpreted with less rigidity.

It’s no coincidence that Double H specifically are idols in practice because they are Himari’s idols having been her friend at an important time in her life. The moment that Hibari and Hikari react not with disgust but by actively reaching out to Himari transforms her life. This, and her prior encounter with Shouma, helps Himari, like Katagiri before her, transform what she is given into something extraordinary for others. It doesn’t stop with Double H, and even more miraculously, Double H reciprocate Himari’s feelings, proving that their friendship isn’t conditional. Ultimately, Himari’s sacrifice is that she chooses to live, despite the pain inherent to being alive. Her heroic nature in choosing this comes from relationships with her found brothers (Shouma and Kanba) and her childhood friends (Hibari and Hikari).

In conclusion, the above image — a throwaway scene towards the end of the series where Double H have tried to visit Himari only to be told by Ringo that she’s not home — speaks volumes. Shouma, Himari’s original divine encounter that saved her from the Child Broiler, passes by the disguised Double H, friends that Himari was able to make and continue passing the fruit of fate forward, so to speak. It tells us what Himari’s choice is before she makes it.

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