Seizon senryaku, bitches.
(I don’t usually spoiler tag things because I expect people to realize that this is a very spoilery blog, but just in case, MAJOR CONTENT SPOILERS for Mawaru Penguindrum.)
If you’ve followed this blog, or anything I’ve written about anime at all in the past decade, you know that my favorite anime of all time is Mawaru Penguindrum. Naturally, it’s also my top anime of the decade. Although other series on the decade list may change places over time, some slipping out of contention with others (Revue Starlight) moving up after more consideration, time, and rewatches, Penguindrum‘s place is absolute in both a decade top ten and as my all-time favorite.
Although I had watched Kunihiko Ikuhara’s first independent (see: not Sailor Moon, a.k.a. under the thumb of Toei Animation) work Revolutionary Girl Utena prior to Penguindrum and loved it, Utena didn’t slap me in the face like Penguindrum did. Where Utena was leisurely and sometimes meandering, Penguindrum‘s first episode was a triumph — a colorful explosion that successfully integrated whimsical magical realism, three likable siblings, and intriguing monologues about fate with haunting musical and visual cues.
I later learned that these monologues were almost word-for-word copies of written accounts with Aum Shinrikyo members interviewed by Haruki Murakami for his book Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. Saying that Penguindrum is about the 1995 Tokyo Subway attacks is technically correct, but that’s only half the story. Through the story of the Takakura family and others at the periphery of their lives, Ikuhara deftly tells a story of societal pressure and the danger of simply “othering” people without looking at the larger social factors influencing their behavior. It’s a story that’s very Japanese at its core, but has a far-reaching universal message. Living may be the punishment, but it can be circumvented by reaching out and truly loving other people. It feels like I learn something new every time I rewatch it, and am about to finish up yet another rewatch in a few days with a friend who is watching it for the first time.
From a more meta perspective, Penguindrum inspired me to stick with blogging about anime as a hobby. I wouldn’t be writing here if it weren’t for Penguindrum and honestly, I also wouldn’t be an esports writer if it weren’t for Penguindrum either, simply due to the people it introduced me to, who in turn introduced me to various League of Legends professionals and streamers. More importantly, it introduced me to lifelong friends in the blogging community.
I’ve now been blogging about anime for nearly ten years.