Earlier this year, I watched David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Then I revisited Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Mawaru Penguindrum.
“I love the word ‘fate.’ You know how they talk about ‘fated encounters.?’ Just one single encounter can completely change your life. Such special encounters are not coincidences. They’re definitely . . . fate. Of course, life is not all happy encounters. There are many painful, sad predicaments. It’s hard to accept that misfortunes beyond your control are fate. But I think sad and painful things happen for a reason. Nothing in this world is pointless. Because, I believe in fate.”
-Ringo Oginome, Mawaru Penguindrum, Episode 2
Ringo Oginome is a complex character, steeped in guilt, longing, love, and later, forgiveness. Her many facets make her not only tolerable within the scope of Mawaru Penguidrum, but wholly lovable, despite her introduction in the series’ second episode as the stalker of the Takakura brothers’ homeroom teacher.
She’s introduced with a grand speech about fate, rivaling the iconic opening monologue from Shouma Takakura in the series premiere and the equally passionate closing words of his brother Kanba that bookend the episode.
She’s also introduced with a toilet flush, stars wafting from the bowl like a lingering, undeniable stench.
It’s been a short while since we’ve seen Takuya Igarashi and Yoji Enokido together. The last time they teamed up as director and series composer/screenwriter respectively was 2014 Spring’s Captain Earth. Prior to that, the two worked together on Star Driver. Captain Earth started off strong — especially when it came to visuals and cinematography — but lacked Star Driver‘s self-awareness and over-the-top silliness while telling a similar story of adolescence and robots.
In fact, as a director and writer team, Igarashi and Enokido often seem more at home with comedic moments, or combining over-the-top comedy with a few poignant emotional narratives, than he does when attempting something wholly serious.
Near and dear to my heart, the Sailor Moon franchise is something that means a lot to me personally. I know I’m not alone in this, and my story isn’t particularly special. Sailor Moon resonates with an enormous amount of people, making it one of the most well-known anime franchises both in Japan and the west.
Upon watching the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal back in July 2014, I was ecstatic. While there were recognizable problems — primarily with the translation of Naoko Takeuchi’s character designs from the manga into animation — I overlooked them. Sailor Moon was back, with a promise to follow the manga more closely than its first anime iteration. My initial reaction was one fueled by nostalgia and emotional resonance.
As the weeks passed, poorly animated scenes, weak cinematography, and a general sense of laziness permeated Sailor Moon Crystal‘s presentation. Their schedule of one episode every two weeks made such glaring visual mistakes unforgivable in the eyes of the community. For me personally, Sailor Moon Crystal just made me sad to see a property that I cared about so much fail so miserably in creating any sort of resonance with me beyond my initial, rose-colored nostalgia glasses. After sticking with the first season for longer than I probably should have, I dropped the series.
It wasn’t fun. Sailor Moon Crystal was bad.
I don’t remember the first time I realized an inherently unfair societal norm or institution. The closest anecdote that comes to mind is a silly debate that divided my fifth grade class by the sexes. At stake was the ability to play flag football at recess with the boys, which had been recently outlawed by our teacher. There weren’t enough of us who wanted to play without having coed groups, so the recent ban against combining boys and girls had led to no flag football at recess for anyone.
Fortunately, our teacher was also the sort who generally wanted us to find our own answers, and thereby organized a debate. The girls team met that night at my friend Diana’s house. We researched previous legal cases, coordinated our outfits, and drew up charts with pertinent facts.
The debate itself was quite orderly. For their part, the boys weren’t as organized and didn’t care much about defending their position. Yet, when it came time for my teacher to make a decision, she still erred on the side of caution – and angry parents – by upholding the existing rule.