Earlier this year, I watched David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Then I revisited Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Mawaru Penguindrum.
Just over four and a half minutes into the short film, paneling appears in Doukyuusei.
First, the hands of guitarist Hikaru Kusakabe appear in an isolated panel, centered over black. Next, his band is shown with the lead singer thrashing wildly, the drummer’s hands and hair nearly a smear in the background. Finally, Hikaru is shown again, isolated and still, save his strumming hands.
In this moment, he’s thinking of his classmate — and soon-to-be significant other — Rihito Sajou. The band moves around him, but he’s lost in his own world, as shown by isolating his moving fingers in a panel and later, his still body in a full frame. Paneling is used a few times in Doukyuusei, always to display heightened emotion or to draw attention to the feelings of a specific character. It reminded me of the currently-airing series Scum’s Wish, which uses paneling as its primary visual technique.
“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.
“You really don’t know what happened, do you? It doesn’t matter. By all means, stay in this cozy coffin of yours and continue to play prince.”
-Anthy Himemiya to Akio Ohtori, Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 39
Each Kunihiko Ikuhara series begins with a system, and the system always remains, even at the series’ end.
Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s fourth episode reintroduces us to Lulu Yurigasaki as a princess trapped by her inability to accept the love of her brother. When unoccupied with nefarious activities like boxing up her younger brother and kicking him into volcanoes, Lulu spends the majority of her leisure time isolated in a tower befitting a story book princess. Similar to the use of Himari Takakura’s bedroom decor in Mawaru Penguindrum, Lulu’s surroundings, and how they change throughout the episode, reveal quite a bit about her situation and desires.