|Made By||Brains Base|
|# of Episodes||24|
Sum it up in a Sentence:
Well, there are penguins in it.
Mawaru Penguindrum centers on the three Takakura siblings, the two brothers Kanba & Shoma and their sickly younger sister Himari. One day while on a trip to the aquarium, Himari succumbs to her illness and dies. Miraculously, Himari is revived by a magical penguin-shaped hat. In exchange for their sister's life Kanba and Shoma are ordered to seek out the mysterious "penguin drum" with the help of three invisible penguins.
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I'm still not really sure exactly what this show was about, but that's arguably beside the point. As usual, Ikuhara relentlessly assaults the viewer with abstract symbolism, metaphor and obscure literary references to the point of utter bewilderment. Nevertheless, Penguindrum explores complex themes like fate, family, sacrifice and forgiveness with beautiful imagery, complex characters and a wonderful soundtrack. The show itself suffers from slight pacing problems and dodgy animation around the half-way point, but is ultimately a satisfying and truly unique exploration of human nature, culture and relationships.
Up until the halfway point, this show seems like some kind of delirious, insanely over-the-top stab at magical realism done by people who don't quite know what they're doing but are making up for it with sheer sensory overload. The characters are all crazy, all the time, the story takes impossible melodramatic twists that keep topping each other, and there's all sorts of wacky symbolism, flamboyant design, and fun dialogue. Coupled with that are some attempts at drama that are effective (episode 9 in particular grinds the pace to a screeching halt for a nearly-humorless but nicely lyrical outing). That part works really, really well.
Then in the second half, you can almost see Ikuhara at a desk going, "Oh shit... I need to wrap this up, and... hell, I'll play it all serious." The second half feels like an obtuse, overly dramatic, and poorly-planned mess got grafted onto something that was supposed to be gleefully insane and fun. There's the occasional flash of brilliance, and the occasional effective scene, but it struggles to get grounding. By the time we get to the nearly incoherent ending scenes, all the inventiveness of the early episodes seem like a distant memory.