Category Archives: Mawaru Penguindrum

Year in Review: Team Iri Wear Pants – Comedy Reigns in 2011

If Mawaru Penguindrum can be explained by the transfer of fates via the vehicle of an allegorical apple, then Fate/Zero can be explained by the wearing and ownership of pants. The idea here is that, well, what did Rider work to get? What did Saber wear? What did Iri wear? In Urobuchi’s world, people wear pants. I mean that is typically what happens during winter in Japan anyway. Without spoiling it for you, the winner of the Holy Grail War this time also wear pants. All who survived as participants wore pants. Pants is clearly necessary for survival in the Holy Grail War.

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I’m going to say that 2011 is the return of the comedy. There were a lot of funny shows in 2010, but it feels like the funnies have for the most part stayed for the year as well. What is notable is seeing more of it in serious shows. I think if OreTsuba can bust my guts laughing, anything can. The potential is there.

I mean, talking about Mawaru Penguindrum again, was it funny? It isn’t epic funny like those Nanami episodes in Utena, but there were good chuckles all along the way. And man, Ringo. Ringo!

I watched Nichijou and Sket-Dance this year, so that may have skewed things. I think Hanasaku Iroha sometimes is really funny, although I don’t think some of those instances were intentional.

Working!! returned, which is usually solid for a few laughs. Bakatest, too, had some really big ones, despite season 2’s more somber tone. Squid Girl S2 also was solid, again. Majikoi and Horizon had laughs, and the latter is as serious as Fate/Zero is. Haganai, for the most part, was still funny. Oh wait, I’m suppose to laugh at the manual stereo mage orbit talk was I?

R-15 was pretty funny, despite being more hetare-funny half the time. Twin Angel was all hetare-funny all the time (but it wasn’t THAT funny unfortunately). Yuruyuri had a couple gut-busters, which is pretty surprising. And in 2011 we learned the true meaning of being a mage.

Going back to the start of the year, we did have Mitsudomoe S2 (which was pretty funny for the most part). OreImo True End was funny enough. Level-E was epic. And, well, there was Qwaser S2.

Looking back I think I ended up watching more comedies this year than what is fairly represented, but that is probably because they didn’t suck, like, say, in 2009.

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This year I read both the fan-translated Kara no Kyoukai series and fan-translated Fate/Zero series. They are available here and here, respectively.

As a result, over large stretches of 2011 my mind is full of Type-Moon-ness. It is like a keg of kerosene to react to some spark from Type-Moon. But Fate/Zero isn’t that spark.

Carnival Phantasm is that spark that blew my mind. I’m not too sure what to make of it besides that I have to fight that urge to import the whole thing. Because it doesn’t seem to make sense especially since I missed the boat on all that Take-Moon stuff way back when. I mean this is before Fate/Zero, sorta, and Fate/Zero’s been around the block once or twice already.

There is so much that goes on in that show. The visuals are engrossing and varied. It is funny. What the hell is going on? I don’t know. Does it matter? Not really.

The only regret left is that Fate/Zero content is not represented in Take-Moon, and thus missing in Carnival Phantasm. I mean, take a look at this to get an idea.

PS. #cp_dateall ftw.

PPS. ALTER! ALTER! ALTER!

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Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

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Why So Serious, #1?

I appreciate that cohesive trail of bread crumbs leading me from pasture from pasture, with sharks that you can jump over (while wearing leather jacket and a hairdo from the 70s) in between. I also greatly appreciate the work people pour into talking about Mawaru Penguindrum, and discovering the depth of its internal cohesion. I won’t link to them again, so I hope you know where to look already.

I just want to highlight something probably profound, and it sums in a nutshell the core complex as demonstrated by Ringo up to this point. This is in the form of a translated liner note from Utena R2 DVD release volume #2. Or rather, someone else had highlighted this

Let us suppose that a certain man has fallen in love at first sight with an idol he saw on TV. The possibility of him making the idol his lover is near zero, but it is not entirely zero. However, rare is the man who would strive with all efforts to make the idol his lover. Instead of making such effort, he buys her records, goes to her concerts and enters her fan club. In other words, he enjoys her as an “idol”. Such behaviour blurs his feeling of wanting to make her his lover. This world of ours is full of such blurriness. To say “no” to such blurriness and to strive for the object of your desire, you have no choice but to become a duelist and confront the world and all its cruelty in the face. Episode 7 (“Unfulfilled Juri”) is a story about “miracle”. Arisugawa Juri, who is a student council member highly regarded by all teachers, a national-level fencer and a beautiful young woman, had one weakness – “miracle”. It may seem contradictory that she believed requited love would be a “miracle,” and yet she denied that such miracle could possibly occur. If she truly believed that such love was unrequited for certain, then she might as well call it an impossibility instead of calling it a “miracle”. She called it “miracle” precisely because she wanted it to occur even though it was unlikely to occur. The reason why she wanted to deny it is because she knew the pain of not obtaining it. May we not say that Juri was the most duelist-like duelist in the sense that she continued to be a duelist fighting for this miraculous power called “the power to revolutionize the world” while knowing this pain? Juri challenged Utena to a duel because the latter said she could believe in miracles. Juri was probably jealous of Utena’s innocence and felt angry. Juri lost the duel even though she was technically the superior fencer. Just as Miki who lost the duel due to “the shining thing” which was his weakness, Juri was defeated by Utena who fought the duel without such mental distractions.

To say “no” to blurriness, and to be defeated by the very thing that one stood up to fight for while knowing full well the hurt it would bring – that is the duelist’s sad fate.

What it reads like, to me, is some kind of fable in a modern world. It is serious! I mean, it’s a message that you can really take it to heart, and change the way you think about certain things in a drastic way. That’s great.

To switch gear completely: For me, what made Utena stick was not just its beautifully crafted visual and aural magic of modern themes, but also its spot-on comedy. Yes, in other words, I watch Mawaru Penguindrum for the penguins, too. What I find kind of disturbing is how few people find that an important part of the show.

Well, I should correct myself: a lot of people probably do; but it isn’t in vogue to talk about comedy. Still, it’s such an integral part of the presentation. It’s really a matter of perspective in which I ask this question, thus:

Does Ringo make you laugh?

She does for me. She also goes over the line a lot of the times, and that’s partly what makes it a little weird to laugh at or with her.

I half think that when we see those 3d-popup children’s book scenes, that’s what’s really what we’re suppose to see, the lens in which we overlook Ringo’s conquest of Tabuki. There’s also another meta perspective about this: we already see the difference between Yuri and Ringo’s play on Keiju’s mind and emotion, when Ringo and Shoma do their slapstick show involving carps, frogs, and what not. I mean, sure, someone did get run over by a car and that is not a laughing matter (in real life), but is it here? Not if #2 has anything to say about it.

In a way I think 2dt’s point about that “enjoy the show” mysticism is just a high brow brush to acknowledge that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and just by looking at the parts individually, we are at risk of missing the big picture. I think one of the risks is, like all jokes, the toaster oven of over-analysis. You don’t want to dry this stuff up of its humorous juices!

Mawaru Penguindrum 11

 


Mid-Summer Review, 2011

When the humidity is high and the  sun is making waves on steaming pavements, do you want to watch an anime like Aria, where the same is sometimes protrayed, or do you want to watch something from the deep freeze, like a scene from Spriggan? I don’t know, and it’s not like I’m getting either this summer.

So, a list of stuff I’m kind of watching.

I’m still keeping pace with No. 6. I want to start this post about No. 6 out because those … homoerotic gazes kind of bothers me when it’s put at the fore, so let’s put that to the fore. Those scenes bother me in the sense that “wait, there’s this long pause in which I am suppose to be feeling some kind of tension between the two male protagonists, but what kind of tension is it? Why is this pause here?” It kicks me out of the mind set in which I’m following this mystery about killer bee things, which is probably the main draw for the show. At least for non-fujoshi types. On a normal, sunny day, I typically like to think critically anyways. But when the show gives me a chance to–scratch that, more like when it invites criticism, I can’t help but to think in the negative. It isn’t necessarily a “wrong” on the show’s behalf, but that’s just how I roll. Some anime invite you to introspect, to reflect and consider what is happening in the story from a third-party perspective. Others invite you to take part in the action, to get the audience wrapped up in the narrative. There’s nothing special or good or bad about either approach. But sometimes the beams cross, so to speak. In the game of Magicka, it usually means an explosive, suicidal death. Thankfully anime is not some European-made exercise at self-infliction of pain.

I bring up Magicka because it is a game sold on its solid gimmicks. Gimmicks can be solid. I think this is why I still like R-15 a lot, half way through. The gimmicks, compared to, say, Yuruyuri, are random as hell and yet somewhat organic. It’s kind of like Xavier’s School for the Gifted; you have a bunch of kids who have some kind of special powers. Except by “power” we don’t mean cool mutant powers, but “the most random, most Japanese crap-anime plot generator” you can think of. Some of these “powers” are really creative; in order to top some of these, I have to go to fanfiction. And we typically don’t want to go there.

It’s easy to point to some show and say it is more organic than Yuruyuri. Because Yuruyuri is very…inorganic. I don’t know why and how, it just feels very stale in terms of its timing? Direction? Animation generally? I can’t quite put my finger on it. The writing works pretty okay with whatever that I feel that is stale, and once we can begin to tolerate the main characters, the jokes come alive. I think that might just be the strength of the writing to a degree. I don’t think the staleness is particularly a bad thing, it just makes it difficult to form a good first impression. When done right, staleness gives a show a unique flavor. Sometimes stale bread tastes good too!

Speaking of stale bread, Yune has the cutest scene with stale bread possibly in the history of anime. I mean, it isn’t something that comes into play on a regular basis. Croisee is a sharp anime, but it feels a little bit, shall we say, out of the water? It’s missing something, something big, that pushes the enjoyment level over the edge to the next level. For Aria, it was how it channels the mono no aware stuff, for example. As is, Croisee is just a cute and well-executed show.

That’s also what I’m going to say about Ro-Kyu-Bu. It’s just somehow one gets you branded as a lolicon and the other doesn’t, when in reality they’re kind of the same thing.

I am really enjoying Usagi Drop, but I also don’t really want to talk too much about it right now. Maybe when it’s all done. And maybe I’ll read the manga then.

I’m also really enjoying Mawaru Penguindrum, if it wasn’t clear. In a way this is the anime I always wanted after watching Utena. So it’s a long time coming. I just don’t think words do much against it; there’s a simple, calculated yet visceral point to the way the show is directed. It feels very theatrical (as in, a play) but yet not that over the top. Maybe I’m just too used to over-the-top stuff, but for a cartoon this is pretty okay. Given its Thursday lineup and the equal doses of girls-side pandering, I’m half suspect that this is real free-market competition versus noitanima.  Also it makes me suspect which show has done it before. It’s time to pander harder, Fuji TV.

I’m still keeping the pace with Sket Dance. It’s probably some form of penance. I guess without the trappings that Gintama is surrounded by, I find Sket Dance a cleaner version of kind of the same thing. It also slightly reminds me of Nadesico, in the way that Yurika and her crew would consistently making peace signs at the camera–something I am also watching it (similarly to how dm is watching CCS).

And oh, episode 16 was AWESOME. For a show as inorganic as this advance-formula Jump anime.

Blood-C? I guess I’m behind, but it isn’t bad. Just not really engaging until you get to episode 5…and I’m behind. It’s kind of a dangerous thing; nico comments boosts its entertainment value drastically, but I can’t say too much about the source material like this.

I’m also behind on Blue Exorcist and Tiger and Bunny. I just don’t have the time to catch up now that I’ve fallen behind. Maybe soon! I enjoy both shows (especially T&B) so hopefully I can make a run before some major climax goes to town.

Back to fresh stuff: The IdolM@ster is doing well. Is it canon to spell it “The Idol Master”  when the @ is an illegal character in the title? Or what? Anyways, this show doesn’t disappoint, but I don’t think my expectations was high in the first place. Still, given how much I loved episode 1, episodes 2-end have a lot to live up to. Also, this is definitely an anime that is made for the game fans, which is kind of refreshing. It’s done well enough to not bore me, giving us something of an episodic character focus while expanding on the rest of the crew, at least as much as they reasonably could. The Producer main character is interesting enough, which highlights something interesting coming from the game, too. Maybe someone can go wax poetic on the importance of assertion of the other self in first-person ADV games where the overall narrative is driven by intercharacter drama. Something a mix between Sakura Taisen and IdolM@ster?

Kamisama Dolls is pretty okay; I don’t particularly dig the character designs either (but it does make Utau cuter than she ought to be) but the story is snappy and enjoyable. There’s a little bit of everything to make it worth watching, even if the end is kind of telegraphed.

As for telegraphing, there’s a lot to be said about that in Nichijou. It’s pretty quality textbook example of how to do it. Is it doing the telegraphing right? For the most part; but that doesn’t automatically make the jokes work. For meta-humor of the direct kind…I’m not sure how to put it into words. It’s like if Nadesico (again) is an anime about meta of everything about itself, then Nichijou is just meta enough about the execution that it tries to do something about it. Where as a show like SeiZon is just straight-face meta. It’s like how in MLB, hitters adjust their swings to counter-game the scouting on them, over the long season?

Mayo Chiki is kind of the Seizon kind of meta, except it’s straightforward enough to make the jokes internally. Sadly it’s kind of boring if the lead characters don’t sell you. I’m not sure they’ve sold for me yet.

It’s a busy summer season that continues from a busy spring. Maybe Hanasaku Iroha continues to be the “bar” this year as to measure the effectiveness of anime to entertain. It flounders periodically and yet it hits the mark periodically, and like many series this year, the presentation is overall solid. What lies in the differences is how good they are at telling their stories. It’s also not a surprise the best storyteller anime (at least for battering average) is also one of the most popular and most anticipated series this year, Steins;Gate.

As for stories, totally random last note here, but big grats on Maaya Sakamoto x Kenichi Suzumura marriage. It is pretty awesome– they have canon OTP roles! There’s Shiki x Kokutou from Rakkyo, Haruhi x Hikaru from Ouran Host Club, Lunamaria x Shinn from Gundam SEED Destiny…and some not-as canon ones, like Sakaya Nakasugi x Shamyalan from Birdy Decode. Both are from the same agency, and despite the 5-yr age difference, Sakamoto got her debut before Suzumura. I guess they see themselves as from the same “era” or whatever. Anyway, congrats to two of my favorite voice actors! You can find a full pairing list here.


Summer 2011 Checklist

I better do this before Otakon washes me out. This being just a run-through on the interesting titles this season.

As usual, just because I couldn’t fit a show in here doesn’t mean it does not deserve it. I think it’s self-destructively amazing that I can still watch so much anime given my usual hours. And I’m writing about it. Probably just so I can then forget it and do something else. Anyways…

Are you ready? I’m ready. At least my body is ready, so they say.

Mawaru Penguindrum wins the visual award. I’m blogging it elsewhere, but hopefully it’ll make me want to write more about it here too.

Mood-wise, I am pretty partial to Kamisama no Memochu and Kamisama Dolls. The latter just makes me want to sing UNINSTALL for some reason. The former has that DRRR chic with match eccentric NEET-types. But I don’t know; both shows are wildcards in execution and plot departments.

A supposedly safer bet is Blood-C. In a lot of ways Blood+ was really flawed. Like a PS3 is flawed. Blood-C has potential to reboot the brand, while retaining what is attractive and boot what isn’t from its predecessors. But each reimagination sucks the life out of the original concept a little more than before. It’s also my Nico experiment target #1–something relatively high profile, good viewer numbers, and hopefully some slick comments will feature-add over the dumb comments.

Twin Angel is also a Nico experiment, except for the reverse of course. I now truly understand what people mean when they said they’ve watched really crappy anime on Nico that they would not have otherwise.

I thought the same for  R-15. The truth is, it’s the creative sort of crap anime that is sufficiently enticing that I would probably continue to watch it even without the Nico snipping. It may be a typical harem kind of show, but it’s sufficiently deviant from the norm to be amusing and thought-provoking (at least a little).

And that is way more praise than I can give for shows like Black Rabbit. I feel all Kuroneko about this anime, in the sense that it’s some pathetic chuunibyou attempt to cash in on some thing by using the most unoriginal source material. That is probably too harsh, but at least in Yumekui Merry there’s some kind of moe factor along with a sharp directional sense. We don’t get either in this. And why am I slamming Yumekui Merry? Obviously Index is the real true public enemy #1.

Dantalian at least looks passably okay. Nico comments do help it go a little farther, like Blood-C. But I’m not excited.

Nekogami Yaoyorozu is… Touhou animu. Too bad it’s not even funny.

The real dark horse this season is Ikoku Meiro no Croisée. I mean, it’ll be all culturally relevant and iyashikei with moe power over 9000. “A Jasc show” by all means. It’s got that huge advantage only because there is nobody pissing on it as everyone is too busy pissing on Usagi Drop. Grrrr.

Total aside, isn’t it ironic how a bit over a year ago Funimation has noitaminA on that partnership lockdown? Look at things now! Zero shows!

I think Number 6 will get its audience; the drama (in the noitaminA format) should be compelling as long as there’s some substance. It can’t be worse than Jyuohsei. And I watched Jyuohsei. Oh poor me.

The real guilty pleasure this season is obviously Ro-Kyu-Bu. And I’m doing it for the seiyuu marketing. Yeah. That’s it. But more seriously, if it can stay true for its three-episode-pilot about team building and your garden variety sports drama tropes, I can’t see how it’ll turn out badly. Unless you count the FBI breaking things up as a bad end.

Oh, speaking of those 3-ep-pilots, I thought R-15 ep2 was in every way superior than ep1. It’s like watching two different shows, the differences. Ro-Kyu-Bu also had a similar difference, but that’s more because the plot stuff didn’t kick in full gear until episode 2. What’s up with that?

Then again some shows are still playing true to formula. I’m not sure what I’m suppose to do with Sacred Seven. I probably will pass on it until I catch up on Blue Exorcist. Or something equally unlikely. It’s not bad, just not good enough.

But sometimes not good enough is fine, if you’re the only thing that airs on CR (so I can watch it on the road via 3G streaming) on Monday (man I miss Kaminomi). YuruYuri is just that.

Kind of wish that is true for Mayoi Chiki too. As is tho, it might not matter–if I can’t get to episode 2 by the time episode 4 airs, the odds are low that I will ever watch it.

Is this it? Probably not. I have a couple more shows that I want to try (ie., Manyuu!). I think I’m watching still a lot of shows left over from last season, which cuts into the new shows I can pick up. And then there’s stuff coming back like Bakatest. Oh well.

So the net total is pretty good; we’re talking about just two shows that I find even at all notable that isn’t getting a simulcast. Even Morita-san has it. Now we can argue about 1 hr or 24 hr or 72 hr or 144 hr or whatever, or if we can even call it simulcast (I don’t think we should), but in my book any of those is better than never.


Mawaru Penguindrum Episode One, Three Days After

My thought of episode 1 of Mawaru Penguindrum is not too dissmiliar to my thoughts after my first run-in with FLCL: very entertained, intrigued, very intrigued, rather. It’s got your Ikuhara-style sexuality (both visually and baked in the story) laced with hints of confusion. I think sexy-confusion is pretty sexy. It’s like a drug. And for that to work, it’s gotta haul butts on the technical; Penguindrum is quite the visually engrossed work. Arguably, it’s one of the best looking anime this year thus far. The sexuality piece is exactly how it plays in Utena. The fairy tale angle, too, except I don’t think that is being the focus this time. It’s too early to say too much about themes, although there’s a lot of food for thought already.

I’m also curious as to what others have to say about it. Below is a link list to other blogs that talked about the first episode. If I missed someone, it’s because I missed someone when I combed animenano’s feed. I’m sure plenty of people are talking about Penguindrum, so that’s going to happen.

And here they are, in no particular order:

Note on SHAFT: I think it’s very good that people are picking up that piece. Some of the directorial tricks are indeed seen in recent SHAFT works, extensively, and people picked them up. I already have made an argument about SHAFT-isms and its timing. I think Penguindrum would, too, be even more awesome if it aired in, say, 2009. Just so it can get more mileage out of the tricks nobody was using (so much) back then. Out of this sample of 22 posts only one person talked in depth about the typography and the communication design aspect. I thought that whole thing was a big part component of its visual presentation, and it’s also a thing Shinbo x SHAFT employed extensively. It is not without purpose, but for us avid viewers, especially the newer types, it’s going to be what we’re used to. I mean, I thought it was kind of interesting how it keeps on showing us train stuff. I guess we gotta wait until a train otaku blogs Penguindrum.

On that note, the Galactic Railroad thing is pretty neat. Good to see it in detail already.