Mawaru Penguindrum – 01

Categories: First Impressions | July 20th, 2011 | No Comment

This shows background visuals instantly reminded me of Trapeze. Some other parts seemed like a cheap copy of Shaft whereas both visual elements don’t really fit together. In terms of weirdness Mawaru Penguindrum comes pretty close to Trapeze but where the first one had a clear goal for each patient this show feels random and erratic.

It starts with the drastic transition between drama and comedy. Of course, it’s great to lighten up even the darkest drama sometimes but this episode went a little bit too far in my eyes. It changed its tone so drastically that I always had to change my impression from one extreme to the other: “Okay, it’s comedy” -> “Okay, it’s drama” -> “Okay, it’s comedy with drama” -> “Okay, it’s drama with comedy”. Even after I finished watching I still didn’t figure out what tone the series will be having. In fact, it didn’t even get more complex because besides Slice of Life it somehow added even Magical Girls stuff into the mix.

This magical girl transformation sequence was the weirdest moment in the whole episode by the way. Not because of its crazy but extremely well animated visuals but because it jumped out of nowhere, without any warning given whatsoever. In one moment the guys are talking about the visible but at the same time not so visible penguins, in the next moment the girl screams “Survival Strategy!” and this weird and ass long transformation sequence begins. You know, at least one or two sentences from Himari’s hat would’ve helped to at least connect those two completely different scenes.

Well, whatever. What drags the following sequence down significantly is the fact that even when the hat (?) starts to talk it doesn’t give that much explanation. One thing of substance it says in all this cloth changes is “Obtain the Penguindrum.” Okay. The other thing we learn is that for extending the life of the girl the hat takes compensation from one of her brothers, which seems to be either his heart or his life force.

How those two very different aspects are connected to each other is not answered. Since not much information is given for us to understand the current situation anyway, I guess next week will cast some light on that matter. I hope.

It’s clear that this installment focused on the main characters and the situation they’re in: the characters are a family of three. Two brothers, one sister. Their parents died years ago and the sister Himari is gravely ill and only has some days/weeks/months left to live. Since the brothers are head over heels for her to the level of being incestuous they’re not amused by this situation (in the over-dramatic anime way). They try to cope with it and want to make her life as nice as possible. One action they take to make her life nice is a visit to the aquarium which seems to be the trigger for all the events that unfold in this and probably the rest of the episodes of this series. Or let me be more precise: it’s the moment they buy the hat that seems to be the trigger for everything.

The biggest drama is of course the midpoint of this episode when Himari collapses in the usual anime way: in one moment she’s completely fine, in the next her condition is grave. Instead of a guy it’s a girl surrounded by her male harem. Instead of the usual fever she dies, resulting to some heavy drama. When I watched this sequence I noted two things, though. Number One: why did Himari leave her brother alone and go outside, especially when she might have felt that her condition became worse? Number Two: how did the hat end up on her head after she died? There are two possibilities to answer those questions: either the creators did a piss poor job or they have a plan. Judging by the high ambition this series has I assume for the moment it’s the plan, although the cliché setting of her collapsing is no good sign.

At the moment there’s some hype surrounding this anime, which you can best see in this blog post and the comments below it. Heck, the hype there is even that strong that any disagreeing opinion is cast aside as trolling.

Well, I for my part am not on the hype train. Sure, this series might be very well become the best of this season. It’s ambitious and intense both dramatically and visually. But the beginning is too erratic and uses too many clichés in light of its own ambition.

I say let’s wait and see how this one turns out.

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