Mawaru Penguindrum User Reviews

Mawaru Penguindrum is an anime series
Write a Review 3 user reviews Average score of 8.3 / 10 for Mawaru Penguindrum
The most thought-provoking and elaborate title of 2011. Reviewed by Dream on Dec. 23, 2011. Dream has written 152 reviews. His/her last review was for Golden Time. 313 out of 328 users recommend his reviews. 2 out of 2 users found this review helpful.
Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, the same mind responsible for the surreal and complex symbolism portrayed in 90s anime Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum is just as surreal and complicated in its exploration of the issues faced by the Takakura siblings as Kanba and Shouma try to find the means necessary to save the life of their younger sister Himari as she is living on borrowed time from a strange entity known as the Princess of the Crystal. As one should expect from Penguindrum if they've seen Utena, not all is what it seems on the surface with the many characters and elements we come to encounter throughout the series. Characters that seem hostile or friendly have ulterior motives for their actions and their personal beliefs may or may not be as just as one would think. Not to mention that while the series does start off seemingly light-hearted as we see the family life of the Takakuras in earlier episodes while tailing the obsessive stalker with a crush Ringo, there are hints to a darker side yet to come and this darker side comes full force by the time the second half of the show comes about as we learn of the true motivations and realities behind the show's characters and elements, a good amount of which proved to be quite shocking to this reviewer yet made sense considering the good amount of foreshadowing the series provided in earlier episodes to prove that something else was up.

Penguindrum is quite psychological and symbolic in its developments focused around its exploration of existentialism, or fate to the characters in the series. The series explores the mental states of its characters as we learn more about their backgrounds and developments as they are connected to other characters and elements. It also makes use of surrealism and philosophical elements in its exploration of a number of touchy social issues connected to the backgrounds of its characters such as child abuse, abandonment, cult activity, social status and sexuality; as well as examining character beliefs regarding existentialism from their tragic pasts. The show's more mystic elements such as the diary carried around by Ringo and the strange penguin companions that accompany each of the Takakura siblings, outside of their relevant roles at adding aspects to Penguindrum's plot, also help at exploring aspects to the characters beyond their outward appearance as this is a series that definitely shows everything on the surface is not as it seems.

In terms of presentation, the visuals to Penguindrum are used to full effect in the series to contribute to its surreal and symbolic elements with its plot and characters. The extraordinary places that characters enter such as the world of the Princess of the Crystal and Train of Fate help create otherworldly elements to the series much like the Rose Duels and the Gates to Revolution did in Utena that serve to enhance the surreal feel that this series gives off. The show also has a penchant for using seemingly irrelevant objects and details like apples, subway route signs and penguins prominently which play a much bigger symbolic role than one would assume. It has a lively presentation with bright, vivid colors and a great amount of visual detail used in its settings and characters. For the show's soundtrack, it has a fairly diverse soundtracks as many episodes in the series come with their own ED songs. The OP and ED musical choices are J-Pop (with some occasional use as insert tracks), yet the moods are either fairly upbeat or slow-paced to reflect on the events that took place within an episode that they fit well at every point they were used.

With its complex symbolism and characterization, Mawaru Penguindrum isn't my personal favorite anime of 2011 for nothing. There hasn't been a TV anime title this elaborate in the execution of its plot/ character development and symbolism that I've seen of anime titles made in recent years. It reminds me of titles like Serial Experiments Lain and Utena that require you to think about what message the series is trying to convey to its audience and keep you wondering what will become of the characters as they come to know more about the world they are diving into. Whether you like deep-thinking titles or any title with a well-thought out plot and characters, you should definitely give Mawaru Penguindrum a shot.
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