Anime Review: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 1

Anime Review:
Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 1

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don’t have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Mawaru Penguindrum is a weekly television anime series starting in July 2011 from the creator of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Two older brothers take care of their ailing younger sister Himari, who is saved from death by a spirit residing in a penguin-shaped hat. With the assistance of three “helper-penguins” that only the three siblings can see, they must search for the mythical “Penguin Drum” in exchange for extending Himari’s life.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

ep. tl;dr review: Penguins and sibling love, and sibling death, and a healthy dose of LSD.

Episode Summary: Himari has been diagnosed with an inoperable disease and has mere months to live, at most. So her older brothers Shouma and Kanba do everything then can to make every day of her life count. Declaring a special “Himari Day”, she requests to visit the local aquarium, where they visit the penguin display and she buys a strange penguin hat. Suddenly she collapses, is taken to the hospital and dies. While Shoum and Kanba are grieving, she suddenly shoots awake, shouting “Survival Strategy!”, and the doctor declares it a miracle. Back home the next day, they fall back into the routine of life, but receive a strange package. They discover it contains three penguins that only the three of them can see, which help them in their daily tasks. But when Himari dons her hat, she is suddenly possessed by some strange being, and they are all magically transported to another world, where the spirit exclaims they must search for the Penguin Drum in exchange for extending Himari’s life.

My Impressions: What the fuck did I just watch?

No. Seriously. What the fuck did I just watch? What is this, I don’t even…

Going into this show was an adventure, because other than a vague description and the names of the production staff, very little was known about Mawaru Penguindrum in the anime summer season previews. A near-total mystery. I’ll take Pot Luck for $200, Alex.

For starters, a note about the character designs and the artwork. The designs are by one of the up-and-coming darlings of the manga community Lily Hoshino. She’s best known for all sorts of yaoi manga that I’ve never heard of…but I am familiar with her work on last year’s Otome Youkai Zakuro, which I can’t *quite* recommend as a series but by god the artwork is truly gorgeous!

But it’s not just the character designs. Great pains have also been taken in detailing the locations and the background, especially with their “well-lived-in” house with details down to the toothbrushes by the sink. And the quirky storytelling with the stylized animation sequences are hard to miss. I do worry that the style may overshadow the substance (e.g. Shinbo and Shaft), but so far I can roll with it, primarily because there *is* a story to be told here. I just can’t quite figure out what it *is* yet.

It all starts rather innocently, with two brothers doting over their darling little sister. It’s all cozy and laid-back as they go about their normal daily routine, albeit quite bittersweet because they know that she is living on borrowed time. Yet as long as Himari is happy (and she truly is happy), they’re happy as well. So it’s all that much more painful when she collapses and dies without warning. Just like that she is gone.

And then she’s not. Alive and awake, they really don’t know what is going on, other than they are grateful she is well, returning back to their normal life as if nothing had happened (or rather not wanting to think about what had happened). And here is where things turn weird, as if that tab of acid is finally starting to kick in halfway through the episode. It starts with the mysterious helper penguins (not realistic like this, but closer to looking like a Chiyo-chan penguin like this). Then the penguin hat is on Himari’s head, she lets out a hearty “Survival Strategy!” yell, her eyes and demeanor change and it’s off to fairy tale land. Suddenly I’m tripping tripping tripping tripping trippingtrippingtrippingtrippppinnngggtrpntntngngtrting….aaahaaahahhhhhh!!!!

Yeah, it doesn’t make sense at all. It’s crazy on toast. And I WANT MOAR. I still can’t tell whether this is a good show or not, but one thing is for sure: I’m intrigued. And that’s a good sign.

One disturbing sign is as the first episode closes, one of the brothers gives Himari a goodnight kiss. I really hope it’s just a sign of deep sibling love, and not a sign of something more…disturbing. Please god no.

On the other hand, the ending theme Dear Future by Coaltar of the Deepers is probably the mostest awesomest alt shoegazer-dreampop Jpop song I’ve heard in anime in the past year. Perhaps a bit of The Breeders or Luscious Jackson, maybe some Catherine Wheel, or maybe a dash of Cocteau Twins, definitely some Gwenmars mixed in there. More, please.

The verdict: – (Elin, you were looking for shows to check out? Here ya go!)

For more information:

Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • “Okay, maybe I don’t understand half of this, but it’s just so weird that it’s extremely fascinating. The characters are likeable, the setting is colorful, and I have no idea where this is going! Squeee this is going to be so much fun!” – Meeping Anime
  • “I have no fucking clue what this show is all about. I want it to surprise me with everything that it got, and surprised I am. I immediately like all three protagonists, maybe not so much on Himari but yeah I warm up to them real quick. Grade: 9/10.” – Conspicuous Klux
  • “All in all, I didn’t get bored for a second, and I found Mawaru Penguin Drum to be bloody brilliant. If you can handle shows that constantly have something going on, and are willing to deal with a ton of quirkiness, I recommend it. I just hope it continues to blow me away. Grade: 5/5.” – Moeronpan
  • “Frankly, it’s a bit of a mess but that isn’t a problem right now because the sense of uncontrolled insanity is a big part of the attraction. I could see this show having something of the appeal of Oh! Edo Rocket – a bright, loud and sometimes outright bizarre melding of styles and genres that builds up to a memorable whole. Alternatively, it could just end up being a complete disaster – that’s the risk of genius.” – Lost in America
  • “It’s just that, brilliantly, I have absolutely no idea what’s to come of it and where things can head. Hop aboard the Ikuhara train and enjoy!…Wow! I’m contemplating watching this episode over again…To put it simply, Mawaru Penguindrum is all kinds of awesome…Oh god, where do I start with this one. Right from the first episode I am already hooked and this might just be my favorite show of the season.” – Metanorn (4 reviewers in 1)
  • “The different characters play off each other wonderfully, making actual good use that they’re siblings and know each other for their entire lives. Now, on top of that it has a smashing soundtrack, the best background art of the season (and it knows this), it has very strong direction, makes excellent use of repetition, it’s actually got a number of new visual ideas, the transformation sequences kick a ludicrous amount of ass, the plot twist in this episode was an awesome and unexpectedly delivered way to start the story off and the final second… just the final second. Potential: 95%.” – Star Crossed Anime Blog
  • “As of now, there are just a ton of questions that this series has left open to the viewers. Really, it’s a great opener episode that I can truly appreciate as an intricate, attention-grabbing start. Grade: 9.0/10.” – Emory Anime Club
  • “Mawaru Penguindrum’s 1st Episode is Untouchable Brilliance. I won’t say anything else because it feels like trying to explain how I feel about this show at this point, is useless and will read like high-brow elitist posturing. Yes, it has all those things going for it.” – Shameful Otaku Secret
  • “Wow… That was FABULOUS. So FABULOUS it makes Tiger & Bunny look about as fabulous as an aged sex pot. Colors! Penguins! Incest! Sex! Penguins! Transformation! Ninja penguins! Stripper angels! Redheads! FABULOUS!” – Sekijitsu


Thumbs-up for Round One: Busou Shinki: Moon Angel, Blood-C, Mawaru Penguindrum

Thumbs-down for Round One: Double J

Coming up next: Morita-san wa Mukuchi, Mayo Chiki, Kamisama Dolls, Nyanpire the Animation, Carnival Phantasm, Copihan, Yuruyuri, No. 6, Sacred Seven, Dantalian no Shoka, Uta no Prince-sama, The Idolmaster, Manyuu Hikenchou, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Kamisama no Memochou, Nekogami Yaoyorozu, Nurarihyon no Mago Second Season, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi, Twin Angel Twinkle Paradise, Baby Princess 3-D, Natsume Yuujinchou-san, Usagi Drop, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Second Season, Rou Kyuu Bu, R-15

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6 Responses to Anime Review: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 1

  1. Pingback: Anime Review: Recap of the Summer 2011 (after the 1st episodes) | This Euphoria!

  2. Pingback: Anime Review: Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 2 | This Euphoria!

  3. Pingback: Anime Review: Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 3 | This Euphoria!

  4. Pingback: Anime Review: Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 4 | This Euphoria!

  5. Pingback: Anime Review: Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 5 | This Euphoria!

  6. Pingback: Anime Review: Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 6 | This Euphoria!

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