Friday, 5 August 2011

Mawaru Penguindrum - Episode 5

After turning around a largely comedic episode via quite the unexpected twist at the end of its previous instalment, this fifth episode of Mawaru Penguindrum soon brings us up to speed with the fate of "the girl in the red heels" - she's certainly well and truly alive and kicking, but it seems that she saw a little too much for the liking of her "friend", the decidedly odd Natsume.

Aside from that particular offshoot, this week's instalment is set against the backdrop of a flashback to nine years previously, as we see a young Himari suffering gravely from a fever while a typhoon rages overhead.  With no ambulances available to take care of their daughter, Himari's father takes matters into his own hands by braving the storm to carry her to hospital on foot - a decision aped by Kanba which almost leads to disaster, but eventually all's well that ends well.  This particular story serves as an anchor for Kanba's behaviour throughout this episode, most pertinently as he learns that the house he and his siblings reside in is likely to be sold by his uncle, splitting up the remainder of their family as a result - of course, this all ultimately boils down to money; money which Kanba somehow manages to acquire via an unknown medium, but one which seems to tie into numerous other aspects of the series in some shape or form.

Of course, all of this isn't to say that Ringo's part in proceedings have been forgotten - after a "date" with her father (which intriguingly ties Ringo in to the same aquarium which provided Himari's "magical" hat), she sets out looking for another date with destiny as it relates to Tabuki, only to have her dream well and truly crushed underfoot on this occasion with no redemption in sight.  As she walks dejected through the soaking rain, she happens across Shou and Himari who invite her to dinner, bringing about a heated argument between Shouma and Ringo as the former tries to get hold of the latter's diary - as the truth comes out about the whole affair, so Ringo is drawn into the "survival strategy" in a chain of events which almost have disastrous consequences.

Given how that light-hearted fourth episode suddenly turned decidedly dark as it came to a close, it's no real surprise to see the entirety of this week's instalment entering similar territory, albeit of course not without the comedic flourishes of our team of invisible penguins couple with the general absurdity of much of the situation.  Equally as unsurprising is that we're left with even more questions and very few answers as this episode goes about its merry business - we still no nothing about Natsume or her red-shoed friend, Kanba seems to have some very interesting contacts we know jot about, and Ringo's diary of fate feels like something of a mystery even to her.  Hell, even Himari's father's jacket seems to tie in to the show's penguin theme.

Once again, all of this is wrapped up in what is very much a compelling package; visually striking and with the unnerving ability to juggle death and comedy penguins at the exact same time as it gleefully throws information and occurrences at you and then dares you to make sense of them.  It also knows how to deliver its set piece moments - sure, the "survival strategy" scenes and largely lazily repetitive, but then all of a sudden Ringo turns this week's outing into that technicolour netherworld on its head, while even the vital struggle between cycling Kanba, cute penguin and articulated lorry proved to be surprisingly tense viewing.  Is Mawaru Penguindrum still the best show of the summer?  You know what, it probably is.

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