August 8, 2013

Anime Review: Mawaru Penguindrum - A Hidden Gem

Hello World, a new face appears. Let’s start off with a brief introduction.

My name is Henna Salim, and I am Canadian, a female and a lover of anime. I will be posting reviews on various animes. I will try my best, so look forward to it!

Note: I am Canadian, so the spelling of some words may be different. Example: colour, favourite, etc.

Takakura Himari has an illness, one that gives her just months to live with her older twin brothers, Kanba and Shouma. In order to create lasting memories with Himari, the siblings go on a trip to a penguin aquarium. Shouma decides to buy a penguin hat as a souvenir for Himari, but she disappears, and is found on the ground, dead. In the midst of the twins’ despair, she is miraculously revived by a spirit possessing the penguin hat. In exchange for extending Himari’s life, the spirit demands for an item: a Penguindrum. Unaware its significance, the twins desperately begin their search, while unraveling hidden secrets and broken pasts.

A heart-warming and thought-provoking story:
Mawaru Penguindrum starts off simple: find the Penguindrum or else your sister will die. However, the viewer quickly learns that is not the case. There are several elements that are crucial to developing and advancing the story. Fate is the first and it is constantly referred to. Does everything happen by fate? Is there even such a thing as fate? Some question its purpose while others embrace it wholeheartedly. Symbolism is the second important element in this anime. Every detail, picture, or object has a purpose. Nothing shown in the anime is unnecessary, which is a bonus for viewers, like myself, who hate meaningless scenes.

From there, the story unfolds rather slowly at first, focusing on character relationships, often using consistent and natural comedic relief that really draws you into the anime. This slow pace is essential, because once the true motives are discovered, the plot escalates towards a dark and violent end. Several plot twists occur, leaving you edge with questions and longing for answers. Hurdling towards the end, this anime drills one question into your mind: how far would you go for someone you love?

Unlike Angel Beats, which concluded with its sad scene, Mawaru Penguindrum’s perfect execution continues until the very end, leaving the viewer in tears and their hearts shattered. Though the painful ending is hard to accept, it completes the masterpiece that Mawaru Penguindrum is.  

Stunning Artwork:
Mawaru Penguindrum has a uniquely colourful art style. Judging simply from the art, one would assume this was a childish and joyful anime yet the art masks the darker, hidden elements. The vibrant colours may appear too much but after realizing their misfortune pasts, the characters deserve a splash of colour.

I mean, look at this kitchen!

The animation also is terrifically done. The opening and ending scenes are spectacular, the clips are fluid and are well-incorporated with the music. After watching the anime a second time, you realize that the opening contains several clues and objects that are essential later on in the anime.

How extra characters are drawn :)

Incredible Soundtrack:
The soundtrack used in this anime is a perfect reflection of the story itself. The opening is nothing bold and crazy, but it reminds me of Himari, with its soft and airy tone. This is one of my favourite openings to listen and to sing too. The inserted clips in the theater imagination were whimsical and appropriate for its scene. The seiyuu cast was phenomenal and each voice was perfect for their character.

Himari in the opening animation

Unique Characters with Terrific Development:
Mawaru Penguindrum does a wonderful job at avoiding typical character types. Sure, you need to include the players and the love-driven girls, but each character has unique, and sometimes disturbing, characteristics that set them apart.
This series has the best character developments since I have watched anime, which hasn’t been that long unfortunately. Through each emotional challenge, you can see the characters grow and develop their own personality. Flashbacks are included in this anime to further show how the character grew from their previous experiences, which is quite helpful.

Experience : A Wonderful Journey
Mawaru Penguindrum is one of the most enjoyable animes that I have ever watched. The story, characters, art and music literally draws you in and you experience everything on a personal level. There were moments where I laughed and cried, and moments where I questioned the existence of my life. That was how powerful this anime was and the effect it had on me.

Overall : A Masterpiece
Mawaru Penguindrum isn’t a typical action or romantic or comedic anime. It contains so many different elements, and combines it into one hell of an experience that is unlike anything else, leaving a lasting impression. A masterpiece that hasn’t been given enough recognition.

So, if you don’t mind questioning your reason of existence or riding an emotional roller coaster, I would highly recommend watching Mawaru Penguindrum.