Why So Serious, #1?

I appreciate that cohesive trail of bread crumbs leading me from pasture from pasture, with sharks that you can jump over (while wearing leather jacket and a hairdo from the 70s) in between. I also greatly appreciate the work people pour into talking about Mawaru Penguindrum, and discovering the depth of its internal cohesion. I won’t link to them again, so I hope you know where to look already.

I just want to highlight something probably profound, and it sums in a nutshell the core complex as demonstrated by Ringo up to this point. This is in the form of a translated liner note from Utena R2 DVD release volume #2. Or rather, someone else had highlighted this

Let us suppose that a certain man has fallen in love at first sight with an idol he saw on TV. The possibility of him making the idol his lover is near zero, but it is not entirely zero. However, rare is the man who would strive with all efforts to make the idol his lover. Instead of making such effort, he buys her records, goes to her concerts and enters her fan club. In other words, he enjoys her as an “idol”. Such behaviour blurs his feeling of wanting to make her his lover. This world of ours is full of such blurriness. To say “no” to such blurriness and to strive for the object of your desire, you have no choice but to become a duelist and confront the world and all its cruelty in the face. Episode 7 (“Unfulfilled Juri”) is a story about “miracle”. Arisugawa Juri, who is a student council member highly regarded by all teachers, a national-level fencer and a beautiful young woman, had one weakness – “miracle”. It may seem contradictory that she believed requited love would be a “miracle,” and yet she denied that such miracle could possibly occur. If she truly believed that such love was unrequited for certain, then she might as well call it an impossibility instead of calling it a “miracle”. She called it “miracle” precisely because she wanted it to occur even though it was unlikely to occur. The reason why she wanted to deny it is because she knew the pain of not obtaining it. May we not say that Juri was the most duelist-like duelist in the sense that she continued to be a duelist fighting for this miraculous power called “the power to revolutionize the world” while knowing this pain? Juri challenged Utena to a duel because the latter said she could believe in miracles. Juri was probably jealous of Utena’s innocence and felt angry. Juri lost the duel even though she was technically the superior fencer. Just as Miki who lost the duel due to “the shining thing” which was his weakness, Juri was defeated by Utena who fought the duel without such mental distractions.

To say “no” to blurriness, and to be defeated by the very thing that one stood up to fight for while knowing full well the hurt it would bring – that is the duelist’s sad fate.

What it reads like, to me, is some kind of fable in a modern world. It is serious! I mean, it’s a message that you can really take it to heart, and change the way you think about certain things in a drastic way. That’s great.

To switch gear completely: For me, what made Utena stick was not just its beautifully crafted visual and aural magic of modern themes, but also its spot-on comedy. Yes, in other words, I watch Mawaru Penguindrum for the penguins, too. What I find kind of disturbing is how few people find that an important part of the show.

Well, I should correct myself: a lot of people probably do; but it isn’t in vogue to talk about comedy. Still, it’s such an integral part of the presentation. It’s really a matter of perspective in which I ask this question, thus:

Does Ringo make you laugh?

She does for me. She also goes over the line a lot of the times, and that’s partly what makes it a little weird to laugh at or with her.

I half think that when we see those 3d-popup children’s book scenes, that’s what’s really what we’re suppose to see, the lens in which we overlook Ringo’s conquest of Tabuki. There’s also another meta perspective about this: we already see the difference between Yuri and Ringo’s play on Keiju’s mind and emotion, when Ringo and Shoma do their slapstick show involving carps, frogs, and what not. I mean, sure, someone did get run over by a car and that is not a laughing matter (in real life), but is it here? Not if #2 has anything to say about it.

In a way I think 2dt’s point about that “enjoy the show” mysticism is just a high brow brush to acknowledge that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and just by looking at the parts individually, we are at risk of missing the big picture. I think one of the risks is, like all jokes, the toaster oven of over-analysis. You don’t want to dry this stuff up of its humorous juices!

Mawaru Penguindrum 11


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