It would be hard for Kamisama Dolls to trump the angst and tragedy of the last episode, so it doesn’t bother. Instead, this episode starts off with what, I assume, is meant to be comic relief, before returning to the generally sinister atmosphere that characterizes the show at its best.
Like episode five, this episode is another time when the transition from manga to anime has combined two different stories within the bounds of a single episode. It’s not quite as bad this time, however. For while tone of the two parts vary radically from each other, the theme throughout is constant. The first half of the show gives answer to the question posed in the second.
If you’re going to make fate a key element of your show, you’re going to have to take a side eventually. Either the events of the show have been fated to happen, or they’re somehow the result of a character’s choice.
It’s sad that such dualism is forced on us, but television is rarely the right place to properly meditate on the nature of causality, and anime almost never is. So we’re left with two responses to fate: it exists, or it doesn’t.
There’s ways to play with this, of course, to subvert the audience’s expectations, or slightly tweak the nature of things, but ultimately it all comes down to this Manichean split. So which side does Mawaru Penguindrum come down on?
When viewing American TV shows, one becomes used to the idea that some episodes will be radically better or worse than others. After all, each individual episode of American TV usually has its own writer (or team of writers) and director, so the quality of the production obviously various based on the talents of each pairing.
Anime doesn’t have that: Episode directors come and go, but there’s always a main director behind the show, and a series composer to provide much of the writing. Theoretically, this means that the overall quality of a show should stay consistent—and when it doesn’t, there’s some other factor at work. Here, I can point to one possible factor immediately: This is a CLAMP show.
For those of you who were turned off by the crushes, confessions, and general air of high school romance that permeated the last couple episodes of Hana-Saku Iroha, I’m going to be blunt: You won’t like this episode. There are plenty of things going on that don’t relate to Ohana’s unwitting romantic rivalry with Minko, covering the gamut from a more adult (although not necessarily more mature) romance to the issues of succession within the inn. But the core of this episode—and likely the next one, too—revolves around how Minko hits breaking point, realizing that the object of her affections has eyes only for Ohana.
On the other hand, for those who have been waiting for this tension to burst out into the open, it’s shaping up to be one of the best plotlines of the show. What’s particularly interesting is how it plays not only on Ohana’s weaknesses, but also her strengths. By now the audience is well aware that Ohana is rather clueless at noticing the romantic attention of men. But we also know that Ohana is a born problem solver who has rejuvenated Kissuisou just by being there. Only now do we see whom that hurts.
Humans have remarkably poor night vision compared to most of the things inclined to eat us, so perhaps it’s natural that many of the macabre creations of our folklore only come out at night, from vampires being burnt by the sun to werewolves transformed under the light of the moon. The monsters of Blood-C had followed that pattern, which is why the appearance of one during the day caught Saya (and the audience) so off guard.
The monster also struck at Saya’s home, in the (presumably warded) temple where Saya sleeps. It attacks not Saya, but one of Saya’s close friends, who is utterly incapable of defending herself. Nene spends most of her remaining screen time alternating between catatonic shock and panicked flight, and Saya sustains her own injuries in a frantic attempt to save her.
Tiger & Bunny had its path for this episode laid out pretty clearly. Wild Tiger had to evade his pursuers, figure out how he was framed, and come up with a plan to get out of it. It’s a fairly straightforward setup that hinges on alliances Tiger makes with three separate figures.
The first was made obvious from the preview from last time. Yuri Petrov knows enough to know that Tiger’s been set up, and that offends his particular sense of honor. So, careful to keep his knowledge of Tiger’s real identity secret behind a veneer of insanity, he helps Tiger to escape when he’s cornered by the posse of heroes.
Ever since Daikichi took Rin home, he has wondered about her mother. Throughout the previous episodes, he has been slowly piecing together information on her: she’s young, not much more than a girl herself, and was apparently his grandfather’s maid, which explains where an 80-year old man would have even met someone who could have borne his child.
Eventually, he gets a name, Masako Yoshii, and phone number. Although he doubts she wants anything to do with Rin, the temptation is too great. He has to schedule a meeting with her.
Masako, it turns out, is a manga artist who finally started to get noticed right as she became pregnant with Rin. She quickly decided not to think of Rin as her daughter, but was persuaded by the father to keep the child.
Although she grew attached to Rin after giving birth, Masako quickly gave up on parenting, the huge time demands and late night meetings that are part of making manga grew too much to be both a parent and an artist.