Penguindrum’s second episode is a much easier twenty minutes than the first. Not only is it more of a fun, propulsive adventure than a tragic drama, it’s also just much less dense, more or less sticking to one straightforward narrative. The brothers must find the Penguindrum, and the Penguindrum is in the possession of Ringo Oginome… probably. And so they head off, tailing Ringo (a girl whose name is literally “apple”) as she goes about her fairly unusual day.
Ringo is the obvious focus on this episode, an addition to the narrative whose significance is clear from the first moments. Mirroring the first episode’s opening, Ringo says that she loves Fate, and feels a certain comfort in its existence. She loves the romance of fated encounters, and wants to believe there is a meaning even in sad things. When she immediately compares herself to a girl at the mirror, we see that she’s insecure, and thus the idea of trusting in fate is an appealing one. Given the existence of fate and the unfair nature of the world, we have two options – believe our sadness is created for a good reason, or believe that the world and God are fundamentally cruel. Ringo chooses to embrace the first.
Ringo enters the lives of the Takakura siblings through the urging of Himari’s magical hat. Tasked with retrieving the Penguindrum from her, the brothers tail her over the course of a full day, as she goes to school, performs some unusual after-school activities, and then sets herself up in the basement of their teacher’s house. Most of this episode is strictly information and energy, frankly – it’s a very fun and silly episode, but doesn’t offer the most to dig into.
Of course, fun and silliness do present their own craft quirks. A lot of this episode’s jokes come down to the behavior of the penguins, which at this point more or less matches the tone of the narrative. Their silly near-uselessness provides a number of good gags, and actually drives the plot forward from time to time. They’re essentially just basic mascot material, but here, it’s all of a tonal piece. It’s only later in the show, when the tone starts to shift, that their presence will become a little awkward.
The rest of the humor is a little more interesting. Ikuhara loves to toy with theatrical framing as an actual element of his world, and so it’s only expected that Kanba’s shoujo roses actually bloom in the real world, and are then copied by the girl recollecting his dashing appearance (though credit should be shared here – this episode’s director would end up directing a quarter of Penguindrum before eventually handling Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, another show that smartly plays with genre and visual convention). And the show is already having plenty of fun with the personality possessing Himari – there’s a great deadpan humor in the hat suddenly joining them at breakfast, and enjoying her meal before announcing the transformation.
More relevant to the ongoing narrative are the ways this episode continues to draw a clear contrast between Kanba and Shoma. When Kanba realizes they’re going to have to invade a girl’s school, he acts without hesitation, leaving Shoma to tail Ringo as he gathers supplies. While Shoma frets over the morality of them sending penguins with cameras into a private academy, Kanba doesn’t even see the issue – they’re not going to get caught, and their motives are good, so what’s the problem?
Kanba is willing to do whatever he needs to in order to get the results he wants, whereas Shoma is more innocent, and cares about both the morality and the appearance of all of his actions. The contrast seems to imply a difference not just of philosophy, but experience – like with Kanba’s “I’ll do anything” and final sacrifice in the first episode, it seems clear that he’s given up things before, and is willing to do it again. We see in small moments like the train ride that this dedication to self-sacrifice is fraying him, but at least for now, the show seems willing to let him get away with his ideals.
But if Shoma demonstrates an unspoiled innocence in his behavior, Ringo’s belief in fate is shown to be something just a little bit darker. The finale to this episode is a creepy, gripping sequence, as the brothers discover that their little schoolgirl friend is actually a stalker herself. Positioning herself beneath their teacher’s house and pulling out a frilly diary, Ringo crosses off a passage that matches the afternoon she engineered, saying “your days of eating dinner alone are almost over.” Ringo’s actions reverse the cause and effect of fate – her fate has already been plotted out, and she makes reality conform to the script. It’s not a true acceptance of the whims of fate at all; it’s ultimately a warped interpretation of our own power to sculpt reality. With each of them twisting the destination of fate to their desires, it seems like Kanba and Ringo might have something in common after all.
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