Today is Curry Day! That most inclusive and all-purpose of meals, a general dish that can be suited to all palettes, perfect for enjoyment with friends and family. As Penguindrum #3 opens, we hear Ringo’s happy memories of curry with her parents, as her room is framed like some underwater treasure chamber. The Takakura siblings don’t have much, but they have each other – their family is happy, even if its fate is unclear. Ringo is very sure of her fate, but it seems like all she wants is a happy family.
In contrast to that pleasant memory, Ringo’s current daily life seems estranged from her parents. Her mother tells her that she’ll be working late, and so Ringo should just have dinner with her friends. Ringo initially complains at this, but as she gets to work on her own curry, we see it’s clear that she expected her mother not to be around. She has her own plans.
And then we get the cow suit. If there’s one thing you can count on in an Ikuhara show, beyond the heavy symbolism and message storytelling, it’s that you’re going to get some really ridiculous, extremely funny tangents. The cow is apparently a special favorite of Ikuhara’s, given this is a well he’s returning to after Utena’s transcendent cow episode. Himari’s cow suit sadly only gets one scene in the spotlight, but it makes the most of it. If you’re going to drink milk, why would you ever not go all the way?
From there, much of this episode mirrors the second, as the brothers tail Ringo while she goes about her various fated encounters. When the two arrive at Ringo’s apartment, we see that Kanba already has a set of gloves and a lockpick kit, implying he’d either thought well ahead or just already had burglary tools lying around. Shoma is put off by all of Kanba’s aggressive actions, but Kanba seems to have already come to terms with the question – if it’s all for Himari, “the only question is how far we’re willing to go.” When Shoma seems reluctant to enter Ringo’s room, Kanba bluntly declares that “if you can’t, then I will. Save your innocence for Himari.” Even Shoma’s naivety is framed as a gift for his sister. The central question seems to be “how much of yourself would you give up for the sake of the thing you treasure?”
In Ringo’s case, it’s clear that’s she’s already lost touch with whatever internal voice might tell her she’s a freaky stalker. Ringo romanticizes curry as “humanity’s first meal,” romanticizes the ingredients as if they’re actively trying to get tastier, romanticizes virtually everything. Clearly being a stalker might seem like it’s a weird match for this romanticism, but it’s actually her dreamy mentality that enables her actions – she sees her plans as fated destiny, not unacceptable intrusions of privacy. After all, a great deal of behavior in romance stories is actually incredibly creepy, and only works because it’s happening inside the confines of an artificial romance.
In the end, Ringo’s plans are nearly ruined by the fact that Tabuki actually has a girlfriend waiting at home. Ringo onces again fudges the spirit of fate in order to abide by the letter, but ultimately finds herself becoming friends with Himari in a scene that truly does feel like destiny. This sequence is what narrative destiny feels like – Ringo’s unconsidered actions scare a cat, which subsequently runs into Himari, which ends up clearing the way for their inevitable meeting. It’s the fate you fall into that is the most genuine, and as the episode ends, we get a lovely scene of Ringo actually getting to share her curry with a found family.
Other than that, this episode is perhaps most notable for its excellent face game. I already mentioned the cow moment, but there’s also a great sequence where Ringo is scared into a mental classic shoujo reaction face (an echo of the shows that clearly inspired Ikuhara), and a moment of it-made-sense-at-the-time juxtaposition that sees her rival sneeringly biting into an entire fish. The penguins also make themselves known here, with their actions seemingly echoing the behavior of the characters (one eats too many plums as the brothers are burglarizing Ringo’s home, another gets stuck to a magazine as Ringo mentions fate), but mostly just existing to be very silly. You get the impression Penguindrum’s staff understand Ringo’s behavior wouldn’t come off as endearing without a heavy dose of overt comedy.
Of course, we are also moving closer to legitimate character investment. The earnest desires of the brothers have been clear from the very first moments, even if Kanba is hiding some complexity, making their mission an easy one to care about. With this episode, Ringo herself begins to emerge into a figure of tragedy as much as creepiness – she lacks family, seeks purpose, and doesn’t seem to care about her own existence. And with Himari’s “it’s been so long since we’ve had company,” we see that as much as her brothers care for her, Himari is essentially trapped in a gilded cage. There’s enough unhappiness to go around to make all of these weird kids people worth rooting for.
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