OP: 「ノルニル」 (Nornir) by やくしまるえつこメトロオーケストラ (Yakushimaru Etsuko Metro Orchestra)
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「運命のベルが鳴る」 (Unmei no Beru ga Naru)
“The Bell of Fate Sounds”
The premiere of Revolutionary Girl Utena/Sailor Moon director/writer Ikuhara Kunihiko’s original new series makes its way to television airwaves and leaves a very mysterious and promising first impression. All the mention of bearing sins and fighting fate in the commercials comes front and center almost immediately, yet raises just as many questions as I had originally. What we do know is that the story begins much like I outlined in the Summer 2011 Preview, at least in terms of the character descriptions of the main characters — the three siblings of the Takakura family, oldest son/pretty boy Kanba (Kimura Subaru), his prince-like twin brother Shouma (Kimura Ryouhei), and their younger sister Himari (Arakawa Miho), whom they love dearly. Himari doesn’t have long to live due to an incurable health problem that isn’t explained in detail. Kanba and Shouma are willing to do anything for Himari, even give up their own lives to save hers, thus leading to the close-knit sibling relationship that binds the premise together.
This is where it gets interesting though. In the very first episode, we see a rapid chain of developments that starts off with Kanba and Shouma taking Himari to the aquarium as part of a special “Himari Day” to forget about her ailing condition, leading to both her death and subsequent revival. It turns out the black penguin cap that Shouma bought Himari has a lot more significance than the promo image suggested, curing her of her sickness and possessing her whenever she puts it on. Further adding to the mystery are the ominous messages of the possessed Himari that includes mention of coming from where their fates “reside” and seeking compensation for prolonging Himari’s life. Weird stuff indeed, but extremely intriguing at the same time since I don’t know what to make of it all yet.
Judging from the opening sequence, the two kids’ dialogue near the beginning, and Himari’s quick death, I originally figured the story would revolve around the afterlife in some way and this other Himari is some sort of post-mortem version that exists in another world. However, the arrival of a frozen box with penguin helpers who only Kanba, Shouma, and Himari can see suggests that all the bizarre things are happening in the living world. At the same time, some strange alternate dimension does seem to exist and is depicted in magical girl-like fashion with not only the possessed Himari in a lavish get-up, but also quickly shedding it all off in layers until there was nothing left. It was quite the spectacle to say the least, just like the rest of Brain’s Base’s work here that features lovely character designs by Otome Youkai Zakuro creator Hoshino Lily, and raised the biggest question of all in this premiere episode: what’s this “Survival Strategy” that the possessed Himari is referring to and this “Penguindrum” that she’s after?
Your guess is as good as mine at the moment, but with Kanba clearly crossing the fine sibling line by kissing Himari on the lips, there are enough unknown factors to Ikuhara’s original anime that I fully intend to sit through all 24 episodes to see what he has in store. The unique combination of cute and mysterious already sets the series apart, whereas the original story that I can’t make heads or tails of yet has me completely hooked so far. Throw in the distinct stylistic touches (e.g. the transition scenes) to the eerily refreshing premise and we might just have the sleeper of the season. It looks like all the hype due to the staff involved wasn’t for naught.
Update: I incorrectly deduced that the possessed Himari is Oginome Ringo (Miyake Marie) based on the episode credits and how she’s been described as heroine who’s just as important as Himari. In reality, Ringo is actually the schoolgirl who walked by Shouma. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.
ED: 「DEAR FUTURE」 by coaltar of the deepers
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Preview & End Card