“I Love You”
If you’ve come here looking for answers to Mawaru Penguindrum’s ending, I’m afraid I don’t have them. The best I can offer is my interpretation of it, which is a bunch of fragmented ideas that revolve around the theme of neglected children and fighting fate. While the idea of transferring fates makes sense within the context of the show, I’m still at a bit of a loss on what it’s intended to signify in the real world (if anything). The thought did cross my mind that Momoka’s diary, the fruit of fate, the Penguindrum, and the ability to change someone’s fate are primarily layers of surrealism on top of the underlying theme, but I get the feeling that at least some parts of them are trying to convey a different message. My biggest hurdle when trying to construct a completely coherent interpretation of the story is whether or not everything that’s happened is supposed to symbolize something tangible. If it is, then I’m at a bit of a loss on how everything comes together. If it isn’t, then it’s a lot easier to look at each of the sub-developments separately and view the series as a whole as a collection of morals. Naturally, I’m partial toward the latter possibility. I find that there simply isn’t enough concrete material to form an understanding around, even though I spent the last six months looking at and writing about every episode in detail.
So where does that outlook take me? Well for one, it makes it seem like the story has moved beyond the idea that Kanba and Shouma are merely being punished because of their parents’ sins. Instead, it’s almost as if they’re reliving the same “curse” in a different fashion, where their only sin is “sharing the fruit of fate” and continuing to live when they should’ve died. The punishment for “cheating death” would then be Himari’s life, which they’re given false hope about saving to make it even more painful when she eventually dies. Where things get a little dicey is what to make of the boxes and the apple itself. Sanetoshi alluded to the idea that the box is oneself, saying he wishes to free everyone from their “boxes”, so it could very well symbolize the “social prison” that unwanted children find themselves in when they’re left on the streets and starve to death. The apple would then signify their new hope — or light — that gave them the strength to live on. After all, there’s been nothing to suggest that Kanba and Shouma were actually locked into physical cages, because even if they did find an apple to suppress their hunger for a bit, that doesn’t mean that they’re instantly free. As such, I’m inclined to believe the boxes are a figurative thing, as well as “sharing the fruit of fate”.
Where I’d probably draw the line on this theory is implying that fate works like some form of “equivalent trade”, even though Ringo looked like she was going to give up her life to improve the Takakuras. Based on what Momoka’s done in the past and what Ringo tried to do here, the need for “compensation” only seems to come into play when someone defies their fate and disrupts the “track” that the world is on. Whether intentional or not, Kanba and Shouma did just that by creating/finding their own Penguindrum — another chance in life that was divided between the two of them. Presumably, that “life” alone wasn’t enough for the two of them and Himari to find any true happiness in the world, so they both decided to give it up for Himari, Ringo, and Masako sakes, which effectively put everyone onto a different “world track” (or line if you prefer) where Kanba and Shouma never existed. The message is clear though — even when the world has abandoned them, unloved children can still find happiness. Well that, and sacrificing oneself for those you love. Kanba and Shouma appear to have been reborn as the two boys from episode one, who talked about how the apple is a reward for those who have chosen love above all else and how it doesn’t mark the end but just the beginning, so it’s a somewhat bittersweet ending.
What can I say about Ikuhara Kunihiko’s original anime other than it was a fascinating series that was far too contrived to be fully appreciated. I really tried to take in all the signs and look for a deeper meaning in just about everything that happened, but it got to the point that he was introducing so many twists and turns — many of which were rather disturbing — that I couldn’t even get a good grasp of where things were headed, let alone pick up on all the subtle messages he was trying to convey. The first half of the series was largely portrayed in a comedic light with Ringo stalking Keiju too, which made it even harder to pick up on all the implications. For those reasons, I’m actually kind of torn over how I truly feel about this series.
There’s no doubting that it’s incredibly unique as far as anime goes, as it’s given me a new-found appreciation for multifaceted storytelling in this medium, but the fact that it didn’t really come together for me in the end has me humming and hawing over how much I actually “enjoyed” it. I never got a sense of satisfaction from finishing all twenty-four episodes and seeing all my confusion cleared up, so I’m inclined to recommend it based on its uniqueness and unconventional screenplay alone, rather than the feeling that it’s a “must-watch” series. I’m sure some people will feel differently — probably having gotten a deeper meaning out of the story than I did — but this is largely up to personal experiences and interpretation.
This by no means implies that I regret watching Mawaru Penguindrum though. If anything, I might regret blogging about it a little bit, because the series made me feel kind of dumb trying to talk about an episode that I didn’t fully understand. The saving grace was that most people were in the same boat, so writing about it became a bit of a thought experiment at times. If you’re one of those people who really like thought-provoking type of shows, then look no further than Mawaru Penguindrum. Just don’t expect to get clear confirmation on whether your interpretation is right or not, unless Ikuhara plans to explain his intended story in great detail down the road.
Update: This isn’t official, but this 2chan chart illustrates one interpretation of how the “fruit of fate” was shared between the Takakuras. It suggests that Himari’s portion “rotted” after the Sarin gas attack.