‘Mawaru Penguindrum’ is, in my opinion, the best new anime of the season so far, with the potential to become the best show of the year. It seems to have meanings to every line of dialogue, and hints or symbolism in every single scene. We’ll never know if they’re intentional or I’m just seeing things where they don’t exist, but it’s always fun to try to find them. I’ll use this blog to rant about random observations, impressions, and extra information I couldn’t add to the fansub releases (because it’s impossible to typeset some stuff, and TL notes would be too messy).
I was going to include this in an “episode 1” post, but seeing as I took over 90 screenshots while re-watching that episode, I thought it would be a better idea to separate it into at least two parts.
I will assume the readers of this post have already seen the anime up to episode 4. There will be minor spoilers from the novel (not that I read it, but I have read the summary). I will try not to explain them too much, so they should appear like random terms that don’t make sense if you haven’t read the novel.
The title 「輪るピングドラム」 itself is a mystery. “Mawaru”, means “Spinning” or “Rotating”, but the kanji 「輪る」 is an illegal (wrong) usage, meaning “wheel” or “ring”. I’m speculating this kanji choice was used to symbolize a cycle of some sort, maybe an event will be repeated? (I will talk more about this possibility in ep1 post) Or perhaps Penguindrum is a driving force of the universe? (like a watch’s gear) The title had been frequently written as 「廻るピングドラム」 in Japanese websites, especially before the first episode was aired because that’s an obvious stylized way to write the title.
「ピングドラム」 is “Penguindrum” as seen in the official title, but it reads “Pingdrum” or “Pingudoramu” no matter how you think about it. Good_Haro, my good editor for ‘Mawaru Penguindrum’ subs, has done some research on her own, and tells me some Japanese speculators seem to think the title means “Warping Drum” (don’t ask me, I don’t know what that is). Since 「輪」 also reads “wa”, so basically “wa-pingu”, which is similar to how the Japanese pronounce “warping”. Speculation for the title will probably last until the final episode, maybe even after.
OP title 「ノルニル」 seems to be “Nornir”, the goddesses who rule the destiny of gods and men in Norse mythology. It’s still far too early to analyze OP lyrics, but the title describes Princess of the Crystal, who claims to have come from “the destination of their fate”. It should also be noted that according to Wikipedia, these goddesses spin the thread of fate, so this is a possible clue for the title.
If you’ve been paying attention, you must have already found some of the countless hints embedded into the OP animation. There’s so much random crap that we can’t help but to speculate what they mean.
“KIGA APPLE”? The word 「飢餓」 (starvation/famine) was used before OP (we translated this “(born into war or) poverty” since it’s basically talking about inability to obtain basic needs). Does that mean the “universe that needs to be filled” or “apple that makes you hungrier? There are many other possible words for “kiga” though, this is why the Japanese use kanji.
Judging from how the castle symbol is associated with Ringo (two dragons and the castle on diary) and Penguin #0 on Himari, we can safely assume certain symbols are associated with each characters on purpose.
Yuri and Tabuki have no symbols associated to them. They’re not directly involved with the Penguindrum?
“Man and woman symbols” seem to imply their deceased relatives. Notice Ringo has a school girl in addition to her mother.
The train symbol is most likely a tragic event (since there’s a “95” on the title screen, possibly referring to the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway). All those involved with the Penguindrum seem to be present at the event (or whatever else it symbolizes).
The “cycle sign” probably refers to the pink-haired man. We can speculate that all main characters will become involved with him somehow in the following episodes. Maybe he’s trying to re-enact the train event (cycle of event)?
I will not even bother with the mechanical bears and the apple, because I honestly have no clue other than what’s been said and what can be seen in episode 1. All other signs will probably (hopefully) make sense in time.
At the time of this writing (ep4), some of these symbols have already made major appearances: The diary logo (ep2-4), the milk (ep3), and the horse (ep4, prince on a white horse).
Couple of these are seen or mentioned, but has yet to play a major role in the story: Sea otter (ep1, only mentioned), Maneki-neko (in front of the house, cat figurine – I will talk more about this in next post), slides (beside the Takakura house), and the “globe” (ep1, only few shots of it)
We don’t really know what other symbols mean right now. Stuffed kappa dolls have been spotted in ep1 in aquarium, but the symbol probably refers to something else. With so many other symbols attributed to something that has already made a major appearance in the show, we can assume the remaining objects and creatures will show up in episodes to come.
Only #3 gets shows up in the ED. Is it simply because only Himari is in ED, or is #3 special in some way? The “end card” in episode 1 appears to be an obvious joke, but is it really?
Red Thread of Fate is something you see often in manga and anime. It’s an Asian myth where the red thread is said to connect destined lovers. Who does it connect to? We still don’t know, but the only prospect we have right now is Kanba, and possibly the man in pink hair.
This post turned out to be mostly about themes and speculation, but the next post will be more interesting, I promise! ‘Mawaru Penguindrum’ has been an absolute pleasure to translate so far, and I would love to write more blog posts about it if I can find the time. Hopefully I can catch up to the broadcast soon.