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Anime, Mawaru Penguindrum

Mawaru Penguindrum Ep01 – Observations, TL Notes [Image Intensive]

Mawaru Penguindrum episode 1 – The Bell of Fate Tolls is quite possibly the most engrossing opening episode I have ever seen since Bakemonogatari in anime. It excels in virtually every factor criteria for what makes for a good first episode: The premise, direction, art, music, pacing, depth, detail, effectiveness as introduction episode, and its ability to draw the audience into the story.

There are already blogs about symbolism and aesthetics in this episode, so I won’t get TOO far into them. Follow those links if you’re interested as they’re really good reads.


As I mentioned in an earlier post, the title of this anime suggests cycles of events. I suspect the entire story will be some kind of a cycle in a grand scale, but the repetition of the past can already be seen in this very episode.

Here’s another mirror sequence within the episode. The first sequence occurred immediately after the OP, and the second one nearly at the middle of this episode. Did they just make a full cycle of events? Also notice how Himari and Kanba are wearing the same clothes, while Shouma’s changed. Are they stuck in time? Well, Himari is technically a walking corpse, and Kanba did get his soul (?) taken out during Survival Strategy time.

I absolutely love the way the second sequence was presented. This happened after the dramatic scene where Himari’s life was extended by the hat, and effectively slows the pacing of the show to builds up for another climax. Not only that, it shows how their lives have returned to normalcy, oblivious to what they’ve just gotten themselves into.

The background and storyboard for this sequence is almost identical to the first. However, there are subtle differences in conversations and character expressions that gives this scene a lot brighter atmosphere compared to the first, which is ironic because we as viewers clearly see their situation has taken a turn for the worse.

Another mirror sequence here, sandwiching the ED.

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9 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum Ep01 – Observations, TL Notes [Image Intensive]

  1. Yeah, I just watch this for the penguins doing silly things.

    Posted by Dark_Sage | August 10, 2011, 12:09 am
  2. Okay, serious comment time. For the amount of effort you put into the post, you deserve a fair response.

    Honestly, I’m really not seeing the hype around Mawaru. I’ve seen up to episode 3, and this post will make me marathon 1-5 tomorrow, but I really haven’t found the hook that’ll pull me in like you did. I can appreciate the symbolism, allusions, and heavy dilogue. Really, I can understand that it’s hinting at something greater.

    But I kind of need to see that something greater. I need a little more than “Oh, I bet this is gonna get good!” because I’ve been let down by shows in the past. And said shows have also used those clever tools in their arsenal to pull me in.

    And they didn’t even need “straight-faced penguins doing silly things” to do it.

    Posted by Dark_Sage | August 10, 2011, 12:21 am
    • Thanks for the comment.

      This show will definitely turn out to be a cult anime. There’s certain humor and quirks that will be hit-or-miss, and of course, you’ll have to be able to tolerate scene recycling.

      I guess there’s plenty of episodes to screw this up, but episode 1 in particular was probably the strongest opening episode I’ve ever seen. It has the highest “sense of completion”, as the Japanese say… It feels like attention was paid to every detail to present a rather unique story. The way it’s going now, I don’t really see how this series can fall below “very good” for me at this point, but of course, that’s a personal opinion.

      I think episode 2 and 3 were the worst of the five aired so far, so maybe you’ll have a better impression when you catch up too 🙂

      Posted by 8thsinfansubs | August 10, 2011, 1:36 am
  3. Someone pointed out to me that the opening lines were spoken by Shouma, and the ending lines by Kanba — they both hate fate, though for different reasons. Despite their starkly different personalities, they at least have that in common (in addition to Himari, of course).

    Posted by kureshii | August 10, 2011, 2:50 am
    • Good catch. The end narration does sound a lot more bitter and spiteful than the opening. I guess this series is going to be the two of them resisting fate in their own ways.

      Thanks for your input.

      Posted by 8thsinfansubs | August 10, 2011, 10:38 am
  4. Ringo is not a walking corpse.

    Posted by swa | August 11, 2011, 4:49 pm
  5. “Shouma was the one who had his arm around her when they took a family picture”
    I think it’s not Shouma’s hand on Himari’s shoulder. I believe it’s their mother’s hand. Look at the size of fingers. What do you think?

    Posted by Kriman | August 14, 2011, 3:51 pm
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