Anime Recommendation: Mawaru Penguindrum
It’s not a particularly well-known series, despite being helmed by Revolutionary Girl Utena’s Kunihiko Ikuhara, but Penguindrum is a series that should not be missed. It is a markedly weird journey of a family of siblings: brothers Shoma & Kanba and terminally ill sister, Himari. This show pulls no punches; Himari dies in the first episode. BUT! She is resurrected by a mind-controlling hat that informs the brothers that they have to find the mystical penguindrum, or Himari will die for real. Suffice it to say, the rest of the show continually serves up increasingly stranger and stranger plot twists, right up to the powerful finale.
More than just a thriller, however, Penguindrum delivers in other areas as well. It is a very complex series; if you’re getting sick of superficial shows with little to no depth, you’ll be very pleased with Penguindrum’s vast reservoir of symbolism and theme exploration. While other shows might be designed more or less by a group, Ikuhara’s auteur influence is felt in every frame, every color chosen and every bit of written dialogue. All the attention given to Penguindrum doesn’t quite coalesce into a masterpiece, but it does produce a stand-out work MORE than worthy of being seen by anyone at all interested in anime.
Watch Penguindrum. It is a unique, exotic experience with intriguing characters, fantastic art direction and a compellingly tragic story. While I was initially off-put by the peculiar weirdness of the show’s presentation, by the end I was riveted and completely invested in Shoma, Kanba and Himari’s struggles. You may not love Penguindrum (though I did), but you’ll never forget it.