SnickerdoodleNinja's Mawaru Penguindrum Tv Review

Mawaru Penguindrum

Mawaru Penguindrum tv Review

Three siblings, twins Kanba and Shouma, and the in-and-out-of-the-hospital Himari who's in poor health, live together at the Takakura home. One simple day, while the siblings were out on a trip to the aquarium, Himari collapses and suddenly dies. When all hope seems lost, she's miraculously saved by a strange spirit. However, the extended life is limited and in order to fully resurrect their sister, the Takakura brothers must find the Penguindrum with the help of a trio of penguins.

Credit: Weskalia

Story & Characters

After their terminally-ill sister Himari suddenly falls over dead on a casual trip to the local aquarium, Shouma and Kanba Takakura curse fate for their misfortune. Thus, when Himari’s new penguin hat then takes over her body just long enough to reveal that her life-restored temporarily-can be returned permanently should the siblings find and present the mysterious penguindrum before the hat, the brothers jump at the chance to save their precious sister. Aided by three penguins invisible to everyone but the three siblings, Shouma and Kanba find that obtaining the penguindrum is no easy task, with their determination, family bonds, and morals put to the test as they are faced with horrors of the past and consequences of the present.

If all of that was a little hard to take in, don’t worry; that’s just how Penguindrum-as the show will henceforth be called- is. Whether it’s enlisting the aid of a stalker with a magical diary, being sucked into an alternate realm by a possessed magical Himari, or simply wondering what in the world a penguindrum actually is, nearly all of the adventures of Shouma and Kanba prove to be odd, and intentionally so. In fact, while the series deals with many extremely serious themes, Penguindrum actually seems to relish its oddness and milks the strangeness for all its worth-which, as it turns out, is a lot. With the sheer bizarreness of its basic plot and obscure flashbacks, Penguindrum definitely knows how to hook an audience, keeping viewers in constant anticipation in hopes of piecing together the mystery surrounding, well, everything.

Unfortunately, while the strangeness is definitely a hook for audiences, this is also where the series runs into some issues. Even as the show begins to reveal its darker, more intense aspects, Penguindrum seems to be so in love with its own oddness that at times it allows character development to take a back seat in favor of adding more strangeness to the mix. While we’re introduced early on to a plethora of intriguing characters-ranging all the way from the innocent, moral Shouma to the cold and morally ambiguous Kanba to the well-intentioned but extreme stalker Ringo-often these characters don’t develop the emotional bond with the audience that they easily could have, even though the plot is supposed to be extremely character-driven. For instance, in Kanba’s case, we see him first portrayed as a playboy, with heavy hints that he actually loves a particular girl wholeheartedly and devotedly. However, certain unexplained actions lead him to seem more lustful than genuinely in love, despite the fact that the director clearly wants us to think otherwise in many scenes, with the end result being a protagonist that is most likely intended to be likable but isn’t particularly. In other cases, nearly every character has their own story to tell and skeletons to pull out of the closet-and boy are their stories something, but often hard to relate to due to the extreme nature of their struggles and occasional over-dependence on flashbacks to tell a story. Don’t get me wrong-most of the characters are plenty interesting, and there are a few characters are very well developed, and watching most characters try to cope with their pasts is usually very interesting and can at times be effectively emotional, but you can’t help but get the feeling that many of the characters could have been even more moving and reached their full potential if they hadn’t been forced to share the spotlight with the increasing oddity of certain plot elements that were already adequately odd enough.

Along a similar train of thought, we now run into the aspect of the series that will most likely make or break the series for a viewer: symbolism. As I mentioned earlier, the series seems to be in love with its own eccentricity, to the point that it often foregoes explaining plot elements in favor of allowing “open interpretation.” There is a fine line, however, between profound symbolism and a vague mess of plot holes, and which side of the fence you ultimately believe Penguindrum falls on is highly subjective. Personally speaking, I find myself leaning slightly towards the latter group, though not quite to that extent. While I was able to appreciate a fair number of symbols in the series, there were a few major unexplained plot elements that seemed as if they were swept under the rug and then labeled “symbolic” in order to save face. Don’t get me wrong; I love symbolism and I respect shows that don’t have to hold your hand, but I find that the lack of direction and explanation behind certain fundamental and concrete elements creates too little substance to really draw coherent, cohesive conclusions about the heavier themes in the series, such as the bonds of family and the nature of fate. After all, just as you have to crawl before you can walk, I feel you have to have some sort of concrete base in a story-or at least some sort of reining in-in order to really be able to dig deep into profound meaning and more abstract concepts, and Penguindrum hardly wants to establish even the basics.

That said, if you happen to adore surrealism and abstract art or otherwise don’t mind that the story won’t give you many definite answers, then chances are good that you will have a field day with Penguindrum and can therefore expect to add about 2-3 points on to my story score. If, on the other hand, you are skeptical of metaphysical plot elements or want a straightforward experience, you will likely feel the series to be a load of pretentious bologna and can instead subtract a few points from my score. However, if you are like me and enjoy some good psychology and symbolism but also want some semblance of a logical story, expect Penguindrum to be a wild and fun ride that keeps you hooked till the end but ultimately leaves you more than a little disappointed at the incredible lack of clarity that comes with the dropping of the curtain.

Rating: 6


Though its colors are often rather muted, the result is anything but soft or weak. In fact, the pastel colors of much of the normal serve to make the transition to the bold, eerie colors of alternate existences rather jarring, and reasonably so, as most of the scenes that create shell-shock take place within this alternate world. Similarly, the grey and generic yet stylistic portrayal of the unnamed crowds throughout the city as bathroom sign-like people helps contrast with the lively, center-stage characters. Lighting effects are also used well to create atmosphere, as are certain backgrounds.

Also notable is the overall consistency and character design. Though it has its occasional moments of inconsistency, Penguindrum features a cast of distinct characters full of unique expressions and mannerisms that help create personality even when the art certainly isn’t getting much help from the sometimes-only-strange-for-the-sake-of-strangeness story department. Overall, Penguindrum is a treat for the eyes with art that adds to the overall experience, but as a whole will not stick out for being as unique as the show tries to be in every facet.

Rating: 8


At first glance, Penguindrum’s opening and ending songs aren’t particularly impressive. However, upon closer listening-or perhaps due to an acquired taste after hearing them so many times-the oddly-paced rhythms, airy vocal work, and unusual music begin to grow on you as you realize that lyrically and phonetically the songs are extremely fitting for Penguindrum and it’s bizarre atmosphere, even if the songs aren’t necessarily ones you want to listen to again and again on your own time. Oh, except for the insert song played whenever Himari transforms with the penguin hat. In all seriousness, that song is so catchy it’s almost criminal.

Background music, however, is just that-background music. It isn’t exactly memorable, but it also doesn’t detract from the series. Sadly, the music’s just kind of there. Vocal work, on the other hand, is sturdy and strong, with voice actors effectively portraying their eccentric characters in the most realistic way possible. While it might not be the most memorable of vocal work either, the actors do their job and they do them well.

In short: Penguindrum has sturdy voice acting, forgettable background music, and very fitting and stylized songs.

Rating: 8


If there’s one thing that’s certain about Penguindrum, it’s that despite all initial appearance, the show is not just about cute blue penguins. Oh, they’re significant alright, but anyone who thinks they’re in for a fluffy magical girl show is in for a rude awakening-Penguindrum is often dark and constantly psychological, even when it appears otherwise. That said, it also has a fair bit of comedy, and one of the series’ strongest points is its ability to transition rather seamlessly from comedy to intense drama and back again. A surprisingly addictive mix of interesting plot elements and characters, amusing blue penguins, and thought-provoking themes regarding fate, family, and devotion, Penguindrum won’t always make much sense, but it will still be addicting nonetheless. Of course, how much you like the ride at the end of the day will ultimately depend on your view of the symbolic aspects at the conclusion and whether or not you're okay with being rather confused, but no one can deny the fun and interesting journey that Penguindrum provides getting to that point.

Before I close, I would like to briefly touch on some potentially objectionable content. As Penguindrum deals with a number of dark topics, some rather sexualized-some suggestive dialogue and attempted rape, for example- viewer discretion is advised. To be clear, the story doesn’t glorify such things, but the scenes can be quite uncomfortable regardless. Also, Penguindrum deals heavily with family relationships and has some very faint elements of incest within it, but know that if this concerns you the way things are usually and ultimately handled will probably not be terribly offensive to any viewers. If you want more clarity before picking the series up, by all means ask me, but I’ll stop for now to avoid spoilers.

Unique. Bizarre. Thought provoking. Maddening. Full of penguins. Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great bewilderment and wonder that I present to you, Mawaru Penguindrum.

Rating: 7

Final Verdict

7.00 (above average)

Reviewed by SnickerdoodleNinja, Mar 12, 2012


  1. CyanideBlizzard Retired Moderator Mar 12, 2012

    First off, whoa! That's one heck of a review. I actually never got the chance to finish Penguindrum, as I got rather busy around the 12th episode and haven't been able to resume my viewing since.

    With that said, I honestly have to agree with you. While I enjoy a show that isn't afraid to let it's audience develop it's own conclusion to a story, there's a limit to how far something can go in terms of symbology before it becomes a vague mess. During my viewing, I can definitely see where the show starts to go off in that range, and I've got a strong hunch that I'd fall pretty close on the fence to where you were at with it. A fine balance needs to be achieved, otherwise the viewer is left with far too many questions and "what if" statements. Balance is just as important as anything else in a story. However, I also have to admit that this type of balance is far more difficult to achieve, so I do applaud the show for taking a huge risk.

    I also really like the fact that you've added a range in terms of points to give the reader a better understanding of where they would fall. I think it opens up a lot more possibilities and options to consider when thinking about viewing a series. A very nice addition.

    I actually rather liked the intro song. There's just something about it that became rather catchy and stuck in my head, along with that Himari transformation scene. Seriously, a great selection of songs to get you into the show.

    Overall, I think you did a fantastic job of tackling a series that I personally thought would be rather difficult to review. What's more, you gave us enough length to get an understanding of the series, but also kept it short and sweet, which makes this a pleasant read. Great job, Snicker!

  2. angelxxuan Banned Member Mar 12, 2012

    first and foremost nice review, cb got it right ! now onto other aspects, I like how you break down your review, it's crisp and easy to read and now I see what you mean by listing opinions, mine appears to be dry compared to yours. I don't believe I've ever encountered this one or heard of this one for that matter. I'll have to venture out there and try to find it and see if I like it or not myself. I'm the type to watch anything, if it doesn't impress me I tend to drop it. I rather do like the dark ones though and this one, based on the review, might be just that.

  3. MisaSasekage Moderator Mar 12, 2012

    This series definietely lets you develop your own opinion on how the whole series ends. It also had dark content that of which I really wasn't expecting when I started watching this series, but it wasn't so overly done that it made me stop watching. I definitely agree with you Snicker when you said "Penguindrum won’t always make much sense", because at times it surely didn't and I was definitely going "what is going on/what just happened?" at a few points in the story. Mawaru surely pushes the aspect of family; which I liked. 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. It seems like 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. Symbolism was also really important in the series, so you will have to think a little in order for certain things to make sense and I liked that as well. And oh yes the background music was really forgettable. Thinking about it now, I hardly remember music even playing in the background, lol. So, yeah extremely forgettable xD All in all Mawaru was incredibly weird; but for some reason I liked it xD

    Great review Snicker-chan, I really like how you broke everything down^^

  4. fallenkaze Mar 20, 2012

    Well that was entertaining to read, though it was a bit long at times I don't regret reading it one bit. Honestly y the way you can convey your thoughts in your reviews makes me a bit envious. The way you went deeper into the main character really stood out to me Snicker, good job, sorry if that sounded like meaningless praise but I really liked the review

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