This past week I had a chance to watch Penguindrum from Sentai Filmworks created by a studio I have never heard of before, Brains Base. Check out the opening above (disregard the red type in the first :15 seconds). For some reason Sentai Filmworks does not have it’s own youtube channel to display their shows and trailers don’t exist on their website either. So we went with the only video involving the opening to the series. Sentai Filmworks is releasing Penguindrum over 2 discs, so this is only about the first disc since disc 2 won’t be out until mid-March.
Penguindrum has a very interesting story. I had seen a few subtitled (subbed) episodes about a year or so ago while at a conference and instantly enjoyed watching the little blue penguins throughout the show cause chaos and act as the series comedic relief. However, the story does not revolve around the aforementioned penguins, it revolves around 2 brothers (Shoma and Kanba), their sister (Himari), a schoolgirl names Ringo, and a handful of other characters.
The story starts with Himari being sick/dead and when she dawns a magical penguin hat she returns to life and gains a split personality. The split personality is her reason for existence and she orders her 2 brothers to embark on a comedic journey to retrieve the penguindrum. With this hat, comes a group of 3 little blue penguins that each follow a character around and creates comedic relief in the series.
Before you disregard this series as a comedic and random series, hear me out. While it was the comedy that got me interested in the series, Penguindrum has a more darker side to it as well. There is a lot of fate/destiny vs choice in the series and certain characters trying to prove one or the other. There is a little bit of magic, and more. Towards the end of the first 12 episode set, the series starts to paint a darker picture involving the characters. I by saying this I will be setting a high standard, but, dare I say that the series may be heading down the path of Neon Genesis Evangelion where things get darker and more open to interpretation.
I am excited to see how the series plays out and look forward to seeing the conclusion in March to the first Brain Base anime series I have had the opportunity to watch.
From an animation standpoint, they tend to do some things that are par for the course in Japan. Some elements are animated in 3D, which if you watched the opening above you will see they use 3D for some secondary elements. They use particle effects in some scenes as well, for water and even to replicate dust caught in laser sites of some weaponry.
Personally, my favorite stylistic choice in Penguindrum is the use of flat 2D layers that I could easily see being done in Adobe After Effects. If you watch the opening above it would be all of the Penguin face logos, but the series uses those and also uses 2D cutouts for certain scenes too. The series is very focused on settings so when characters go to new scenes we see a 3D subway gate followed by 2D subway signs where the characters are. The signs are all done in 2D with very stylized backgrounds.
When the characters are in crowded areas, the background characters are people icons and not drawn people. The people icons are similar to what you would see on bathroom signs here in the U.S. but when I traveled to Japan last year, they use iconography in explaining many things. There was even a series called XXXHolic (Funimation) that used a similar technique in which all of their background characters were simply white pencil sketches.
Penguindrum provides a fun soundtrack as well. I am a sucker for comedic penguins and especially the amount of subway scenes that appear in Penguindrum as well. I still have to wait to see the last half of the series, but the first half is for sure worth checking out for a variety of reasons discussed above. Let’s hope the second half is at least as good as the first half. Monday will be a new production update and a special post for next Thursday as well.