Recent Viewing: Penguin Drum Season 2

I am a few days late on my review of Penguindrum Season 2, but when I sat down to write about it, I realized I needed a few more days to gather my thoughts. My initial reaction to the series was that I thought it was great, but at the same time there were so many layers to it, that I realized I couldn’t write a full on review of it without watching it a few more times to peel back each layers. I also instantly felt that I needed to do a research paper on the whole series because I felt that there was so many thing they were trying to say.

Let’s start with explaining the basic premise of the story. There is a sister, Himari, and her two brothers, Shoma and Kanba. Himari is terminally ill and one day while at the aquarium, Himari dies. Himari wears a Penguin hat that brings her back to life, but in order for her to continue living, Kanba and Shoma must find the “penguin drum”. Along their way of searching for the penguin drum they come across several interesting characters, Mr Tabuki, Natsume, Ringo and more.

You can read my review of the first half of Penguindrum here. Season 2 wrapped up the series and this review is going to be more along the lines of the whole series. Overall, season 1 was a mix of comedy, character backstories and hints of a larger plot that came to fruition. Towards the ending of Season 1, we received glimpses of a new character and potential story paths, but we could see how some of the characters were going to start having intersecting story arcs.

Season 2 starts to expand on these storylines and we learn more about what the Penguindrum is. At the same time we start to see a dark side of some of some of the characters and even darker areas of their backstories. I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone because I highly suggest for people to check this series out. I personally felt the series was written to make you view it several times, which are the types of series I enjoy. I give the show high ratings based on that. I reserved the right to change my opinion after a few more viewings so I can determine if I can make sense of potential arcs.

Season 2 saw a more direct influence of terrorism as an element, which coincides with an actual terrorist attack that took place in Tokyo. This angle of inspiration or creator statement, is one that really interests me. I am thinking next year, I might research this topic further.

There is also possible directions in Japanese society and in particular, homelessness and possibly homeless children. There are sprinkles of a fate vs destiny debate as well. With so many paths and influences towards characters actions, it is hard to write a non spoiler review of the series. That isn’t even touching on the purpose of the penguins as in the series as well.

I highly suggested the series to a friend and he read episode summaries before watching the series. He told me after he marathoned the show, he regretted reading the summaries. The episode summaries do not do the show justice. The best comparison I have heard in regards to Penguindrum, is the show is like a scenic train ride. It takes you from point A to point B, but along the way you see so much interesting stuff that you can’t explore at the time and makes you need to revisit it several times. Once you are through the show, you are no longer distracted from an entertainment stand point, and you can start to focus on things that escaped you the first viewing.

I will touch on the series again at a later date, once I am able to view it a couple more times. I hope you give it a watch đŸ™‚ Penguindrum is licensed by Sentai Filmworks in the U.S.

Animating Real Life

I was watching Penguindrum last week while working on some artwork and jokingly sending texts to a friend. I was in episode 9 and the episode started with the characters arriving in Ikebukuro. My friend that I was texting was the one that traveled to Japan with me. The reason I texted him, was because after the characters were revealed to be in Ikebukuro they were at an aquarium.

This past summer when we traveled to Japan, we also visited an aquarium in Ikebukuro. This immediately got me sending him texts about how funny it would be if that was the aquarium we were at. Well, it turns out it was.

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Here is the subway signs that Penguindrum uses to let viewers know what area of Tokyo the characters are in.


This was a sign of the aquarium that I took a picture of on our trip. Notice the logo on the top of the poster.
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Does that logo from the above poster look familiar?IMG_1937

Here are the penguins that we saw at the aquarium.
Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 3.10.43 PMThis is what the rest of the penguin area looked like, wooded pathways and a glass facade so you can see the penguins swimming.

Now you may be thinking big deal, but let me proceed with my point from an artist stand point. As artists we typically use reference material for characters, environments and objects. It is virtually impossible for anyone to have intimate knowledge of every item to be able to draw it convincingly all the time. For instance if you had to draw a desktop or car or house from memory, chances are you could but to take those areas to the next level is to make it look like someone uses the desk, the car and lives in the house.

If you were to draw a living area of a house, you could draw the couch, tv, tables, maybe some magazines on the table and a ceiling fan. But when you compare scenes and items that you draw from memory with ones in real life, you will notice all kinds of things that you may have missed. Maybe there is a child’s toy on the floor in the living area. Did you draw a tv remote or a coffee cup on the table? A book? There is so many little things in areas that reference material is needed for artists.

While I was in Japan, our guide told us about an area (that I can’t recall) that was the setting of a manga series, and that this area drew thousands of visitors each year just because of that. I want to say it was a school… I’ll have to look into this. But this is part of the appeal of basing series off of an actual location.

Another film that comes to mind is My Neighbor Totoro from Studio Ghibli. That film is based on locations in the countryside of Japan. On dvd extras it is revealed that other films such as Ponyo and Spirited Away are also. It is through research that these rich worlds are created and it my opinion actual locations help connect with viewers as well.

Recent Viewing- PenguinDrum


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.