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Penguindrum vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 16, 2013 by  



“Penguindrum” is one of those rare anime series that captivates you for its unique storyline and beautiful presentation! There really is nothing like it and once again, Kunihiko Ikuhara has created another wonderful series since “Revolution Girl Utena”.  “Penguindrum” definitely makes my list for one of the best anime series out on Blu-ray for 2013.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Filmworks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Penguindrum Vol. 2

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: 13-24 Episodes (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 D

Release Date: March 12, 2013

Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara

Series Composition by Kunihiko Ikuhara, Takayo Ikami

Music by Yukari Hashimoto

Original Character Designs by Lily Hoshino

Character Design by Terumi Nishii

Art Director: Chieko Nakamura, Kentaro Akiyama

Anime Production: Brain’s Base

Featuring the following voice talent:

Marie Miyake/Emily Neves as Ringo Oginome

Miho Arakawa/Monica Rial as Himari Takakura

Ryohei Kimura/Blake Shepard as Shōma Takakura

Subaru Kimura/Illich Guardiola as Kanba Takakura

Akira Ishida as Keiju Tabuki

Mamiko Noto/Shelley Calene-Black as Yuri Tokikago

Yui Horie/Maggie Flecknoe as Masako Natsume

Yutaka Koizumi/David Matanga as Sanetoshi Watase

Once you make a decision, does the universe conspire to make it happen? Is destiny a matter of chance, a matter of choice or the complex outcome of thousands of warring strands of fate? All twins Kanba and Shouma know is that when their terminally ill sister Himari collapses at the aquarium, her death is somehow temporarily reversed by the penguin hat that she had asked for. It’s a provisional resurrection, however, and it comes at a price: to keep Himari alive they need to find the mysterious Penguin Drum. In order to do that, they must first find the links to a complex interlocking chain of riddles that has wrapped around their entire existence, and unravel the knots that tie them to mystifying diary and a baffling string of strangers and semi-acquaintances who all have their own secrets, agendas and “survival strategies.” And in order for Himari to live, someone else’s chosen destiny will have to change. From the creator of REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA comes a story of love, fate, life, death . and Penguins: PENGUIN DRUM – THE FIRST COLLECTION.

How far would one go to protect a loved one?  How far would one go to make sure that the destiny of fate is achieved?

In a desperate move to keep Himari alive, Kanba makes a decision that will affect his relationship with Shouma.  Meanwhile, Shoma tells Ringo the truth about how Momoka’s death was the result of his parents.  Also, Yuri reveals the truth of her relationship with Tabuki and Momoka and the backstory of her and also Masako Natsume are revealed and why they are desperately after Ringo’s diary.

And everything comes full circle as hard decisions must be made and personal sacrifices in order for one to save the people they love.

All this and more in the conclusion of “Penguindrum”.

What is “Penguindrum”?

Kunihiko Ikuhara is best known for directing episodes of the “Sailor Moon” series but most notably for his work on “Revolutionary Girl Utena”. While Ikuhara may not be known for having a long oeuvre in his animated career, Ikuhara has won over fans all over the world for his work.

In 2011, Ikuhara returned with a 24-episode series titled “Mawaru Penguindrum” (Penguindrum) produced by Brain’s Base.

Directed by Ikuhara and also co-written along with Takayo Ikami (“Heaven’s Memo Pad”), the series features the music of Yukari Hashimoto (“Mayo Chiki!”, “Kanamemo”, “Toradora!”), original character designs by Lily Hoshino (“Zakuro”, “Mr. Flower Groom”, “Otome Yokai Zakuro”), character designs by Terumi Nishii (“Casshern Sins”, “Death Note”, “Inuyasha”) and background art by Chieko Nakamura (“Eyeshield 21”, “Azumanga Daioh”, “Revolutionary Girl Utena”) and Kentaro Akiyama (“Air”, “Black Rock Shooter”, “Steel Angel Kurumi”).

And “Penguindrum” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks (volume 1 was released in December 2012 and volume 2 will be released in March 2013).

“Penguindrum” is an anime series featuring three members of the Takakura family. Kanba and brother Shouma are responsible for taking care of their younger sister Himari while their parents are gone. Both want strongly to bring Himari happiness.

And we are given a flashback that the reason for them striving to bring Himari happiness is because their doctor has told them that Himari’s health is worsening and she is dying. So, both brothers are wanting to make sure that their younger sister has a good life before she dies.

With Himari wanting to relive a happy memory of the family going to the aquarium to seen the penguins, as the family are having fun and visit a shop, Himari who is waiting with Shouma (as he is buying her a penguin hat) disappears. When both Kanba and Shouma are looking for their sister, someone screams to call for an ambulance as a girl is unconscious.

The brothers run out to find their sister passed out. When they arrive to the hospital, Himari is dead. Shouma is distraught and Kanba, trying to be the caretaker feels it is time notify family members, which upsets Shouma that his brother is not as distraught as he is. As the two argue, the penguin cap that the brothers bought for her suddenly brings Himari back to life.

The two are whisked to a special area in which Himari, but in the personality of the Princess of the Crystal, a dominatrix, tells the brothers that she is looking for the penguin drum and if they want to extend the life of their sister, they will do as she says. Also, letting them know that three blue penguins will be staying with the Takakura’s and no one can see them but them.

Their first lead to finding the penguindrum is for them to follow Ringo Oginome and to watch over her. As the brothers follow her, they realize something odd about this girl, the fact that she is a stalker of their science teacher Mr. Tabuki. And she often refers to a diary, which the Princess of the Crystal orders them to get the diary.

But as the brothers try to obtain the diary, someone out there is trying to do the same.

Meanwhile, to make things even more unusual, Himari brings a new friend over to the house….Ringo Oginome.

With the second half, with Shoma sacrificing his life to save Ringo, she feels indebted to him, but it leads to a powerstruggle behind the scenes as Yuri and Masako Natsume have each stolen the half of Momoka’s diary.  It is also revealed that Kanba, Shoma and Himari’s parents were terrorists and that in order to pay for their home and expenses, Kanba has been working with the terrorist organization to pay their debt.

We also learn the backstory of Yuri and how she feels a closeness to Momoka but also why Masako Natsume is so obsessed with Kanba.

But who is this Sanetoshi Watase and why is he so interested in Himari and also Kanba?  And how are these characters connected with each other?

“Penguindrum” features the following characters:

  • Kanba Takakura – The serious person in the family and is known for being a playboy who dates girls and dumps them. He cares deeply for his little sister Himari and with the father and mother not home, he is responsible for taking care of the family and maintaining the family finances. Of the siblings, he is doing all he can to obtain the penguindrum.
  • Shouma Takakura – The innocent brother who has been given the task of following Ringo Oginome to obtain her diary. He cares for his sister deeply.
  • Himari Takakura – The cheerful sister who is dying from an uncurable disease. For some reason she is being kept alive by a penguin hat that changes to the Princess of the Crystal, a dominatrix who uses Himari’s body to order her brothers in finding the penguindrum (which will extend her life) or else their sister will die. Always caring for her brothers and loving to cook, she cares more for them than worry for her own illness. She was once a member of the idol group “Triple H”.
  • Ringo Oginome – A stalker who is trying to get her teacher Keiju Tabuki in love with her. In truth, Ringo is following the diary of her deceased sister Momoka and trying to make sure her dream comes true by trying to get close to Tabuki by any means necessary. Even if he is dating Yuri Tokikago. But her diary has a connection to the Takakura’s and the Princess of the Crystal has ordered the Takakura brothers to obtain Momoka/Ringo’s diary.
  • Keiju Tabuki – A teacher that Ringo stalks. A science teacher for both Takakura brothers, when he was younger, he was close to Momoka Oginome. He is dating Yuri Tokikago.
  • Yuri Tokikago – A famous actress to the Sunshiny Theatre Takarazuka troupe, she loves Keiju and unaware that Ringo loves him. She thinks that she and Shouma Takakura are boyfriend and girlfriend.
  • Masako Natsume – A wealthy woman who seems to be going after women that were once close to Kanba. She has an obsession to him and uses a laser slingshot with the potential to erase the memories of individuals. Like the Takakakura’s, she also ahas a penguin and is after the penguindrum for some reason.
  • Sanetoshi Watase – A mysterious librarian working at the Central Library’s “Hole int eh Sky” branch trying to assist Himari. He has an unknown connection to Himari.

VIDEO:

“Penguindrum” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). It’s important to note that when it comes to anime production, unlike major anime studios who are very busy developing several animated TV series, films and OVA’s all at one time, Brain’s Base (which is founded by former staff of Tokyo Movie Shinsha) is not one to put themselves in the situation of having too much on their plate. The good news is that because the staff are not in a major deadline while working on multiple series, they could focus on a series and give it the best quality, even though it’s a TV series.

In the case of “Penguindrum”, everything that you can hope for in a series with many locations, scenery, art backgrounds, characters in different clothing and great amount of detail and shading is featured. Colors are not subdued or soft, they are colorful and vibrant. I detected no banding issues, no artifacts whatsoever.

“Penguindrum” is probably one of the coolest anime series that I have seen in quite some time and goes to show that TV anime series can look fantastic and it does on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Penguindrum” vol. 2 is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Japanese and English). Both are the same when it comes to special effects and in terms of voice acting, both are well done. I typically listen to the Japanese soundtrack but this is one series where the English dub soundtrack is well-done. Lossless audio is crystal clear from the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Penguindrum” vol. 2 features the clean opening and closing animations, Japanese commercials and promos.

What a shocking twist on this series which was lighthearted, fun and humorous.

The second half of “Penguindrum” gets serious, dark and characters start to show a side that you just never came to expect.

Without spoiling how characters change, I will say that how these characters are all connected by fate and destiny is rather intriguing and also leaves a few questions of how or why things came to be.

While the first half gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Ringo, season two gives us more details of the past of nearly every other character.  And how dark things were for them.

For the character of Yuri Takago, which I will discuss as she is a minor-player in the series, despite being a popular singer and known to be a beautiful woman, her upbringing was bad.  Her father sexually abused her repeatedly and refused her to let anyone caring get close to her but him.  She developed this warped personality towards the world and everything was ugly, including her (as her father would tell her repeatedly that he could only love beautiful things and if she wanted to be beautiful to him, she must do what he tells her).  Momoka was the only person who refused to believe that and was brave enough to tell it to her face of what was happening is wrong.  But we learn that Momoka has that special gift of bringing people together and making them happy.  She is looking for the penguin drum and Ringo’s diary to find out how Momoka was able to change destiny.

For Masako Natsume, also a minor-player who we thought was possibly a girl that kept getting rejected by Kanba, turns out to be his twin sister.  And that she is looking for a way to make her brother Mario’s health better and looking towards Ringo’s diary or the penguindrum to make things better.

But there is more to this storyline that isn’t fully revealed. Regarding the Natsume Corporation and how the penguins are all tied to it.  But also…ghosts.  Yes, there are ghosts in this animated series and things get rather complex.

Almost like an episode of “Lost” with its flashbacks, present/multiple storylines, there are things that aren’t fully explained and perhaps, this may lead to a prequel or sequel.  While the series concludes, I really do feel there is more stories to be told in the “Penguindrum” series and I hope that Kunihiko Ikuhara comes back to it.

As  mentioned in my last review for part one, “Penguindrum” looks fantastic in HD!  Popular studios are always working on multiple series and so art backgrounds are typically trees, skies and occasional buildings, but for “Penguindrum”, this is a series that requires a lot of locations and plenty of detail and this is where Brain’s Base delivers. Characters travel to so many different areas around the city and each background is detailed. Also, I like it when characters are shown wearing different clothes. With TV series, to make things easier on the animators for deadline, most often the characters are wearing the same clothes. But Brain’s Base put a lot of time in making sure these characters have different clothing.

Character designs and art backgrounds are fantastic and on Blu-ray, this is one of the most vibrant TV series I have seen. If there is one factor that I wish the Blu-ray had better special features.  Cast interviews, commentary but at least we do get the Japanese commercials and promos that were not featured in the first volume.

But vol. 2 is an interesting, fascinating and darker conclusion to the series.  The decisions and revelations for each character is rather surprising and unexpected but that’s what makes “Penguindrum” such an awesome anime series.  It’s unique, fresh and something you never have seen before in an anime series.

Overall, “Penguindrum” is one of those rare anime series that captivates you for its unique storyline and beautiful presentation! There really is nothing like it and once again, Kunihiko Ikuhara has created another wonderful series since “Revolution Girl Utena”.  “Penguindrum” definitely makes my list for one of the best anime series out on Blu-ray for 2013.  Highly recommended!

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