A few weeks ago, I posted a rather long, detailed retrospective of Revolutionary Girl Utena, which is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year, helped along by a new deluxe manga release from Viz and and Blu-Ray anime box set from Nozomi/RightStuf. It got me thinking about his other works, and their visual and thematic commonalities. I was considering re-watching Mawaru Penguindrum, released in English by Section 23 Films as Penguindrum (Set 1 and Set 2,) but a trip to Book-Off provided me with an alternate.
The Mawaru Penguindrum manga is drawn by Shibata Isuzu, a manga artist with whose work I was previously unfamiliar. With character designs by Hoshino Lily, the anime character designer, anyone familiar with the anime would find themselves instantly familiar with the manga. Volume 1 covers the introduction of the primary cast, sickly Himari, her brothers Kanba and Shoma and Ringo, the classmate with a little stalking problem. This first volume embraces, rather than rejects, the repeated footage of the Princess of the Crystal demanding the “Penguindrum” and dropping someone through the floor.
The rest of the story is present almost completely intact from the anime. The penguins show up and are as awful as they are in the anime. We get Ringo’s back story, and Kan-chan’s own stalker, Natsuki is introduced at the end, but there is something missing….something important, Nothing is mentioned of Himari, Shoma and Kanba’s own backstory, except for a brief reference in the phone call from their uncle who plans on turning them out of their home. Their parents are a barely seen presence in no more than a single image and nothing is said of their non-appearance.
Where the manga in Utena and Yurikuma Arashi redistribute the basic elements of the plot and create something new, the manga for Mawaru Penguindrum seems more of a distillation of the story…with the use of repeated footage.
Art – 8
Story – 6 If I didn’t already know where it was going, I might not keep reading. Or I might.
Characters – 7 Ringo’s still unhinged, but there’s no obvious sign of anyone else being broken. Presumably, that will change.
Yuri – 0 in this volume. Fingers crossed it keeps that piece of the story intact.
Service – A little compulsory service with the Princess’ outfit
I look forward to future volumes to see if/when it diverges from the already multi-layered anime narrative.