FV on Incestuous Love in Mawaru Penguindrum

Original Post: Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 12


October 3, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I honestly hope the incest isn’t the fuel to the Survival Strategy. Not because it makes me uncomfortable, but because being required just for being taboo seems like a disappointing oversimplification which removes all layers of complexity from incestuous love. Also, although the show certainly takes incestuous tones, I still can’t agree that what we are witnessing truly is incestuous love. The situation between Kanba and Himari seems more complex than that. The way I see it, Kanba, acting as the older brother, was the one who felt the angriest towards his parents when they were “found”(and went to jail, possibly), because not only had they jeopardized his future, but also the future of the siblings he was so protective of. Their parents had fated them all to nothingness, which lead him to hate fate. At the same time, he became even more protective of his siblings, especially Himari, the youngest and most vulnerable of the three, especially since she was sick. This brought them closer, and Kanba’s (fraternal) love for Himari grew stronger.

And one day, Himari dies. Kanba, however, gets a chance to revive her by giving him a “part of his life” (whatever this ends meaning, literal or not). He was literally able to save someone he loved deeply, bringing them that much closer. Besides, the death of someone dear makes you look back at your relationship with them. This miraculous second chance opens all possibilities again, and it is indeed a miracle for the brothers, especially for Kanba, who loves Himari so fiercely. For me, the kiss in the bedroom is the first moment in Kanba’s life in which he considers the possibility. His hatred towards fate (as evidenced in his speech) and the turmoil of emotions caused by Himari’s resurrection make him wonder “What if?” (he even says it in his speech). I don’t interpret this moment as flat-out incest, but as a vulnerable Kanba letting his mind wander between his love for his sister and his defiance of fate.

Consequently, I don’t consider the Princess’s Survival Strategy an act of incestuous sex. It feels more like a ritualistic event. The show, as has become evident by now, heavily references Adam and Eve, from visual cues to similar themes. The apple, the sacred tree, the taboo, the defiance of fate, and, most of all, the inherited cursed fate – the original sin all mankind carries because Adam and Eve ate the apple. Looking at the show in this light, Himari’s nakedness is not only acceptable but appropriate. The naked body is the original and purest form (the first thing Adam and Eve did after eating the Apple was to cover themselves), the raw of the human being, and it makes sense for Himari to show herself in such a way for an essential act such as resurrection. Even if I disregard this far-fetched theory, the act of resurrecting is something so remarkably monumental, so miraculous in it’s essence, that there is no greater way to show it than to bring the characters to their most essential form and have them reach the core of human existence. Our view on resurrection has become incredibly tepid, since in movies and anime it tends to be nothing more than a deus ex machina tap in the head. In Mawaru Penguindrum, I think it’s treated with the flair it deserves, making a much-needed impression both visually and psychologically.

Regarding the act of Survival Strategy itself, I didn’t find it to be very sexual, despite Himari’s nakedness and closeness to Kanba. The act isn’t pleasurable or “enlightening” – it’s a painful, excruciating act of self-sacrifice. Kanba doesn’t do it because he desires to, he does it because he must do it to save Himari. Even the Princess (in a brilliantly sorrowful state) seems to show some pity on him, telling him to stop because it won’t work – I actually think she is trying to spare him the pain since she already know it’s useless, which is a surprising sign of emotion on her part.

Therefore, I think the Princess doesn’t necessarily need incestuous love. What she needs is someone who loves Himari enough to give her a part of their life. Who better than Kanba, the brother who loves her so deeply that all other girls seem to pale in comparison (as skillfully shown in episode 10)? In fact, the only hint at incest I got from this episode was the image of the Princess and Kanba’s embrace (which was really beautiful by the way). The Princess’s defeated look and Kanba’s “please, give me hope” look were very powerful, and that’s what makes me wonder what feelings are hiding behind their eyes. Maybe it’s a love other than fraternal, maybe just the despair of someone who only has his brother and sister to cling to. Or maybe it wasn’t a moment between Kanba and Himari, but between Kanba and the Princess. The connection between Himari and the Princess is still vague, but this episode was the first time I felt some other motivation behind the Princess, a voice that spoke with emotion. Whether it was hers or Himari’s, I don’t know yet.

Well, in the end, my point is: from what I’ve seen so far, there may or may not be incest ahead. It really depends on the route the story decides to take. Either way, it can be really interesting.

By the way, everyone seems to be focusing a lot on the “fake twins” theory. I do think there’s something strange in the way Kenzan speaks about the birth of “a boy”, but it’s too vague and I don’t want to enter any overcomplicated theories when there is so little to run with. For all we know, he might be talking about the twin that was born already, while the other one is still in the womb. Multiple births can be minutes, hours apart. Maybe the sign for the beginning of the attack was only the birth of the first baby. This would provide an additional reason for him to want to get to the hospital as soon as possible (to witness the birth of his second son). In fact, I’m curious as to why no one has talked about the black bunnies yet. Not only are they curiously twins like the Takakuras but they break the mold of animal symbolism so far – they’re neither aquatic animals nor birds. Personally, I’m really intrigued by what they represent, especially after the Mary story. I think they may stand for the “quick fix”, the easy way to change fate that, in turns, hurts the fate of many other people. In the story the ashes were easy to get, while the Penguindrum is proving to be quite hard to get. Also, “Mary”(Kenzan) follows a self-centered path, while the Takakuras’ defiance of fate seems much more focused on self-sacrifice. In this way, I think the bunnies may become an antagonistic force (something which was already a bit obvious from the way they were presented), although I don’t think the Mawaru Penguindrum world is as simple as to be dividable between good and evil.

I’m really curious to see how it develops from now on. Every character has shown a level of depth that shows there’s a lot to be explored, although for me Shouma is the most intriguing. I think that, although quiet, he loves Himari as much as Kanba does (no incestuous tones though), and is putting as much effort as him into keeping her alive, albeit not in such a flashy way. His quiet support out of the frontline has made me respect him somewhat. I’m really curious to see where they take his character.

Whew, sorry for writing such a monumental wall of text. I actually had to rewrite all this because I accidentally lost all I wrote when I finished. Browsers are evil.

Also, a nod to the series’ creators for the amazing writing and timing of the line “Because punishment has to be the most unjust”. It hit me deep.


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