Animal magic of Penguin Drum

Penguin Drum

Magical girls occupy an odd space in the anime world. Originally aimed at young girls, the colourful superheroes managed to find traction with viewers of all ages over the decades since Sally the Witch cast her first spell on viewers in 1966. However, one of the pleasant side-effects of attracting an older audience is the freedom it gives creators to experiment with the form. The result has been fan-favourite series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which subvert the surface veneer of delicate girls in frilly dresses by exploring much darker themes. Penguin Drum is the latest show to toy with fans’ expectations, delivering a madcap fusion of life, death and mystic flightless birds, hatched from the mind of veteran magical girl director Kunihiko Ikuhara.

Ikuhara is a creator well-known for his experimental proclivities, and has been creating mature, challenging and thought-provoking ‘magical girl’ series for years. Of course, like most things relating to the modern magical girl, the Tokushima native’s career is inextricably linked to Sailor Moon. Having worked under original director Junichi Sato on Toei’s adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s genre-redefining manga, Ikuhara took over directorial duties from the second season, Sailor Moon R. He would helm the series for three years, covering the S and SuperS seasons, before stepping off the show, frustrated with the lack of creative control he was afforded.

Founding the creative agency Be-Papas in the wake of his departure from Toei, Ikuhara partnered with manga artist Chiho Saito to bring Revolutionary Girl Utena to both page and screen. An apocalyptic tale of destiny and reincarnation set in a decidedly unconventional boarding school, Utena touched on themes of obligation, freedom, lesbianism and transgenderism as the eponymous heroine – determined to become a prince, rather than a princess – fought to protect the ‘Rose Bride’ Anthy in a succession of bizarre sword duels. The series became extremely metaphysical, replete with allegories to mythology, while its visuals drew on shadow puppetry and traditional Japanese theatre as much as it did on Saito’s distinctive art style. Despite the 1997 vintage, Utena remains one of the most unusual magical girl series in terms of tone and style. Although its narrative is deliberately dense and potentially confusing, with events wholly open to interpretation, it’s clear the series provided Ikuhara with an avenue to explore his more challenging ideas.

Following Utena, Ikuhara took a step back from animation for a number of years. Literary and musical collaborations – including the manga The World Exists for Me with Saito and the novel/concept album Schell:Bullet with mecha designer and artist Mamoru Nagano – filled his creative slate, with only storyboard and guest director roles on series such as Aoi Hana and Soul Eater bringing him back to anime in brief bursts. It would take his creation of Penguin Drum, first aired in Japan in 2011, to bring him back into the fold.

Penguin Drum Octopus Attack

The series follows the terminally ill Himari Takakura and her brothers Kanba and Shouma. When Himari finally passes after a visit to an aquarium, she is revived by a strange penguin hat. Empowered by the ‘Princess of the Crystal’, her life is extended, but only if the trio can find the mystic Penguindrum, though just what that is remains a mystery. Aided only by three invisible magic penguins – yes, really – the search forces the close-knit family to engage in stalking and burglary amongst other crimes, all while Kanba and Shouma face the possibility of losing their sister for good if they fail.

Penguindrum once again sees Ikuhara re-writing the rules of magical girl anime. Himari’s transformations are more akin to a spiritual possession than a super-powered metamorphosis, with the Princess forcing her host body into a penguin-themed idol with the fashion sense and personality of a dominatrix. There’s a level of darkness and desperation too, with the heroes forced to undertake some distinctly unheroic actions. Even the designs are intended to test viewers’ acceptance, with the assorted penguin paraphernalia bordering on the deliberately farcical. At its core though, Penguindrum is a fable of family and fraternity but the themes explored will make you see just how different a magical girl can be in the telling.

The first collection of Penguin Drum, containing episodes 1-12, is on sale now.

Penguin Drum Part 1 Trailer

Our Favourite Anime Powers

    With the long-awaited release of the Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections and Dragon Ball Super, we've found ourselves thinking about our favourite anime powers. Here are some of our favourites: SUPER SAIYAN Perhaps the greatest anime power of all. Who hasn’t watched...

Dragon Ball FighterZ Public Launch Event

January 2018 promises to be an incredible one for Dragon Ball fans! Not only are there more Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections and the next part of Dragon Ball Super on the way, there's also the release of the much anticipated Dragon Ball Z FighterZ. To celebrate the...

Manga UK’s 2017 Rewind

We'd like to start this off by saying a big thank you to you for all of your support this year – 2017 has been fantastic for us here at Manga UK and that's all all down to you. Here's what we achieved... At May's MCM London Comic you helped us raise £380 for the Oska...

December 26th – Out This Week

Hosoda Collection: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Blu-ray Collector’s Edition The Collector’s Edition includes deluxe packaging with a gorgeous premium clear sleeve, plus an exclusive 52 page book full of behind-the-scenes content about the film, including making-of...

Anime Characters We’d Love To Spend Christmas With

    Christmas is almost here! If you could spend the day with any anime character, who would you choose and why? Here are our choices: Hatake Kakashi Naruto Naruto's Kakashi may not be an obvious choice when it comes to spending Christmas with someone, but he's...

Digimon – Favourite Character Poll

With the release of the wonderful Digimon Adventure Tri – The Movie Part 3: Confession finally upon us, we'd like to know who your favourite Digimon character is! About Digimon Tri 3:​ Meicoomon vanishes into the distorted abyss. Shaken, Tai and the others search for...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This