Well, I’ve decided on impulse to immediately talk about episode 12 of Mawaru Penguindrum after watching it. The events that has transpired within this episode have been revealing, yet still not getting closer to the mystery that is the Penguindrum. However, I would like to point out one core theme of this episode, or rather, the allusion to a famous nursery rhyme that we all surely are familiar with, Mary Had a Little Lamb, along with several other references. SPOILERS WARNING AHEAD!
In this episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, when Himari collapses after hearing Shoma’s tale of his parents’ involvement in a disastrous incident sixteen years ago, Shoma begins reciting a story that alludes to the nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb, with various differences and added references such as double black rabbits and the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The black rabbits symbolizes family, awareness, caution, and curiosity. Family is a powerful theme in Mawaru Penguindrum, we can be sure of that. There is so much to be aware and cautious of in Mawaru Penguindrum as well, since we have a biker-thief, Masako, and the mysterious librarian as well. Curiosity is also a subtle theme as well, since Shoma is curious as to what is exactly written in Momoka’s diary (which we now know about), but so far, I have yet to see any further evidence of curiosity as of writing this post. The color of the rabbits also symbolizes a hidden motive from within shadows, black darkness, and possibly ill intent. We may never know why the rabbits offered their advice about taking the ashes from the Goddess’s torch, but that may be answered soon as we see them as young boys by Watase Sanetoshi (the librarian) near the end of the episode.
Shoma’s story also had a similarity to the story of Adam and Eve, where Adam and Eve stole the fruit from God’s tree, tempted by a sinister snake. Shoma speaks of Mary being tempted by the double black rabbits to steal the ashes from the Goddess’s torch to revitalize her (or his judging from the animation?) precious apple tree. We can say that Mary would be the equivalent of Adam, that the Goddess’s Torch alludes to God’s fruit tree, and that the black rabbits alludes to the sinister manipulative snake. Also, the apple’s meaning in Mawaru Penguindrum finally starts to make sense, since the apple could allude to God’s fruit. I am no expert on biblical texts (I’m atheist/Buddhist/Shinto with my own various beliefs), but this is very intriguing to note.
The story of Adam and Eve also tells of temptation as well. Now, I am uncertain as to exactly what subjects or objects there are to cause temptation, but I do believe that Momoka’s diary is a subject, though I have only an inkling of it. Also, when Himari stripped naked to initialize the Survival Strategy, there certainly is temptation involved, as she alluringly reaches down into Kanba’s body (soul?) to breathe new life in Himari’s body. This is evocative of Shoma’s tale, when Mary steals the ashes of the Goddess’s Torch to breathe new life in his precious apple tree.
And now, to the main relevant subject of Shoma’s story. It also invokes the lyrical images from that famous nursery rhyme that we all surely know, Mary Had a Little Lamb. A brief historical background: This nursery rhyme was first written by Sarah Josepha Hale during nineteenth century America, and it was inspired by an actual event that happened to her. Almost everyone knows that song, but it has changed over time since May 24, 1830, its published date, so I shall instead recite the original Mary’s Little Lamb word for word when it was first printed (I actually happen to have a copy of the original with me at the moment for a college project, but I think you can find it on the Internet as well):
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every where that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day-
That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.
And so the Teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear;
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said- ‘I’m not afraid-
You’ll keep me from all harm.’
‘What makes the lamb love Mary so?’
The eager children cry-
‘O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,’
The Teacher did reply;-
‘And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind.’
Now, notice that this original nursery rhyme is very different from the one we hears nowadays today. In this poetic rhyme, the theme is elegant and yet very simple at the same time. It tells of the meaning of kindness and of what we can do when we are kind and subtly, what happens when we are not kind. The little lambs in Shoma’s tale are so endeared with Mary, and Mary had been kind to them. But, when Mary’s precious apple tree withered, he paid no heed to the little lambs’ consoling cries. The punishment for ignoring his little lambs and stealing the ashes from the Goddess’s Torch, was unfortunately cruelly paid. The Goddess chose to take the gentlest, kind, young, little girl lamb away from Mary. “Why take her? Why can’t it be me?” Kanba cries out on Himari’s deathbed. And the Goddess said, “Because the punishment has to be the most unjust.”
Fate, love, family, temptation, kindness. These concepts are so very integral to Mawaru Penguindrum, and Shoma’s enchanting story invokes all of these in one way or another. Was it fateful for Himari to die? Can the opposite of love, ignorance, cause terrible harm on loved ones, in this case, the little lambs? Was Mary truly kind to her little lambs, as the nursery rhyme suggests? Has the strong bond of family held straight and true between the Takakura siblings? Is the apple a symbolism of temptation? So many questions, yet so much allusions and mysteries remains, leaving us grasping at old tell-tale hints.