The past two episodes of Mawaru Penguindrum have become very intriguing, focusing on Yuri’s and Masako’s background. What I noticed is that there seems to be a heavy art theme in these episodes, with Yuri’s background involving sculptures and divine beauty. Masako’s background, however, invokes surrealism for me with all the elements of this art movement present in this episode in one way or another. Here, we shall examine the elements of this episode that led me to believe that this episode is heavily surreal-themed, though one element, non sequitur, is more prominent here and I will explain this element more in-depth than the other elements of surrealism.
One of the elements of surrealism is the element of surprise. This is obviously fitting of this series since there have been a lot of surprises in this series so far, such as Yuri’s lesbian tendencies recently and Ringo’s stalkish tendencies earlier on in the series. I shall not go into depth about this element since we know what to expect, so here’s another different element: unexpected juxtaposition, the placement of two objects usually with abstract meaning. This episode appears to have some strange, unexpected juxtapositions:
- The blowfish and the penguin in Survival Strategy
- The snake and the fruit basket
Let’s see if I can try to make sense of these strange juxtaposition, so feel free to jump in and offer your interpretation of these juxtapositions anytime. Both the blowfish and the penguin are native to the sea, and the blowfish is poisonous whereas the penguin is quite harmless, more or less. If we assume that the penguin eats fishes, and it eats a blowfish by accident, it would die. Could this somehow be a foreshadow or relating to Mario? As for the snake and the fruits basket, a biblical reference comes to mind easily enough. Could this be an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve, with the villainous snake tricking them into eating God’s fruit? Maybe so, given all the references in Shoma’s story back in episode 12.
The next and last element of surrealism is non sequitur, a literary device in which one statement is followed by another with no logical progression and the placing of otherwise logical constructs in different contexts where they become ludicrous and bizarre. To be put simply, it is a comment that apparently lacks meaning relative to the previous comment. Non sequitur is often used for humor, and surrealism applies this literary device to its own humor, which is surreal humor. Surreal humor involves using irrational situations, expressions of nonsense, and non sequitur.
This episode of Mawaru Penguindrum has been one long sequence of non sequitur, in which there have been some seemingly meaningless events transpiring one after another, making for some absurd, humorous situations. For instance, when Renjaku, Masako’s maid, was spying on Himari, Himari all of a sudden went into Survival Strategy, and in this realm, Renjaku has been transformed from an uptight old maid into a beautiful, sexy woman. Himari proceeds to recite some verses and take pictures of Renjaku. This has no apparent meaning whatsoever, yet it’s still so humorous at the same time eliciting strong emotions and reactions from my fellow ani-bloggers from what I can see so far.
Another example of non sequitur applied to create surreal humor is the scene when Masako’s grandfather is throwing away Masako’s stuff and the letter from her father into the fireplace. Right after this, Masako’s grandfather shouts for Mario to become strong, and he promptly sets up something so absurdly strange; him getting onto a wooden horse used for S&M, lifting weights, surrounded by crocodiles, his assistant running across a firebed, and flaming hoops in the background. This whole scene is so absurd, yet it’s humorous at the same time. Masako’s grandfather told Mario to become stronger to the point that he set up this absurd situation to prove his point, but there’s no real meaning to going this far.
Finally, there’s the scene when Masako’s grandfather prepares the blowfish himself and consumes it. He then promptly die. A quick, bizarre end. So absurd and completely unpredictable. This is an example of surreal humor as well. To be honest, I chuckled a bit since it was so out of the ordinary, and I just couldn’t really believe that Masako’s grandfather actually ate the blowfish himself and then seeing the people around him reacting in unnatural ways (Renjaku’s emotionless stare, the assistant’s dramatic pose).
Surreal humor has been heavily used here to achieve humor and elicit reactions, and this is a major theme of this episode as well. In addition to the surreal humor, there have also been some references to surrealist works as well, most notably those of René Magritte, a famous surrealist artist and one of my top favorite artists. In the first few seconds of the 15th episode, we see references to The Empty Picture Frame. In episode 16, in the painting of Masako’s grandfather with a sign hiding his face, we see a reference to The Son of Man. Both of these artwork are very notable in their own right, with The Empty Picture Frame, having the frame being so intensely empty that it penetrates the plaster behind it and revealing the bricks, and The Son of Man, revealing a strong conflict between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.
We also frequently see Yuri’s father holding a pipe in episode 15, which is another great reference of a surrealist artwork: The Treachery of Images, again, by René Magritte. This surreal artwork is a great example of non sequitur as well in the statement written out below the pipe, “Ceci n’est nas une pipe” translated “This is not a pipe”. From appearance, we can see that it is a pipe, yet Magritte says it is not a pipe. This is true and false. While it appears to be a pipe, it is actually merely an image of a pipe, that is to say, a painting of a pipe. Magritte challenges us to think deeper by assessing this painting in an entirely different new perspective. This also may be the case with this episode of Mawaru Penguindrum as well, with Ikuhara challenging us to think differently with various references of surrealist artworks and surreal humor. So, people, embrace Mawaru Penguindrum with a bold, different mindset in preparation of what may come!