Mawaru Penguindrum Guide Book - Interview with Kunihiko Ikuhara (director)

This is probably the one you’ve waited for the most, and you’ll all feel trolled because it’s so shooort, includes mostly talk about the series’ composition, and doesn’t really tell you anyhting “new” about the story. However, this is not the only Ikuhara-talk in the book, there’s still another one where he talks to author Mizuki Tsujimura, and that one is fucking long.
(Actually though, the interview with Lily Hoshino, which is the next one to come, is probably far more interesting)

Also: oh god this interview is full of so many… “art”-expressions (;;°_°;;)
I’ll probably edit around in this one in a few days because it was really hard for me to express it properly, even though I do understand it :x

Q: In this book, we will also publish your conversation with Mizuki Tsujimura, where you go very deep into the themes of “Mawaru Penguindrum.” Here, we would like to ask you about “Penguindrum” from another point of view. Originally, you had also been talking about a “Penguin Anime”, so we would like to start from the penguins. Is that an animal you like?
A: Of course, I made them appear because I like them, but there are several other reasons. First of all, my career began at Toei Animation. There, we were taught that it is necessary to have small animals aimed at kids appear. That has sunken deep into me. I can’t do without.
Q: I see. Penguins are really great animals. Dogs, cats, or rabbits are animals you can keep, feel attached to and that are seen as cute. But you cannot keep penguins, and even though they seem far away, everybody loves them…
A: Penguins are mascot-like character throughout generations. The reason for that is probably because they are kind of “animals from over there.” Dogs and cats belong to our daily life, and most other pets apart from them are also mammals, but penguins are birds. However, they don’t seem like birds. They dive in water. Don’t they seem like a special “Penguin” family of animals? And isn’t this feeling “They can’t go anywhere” a good one? It’s like “I can’t fly, but I can’t stay underwater forever either. Just where do I belong?” (laughs)
Q: That’s true. Their behaviour is cute as well.
A: I liked their tottering way of walking. And (Lily) Hoshino’s designs were right on the spot and took the form my generation liked. A bit chubby, walking pitapat. As an image… it was that one, the monster-anime that ran when I was a child. With the white one who can fly but “dogs are his weak point.” I liked him so much. I also collected lots of goods (laughs.)
[Note: The series he’s talking about is most probably “Obake no Qtarô”]
Q: So that’s what the series has common ground with… That monster was pretty anarchic.
A: He lives off on somebody else, but he still takes seconds at dinner. What a bother (laughs.) I like this kind of pattern a lot. This “he’s just not useful.” I can feel at ease in a world where someobdy like him can be. Aren’t it hard times for a main character like him to live in right now? He’d be excluded from the community. But in old kids’ anime and manga, there were many no-good characters. They are “useless”, but I long for them nowadays. I’m sure there are things where “it’s fine with them just being here.” Oh, and I also often get the question “What are the penguins?”…
Q: What are the penguins? (laugs)
A: Yeah (laughs.) It’s something I’ve been thinking recently, but they surely are something like “life.” I don’t mean that in the sense of the siblings’ lives changing appearance. More like… how should I put it, live’s passion, glow, something like that. It feels as if something like “Life’s Outline” was pushed out of the siblings and taken form. Maybe they are something where “it’s fine with them just being here.”
Q: I see. Like this, the penguins add up to the Takakura fmamily, but this Takakura houshold’s visuals are enjoyable as well. You can see who lives there, but it’s cute.
A: It is reflected in detail what kind of characters live there. All the designs were nice.
Q: There also is the story about how the siblings tried hard to make it like this for their family.
A: I kept the “love” in mind. Shôko Nakamura’s designs were great. The arrangement of small and big tools was expressed well. That’s a very difficult thing in anime.
Q: Many people also were impressed by the fresh colors.
A: The girlish sense of coloring was good, wasn’t it. It hadn’t been as extreme, but I ordered coloring similar to my own room when I was young (laughs.)
Q: I see. The fact that it was made as the “Takakura-House”, a space for the characters, made it interesting. It was cute, but this “young girl-style” also feels like a shôjo manga. There are many shôjo manga-like elements in “Penguindrum”.
A: It all begins with Lily Hoshino. The designs and details she draws, aren’t they actually not a parody of what was common in our generation, but very decadent? It’s a pleasure for the eyes. Things like the princess’ clothes are grotesque, but they also bear a graceful beauty. This is a praise, of course (laughs.) Character designer (Terumi) Nishii also picked up Hoshino’s shôjo manga-nuances very well, too, I think. For example Shôma’s cuteness as a character.
Q: In the story there were parts, where people that had been thought of as minor characters become a kind of turning point, and leave a deep impression.
A: I think it was the way we showed it that was interesting. For example, we made references to Monet’s pictures in Tabuki’s mother. Aren’t Monet’s images regarded as intoxicating? My intuition was that I can [use them to] express something as intense as the “Magnetic force of motherhood.” Showing Monet’s pictures instead of just having people say the lines also had something scary. This feeling that it’s beautiful but frightening. Masako’s past is the same. “Loss” is drawn into surreal laughs.
Q: An essential part is that you not only abstract your depictions, but also use them in a symbol-like way. That’s what “Penguindrum” is really made of, right?
A: I thought… of Yuri’s past as having nuances of a girl who’s fallen into a love that’s not good for her. Like the story of a girl who is being made dependent on her boyfriend who hits her. Even if you warn her “you’re being tricked by that guy,” she won’t listen. The man is sneaky and skillfully controls the girl’s mind. To open the girl’s eyes, her friends need to sacrifice themselves. The existence of Yuri, Tabuki, and Masako is very important. The viewers need them to become aware of the direction “Penguindrum“‘s story is taking.
Q: That’s true. And that’s why, episode 20 was made by Akemi Hayashi and tells us about the childhood of Shôma and the others, wasn’t it?
A: I thought that Ms. Hayashi is good at drawing small details. That’s why I asked her to do the encounter between Shôma and Himari. I think it went well.
Q: The scene with Himari staring into space on the stairs was very good, too.
A: The way little Himari’s appearance and her surroundings were shown was very good. The atmosphere of a lonely apartment complex etc. There were orders but the image was even better than what I had ordered.
Q: The themes “Penguindrum” wants to convey and its novel depictions leave a strong impression, but through the whole series, there’s also a happy feeling, and that is really important, I feel. Entertainment is the basis, and there are things everybody can enjoy, like the Penguins and Triple H… The staff also had fun playing the penguins. It’s not only the edgy things.
A: Well, if there are too many edges, it becomes hard to watch. But because it’s an original series, it was also hard to adjust the images the individual staff members had in mind. The themes were hard as well, and we also had many clashes. A real uproar (laughs).
Q: I see. Even if they are talented, if it’s only people who clash together, the secene will fail…
A: Yeah. Or it will turn into something like “get rid of all differences.” What I always think is that it shouldn’t be like this, but maybe more adding up. At first sight, I seem like someone who gets into quarrels over quality. However, I always wonder if things could be added up by changing the channel and shifting to another direction. I thought it would be nice if all those tastes could come out well. But when you really start then, it turns into “I grabbed a burning tea pot with my bare hands. What should I do?” (laughs)
Q: But for the last episode, I heard, you all did the storyboard together and it seemed to me as if multiple consciousnesses were at work. You also showed an extreme climax to the story.
A: I think all people in the staff thought about the meaning it has to make a series in the middle of this year 2011. Even though we did’t actively think about this nuance, it appeared in the series.
[Note: I think it’s very safe to assume that he’s talking about the Tohoku quake.]
Q: Is it the individual real time that makes you feel it’s “a work from this era”? For example, Nagisa Ôshima leaves his intense movies from the 60s that could only be filmed in that era.
A: Back then, the main issue were “the times.” In the 70s, this suddenly turned into “personal times.” From there I think, we lost this kind of meaning to live. You can also say that ever since, the people of this country have been lingering in the dark. And during the modern history of this kind of Japan, the year 1995 has a special feeling to it.
[Note: a reference to the 1995 sarin incident]
Q: I see. In 1995, there were many intellectuals speaking up, but I get the feeling it wasn’t talked about that much.
A: I suppose this world had become bipolar before we noticed. The feelings of those who were not able to get along with this world were ignored or how should I put it…… That was left boiling in a place deep under the skin, I guess. I think they all saw it but acted as if they hadn’t seen it.
Q: But in 2011, they all also…
A: I still don’t really know what effect that will take on young people’s minds. But one way or another, they all thought about their “important one,” I think.
Q: Creators probably always walk with the times, but in your case it’s expecially deliberate, I think. I feel that “Penguindrum” was born into times were people need it.
A: I wonder how it is? Don’t you feel that the speed in which things are consumed gets higher and higher? But this speed also seems to be proportional to our sympathy and agreement, so we probably can’t do anything about it. That’s why I think it would be great if there were people to remember this work’s title for three years. 10 years… would be a miracle. If the people who watch it are maybe “able to arrive”, that’s a gift from the staff. Maybe because they were facing reality during their work and were persistent. I think they gave me the credit of being the “director.”

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