Mawaru-Penguindrum Episode 01: Cruel God

God is cruel. That one phrase is repeated several times in the first episode of the most unexpected show of the new season, Mawaru Penguindrum.  They’re also words that...
Art by Cha (Pixiv) and containing text that I hope isn't saying something weird
Art by Cha (Pixiv) and containing text that I hope isn't saying something weird

God is cruel.

That one phrase is repeated several times in the first episode of the most unexpected show of the new season, Mawaru Penguindrum.  They’re also words that are repeated daily, in various incarnations, by many people.

As spoken in the show, the idea is that how can God give a good person a fate that is tragic?  Indeed, it’s tough to reconcile the idea that a “good” person could end up with a terminal illness that takes her life at a young age with the picture of a merciful God.  And part of that answer has to do with the idea of an eternal focus.

Art by Cha (Pixiv) and containing text that I hope isn’t saying something weird

When Kanba narrates his feelings about the cruelty of God and of fate, he does so focusing on the here and now.  No surprise – this is what most of us focus on most of the time.  It is reality.  But for Christians, the here and now is only a very small measure of “real time,” discounting our freedom from the bonds of sin and evil on earth in the eternity of Heaven after death.

This promise of a future where poverty and tragedy no longer exist was and still is a major attracting point of the gospel message.  African-American slaves sung about their freedom from the harshness of their lives one day.  And from my own experience, I’ve seen Sudanese, forced to flee their homelands and escape to Egypt, sing to God with an earnestness that is inspiring.

What did these men and women know that many of us don’t?  They believe that the pain of this earth is temporary, and that their future is bright.  The social injustice of this world will pass.  Like Himari, whose life was full of sorrow, they are inhabited by a new spirit – one that offers a second life.

In the end, the guarantee of the cross is that those who believe aren’t running into the arms of a cruel God.  They are leaving a cruel world and like the story of the Prodigal Son suggests, being embraced by a God that loves them with an untamed heart.

Comments

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  • Justin
    11 July 2011 at 7:35 am

    If my Hiragana skills aren’t completely rubbish, she’s saying ‘Seizon Senryaku’, which apparently means Survival Strategy according to google translate.

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  • R86
    11 July 2011 at 7:44 am

    Justin beat me by ten minutes. 🙂 In kanji it’s written 生存戦略 and you can hear it at about 11:33 or so of the first episode. Which I’m now watching. Man, this thing is wild….

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    • TWWK
      11 July 2011 at 7:48 am

      This episode is totally loopy and totally creative. A definite “wow” factor. I’m kind of a dummy and don’t usually like series that make me think too much or which are artistic to point that I feel they’re pretentious – but this episode is not that. It’s just incredibly well done, and I’m totally intrigued.

      Leave a Reply
  • Yi
    11 July 2011 at 7:52 am

    I was actually kind of curious how you’d take this anime~

    “how can God give a good person a fate that is tragic?”
    Quite a heavy idea, isn’t it? For me, it really is a hard idea to reconcile, despite having been involved with Christianity, sometimes more closely, other times very loosely, throughout my life.

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    • TWWK
      11 July 2011 at 8:12 am

      I think there are two major “questions” in Christianity: first, is it true (does the Christian God exist?) and secondly, how does one reconcile a loving God with the pain and injustice so many suffer. It’s, admittedly, quite a conundrum. Christians like myself often have the “book answer,” part of which I gave above, but that can come out cold and distant.

      By the way, I had no idea you were “involved” with Christianity. Did you used to attend a church?

      You’re so well-rounded. 😛

      Leave a Reply
      • Yi
        11 July 2011 at 10:55 pm

        Well-rounded… Loll that’s one way to put it I guess, although I’d say it’s more like I don’t have any resolve or conviction.

        Anyway, yes, I used to attend churches and Bible studies, usually with my Christian mother, and sometimes dragged along by some well-intention friends when I was in college.

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  • 2DT
    11 July 2011 at 8:14 am

    I just knew you’d take this angle! 😉 Not that that makes it any less enjoyable.

    Interesting, also, that the “spirit” that inhabits Himari is so evidently a creature of the long term.

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    • TWWK
      11 July 2011 at 9:01 am

      I’m glad you liked it. Also, I hope you noticed that this is a shorter post – I’m trying to do the whole “2DT get-to-the-point” style in my posts nowadays. 😛

      Leave a Reply
      • R86
        11 July 2011 at 9:23 am

        When *I* write a short post, *that’s* when people will be astonished. And speaking of astonished, yes this show is weird. 🙂

        Leave a Reply
        • TWWK
          11 July 2011 at 9:24 am

          And speaking of posts, the world demands more of them from you!

          Leave a Reply
          • R86
            11 July 2011 at 2:05 pm

            (attempts Mihashi impersonation)

            Go-go-go-gomen! O-O-Ore wa … ga-ga-ganbaru yo! 😀

          • TWWK
            11 July 2011 at 2:38 pm

            I would go all “Abe” on you, but then, ya know, I guess we all have lives outside of blogging. I guess. 😛

          • R86
            13 July 2011 at 9:06 am
  • krizzlybear
    11 July 2011 at 9:56 am

    “Survival Strategy” as a metaphor for baptism? heaven? resurrection? There are a lot of possible takes here, but I can see this show develop in a way that they discover how not to overcome fate exactly, but accept the fate that they were given. In fact, I’d be quite pleased if the series was one giant lesson in serenity. Everyone knows the prayer, right? 😀

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      11 July 2011 at 10:12 am

      I think almost all westerners know that prayer (even if not by the name “serenity prayer”), whether they’ve ever stepped foot into a church or not. 😛

      This show looks like it’s going to be amazing fodder for analysis on all sorts of levels and for many different topics. I think I’ll be finding many ways to cram Christian spirituality into that discussion. 😛

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  • Sapphire Pyro
    11 July 2011 at 10:55 am

    the spirit (in Himari) being the one that offers a second life… that’s an interesting idea~

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      11 July 2011 at 11:17 am

      I’m interested, now, in seeing the ins and outs of how this second life works.

      Leave a Reply
  • R86
    11 July 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Come to think of it, one could also go somewhere with the Equivalent Exchange idea that you find in “Fullmetal Alchemist.” At least, I think I remember something to that effect in that heady first episode.

    I guess we can just all pitch in and write this post. 😀

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      11 July 2011 at 2:37 pm

      There are at least four post’s worth of ideas in these comments. 😛

      Leave a Reply
  • All Aboard the Story Train: Mawaru Penguindrum « Baka Laureate
    11 July 2011 at 6:10 pm

    […] Before the train imagery kicks in, a beautiful monologue is given by the narrator (one of the main characters, as revealed later on), talking about fate.  The tone of his voice is defeatist and clearly gets his point across about the cruelness of fate, as well as his anger against God. […]

    Leave a Reply
  • hypermediacreator
    16 July 2011 at 9:45 am

    But what about the fact that Kanba told Shouma that Himari’s death was a punishment for their sins? In this case, her death wouldn’t be because God was cruel, but it would be deserved (well, not for Himari).

    In this case, it would be interesting to consider Himari as a Christ-figure. She would have died for her brothers’ sins, and then be reborn as a deity.

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      16 July 2011 at 2:54 pm

      That’s an interesting take! I would say, though, that if you’re talking about an individual dying and being “reborn” as a deity, you’d be talking about something that isn’t Christianity any longer. That would be more BUddhist.

      On the other hand, I think Himari’s death as punishment for the boys’ sins might fit in with what I mentioned in my post. Often, the good die young. From a Christian perspective, this is the result of living in a fallen world. So in a sense, the sins of others, as well as our own, create a world in which “unjust death” occurs (though the comparison no longer really works when we consider that all are sinful).

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