Mawaru Penguindrum 12: Brief Analysis of the Christian Symbols

Kamba, Shoma, and Himari
Art by mg

Episode 12 was rich in Christian symbolism.  As Shoma told his tale of the bunnies, the goddess, and Mary and the three lambs, it was immediately obvious that much of the story’s inspiration was from the Garden of Eden (among other stories – Draggle mentions Prometheus).  Shoma’s tale, of course, was also very different.  Still, certain symbols kept their same meaning, while others contain meaning when seen through a Christian lens.  Here’s a brief rundown on these symbols:

The Tree

The most obvious symbol in the story was of the tree.  It was the only tree in the world and brought light into it.  Neither of this is true of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but both are nonetheless mysterious trees connected with life and power.  Both are also symbolized by apples – in Mawaru Penguindrum, throughout the series as a steady symbol, and for the Genesis account tree, in art and popular culture.

Both trees are connected to death – Mary’s tree wilts and eventually leads to another death, while the Genesis tree leads to original sin and the death of all mankind.  Notice that in both cases, the “sinners” realize that they are doing bad.  Mary at first refuses to go along with the bunnies, while Adam and Eve hide their shame.  Deaths occur later, not immediately, as a result of the sins.

Mary

Mary takes the role, alternately, of both Adam and Eve.  There is only character in the Mary story because the tree symbolizes a person (I’m not clever enough to understand if Mary is the mother or father of Kamba, Shoma, and Himari).  As Eve was, Mary was tempted by sin.  And as in the case of both Adam and Eve, their choice led to death.

Bunnies

What is it with bunny-type creatures, lately?  Though they could be seen more as demons or assistants to the devil (pink-haired man?), the bunnies are most definitely tempters.  They promise good things despite obvious consequences.  The serpent (Satan) gave a similar promise.  Again, cashing in on those promises leads to death.

The Goddess

The Goddess most definitely represents God.  I find it interesting that the Goddess, in this case, is seen as “unjust,” mirroring the thoughts given at the beginning of episode 12.  Similarly, a common cry against God is that He is unjust.  But notice that there is no complaint that the Goddess is taking a life, only whose life.

The Lambs

The lambs represent humanity.  They are Mary’s children, as we are the sons of Adam.  Himari’s lamb has a specific representation – she is a Christ figure.  Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man,” a play on the idea of being the second Adam.  He is pure and perfect.  This is similar to Himari, who must die because, as the Goddess says, she is innocent.  Jesus was innocent, and it took his innocent blood to pay for our sins.  Additionally, there’s a very obvious comparison here – Jesus is commonly compared to a lamb (also to a goat); He is the “lamb of God.”

Did I miss anything?  I’m sure I did – please comment below on additions or disagreements to this analysis.

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

11 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum 12: Brief Analysis of the Christian Symbols

  1. Your post led me to wonder if, like Jesus, Himari’s death is taken on willingly. She was about to take Kanba’s life force, but pulled back at the last moment.

    Another thing to mention is that the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo also styled himself the “Lamb of God.” I wonder if this could be part of the reason Himari is seen as a lamb: the penguin corporation (and the father) is leading the attacks for the sake of the unborn Himari.

    Anyway, let’s all sit back and wait for the resurrection of Himari. 🙂

    1. Is that what happened? It was a peculiar scene and it looked to me as if Kanba was pulling away, but it certainly makes more sense to me if it was Himari.

      That’s also an interesting comment about the Aum Shinrikyo – as a self-proclaimed Messiah, the lamb imagery certainly fits.

      I love this show.

  2. I love what you say about the Goddess here in regards to peoples’ perception of God, or more precisely, what they believe that God should do.

    I had avoided addressing Original Sin until the previous (eleventh) episode of Penguindrum where we addressed it in the comments. The most striking implications for the comparison are that Shouma, Kanba, and Himari are forever tainted in a way because of their parents, something beyond their control. The Double H bulletin mockingly addresses this too in this most recent episode, “That happened before I was born.”

    As an aside, is it odd that when I first heard Shouma say, “Mary-san,” I thought he was praying for Mary’s protection over his sister’s life?

    Thanks for addressing this imagery!

    1. Thanks for the kind comments.

      Ah, yes…that original sin comparison is very apt. Certainly if there comes a point where the brothers have direct conflict with one another, the Cain and Abel metaphor will fit well, certainly in light of the parents’ sins and of the boys’ very different personalities.

      I, too, thought Shouma was praying to Mary. Perhaps it’s all the Catholic (and particularly Mary-centric) we see in anime.

      Anyway, I’ll be reading the latest post on the series at your blog, soon. With the exception of this one part of this single episode, I’ve been watching Mawaru Penguindrum largely without a critical or analytical eye. I like the surprise I’ve been feeling with this show when something comes completely out of left field, and then reading the analysis on your site and better understanding what I just watched (and often what I missed).

  3. This show is really walking the thin line for me. On the one hand, I totally love the characters, the plot, the bizarre, colourful scenery and the deep themes of fate, love, moral questions and humanity. On the other hand, wasn´t this just now implied incest with a vaguely masochistic “inversion” undertone, both in the kitchen´s dialogue and more explicitly, at the end of the chapter? Urgh, it´s been distasteful as death. I get that this is a life-giving taboo breaking in Kamba´s part, that is, a sacrifice, but still. Ringo was uncomfortable to watch just before, but she was so broken, torn, misguided, suffering so much that I just coped with it (what a wonder she received a sign of hope by being saved!). But I hope this doesn´t go much further into incest, I´d hate to stop at this point, specially knowing that you loved the conclusion of the series.

    1. I agree—Mawaru Penguindrum likes to walk that line and frequently goes beyond it. I, too, have difficulty with this series (it made me feel uncomfortable from episode one); the same is true with Ikuhara’s other works (less so with Utena but I flat out dropped Yurikuma Arashi). Don’t feel you need to make it through to get to the conclusion. As much as it was meaningful to me, I’m also a big believer in considering what your personal line is and to avoid those works that push you somewhere that your conscience or the Holy Spirit directs you not to go.

      1. Yes, now I can see it more clearly. Mawaru Penguinudrum is great, just not for me now, and maybe not ever, as some scenes are a temptation for me: I kinda tried to minimize it, but it´s a fact. Thank you for your very good advice, I think you have taught me something important here.

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