Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 18 and a Painful Response

I don’t think sad and painful things are pointless.  If that’s fate, then they must happen for a reason.  I will accept it and become stronger.

As Mawaru Penguindrum marches toward its fateful conclusion, one of the most interesting developments has been the change in how the audience views the show’s characters.  Episodes 17 and 18 certainly showed this, as we see the real Tabuki beneath his cheery and clueless exterior.  But the character change that most stands out to me is the one who ended episode 18 with a few powerful words – Ringo, the girl who went from crazy stalker to possibly the show’s most normal individual.

Art by 修行中のさるお

Her words at the end of episode 18 resonate loudly.  The previous 22 minutes have been intense – the most intense episode of the series so far.  Ringo stands at opposition of two of the characters in the center of the episode – Tabuki feels an overpowering sense of injustice and the need to correct that (though he does otherwise at the last second); it is unfair what has happened to Momoka and he can’t move on.  Likewise, Shouma, with his injured brother and sister in his arms, feels a sense of helplessness and pain:

How did this happen?  Why?  We never asked for anything special.

The reactions aren’t surprising – Tabuki and Shouma have both gone through a lot of pain caused by adults and the loss of loved ones; all of these events were out of their control.  I think most of us would act like these two (well…Shouma, at least), collapsing in the face of the unfairness of it all.

But it is Ringo that surprises us by eschewing words of wisdom.  She’s moved past her hurt (and maybe past the major role she has in the story).  Ringo has been able to right her head and think things through.  As she hugs Shouma, she tells him that she’s not like Tabuki – she could never hate the Takakura family.  And then she says the words I quoted at the top of this post: “I don’t think sad and painful things are pointless.  If that’s fate, then they must happen for a reason.  I will accept it and become stronger.”

While the characters in Mawaru Penguindrum are tossed and turn by a force they would likely never equate with a Christian God, Ringo’s solution to the pain is right in line with Christian practice.  The Christian faith gives a number of answers for why we might go through painful situations, but more important than that might be how we respond.

One doesn’t have to look further than the stories of Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter in the Bible.  They both betrayed Jesus (albeit Judas to a much further extent), though each responded differently to the death of their mentor: Judas committed suicide, while Peter became a cornerstone of the church.  In fact, when next we see Peter, he’s performing miracles in the book of Acts.

In Mawaru Penguindrum, there’s a possibility that fate can be changed.  In real life, events happen that are beyond our control.  But when difficulties arise, do we lose faith – whether in God, humanity, ourselves, or some other object of allegiance – or do we “accept it and become stronger.”  We don’t have the choice over what God throws at us; but we choose our response.


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