Unhealthy Obsessions in Mawaru Penguindrum
Mawaru Penguindrum is filled to the brim with colorful characters and their wacky and/or dramatic interactions with each other. There are many flavors of struggles and challenges these characters undertake. At least one of these issues-- unhealthy obsession-- is shared by multiple characters, creating a prominent theme in Penguindrum. In this post, we'll look at a list of characters who are unhealthily obsessed with something (or more than one something). We'll go over the negative effects of the obsession, the origin of the obsession, and whether or not the character was able to move on. The purpose of this post is to explore the psychology of Penguindrum characters with regards to the topic of obsession.
Content Warning: Mentions of child abuse and attempted rape
For those who have seen at least a few episodes of Penguindrum, the obsessive character that comes to mind first is Ringo Oginome. Early on, she is Tabuki's dedicated stalker. The lengths she goes to in her pursuit of him are sometimes comical, but ultimately portrayed as negative and harmful to herself and others.
Ringo behaves unethically by violating Tabuki's privacy as well as treating Sho like garbage while she uses him to further her own selfish goals. Additionally, she stresses herself out too much and overworks herself, sometimes to the point of not taking care of herself when she has a fever. Anyone who gets to know Ringo may very well reject her and end the friendship after finding out how selfish and obsessive she is. Or Tabuki could find out and become disgusted. That's another dangerous potential effect of this obsession. The pinnacle of Ringo's dangerous insanity is when she drugs Tabuki and attempts to have sex with him while he is half-conscious. If Sho hadn't stopped her, she might have gone through with it.
The severity of this obsession is now obvious, but what is its origin? Ringo was born on the day that her sister (Momoka) died in a tragic terrorist attack. From a very young age, she could tell her parents were heartbroken, as they mourned their first daughter and got into heated fights that would be stressful for any child. The two parents eventually divorced. Internalizing all this, Ringo came to believe she was the reincarnation of Momoka. It was her job to become Momoka, restore her broken family, and make her parents happy. Momoka left behind her special diary, in which she wrote about her strong bond and time spent with Tabuki. That's why Ringo decided to take her sister's place, make a ritual out of fulfilling the diary's events, and make Tabuki fall in love with her.
As you can see, this girl's obsession was actually a symptom of something far deeper: her inability to cope with the grief and brokenness she saw her parents suffering. But despite the gravity of her problems, Ringo was able to stop chasing Tabuki and begin to heal. The trigger that caused this upward trend was undoubtedly her meeting with the Takakura family. She became fast friends with Himari and spent a lot of time with Shouma, who was a good influence. Much to her own surprise, Ringo even developed a crush on Sho. By the end of Penguindrum, Ringo has become brave and truly altruistic. Fighting against fear and pain, she used her sister's magic, speaking the mystic words to save Himari's life.
Kanba Takakura is obsessed with Himari, his adoptive sister, and how to save her from deadly illness. Wanting to save your sister from being sick all the time or dying is admirable. However, the lengths which Kanba goes to acquire medical funds soon become unethical. Plus, there's another unhealthy side to Kanba's obsession: he is romantically and sexually attracted to Himari. Even while he believes she is biologically related to him, it makes no difference. He loves her.
This obsession began when Kanba was a young child. He was being kicked out of his home because it had become stressful and dangerous. Himari found him and convinced her parents to adopt Kanba the same way they adopted her. The parents agreed and welcome their new son. Because of this, Kanba felt forever grateful, and almost worshipful, toward his new little sister. The worshipful feelings evolved into a complex and profound love.
In order to get money for Himari's medical treatment, Kanba starts secret meetings with his parents, who are terrorists. They provide him with dirty money. Eventually, Kanba begins working for the terrorist organization, and even helps plan one of the attacks. (It ends up not being followed through on, but he was still willing to do it.) Becoming so obsessed is also makes Kanba so severely stressed, which leads him to lash out at others, especially his brother Shouma. He begins to hate Shouma intensely toward the end of the series.
As for the romantic side of things, Kanba at one point kisses Himari in her sleep. This is completely inappropriate, and a violation of trust. Himari never finds out, but it's still wrong in principle. In addition, one may consider it wrong that Kanba has a sensual scene with the Queen of the Crystal, who is at the time possessing Himari's body. That is basically the same as making out with Himari while she is unconscious. Clearly, the effects of Kanba's obsession are far-reaching and gnarly.
Kanba was never able to conquer his unhealthy obsession. He loved Himari until he died, and there was a lot of damage done for which he never expressed remorse. However, it's undeniable that Kanba kept Himari alive for most of the series, and at the conclusion, he gave the rest of his life and existence toward saving her. The unhealthy obsession therefore had one positive effect: Himari's continued existence. Is an obsession still bad if produces a good result? We'll talk about that in the final section of this article.
Masako Natsume is extremely attached to both of her brothers, Mario and Kanba. However, I would probably say her attachment to Mario is not as unhealthy of an obsession. She takes care of him and protects him, and would even risk her life for him. Masako's love is strictly familial with Mario, and she doesn't usually do anything unethical in order to protect him. (However, one exception exists. She kidnaps Shouma and threatens to harm him if the fate-altering diary is not handed over to her. Acquiring the diary was part of saving Mario.) Now, let's go on to the far more extreme obsession with Kanba.
Just as Kanba is attracted to Himari, Masako is attracted to Kanba. Masako is the biological sister of Kanba, but he was forced out of the family for a time and had to become a Takakura. Apparently, Masako thought that once things calmed down, Kanba would come back to her. But he never did. He even forgot who she was after so many years. This was extremely upsetting and Masako grew more obsessed and jealous as she watched him living life without her and and dating other women.
The obsession with Kanba led to Masako targeting his female friends and former girlfriends. She seriously injures at least one of these girls by pushing her down a tall escalator. She shoots the other girls with memory-altering projectiles that literally wipe Kanba out of their minds. Masako also tries to shoot Himari at one point. The obsession was also mentally and emotionally harmful to Masako herself.
It's unclear whether Masako would have grown out of this obsession on her own. As it happens, she didn't have to. After Kanba and Shouma sacrificed themselves and Ringo changed the world with the fate diary, Masako lost all memory of Kanba. She went on to live a happy life with Mario, who was now healthy.
Keiju Tabuki is obsessed with the memory of Momoka and his unresolved grief over her death. He never got over it after she was killed in the terrorist attack when they were both still in primary school. Once Tabuki heard that the Takakura couple was behind the attack, he started hating the Takakura family. After Kanba and Shouma were both put in his homeroom class, he tried to control his hatred. But eventually he gave in. He believed the children should be punished for the actions of their parents, and took it on himself to enact the punishment. In the end, Tabuki put Himari's life in danger and caused an injury to Kanba. It was a traumatizing experience for the three Takakura siblings, even if nobody had been severely hurt physically.
Where did Tabuki's obsession originate from? When Tabuki was a young boy, he nearly despaired at life, and metaphorically he almost died. (Depending on your interpretation of Penguindrum, he almost died literally, too.) Momoka saved Tabuki's life by convincing him to have hope and purpose once more. He owed her his life, and for a while, she was his reason to live. The two of them spent a lot of time together after that and bonded strongly. But sadly, before long, Momoka died in the terrorist attack. This was so traumatizing to Tabuki that he couldn't get over it even as an adult man. As far as we know, he never sought emotional or psychological help for his issue. So it festered as he kept it to himself, worshipping the memory of Momoka and keeping her alive in his head forever.
Did Tabuki move on from this obsession? I would say that's up to interpretation. He knew he had wronged the Takakura siblings by trying to punish them, but he never tried to make amends. He seems to have started hating himself on some level, but still couldn't change from being "a bad grown-up." Now, Tabuki died when he threw himself in front of a knife-wielding attacker to save Yuri. Essentially, he sacrificed himself for her. You could read this as a move of despair from a man who never got better. Or you can read this as a sign that he did move on, at least enough to genuinely love another person once more. There's no doubt he loved Yuri in that moment. Interpret it how you will.
Like Tabuki, Yuri was also obsessed with Momoka, but it manifested differently. It's no understatement to say that Momoka was Yuri's reason for living. No matter how much time passes, Yuri can't move on. Because she can't move on, her sense of emptiness increases, and she can't find satisfaction in life no matter how much luxury and fame she achieves. Fabulous cars, hot sex, fancy apartments, and a voice that lets her shine like a star in theater-- Yuri has it all. But her frustration and despair only grows along with her success.
Besides exacerbating her feelings of emptiness and unhappiness, the obsession over Momoka also had at least two huge negative effects on Yuri's life choices. First of all, she decided to marry Tabuki even though she doesn't love him, because he is the closest she can get to Momoka. The two of them have one thing in common: Momoka saved both their lives and had a strong bond with each of them. The second harmful thing Yuri did was even more serious because she dragged someone innocent into the situation. She drugged Ringo on their vacation together and attempted to rape her. Shouma saved Ringo, and Yuri gave up quickly. But the fact remains she tried to do this evil action. Her reason for doing it was that Ringo reminded her of Momoka, who she had been in love with.
The obsession with Momoka is 0nly one part of Yuri's complex psychological and emotional problems. Another huge piece of it was the severe abuse from her father. Speaking of which, that brings us to the origin of Yuri's obsession. Momoka befriended Yuri at school and noticed she was always getting more injuries. Eventually, Momoka figured out that Yuri's father was responsible. She then used her magic and the fate diary to change the world to one where Yuri was free of her father. Essentially, Momoka erased Yuri's abuse father from existence. Yuri owed her life to Momoka and quickly fell in love with the altruistic girl.
Did Yuri ever conquer her obsession? The anime suggests that she has begun to heal. What exactly led her in this direction is unclear. But it probably had something to do with Tabuki sacrificing himself to save her life from a murderer. Penguindrum doesn't make it very clear what Yuri's thought process was like, but she seems to be doing better by the end.
6) Kenzan and Chiemi Takakura
I'm only going to mention this couple very briefly. Kenzan and Chiema are the biological parents of Shouma. They also adopted Kanba and Himari. They were terrorists who helped orchestrate a disastrous attack with many casualties. Kenzan and Chiemi were obsessed with changing the world. They basically wanted anarchy because society was too cruel toward children, especially orphans. Ironically, their attacks that were supposed to bring down society only caused the deaths and orphaning of more children. There was no redemption for Kenzan and Chiemi. They died still trying to plan more terrorism.
7) Final Thoughts: Momoka and Shouma
Are obsession and unreasonable dedication always negative? I would say they are always negative to a certain degree. But it's also possible that an obsession could cause enough positives to outweigh the damage done. Take, for example, the obsession of Momoka. Her obsession was helping others at a cost to herself. Every time she used her magic to save someone, there was a cost: magic flames would burn her in exchange for the miracle. Momoka's final action was to use her magic to try stopping the terrorist attack. She succeeded in minimizing the damage, limiting it to a few subways instead of a nationwide thing. She also eliminated Sanetoshi, who was one of the terrorists in charge. For a miracle this amazing, the cost was Momoka's life.
Since this brave girl saved countless lives, the positives of her obsession outweighed the negatives. She chose true altruism to protect the world she loved. Similarly, but on a less epic scale, Shouma sacrificed himself to save Ringo. When Ringo used Momoka's magic, she changed the world to stop another terrorist attack and save Himari's life. The price was a lot of magical fire, but Shouma took it in Ringo's place. You could say that Shouma was obsessed with the ideas of fate and punishment. It made him hate himself, and it certainly wasn't healthy. However, the end result was his decision to save Ringo. I believe Shouma did a truly virtuous deed.
Please note I'm not saying that it's always a good thing to sacrifice oneself. While it may be virtuous to do that, it's not obligatory. It's the choice of the person involved. My point was just that there are a few rare cases where unhealthy levels of obsession can produce a good result. That wraps up my thoughts for today. Thanks so much for reading!