Besides random scenes with near naked characters/let’s get down-and-dirty with our sister except she’s not really our sister so it’s chill cliché? Defiantly the attempted “rape” scene. Long story short: a girl thinks getting pregnant will keep this guy in her life and she attempts to get him drugged so he “rapes” her. Although, technically, he’d be the actual rape victim in this case?? Honestly, the reasoning the character uses for this is so messed up that trying to explain it is headache inducing. And disgusting. AND does a lot of damage to people who legit are rape victims as it perpetuates the idea that victims want to be raped or are straight up mental cases.
This show is seven shades of fail for me. Now, keep in mind that I actually liked Utena. So my issue with this show is not planted in the fact that it had heavy amounts of symbolism. Rather, my main issue is that the symbolism had less of a purpose outside of looking nice or being vague. Where as Utena was a theme and story with symbolism born from that, this anime felt like the exact opposite. As if the symbols came first and they tried building a show around them.
Why do I feel that way when both shows contain around the same amount of vague symbolism? Simple really: I could understand Utena enough to fully enjoy it as a show, regardless of sometimes not catching the finer points of said show. What I caught enhanced my viewing. But if I didn’t completely get something, I could either figure it out myself later or simply move on. With Penguindrum, that wasn’t the case. I had to intentionally go looking for analysis to understand half of what was being thrown and when -not if!- I missed stuff, the show became a chore to watch.
And before some self-righteous otaku loser comments that I’m just not “smart enough” for it: I’m a literature major and an author. Analyzing is my job. If I can’t get something without serious amounts of research, the material is made for a very narrow audience.
Of course, if that’s what they wanted, cool. Writing/making art for a specific audience isn’t bad, parse. But most anime are not made for such a small group. They’re made for the public. Which is why finding a good balance between art/symbolism and more common/easy-to-understand story lines is a fragile one. Where as Utena seems to have found a decent spot on that scale (could have still used work in spots), I think this one missed it rather badly.
If you like stuff that requires research and essay reading, go for it. Enjoy. But if you’d like something a bit more coherent -not to mention something without a “rape” scene- skip this one. I know it looks pretty. Skip it anyway.