Full disclosure, I have never watched the Penguindrum tv show. I didn’t even know it was a thing until last year when Part 1 of this 2-film series was shown at Scotland Loves Anime 2022. I think it’s important to share that piece of information as I have never experienced this story before in its original form. So, I will not be able to compare the show and the films. You are getting my honest opinions about the films that were presented in front of me. Let’s roll back to the start, back in 2022 and to my instant reaction to seeing film one after having no idea what to expect.
My instant reaction was this was not a very good movie. Oh, how naïve I was to think that. Rewatching part 1 and watching part 2 for the first time back-to-back made me reflect on what I saw back in 2022. I went from thinking the message in film one was messy to understanding and connecting to its message of love and the positive and the negative aspects that come with love to a much greater magnitude. The social commentary while very metaphorical has a message that is deep and meaningful.
Re:cycle of the Penguindrum – Part 1 Your Train Is The Survival Tactic and Part 2 – I Love You are somewhat similar to the Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion films where it condenses the anime footage into films while also adding some new footage to spice things up. Re:cycle of the Penguindrum’s both new footage and old is stunning to look at. For an anime that is over 10 years old, both films look utterly gorgeous. If you looked hard enough, you could probably find some shots that indicate that this was a show before a film, but I was too enamoured by its unique and engaging visual style to even notice. The soundtrack that accompanies the visuals is also thrilling, the survival tactic songs are both excellent and drive their respective scenes forward. The whole soundtrack is simply incredible, and I feel the film would be a completely different experience without the score.
Re:cycle of the Penguindrum story is however its biggest strength and in some ways its biggest weakness. The films can be confusing at times, the film constantly has flashbacks and at times flashbacks within flashbacks and while it can be jarring to begin with. For me personally on the second viewing of part one, the use of flashbacks worked effectively and allowed the film to flow and reveal its mysteries at its own pace. Its pacing is what leads to its gripping and truly special story. But I feel some of the film’s subject matter mainly revolving around the character Ringo, I find to be disturbing, hard to watch and to be in poor taste. Luckily her character issues only last for the first film and her character greatly improves in part 2. The story at the end of the day has a truly powerful message, by the end of part 2 I was extremely emotional because of how perfect it was as a conclusion to its excellent narrative. I’ve been intentionally vague on its story as I feel the less you know heading in, the better.
Re:cycle of the Penguindrum is what I love about anime, it’s fun, engaging, hilarious, and truly impactful. After finishing both films my first thought was when can I watch these films again and how do I watch the show. You’ll go from laughing at a penguin chopping up a cucumber to nearly crying over the character’s conclusions. Re:cycle of the Penguindrum Part 1 and Part 2 are truly great and must-watch films.
In cinemas exclusively at Odeon on the 20th May 2023.