Eschaton, great post
I don't want to get bogged down in analyzing all of the symbolism. It's enough to say that it comes down to: "This is all about love"
Additionally, it is clear that Shouma and Kanba where from the beginning built up as opposing opposites. Once we realize "This is all about love" this contrast becomes clear.
Kanba represents "Love As Sacrifice." Kanba is constantly sacrificing himself for those he loves. As he becomes darker, and falls under the power of the Tempter (Sanetoshi), Kanba begins to sacrifice others
for his love. Thus we see both the light and the dark sides of Kanba's conception of love as sacrifice.
Shouma represents "Love As Connections" (I can't really find the one word to describe this, but connection is as close as I can get). Shouma is constantly trying to build connections with those he loves. Entangling themselves together emotionally, creating a unity of souls. Shouma creates relationships of affection, affinity, and affiliation.
At the start, Shouma is the one who keeps Kanba rooted, Kanba seems to sense this as he originally tries to protect Shouma from the effects as Kanba falls into darkness. Shouma begins to become the light alter ego of the dark Kanba.
We see the strength in Shouma's approach in the first half of the show, as Shouma is struggling to save Ringo from her madness. Ringo is lost, but Shouma goes and finds her, and through the strength of his affection and affiliation he is able to infiltrate Ringo's defenses and call her back to light. Once Ringo realizes "I love Shouma" she then abandons her darkness and becomes a figure of light. She has been rescued by the connection Shouma built with her.
Meanwhile, in the first half of the show we see Kanba sacrificing himself for Himari, confident that he will succeed. The height of this is when he successfully rescues the hat (Himari's life source) from the garbage truck.
Then at the mid-point we enter the frustration stage. Ringo has been rescued, but the diary is lost. Shouma (representing Kanba's light half) is injured and threatened, Kanba begins to lose confidence that he can save Himari. Then the Tempter appears to Kanba suggesting he can save Himari by sacrificing others.
We also begin to see the dark side of Shouma: passive despair. Shouma is losing the connection to his family, both Himari and Kanba. He rejects Ringo. Instead of staying involved with Kanba he decides to just blindly trust in him. He becomes centered on himself- not selfish, just incapable of reaching out to anyone else anymore. Shouma cannot resist fate, he can only passively accept it. This reaches it's peak when he tries to use his connection with Kanba to call him back from darkness into light. Not only does this fail, but Kanba cuts off their relationship, shattering Shouma's family. We don't see as clear a scene of this as we do for Kanba, but the Tempter is also interacting with Shouma throughout this period; encouraging Shouma to stay passive and hopeless.
Then we enter the final stage when Himari is now on her (final) death bed. Kanba is called back to the light by his younger sister, but he rejects her, leading to Masako's destruction. Meanwhile Ringo reaches out to Shouma again, and he accepts her- Shouma begins to heal and is re-empowered to represent the forces of life to Kanba's forces of death.
Notice as we are going along that the other major contrast in the show (Sanetoshi and Momoka) is between these dark and light versions. Momoka represents self-sacrifice and connections with others. Sanetoshi represents sacrifice of others and a self-centered despair that he can never truly connect with others.
At this point it is all great stuff, a very well done symbolic story. It then falls apart in the final episode.
In the final episode Shouma uses his connection with Kanba (the Penguindrum), returning it to Kanba (a sacrifice of himself and restoring their connection), thus empowering Kanba to finally sacrifice himself to save Himari. Meanwhile Ringo tries to sacrifice herself to save Himari (and by extension Shouma and Kanba), but Shouma stops her, rejecting her offer and instead sacrificing himself to save Ringo (echoing his earlier sacrifice when he saved her from the car).
We are then left with Kanba and Shouma together in the "other world" and Ringo and Himari together in the "real world," with no memory of Shouma or Kanba.
There are three major problems with this ending:
1: The first problem is that Kanba is separated from Himari (his other half) and Shouma is separated from Ringo (his other half). Nor is there any hint that they will ever be reunited.
Now perhaps you might say that this is all about family love not romantic love and thus Shouma and Kanba being reunited is a good ending. This could be so: if the show had been setting that up! But that is not the direction the show was going. Himari was revealed to be unrelated to Shouma and Kanba. The show was filled with people trying to find their correct other halves, and all the mistakes and misjudgements along the way:
Ringo thought Tabuki was her other half, but instead she discovers it was Shouma (and once this discovery is made she becomes at peace with herself). Tabuki and Yuri both think Momoka is their other half, until finally they come to realize that they are each others other half (and so they become happy). Sanetoshi thinks that Momoka is his other half, but because she won't accept his self-centered destruction of the world Sanetoshi rejects her and tries to destroy Momoka (leading to his tragic end, alone and without love). Himari at first thinks Shouma is her other half, until she realizes that Shouma is Ringo's other half. Kanba knows from the beginning that Himari is his other half, but Shouma's creation of them as a family is blocking him.
The whole show has been building up to create the correct pairings that will lead each individual to happiness in a untied whole of man and woman. Kanba, Shouma, Himari, and Ringo in particular are at the correct age for this as they are on the verge of becoming adults, and forming a pair bonding with their other half is a major element of maturity.
Then at the end Kanba and Himari acknowledge each other as other halves, and Shouma finally acknowledges Ringo as his other half (the emotional climax of the ending as several people have noticed). But then they are ripped apart. Not only are they separated with no promise of being reunited, but Himari and Ringo both forget their other halves. This is particularly cruel to Ringo, as it essentially deprived her of half her character development with just a wave of a magic wand.
All four of the main characters are regressed to childhood. Shouma and Kanba explicitly.
2: Instead of the natural moral that love is both sacrifice and connections, requiring a balance of the two, we end up with an ending that suggests Kanba was right, love is sacrifice. This is driven home by the forgetting of Shouma and Kanba by their other halves Himari and Ringo. Not only are the connections severed in the end, but they are forgotten, erased as if they never were!
3: A major sub-plot was Kanba's inability to accept Himari's death. All men die, and part of maturity is acceptance of this. Not in despair as Shouma did, but in a healthy way. Kanba never accepts Himari's death, to the point that he chooses destroying the world as preferable to Himari dying. Kanba never rejects this viewpoint. Isn't that strange?
The natural ending
would have been for Shouma to return the penguindrum to Kanba, for Kanba to try and sacrifice it to Himari so that she can live. Himari rejects this offer and embraces Kanba with the penguindrum between them creating a connection binding them together. Kanba then comes to realize that his purpose was not to sacrifice his life
so that Himari can live on alone, but to sacrifice himself
(so that he no longer is a figure alone running off in his own direction, but is instead bound to another soul) so that he and Himari can be united in the afterlife.
Kanba and Himari then enter the train of destiny together, with Shouma following them. Ringo tries to sacrifice herself to return them to life, but Shouma embraces her telling her he loves her and that this is their punishment that he accepts. As he begins to leave Ringo reaches out and grabs his hand and announces that she will share the punishment with him, pulling him back to her in an embrace. Revealing their own penguindrum between them binding them together as Himari and Kanba were bound.
We then see an epilogue with Ringo and Shouma together in life, remembering
Himari and Kanba, with the understanding that someday they too will die and join them in the afterlife- while Kanba and Himari watch over them before leaving on their "journey" into this "other world."
That would bring the story to it's complete and final end. All things would be in balance and united wholeness, love would be established as requiring both sacrifice and connections, and death would be revealed as natural and not be feared- it's the separation caused by death that should be feared, not the end of life.
That would have been a good bittersweet ending. Instead the ending we got was a lesser Downer Ending
This show was frustrating because it was all built up correctly and then at the end it missed the mark.
edited 24th Dec '11 8:46:19 AM by Sackett