Re:cycle of the Penguindrum review – ravishing anime with magic hat and dominatrix

There’s a lot to like in this two-part teen flick, but at four-and-a-half hours long there’s also just a lot of it

As is often the way with bowdlerised cinema adaptations of long-running anime series, the two-part version of Penguindrum – which originally occupied 24 episodes in 2011 – drops us into a tombola of characters and timelines of screaming import for the initiated, but which are overwhelming for newcomers. It’s a shame because wading through the almost four-and-a-half hours here reveals a rich, ambitious work with frequently ravishing animation that, better paced, might have insinuated, not hectored, its way into our affections.

Teenager Himari (voiced by Miho Arakawa) collapses and dies on an aquarium visit, and she is revived thanks to the magical penguin hat she bought in the souvenir shop – it links her lifeforce to a rubber-clad dominatrix spirit in another dimension. In return for keeping her alive, it demands that Himari’s brothers, Shoma (Ryōhei Kimura) and Kanba (Subaru Kimura), retrieve a powerful totem, the Penguindrum; they assume it to be the secret diary hoarded by schoolgirl Ringo, whose entries appear to predict people’s destinies. As she is planning to use it to seduce her teacher Tabuki, however, Ringo isn’t about to hand it over.

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