Kanba and Shoma, two high school students decide to take their sister Himari to a zoo to see the penguins. Being very weak already, Himari collapses at the venue and tragically dies later in hospital. Miraculously, she is brought back to life when a strange penguin hat her brother bought her is placed upon her head. This miracle doesn’t come without a price, as the hat causes Himari to become possessed by a very confident young lady.
In return for her extended life, the two brothers are given the task of finding and presenting an item to the spirit. Known as the Penguin Drum, the boys have no idea what or where the item is and so start in search to preserve their sister’s life. It is only when they locate the item that they realise the task will be a lot harder than they thought.
Penguin Drum is a very detailed anime. On the surface it appears to be yet another slice of life drama with a strange looking lady for a main character. Of course this perception would be wrong. The main focus of the anime is in fact the relationship between the three siblings and the love the two boys have for their sister. In fact you could say the inclusion of the fantasy element, the three (rather cute) penguins and the dominatrix-style woman are actually a sub-section of the anime as a whole.
This does not mean to say that these elements are not as good as the drama, far from it. The female spirit living within the penguin hat is a very entertaining and brash character which brings another dimension to the series. As she appears the scene is always the same, she says a few words and a very upbeat routine plays out in which a spaceship-like vessel comes into view and the characters appear to be her captive. She tells them they are worthless and sends them on their way. Within all this is a fantastic piece of music which will have you humming for days. In fact, it is one of the best transformation-esq scenes I have ever seen.
There is a strong comedy element within the series. The brothers are generally polar opposites but as thick as thieves, so when they get together their personalities clash in humorous ways. Of course this is all boosted as they find themselves in tricky situations when searching for the Penguin Drum. After Himari is brought back to life, three penguins appear which resemble each of the siblings. These are all very cute and have their own personality quirks, they cannot be seen by other humans and so get themselves into some risky situations without getting into any trouble.
The animation is fantastic, the siblings live in their family home which has been given a youthful touch with bright furnishings, multi-colour rugs and miss-matched crockery. It is generally a pleasure to look at and this level of detail extends throughout the anime in other locations too. The characters have a very distinctive style, with pointed noses and bright eyes – you really have to see it to appreciate it.
There are many scenes within Penguin Drum which have been heavily stylised. Used to showcase the vivid imagination of one of the characters, the scenes are given a cut out scrapbook feel which is exceedingly pleasing and entertaining at the same time. It is techniques like this that showcase the level of storytelling involved in expanding a deep and dramatic plot.
A lot can be said about Penguin Drum and not a lot of it negative. In all honesty, the series is a little slow going, some of the scenes are repeated and overused but this is such a minor setback to an otherwise fully immersive anime series. Of course this is not it for Penguin Drum, there is still another box set to go, and you can be sure Anime Picks will be right there in the queue to get the first copy.