#15 Which Animal Sidekick (From Any Anime) Is Your Favourite?
The Mawaru Penguindrum Penguins
There is no shortage of animal sidekicks in anime, many of which are considerably more iconic than the Mawaru Penguindrum penguins. In fact, some have even strong-armed their way into popular culture. I’m sure that even your most uncultured normie friends and relatives would recognise Totoro, Hamtaro, and Pikachu! And, I must admit, I did consider other sidekicks for the purpose of this blog post (like Fairy Tail’s Plue, XXXHOLiC’s Mokona, and Madoka Magica’s Kyuubey). But, ultimately, the penguins beat all of these to the punch. Here’s why!
Unlike most animal sidekicks No.1, No.2, San-chan, and Esmeralda cannot talk. Instead they communicate through fairly monotone “kyuus”. The penguins’ facial expressions are equally as flat and nondescript. Nevertheless, they are extremely expressive in their actions, so much so that you’re never left wondering what they’re thinking. In fact, the penguins are so expressive that, despite the fact that they’re incredibly similar in appearance (to the extent that the Takakura’s decide to scrawl numbers on their backs using permanent marker to differentiate them), their distinct personalities shine through. No.1 is pushy and has a penchant for the ladies, No.2 has a burning hatred of bugs and is a bit of a pushover, San-chan enjoys knitting and cooking, and Esmeralda is driven, confident, and determined to make No.1 hers. Basically they are just adorable caricatures of the characters they dutifully follow around.
Given how over-the-top, ridiculous, and out of place the penguins are (I mean, they are penguins in the city. No, not that penguin in the city!), your gaze cannot help but be drawn to them whenever they are on-screen (which is a lot). On one hand, this does undermine the impact and overall seriousness of certain scenes, but, on the other hand, you have to admire their ability to command the viewer’s attention, more so than any other animal sidekick that comes to mind! Without the penguins, Penguindrum, which explores themes including loss, the inevitability of fate, and harmful familial relationships, would have been considerably darker, heavier, and, perhaps, more unpalatable to the viewer with little to no experience with these things.
The penguins also differ from the average animal sidekick in that they rarely come through in a pinch. In fact, they are the total opposite of what you’d consider helpful! Cast your mind back to the time when No.2 and his thoughtless flippers landed Shoma in hot water with a female train passenger who accused him of groping her, or when he opted to grab a tasty looking fish instead of trying to rescue Ringo, who was drowning, or when San-chan absorbed herself in her knitting rather than try to save Himari, who was in danger of falling from a great height. These situations weren’t amusing to the characters involved, but they definitely were to me! I often wondered if they were sent to help or to hinder their human handlers… To this day I’m not sure!
Finally, just look at them! Aren’t they the cutest things you’ve ever seen? Of course, it helps that penguins are one of my favourite animals!
Thanks for reading! Please take the time to drop me a line and tell me who’s your favourite animal sidekick in anime!