Fashionable Nudity in Mawaru Penguindrum

Mawaru Penguindrum Yuri shibari rape Ringo

Mawaru Penguindrum has always had this elegant, fabulous vibe it. It is sensual, sexy, and, above all, fashionable. Being fashionable allows Mawaru Penguindrum to be super sexual—erotic, even—without seeming sleazy. In anime, this might just be the difference in taste level between, say, shibari in Mawaru Penguindrum and panty shots in some harem anime.

Mawaru Penguindrum Ringo rape

Yes, this feels pretty obvious. Most of us know intuitively what blatant fan service is. But when the sensual scenes are treated with class and taste (à la Hanasaku Iroha), the lines between fan service and non-gratuitous sexual themes blur. For example, how does the bath scene in Hanasaku Iroha differ from the sexy rape in Mawaru Penguindrum? Both are elegant, titillating, fluffy, and aggressively and violently gentle. Is there even really a difference? [1]

Mawaru Penguindrum yuri kiss

I think so. And, I would further suggest that whether something constitutes fan service is not in the eye of the beholder.

Let us switch gears for a moment. A while ago, I came across this backstage video of Karlie Kloss in a cover shoot for Vogue Italia, December 2011: [2]

Nudity, sex, and fashion have always been intimately related. Indeed, fashion photo shoots and cover spreads that seem to peddle sex more than clothing are not uncommon—some issues may even feature only women… and nothing else. By comparison, the above video, while provocative and sexy, is actually relatively tame. Yet, there is still a clear line between these fashion shoots and pornography.

Camille Rowe by Terry Richardson for Purple 17 SS 2012
Camille Rowe by Terry Richardson for Purple 17 SS 2012

At its core, fashion is about selling an image. The clothes, accessories, perfumes, and beauty are all avenues toward that. Furthermore, the audience who desires these products is the same who wants to own that sex appeal, that image. Thus, even in the absence all the luxury, the nudity is still fashionable as long as the image is there. What makes something so erotic still so clearly fashion, then, is simply this: who does the fashionable girl want to be when she takes off the clothes? The motivation behind the shoot and the way the girl presents herself justify its status as fashion.

Mawaru Penguindrum Himari ruffles

Likewise, anime is ripe with sexuality. It faces a similar dichotomy in sexual suggestion and fanservice. And, we can apply the same sweeping generalization we used for fashion here.

For example, Mawaru Penguindrum has this super fashionable atmosphere about it. Any sexual themes and nudity depicted build toward this vibe. They sell an image of a confident, dominating Princess of the Crystal as her layers of clothing drop, or a questionably empowered Ringo as she tries to rape her way through fate.

Mawaru Penguidrum Yuri shibari rape Ringo

Or, my personal favorite, a vulnerable Yuri bound by her past. These scenes are not gratuitous, regardless of how titillating the audience may find them. [3] Intent, together with method, elevates the sexuality into something more than mere fan service.

Mawaru Penguindrum Princess of the Crystal Himari skirt

Indeed, as a fashionable anime, Mawaru Penguindrum can get away with showing quite a lot of nudity and skin. In fact, I think Mawaru Penguindrum could be even bolder in a similar vein that, say, Redline is, not just because I find Princess of the Crystal (and everyone) super sexy, but because this is fashion. [4] I certainly would not mind if she strips off all her clothes as she struts down that runway… In sexy confidence.


  1. To be fair, the shibari scene involving Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha is very reminiscent of the shibari rape scene involving Ringo and Yuri from Mawaru Penguindrum.
    edit: Also, I use classy in terms of aesthetics (subjective to the viewer) not in terms of  intent (not subjective to the viewer).
  2. I have been a huge fan of Karlie Kloss for a while now. This post is partly just an excuse to show this lovely video.
  3. Oh, is a scene ever so titillating~ ♥
  4. As an interesting aside, my earlier post on the oral sexual side of Redline had my blog marked as mature.
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30 Responses to Fashionable Nudity in Mawaru Penguindrum

  1. gozieson says:

    It all boils down to whether or not the individual in particular is comfortable strutting in the nude in that sense. Sometimes a person who is confident in personality would be more likely to be fine showing off her body for the good of fashion. Just look at the models who strut on the runway everyday, they have or eventually gain the confidence to strut down the catwalk with whatever clothes they are asked to model in together with the hairstyles, accessories and most importantly, the proper attitude that accompanies it to fully make alive the combination they are wearing.

    This portrayal of sex appeal is relevant to everyone, even the most undesirable of individuals can exude that sex appeal with the right tools and preparations, all they need to do is to work hard and conquer their fears.

    • Yi says:

      Yes, definitely agreed. It’s all about that confidence! Personally, I find confidence extremely sexy, and it’s not without reason. That confidence is the basis for all fashion–knowing inherently, without doubt, that you look good, so firmly that everyone else knows it too. It’s sexy!

      “This portrayal of sex appeal is relevant to everyone, even the most undesirable of individuals can exude that sex appeal with the right tools and preparations, all they need to do is to work hard and conquer their fears.”


  2. ayame says:

    I really like the glorious light of fashion in which you wrapped Mawaru Penguindrum. From the first moment I saw Princess Crystal’s outfit I wanted to cosplay her. It’s quite remarkable how you forgot to post pictures from Natsume’s maid stripped down to a sensuous female, who let loose hair and everything, showing of some flesh and magestic lace lingerie (yup that’s one of my fetishes).

    But I don’t agree that Hanasaku Iroha and Mawaru Penguindrum had anything in common, if we talk to their sexual themes. HanaIro was obviously selling censored H material in quite the typical playful shounen style (just because it had high production values, it doesn’t make it classy), while Mawaru had a very good reason for what it did (and I must say my hair were raised by that scene in a very bad way- it was meant to be a rape after all).

    As for Karlie Closs I might dare say that there isn’t in my opinion any pornographic hue in the photoshooting not only because it was fashion but also because her body is terrifyingly thin. If you watch any hentai anime or live action porn, you won’t findbones that stick so profoundly out of the skin, becausesimply they aren’t considered sexual or desirable. On the contrary, curvy bodies are promoted. Of course, these bodies aren’t fat but aren’t sickly slim either. That said, I like her portrait with the flowers on her head. She has a pretty face but I can’t find her body appealing and I bet that no man would.
    On the other hand, Camille Rowe is balanced/healthy and thus sexy.

    Uhm, your blog was tagged mature because you were talking about sexy lips??? 0o0

    • Yi says:

      Oh my god, I would soooo love to cosplay Princess of the Crystal as well. At the very least, I want her hat, although that’s more just an adoration for cute costumes. I didn’t forget about Natsume, with her gorgeous hair and ojou bossiness… I just haven’t gotten to see her maid yet. (Still only on episode 15.) Well, now I know I have something to look forward to. Btw. love your fetish haha. ^///^

      In general, I agree with you about Hanasaku Iroha. It is still peddling sex in a different fashion than Penguindrum. My side note, however, refers to only one particular scene–the shibari scene–that I found to have slightly a little more to it, which makes it not really that gratuitous. (But I’m likely giving it unwarranted interpretation.) In any case, feel free, if you have a lot of extra time, to check it out. But yea, those two scenes are fundamentally different in its intent. The comparison is merely on their status as fanservice, but perhaps that side note is a little too much trouble and misleading.

      “HanaIro was obviously selling censored H material in quite the typical playful shounen style (just because it had high production values, it doesn’t make it classy)”

      True about selling censored gratuitous sexual material, but I do find it classy, which is in the eye of the beholder. Classy in the sole sense that it’s done tastefully.

      High fashion has a slightly different and somewhat unrealistic aesthetics, but it is precisely those aesthetics that draw me to them. But yea, the Karlie Kloss feels far less pornographic. I included it merely because, well, I looooovvveee Karlie. A better example would be the picture below with Camille Rowe ( This shoot pushes the boundaries much further.

      “Uhm, your blog was tagged mature because you were talking about sexy lips??? 0o0”
      It’s probably because I put “oral sex” in the title. I wonder how badly this post will affect my blog… Heh. Oh well.

      Thanks for the comment, hun!! Love it~

  3. Cell says:

    The difference between fashion and plain pornography, for me, is dependent on what the material aims for. Does it aim for showing attractive women donning pieces of art? Does it aim for showing off a new concept? Or does it aim to arouse a mass of horndogs in heat?

    • Yi says:

      Hm… I argue that there’s just a little more nuance to that. Another aim of many fashion is also to arouse. For example, it’d be hard to argue that the Camille Rowe shoot in this post isn’t aiming to titillate. I suppose the difference is how it decide to reach that aim. But yea, as a generalization, the aim is enough to differentiate materials.

      • Cell says:

        I can see your point. Now, that makes me wonder about just what “being fashionable” is. Just where is the border between stylish and in-your-face-nudity? I guess this is largely subjective.

        • Yi says:

          It’s subjective indeed, but my post argues that it’s subjective only from the creator’s perspective.

  4. Overlord-G says:

    Alrighty. Why am I not surprised as soon as you reached this part in Penguindrum, you’d make a blog about it? After all, it involves two of your favorite characters on the show.
    Hehe, who would have thought this ONE MOMENT would get the yuri nation’s attention on this show…only for it to be short lived. Ah well, for what it was, it made an impact and opened eyes to this show once again. Heck, this entire show was a mental train ride to hell…in a good way.

    Lastly, how could you forget to mention one of the most important players in that scene…assuming you already saw the following episode? One iconic character who saved the day in episode 15. No, it’s not Shoma…this character is made of glass.

    • Yi says:

      Hehe, of course. How can I not talk about this scene in Penguindrum! It has everything I love.

      Anyway, I try to only mention things that are relevant to the post’s idea, so yea…

      • Overlord-G says:

        Glad you enjoyed seeing Yuri living up to her namesake as much as I did.

        You know I was only joking. Still, let us never forget the noble actions of the soda bottle Shoma slipped on. It’s a true hero.

  5. Kai says:

    Interesting. Mawaru penguindrum is indeed an anime with nudity, yurism and style to the fabulous max. It’s survival strategy = stripping with the absolute style ;D

  6. wieselhead says:

    This was a quite surprisingly sensual scene there, The feverish Ringo was quite sexy, lets forget for a moment that she had been drugged and tied up by her love rival.

    What makes the difference between blatant fanservice and the more elaborate sensuality in anime is the motivation behind such scences. In fanservice or even H related anime, the nudity or sexual themes are presented in an mainly character exploiting way. In Penguindrum it was used for another purpose, it had a deeper meaning in that scene, at least I had the impression.

    Well, this Karlie Kloss should eat a bit more, She has a really pretty face, but the very thin body looks quite unhealthy 😦

    • Yi says:

      Things sure got quite dangerous there, didn’t they? I think what really surprised me, and made me completely looooveee the scene is Ringo’s attitude toward almost being date-raped. Her resignation and the acceptance to being bound… juxtaposed with Yuri’s past and twisted adoration for Ringo/Momo. Sigh… It’s wonderful.

      Anyway, I digress.

      “anime is the motivation behind such scences.”
      Agreed. I’d go a step further to say not just solely motivation, but also method. It’s the combination of both that sets things apart from fanservice. For example, it’d be pretty hard to argue that the rape scene didn’t intend to titillate. But it’s both the way it does it (fashionably) and what comes additionally as a result of doing so (angst, fear, and sympathy) that make this especially noteworthy. “Deeper meaning” so to speak.

      Karlie Kloss can use an extra few pounds indeed, although her body right now has its own beautiful aesthetics as well. Whatever makes her happy.

  7. GoodbyeNavi says:

    It was also probably tagged mature because there is a naked woman in the images. Hahaha. I’m not as far along in Penguindrum so I really can’t comment on how sexual themes are portrayed. I would agree with another response that Hanasaku Iroha was not classy with its sexual themes. It wasn’t sleazy, either, but it was definitely pandering to get certain viewers that they wouldn’t have if they’d left it out.

    • Yi says:

      Hehe yea. Personally, I thought we as a society should move past that already. Images of the nude body are not obscene in of themselves. We all have one, have seen one, will see one, or come from one. But who am I to question established social norms?

      I think of Hanasaku Iroha as classy fanservice (or even classy pornography). Classy not in its intentions, but in its aesthetics and methods. I don’t doubt that it’s pandering to the viewers, but that doesn’t make it not classy… at least to me. Class is subjective to the viewer after all.

      I think it’s the first time I’ve seen you around here. Thanks for visiting, Navi. ^ ^

  8. Nopy says:

    For once I’ll have to disagree with your opinion. I acknowledge that there is a difference between scenes such as those shown in Penguindrum vs the average harem anime, but to me it is still blatant fanservice, especially when you consider a lot of “erotic” anime from the 80’s/early 90’s showed far less skin than Penguindrum and was still rated for adults only.

    As for something with class, I’ll direct you to this scene from Revolutionary Girl Utena:

    Unfortunately, I could not find a video with subs.

    • Yi says:

      I argue that it’s not the nudity that makes it fanservice. Instead, it’s the combination of intent and method from the creator’s perspective. The analogy I draw is to one in fashion, where anything could be considered fashion and not pornography as long as the photographer or designer deems it to be. So regardless of how erotic the audience may find it, if the creator has enough justification–that is, if the model is selling sex appeal not sex–to publish it under fashion, it’s fashion. Likewise, an anime is not fanservice if the anime intends it to be fashionable instead of gratuitous. True, there is fanservice with far less skin (or even just moaning sounds), but the ero operates on a different axis… If that makes any sense.

  9. Rei says:

    I didn’t have a chance to watch Mawaru no Penguindrum yet but it’s certainly on my to watch list. Interesting article because it reminded me of not only Hanasaku Iroha but also an old anime I used to love, Paradise Kiss.

    • Yi says:

      I’d say it’s much closer to Paradise Kiss than it is to Hanasaku Iroha, although neither are in its genre, and well, frankly, Penguindrum’s story is very very different. Revolutionary Girl Utena is also a pretty good comparison if you’ve seen that.

  10. hoshiko says:

    Personally, I think the difference between pornography and fashion shoots is similar to distasteful fanservice and what’s been done here in this scene from Mawaru Penguindrum. I’m fine with nudity in fashion shoots and paintings. It’s part of art. But I know people who cringed at the sight of any naked people.

    • Yi says:

      I think there’s a little more to that though. There are some pornography out there that are super classy, super elegant, but they’re not really considered fashion. On the other hand, some fashion shoots may have a grittier look to it. And if we look at Hanasaku Iroha, its fanservice is pretty classy.

      Well, in any case, art and fashion can get away with a lot of nudity and sexual stuff, and that’s why I love it!

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  14. jreding says:

    I planned for a while to comment on this interesting post, Yi, but had to think for myself for a while how I see this – so please excuse these lines coming so late!

    While I would agree to call Penguindrum’s fanservice “fashionable”. I don’t think it’s “fluffy”, though. Both these terms of course are highly subjective. Penguindrum has so many characters who have some sexual experience. It fits that this show also places some importance on fashion which quite often has some connection with sex (as evidenced by Terry’s picture and your Karlie Kloss video). On the other hand, there is this sort of fanservice which I would call “fluffy” and which imho is served so well in HanaIro (I’ll elaborate a bit on this as a comment on your HanaIro post) – fanservice which is does not involve any actual sexual acts, which is (almost) innocent and just flows with the characters. I couldn’t disagree more with HanaIro “selling censored H material“. It rather seems to me that Penguindrum has some randomly inserted censored material of this kind.

    Which sort of fanservice is preferred certainly is up to each viewer. I’d like to briefly comment on two Penguindrum scenes, though:

    – The “sexy rape” scene is one of the few scenes I did not like at all in Penguindrum. Partly, maybe, because I wasn’t really sure about Yuri’s gender and about her personality in general. But also, because it indicates the end of Ringo’s innocence (even if nothing may have “happened” in the end). I also dropped Utena immediately after she became sexually active (just kidding, but I admit that she lost quite some of her appeal to me).

    – Nadine, the Princess of the Crystal, undoubtedly has good looks but her sexy “fashion” consists basically in highlighting the crotch. Not that I don’t like it, don’t get me wrong, she’s my favourite Penguindrum character. It seems to me, though, that it is not that far away from an attractively drawn variant of panties-flying-in-your-face.

    What fanservice I liked most in Penguindrum I described here in a comment at Altair and Vega’s: (sorry, pics seem to be no longer there) and even this was not really “fluffy”.

    • Yi says:

      Ahh, so it seems that we disagree on quite a few things, which is really cool!

      Here, I think I use fluffy in a much looser sense. I don’t draw the line at the same place, or even same axis, that is, at mentions of explicit sexual experience. Rather, I define “fluffy” in terms of presentation. E.g. There is no violent ripping of clothes a la Queen’s Blade. In the end though, this is simply an issue of labeling and terminology.

      As an aside, although not related to the metric I use to define “fluffy, that some of the characters in Penguindrum has had sexual experience colors the nature of fanservice is super fascinating.

      A few comments on the Penguindrum scenes.

      “Sexy rape” scene might mark an end of Ringo’s innocence, but I feel that she has been anticipating this loss much earlier on. After all, she did attempt to rape Tabuki. On a personal note, I don’t feel that a loss of innocence is in itself an inherently distasteful or bad thing. Of course, the way in which someone loses is could easily be. It largely depends on how ready Ringo is.

      As for Yuri, I never considered her gender or sexual preference an issue (and still don’t). It’s all just labels anyways.

      I also disagree about Nadine’s fashion. I loved her look! And I don’t think it only highlights the crotch. Rather, I felt like it was a play on corsets, undergarments, and skirts. Further, it’s reminiscent of someone in the middle of changing. Considering her first entrance, this makes sense.

      I guess to each her own aesthetics. ^ ^

      Thanks for the link to your other comment! It’s a lovely read~

      p.s. “so please excuse these lines coming so late!”

      There’s no need to apologize for leaving wonderful insights ever!

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