Penguin Musume♥Heart is one the most aggressively 2000s anime I watched this year. Essentially a protracted love letter to the anime and otaku culture trends of the era, in a lot of ways it was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for with this project. This devotion to celebrating the stuff that influenced is at times the show’s strong point but also periodically its biggest weakness, there were plenty of 2000s anime tropes that vanished for the better after all. Where it’s at its absolute strongest though is its special, episode 11.5. In this episode the cast make a MAD.
As the fourth wall collapses the cast are faced with the need to make a special but not having the budget to create any new footage they arrive at the obvious solution; recut the first half with new voice over. Naturally this results in a half asssed mess as half the cast are not particularly into it, flubbing their lines and generally phoning it in. Meanwhile, Penguin is, as she often is, super into it, dragging the others along in her overzealous excitement.
It really captures the energy of an ill advised fanwork, being pushed forward by someone who’s determined to make their idea real. It’s the show just embracing its own otaku sensibilities by going all in on an element of the surrounding culture. Where most of the show is just references this is the point where it seems to be most in control of its own nature. While obviously the end product of the cast’s attempts to cobble something together from earlier footage is a mess it still comes away feeling like a positive commentary on these kinds of fanworks. For all that the special is by nature not a fan creation, being part of an actual anime and all, it still feels like an attempt to express appreciation for people who’re into these things to the point where they’ll make these kinds of works.
The show also features one of the greatest nonsense anime character names of all time so it’s got that going for it.