The tone is definitely much lighter with this week’s installment, although with a few more serious developments towards the end. Episode 16 focuses primarily on Masako and the origins of her struggle to save her younger brother Mario.
Young Masako reads a letter from her father, who under trying circumstances was compelled to leave the Natsume estate but awaits the day when he can come back so they can be a whole family again. In closing, he entrusts her with Mario’s care until his return. In the present, Masako triumphantly pieces together the halves of the diary, until Yuri’s gloating message alerts her to the fact her prize is not the genuine article. As she formulates a new strategy, she employs her faithful maidservant Renjaku (Nakahara Mai) with the task of monitoring Kanba and Himari’s activities. Heir to a wealthy zaibatsu, Masako, upon the passing of her grandfather Natsume Sahei, has succeeded him as head of the Natsume financial conglomerate and directs daily operations with an iron fist.
At the hospital, Kanba arrives to deliver Shouma’s homemade bento but finds Himari is not in her room. He finds her on a courtyard bench outside with Sanetoshi, whose opinion she is soliciting in regards to a scarf she is knitting for her brother. He leaves as Kanba approaches and after he is out of earshot, Kanba warns Himari against casual conversation with the doctor, whom Kanba regards as shady and untrustworthy. Himari, indignant at Kanba’s low opinion of someone who took pains to deliver her scarves to Double-H, storms off.
Renjaku, already on the scene, reports her findings to Masako before focusing her reconnaissance efforts on Himari. As she peers at her through the window, Himari, as the Penguqueen, mouths “Seizon Senyryaku” to the unsuspecting Renjaku. Thus Pengudrum’s now-iconic Seizon Senryaku sequence makes a welcome comeback! After a brief exchange (in haiku) the Penguqueen produces a camera of her own and subjects the maidservant (who actually turns out to be a complete bijin) to humiliating, exploitative gravure shots in retribution for her voyeurism.
Impromptu gravure shoot courtesy of the Penguqueen (Takakura Himari); Location: ???
You get the idea.
In a series of repeated flashbacks, Masako plots killing her grandfather and succeeds, only to awaken to the reality that it was merely a dream. Most of these sequences are accompanied by comically-overdone English dubs, courtesy of her grandfather’s obnoxious American (in anime, any overly-obnoxious male foreigner, especially if they’re blond, has to be American¹ – see footnote) business associate. In the present, Ringo tells Shouma she will not give up on trying to reach him because she is his stalker… (wait a minute, since when is Ringo Shouma’s stalker…?)
Masako reflects back to a time when her grandfather burned the stuffed animals and other reminders of the young Natsume siblings’ father, tossing the gifts away like so much rubbish into the fireplace. Masako confides in Kanba she must get rid of her grandfather at all costs, even if it means she will be forever cursed. Ironically, her grandfather dies by his own hand, eating mishandled blowfish he prepared himself. Strangely, or perhaps appropriately enough, the same American business flunkie in Masako’s dreams is present when the Natsume patriarch collapses.
Although Masako finally gets her wish, her father does not return, prompting her to believe her grandfather has cursed them from being a happy family even from beyond the grave. Renjaku enters the study to inform Masako her brother Mario is not in his room. She spots him below, curiously, practicing with a shinai, as was their grandfather’s custom. It turns out her grandfather Sahei has somehow taken possession of Mario’s body and challenges Masako to a deadly duel for the headship of the Natsume clan: she must choose between two identical plates of blowfish sashimi (fugu – 河豚), with one containing the deadly poison. Seeing Masako’s hesitation, her grandfather forces Mario to make the first move. With Mario’s life at stake, Masako shoves him out of the way and downs both plates. Sanetoshi calls her just as she succumbs.
Losing consciousness, Masako enters a dream-like state where she witnesses first her father and then Kanba taken in by the mysterious men in black. Though she warns Kanba they will only use and dispose of him as they did her father, he does not heed her warning. Sanetoshi cryptically tells her they have been chosen to “put the world back on track” and that in order for Mario to be saved, she too must participate.
Masako awakens to find Mario and Renjaku keeping watch over her, and Sanetoshi standing outside below her window. Masako swears she will not be Sanetoshi’s pawn.
Masako seems unnervingly calm for someone dying of severe neurological shock and major organ failure arising from the deadly toxins for which blowfish is notorious. I guess in the end panicking avails nothing when you’re about to cash in for good so it’s best to go out with some composure.
Sanetoshi has managed to manipulate both Kanba and Masako into a position of furthering his ends by way of the same weakness: their desire to save their younger siblings. Both of them are willing to enter the grey zone of morality to achieve that end. What can we deduce about what he is trying to achieve (perhaps with reference to Episodes 9 and 13)? He is probably still setting up the board and maneuvering all his pieces into place so there is still some time before the climax. Of course, that’s about when Ikuhara likes to come out of left field with a curveball (or four) that shakes up everything.
The ED for Episode 16 is “Ikarechimattaze!!” (イカレちまったぜ!!) by Triple-H. Need complete Pengudrum OST. NOW.
¹ – This is consistent with the still dominant portrayal of Americans in anime as dumb, ignorant, incompetent or just plain annoying if not meddlesome or altogether villainous. There has been much theory and debate over the years related to this phenomenon. You can see one example here, although the content is rather dated (circa 1999(!), it will not be hard to find further, more current discussion numerous places.