Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (TV 2) ?
The Haruhime arc ends here, and while it does a decent job of wrapping things up, I can't help but feel like giving it those last two episodes of the season might have lent it more impact. As it stands, the effort to show how much more powerful Freya is than Ishtar doesn't do much to explain why the Norse goddess trumps the Babylonian one, effectively strips Aisha of some of her agency while leaving out a key piece of info about Haruhime from the novels (which I don't mind, actually, but it should be mentioned), and doesn't go into any explanations about side characters like Otarl, who never struck me as the kind of guy to randomly heal a girl by the roadside. At least two of these are faults of the adaptation's writing specifically, but it just doesn't make for as awesome a finale to the whole debacle as it needed.
Or maybe I just wanted to see Otarl beat the snot out of Phryne more. I'm willing to admit to that.
At any rate, this episode ultimately boils down to the idea of “heroes.” This makes the Bell vs Aisha battle particularly interesting, because Aisha reveals her second name (or possibly title) to be “Hippolyte,” who in Greek mythology is an Amazonian queen who does very badly with heroes – Heracles steals her magical girdle and Theseus either abducts her into marriage or she's given as the spoils of war. Both cases involve heroes robbing her of her agency and status as a hero amongst her people. Although many versions of these two myths exist, some of which say that she was a willing participant in both cases, she's still giving up her own heroic power for the man's. While all of this certainly makes me question why Fujino Ōmori didn't just call her Hippolyte, it does give her fight with Bell some interesting contradictions, as she seems to want him to take her down, even as she talks about what's attractive about heroes sexually and fights at some approximation of her hardest to stop him. Aisha's clearly conflicted about the entire situation, and that makes sense: we know she's a survivor of rape, we know she cares about Haruhime, and we also know that she's devoted to her goddess and way of life, no matter how unhealthy that may be. She doesn't want a hero to save her like Haruhime does, but there's also the impression that perhaps she's tired of fighting against them.
That may be at least part of what Hermes has been banking on this whole time. As he faux laments the burning of the city (or at least of the Pleasure Quarters; they keep saying “city,” but it looks more localized), he admits to having lit the spark that caused it. While things absolutely went further than he anticipated, in true trickster fashion he's not all that upset by it – he's going to succeed in bringing forth the ultimate hero where Zeus failed, and if that means that things are going to keep on being interesting, that's just what a trickster god likes to see. Hermes may not have the same kind of interest in Bell that Freya, Hestia, and Ishtar do, but that doesn't make him any less fascinating to the god, because tricksters are, ultimately, quite fond of chaos – especially if they get to cause it.
While it would be easy to pick at Haruhime for her desperate wish to be rescued, that really does feed into both the idea of the hero that Bell and Hermes are working with (and of course Bell's mysterious grandfather) as well as making a lot of sense in the context of her character. She's a kidnapped princess at her folkloric roots, and she's been beaten down so far and so hard that she doesn't even really believe that she deserves to live anymore. When she casts her spell on Bell instead of Phryne, it's the first sign we've seen that she's decided that maybe what she went through doesn't have to dictate the rest of her life, and that she can have a rest of her life. The shift from “victim” to “survivor” isn't quick or easy (hence the damsel in distress imagery at the end), but it's one that she's started to make, and that may be the best thing to come out of the arc.
So farewell, Ishtar. I don't think we'll miss you, but at least now I can stop wondering whether your true divine power was the ability to keep your breasts covered with your scarf.
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