Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (TV 2) ?
Haruhime's situation, it turns out, is even worse than Bell and Mikoto at first assumed. Not only was she tricked and sold to Ishtar and forced to become a part of her familia, it wasn't just for her special skill of raising people's levels temporarily. Or rather, it was, but not in the sense that she's simply brought into the Dungeon to buff someone. Because why settle for that when you could give everyone in the familia the ability to raise their own levels via magic cheat? Sure, the way to do that is not only forbidden but also will result in Haruhime's death, but as they say, to make an omelet, you've gotta crack those eggs.
The egg in question is actually a stone – a Killing Stone, to be precise. It's a ritual performed on Renards in order to separate them from their innate abilities by placing those powers into a magical stone via soul transfer. Once the soul is in the stone, it can then be shattered, and each shard will contain the powers of the whole. The catch is, of course, that the soul will also be broken, and there's absolutely no way to put it back together again. The Renard then dies, but her power lives on, usable by anyone who possesses a piece of Killing Stone. That's what Ishtar has planned for Haruhime, and since the only actual requirement for the ritual to create a Killing Stone is a full moon, that implies that making Haruhime work in a brothel has all just been her own twisted idea of fun. It isn't enough that she plans to murder the young woman; she feels the need to humiliate her first and break her spirit. I'd say that perhaps Ishtar just wants to give Haruhime a taste of the sort of activities she herself clearly enjoys, but given that we've now seen her sexually assault both Hermes and Aisha and that Phryne, who also gets a kick out of nonconsensual sex, is her right-hand Amazon, any sort of altruistic motive doesn't seem terribly likely.
This all makes Ishtar the most threatening villain of the series thus far. Apollo was petty and selfish, Freya's calculating and probably going to try something else not good in the future, but Ishtar is utterly ruthless and has zero compassion or concern for the wants or well-being of others. As we saw with Aisha's flashback, she doesn't hesitate when it comes to brutal punishments if she's crossed. Both Bell and Haruhime are just means to a desired end for her, which means that she basically sees them as disposable tools rather than people. She's about as far from Hestia and Takemikazuchi as it's possible to be, almost making Soma look like a semi-decent god.
It also makes “threat of rape” the main weapon for this particular story arc, and I can't say that I'm wild about that. This is the second time Bell has been in danger of being assaulted by members of Ishtar Familia, and Phryne is a terrifying predator. At least the scene in Phryne's sex/torture dungeon isn't played for laughs like Bell's earlier experience with Aisha and the other Amazons. It's also followed up by a very sweet moment when Haruhime comes to rescue him and he hugs her while sobbing. Bell's trust in Haruhime, the fact that he turns to her for comfort, is a balm for both of them: Bell because he's traumatized and she's a safe person, and Haruhime because it means that Bell sees her as a person, one trustworthy and good enough that she can soothe him in his time of need. Given how she sees herself as tainted, Bell's trust and approbation go a long way towards her regaining some sense of self, although this episode makes it clear that she's still more than willing to just give into her fate as Ishtar's sacrifice rather than fight to live.
Fortunately for Haruhime, Mikoto, Bell, and the rest of two familias are willing to fight for her. This may not achieve the scale of the War Game with Apollo Familia, but the emotional value of it may be much, much higher.
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