Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (TV 2) ?
Although more recent scholars have decried the idea that priestesses of Ishtar engaged in so-called sacred prostitution, it's still a fact that Ishtar is a goddess of sex, among other things. (And “sex” is usually separate from “love” and “fertility” in these cases, although that may not have been true at the time of her worship.) Interestingly enough, Freya, the goddess Ishtar is deliberately trying to provoke, is also a goddess of sex, love, and fertility, just on the Norse side of things. Now add in that Hestia, the goddess whose child they're both after, is a specifically virgin goddess whose Roman worshippers are known as the Vestal Virgins (Hestia is Vesta in the Roman pantheon), and it seems like there may be more going on here than just some feuding goddesses allowing for Bell to enact his ideal form of heroism.
I think that's what Ishtar is getting at when she gives her speech to Bell just before she tries to have her way with him. In Ishtar's way of thinking, sex is nothing to be ashamed of – it's the way the world repopulates, it can be enjoyable, and it's also a form of worshipping her. Bodies and what they can do together are perfectly natural, and that's something she takes pride in, even if she needs some serious lessons about consent. To her, virgin cults like Hestia's are the unnatural ones, and Bell's apparent aversion to losing his virginity and Haruhime's shame are what's strange. It simply doesn't make sense to her.
While her worldview can certainly be seen as erasure of consent, it does explain a fair amount about how she and her familia have gone about things during this arc. That in no way excuses what they've done – rape and forcing Haruhime into sex work – but it gives us the idea that this is a more ideological storyline than it has perhaps appeared. Essentially it's pitted a cult of virginity against a cult of extreme sexuality and left no room for any middle ground, with Freya Familia as almost an excuse for Ishtar to have shown up in the story in the first place. (It also begs the question of having two similar goddesses in the same place; at least with the metalsmithing gods or the tricksters, their places of origin are more likely to affect methods and personalities.) Neither side can understand the other, but what's important is the way that each side's attitude towards sex influences their actions and senses of self-worth. Aisha's experiences made her into another abuser; Haruhime's made her hate herself and feel that she is tainted and unworthy. And in Bell's case, his supposed sexual purity can be seen more as a symbol of his general idealism and his firm belief that everyone deserves to be saved, no matter what they think of themselves or what life has thrown at them. Haruhime's self-loathing is unthinkable to him, and damned if he's going to let her die just because she can't see her own worth.
Whether you see this as the point of the storyline or as window dressing for how badass Mikoto can be when she really goes for it is, obviously, up to your viewing tendencies. This is a good episode from both viewpoints, though – Hestia and Takemikazuchi Familias storming Ishtar's stronghold (i.e. the entire Pleasure Quarters) even though they've just gotten through the War Game shows how determined they are, and Mikoto really is impressive as she takes down Samira (a name that owes its origins to Semiramis, so no small foe) and doesn't let anything stand in her way as she tries to save her friend. We also see how far Ishtar is willing to go in non-sexual ways as well: using a potion to reveal Bell's status is a major no-no for a god, so she's crossing yet another line there.
She's also succeeded in finally luring Freya down out of her tower. No doubt Ishtar will see that as a good thing, since that was one of her stated goals. But in this battle of similar goddesses, it will almost certainly turn out that Orario isn't big enough for the both of them – and Ishtar may learn that she's the one who doesn't fit in.
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