This episode has the expected big plot twist on the human side and some juicy revelations going down on the spider side, but neither is likely to be what is most-talked about for this episode. No, that (dis)honor goes to the animation and direction effort on the episode.
Really, did this episode get a fill-in director or something? While the series has not exactly been a technical marvel, its technical merits have generally been solid (outside of the occasional questionable CG elements) and editing choices have been plenty sufficient to support and promote the story being told. This episode, however, is a near-disaster on those fronts, and it only gets worse as the episode goes on. I have to wonder if this episode suffered from a time and/or budget crunch, as in too many places it cuts away to simplify animation. This is hardly unusual in anime, but this episode does so even at the expense of obscuring critical actions on the part of certain characters. Combine that with some bizarre choices for camera angles, distracting camera shifts, and deteriorating ability to keep characters on-model and some scenes – especially much of the running battle which takes up most of the last quarter of the episode – become difficult to follow. I dearly hope this is not a new norm for the series, and it’s the reason why I am rating this episode much lower than normal.
Setting the visual and editing problems aside, the episode offers up a lot of important little details. One of the biggest is the confirmation that Shouko Negishi, the homely outsider featured significantly in the original-world flashback a few episodes back, is actually the vampire Sophia and not the Demon Lord; the irony that she is a physical bombshell after reincarnation is probably intentional on the part of D, since that seems like something she would find amusing. This also establishes that Shouko she met Kumoko back when Sophia was still a baby, though they did not at all have a conversation. This begs all sorts of questions on how Sophia ended up working for the Demon Lord (and the final scene clarifies that she is), but the other interesting point here is the carriage driver, who looks awfully similar to one of the Demon Generals from the conference scene a few episodes back. The additional interesting point is that the elves – the same ones Oka is affiliated with, based on appearances – aimed to kidnap Sophia as a baby and were not shy on the extremity of the methods they intended to use. Could that have something to do with why Sophia seemed so keen on beheading Potimas in the human timeline?
And speaking of that human timeline, Hugo and Cylis finally make their moves, and the probable explanation for why Cylis would get involved comes up: daddy was going to make Schlain heir apparent, and Cylis could not tolerate that. Seems like Hugo is a Ruler of Lust, too, which, in a sense, fits; his desires are certainly strong, even if they have not been shown to be sexually-oriented. They have this planned out pretty well, too, as Schlain and his supporters that have not been brainwashed are forced to go on the run. The one thing that the attackers did not seem to count on was Fei’s evolution into a cool new winged form (or as cool as that janky CG design can look, anyway). That being said, Sophia did not afterwards seem perturbed at all about the escape of Schlain’s group; in fact, she even mentions that she got “everything done,” and that she was under orders not to harm Oka. Those two statements suggest that capturing/killing Schlain and his party was not part of the plan; were they, in fact, supposed to escape? Something’s fishy here, and Hugo is looking more and more like he’s just a pawn in bigger machinations himself. The other factor which gets washed out in that whole sequence is the cloaked figure using the rings, who seems like much more than just an ordinary individual.
In adaptation terms, this episode pushes much further into the third novel on the human side, while the spider side has jumped ahead to a scene which straddles the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth novels. As with most previous adaptation choices, I don’t see this as problematic, as it lines up Sophia’s more formal introduction in both timelines. That is going to requires some things on the spider side to be done quite a bit out of order, but that should be fine.
Other Series Thoughts: I will add this update onto the second episode of 86 instead.