As this series goes, episode 16 has little bits of everything. It has little bits of action, little bits of revelations, plot advancement, character transformations, and guest reappearances, and not-so-little bits of revelation. And oh, yes, it also has little bits of Kumoko – rather literally, in the final scene.
Exactly what’s most important in this episode depends on perspective. That Kumoko has evolved into a form that has Immortality as a skill is certainly among the most consequential developments, especially given how the end of the episode plays out. I liked the addition of the comedy bits where Kumoko revels in being immortal (especially the one about her body being aired back up after being squished), but that also may have been what attracted D’s attention. In the novels, D’s voice is described as sounding flat, but Saori Hayami’s more lilting interpretation in the anime version is preferable, as it gives a better sense of D’s mischievous nature. She certainly knows how to pulls Kumoko’s strings, but the key points she explains to Kumoko are even more important:
- Nearly the whole classroom – not just Kumoko – died and reincarnated. (Viewers mostly knew that, but Kumoko didn’t.)
- It all happened because of (essentially) a misfire resulting from a collaborative effort by the previous Hero and Demon King.
- That happened in Ms. Oka’s classroom specifically because D was present there and was, in fact, one of the students in the class.
- D was probably targeted because a faction exists in the setting which is anti-Administrator.
- D specifically reincarnated everyone into forms in tune with their natures and with an appropriate starter skill.
(Left out from the novels here is an explanation that D was surprised that a Zana Horowa actually evolved because normally the previous form kills itself off with Rot Attacks before living long enough to evolve.)
All sorts of unpacking can be done with these revelations, especially the bombshell that D was one of the students. Given that D has previously claimed to still be in Japan, that creates numerous interesting possibilities. One is that D is using one of the supposed reincarnations as a remote avatar, but that seems unlikely, since D seems to delight in watching rather than participating. A second is that D is one of the ones that Ms. Oka labeled as “out of reach.” Viewers now know that one of those is Shouko (aka Sophia), but two are still technically unaccounted-for. (For anime-only viewers, both have had cameos so far but not been identified as reincarnations.) A third is that this is a situation akin to the horror series Another, where one of the students was present but never real. The fourth is that D is one of the dead students, but the only one of those that had a specifically female-sounding name was Hiiro.
That Hiiro could be D also seems highly unlikely, given that every indicator so far (including Kumoko’s own memories) has pointed to Kumoko being Hiiro, but one of the other revelations – the causal comment about each person in the classroom reincarnating in something in tune with their natures – at least opens that door. Nothing about Hiiro’s nature in the flashbacks suggested “spider,” but then again, nothing in those depictions suggested D, either. (For anime-only viewers, the truth about D is one of the story’s biggest and most important secrets, so a definitive answer should not be expected in this series. Speculate away!)
The “reincarnated into forms in tune with their nature” has interesting implications for other characters as well, especially Kanata. He is the only character we know of who gender-swapped on reincarnation, and if that was because of his “nature” in Japan, then it suggests more powerfully than ever that Kanata may have been an unrealized/undeclared trans. (The novels are never definitive on that point, either.) Mirei being reincarnated as a dragon could be related to her prideful nature back in Japan and the fact that dragons are, by nature, prideful creatures, and reincarnating “Spooky” Shouko as a vampire progenitor fits the kind of perverse sense of humor D has. As for Oka, “elf” just seems to fit her character.
The episode also has other things going on. Goyef, who guided Julius’s party to defeat the Nightmare Vestige back in episode 6, reappears as well, though only long enough to introduce his retired father, who leads Schlain’s party to an alternate path into the Labyrinth. Along the way, Fei reveals that she has learned a skill which allows her to take on a humanoid form, which interestingly, brings her prideful nature back, and Katia insisting that it wasn’t a problem that she went along to pick out clothes for Fei is somewhat a summary of some skipped content indicating that Kanata’s mindset has gone entirely female and he is accepted as such by other girls who know who he was. This episode also reveals that water dragons are the reason why an across-the-sea route is not possible.
The episode ends with Schlain and party finally in the Labyrinth, but the other ending event is much more significant: Kumoko encountering the Demon Lord herself in this timeline. This reveals that Ariel – and not the Queen Taratect – is not only the true top of the chain among spider monsters but also the progenitor for all of them, that she makes even the Queen Taratect look like a chump on stats, and that she is also something called an Ancient Divine Beast. This should mostly quell speculation that Kumoko becomes the Demon Lord, and the DL certainly does not waste time in offing the threat to one of her chief underlings. Good thing that Kumoko just picked up Immortality, right? Tune in next episode to see how Kumoko pieces herself back together!
On other random fronts, this episode was clearly designed so that the water encounters in both timelines paired up, maintaining the sense of parallelism that has pervaded the series so far. Kumoko’s spider thread-based boat is a neat detail easy to overlook, and the Water Dragons looked pretty good. I was less impressed with the CG rendition of Ariel, but it wasn’t awful. Also notably, her demeanor in that brief shot seemed quite different than in her previous appearances. We’ll see if that is an idle detail or not. Also, the comedy seemed to be landing especially effectively this episode, hence the higher rating.