What happens when you go flashing your OP powers around normal people without thinking much about the consequences? You become a religious icon, of course! That is the entirely sensible conclusion of this episode, which combines a look at five different viewpoints and a peek at some of the setting’s bigger machinations in the context of the religions at work in this world.
Religion has certainly been touched on before in this series, but only really involving Yuri’s utter devotion to the Word of God religion. This episode establishes that there is a competing religion called the Goddess religion. Putting the tidbits revealed in this episode together with earlier information paints an interesting (if still vague) picture about the world’s bigger truths, so let’s summarize:
(For anime-only viewers, everything listed below has come up in the anime.)
- The Word of God (hereafter WoG) venerates the Voice of God, while the Goddess religion venerates a Divine Beast, who is a servant of the Goddess.
- WoG adherent increase skills so they can hear the Voice of God, while Goddess adherents preach the sacrifice of skills to support their goddess. Given these starkly opposing viewpoints, armed conflict arising between the two is predictable.
- Ariel, the Demon Lord, has the title Ancient Divine Beast.
- Dustin, the pontiff of the Word of God, ironically comments that the two religions cannot get along even though they actually support the same goddess.
- Sariel, the one who was sacrificed in ancient times to preserve the world, has been implied to be the Voice of God. The country which is home to the Goddess religion is Sariella, which is presumably named after their goddess. That seems to support Dustin’s assertion.
- Oka has previously stated, without explanation, that skills shouldn’t be amassed. That seems to be out of perfect alignment with both religions, and thus represents a third viewpoint, one apparently advocated and represented by Potimas. (This can be assumed from Oka’s comments about the elves long believing it)
- Ariel, Dustin, and Potimas all clearly know each other and have mutually adversarial relationships, with the implication that this is a very long-standing thing.
This is the schema that Kumoko is unwittingly stumbling into the midst of as she gets involved in Sariella, purely because she decides to continue to help out her fellow reincarnation. Her actions are proving a wild card to all of the trio I’m going to start calling the Big Three: none of them understand what she’s doing, and two of them mistakenly think she’s currently acting on behalf of Ariel rather than in opposition to her. The fun part is that Kumoko doesn’t have a clue about how much chaos she’s throwing into everyone’s plans – which is no doubt one of the reasons why D is “following” her. She’s just creating her own chaos by getting herself called the Divine Beast for rescuing the local lord’s family on a whim, killing bandits (some of which are Word of God agents in disguise) on a whim, and getting a reputation as a healer because of something she did on a whim. No wonder her motives are inscrutable to everyone, both now and 15 years in the future: no one (except maybe D) correctly understands that she’s just doing whatever she feels like.
This also throws the spotlight on two characters who have not previously received much attention so far. One is Potimas, who was killed by Sophia in the future timeline but is very much alive in Kumoko’s and scheming to get possession of the reincarnations. The extremes he’s willing to go to here (he’s behind a widespread child kidnapping ring just to mask the acquisition of reincarnations?) suggest a more nefarious reason for it than Oka’s good intentions, and he seems unaware that Dustin’s movements – at least for now – have nothing to do with those. In a meta sense, his status here as a mastermind-type suggests that he’s probably not actually dead in Shun’s timeline, but if that’s the case, we’ll have to see how he got out of it. His apparent upcoming appearance in Keren County might provide hints on that front.
The other person in the spotlight is Sophia, this time as a baby. This anime-original scene is our first look at her perspective, and seeing the stagecoach scene and its aftermath from her viewpoint allows that scene to be put back in its more proper time frame. (Episode 14 jumped ahead quite a bit to include that scene from Kumoko’s perspective.) This provides the first hint that Shouko’s life back in Japan was not a happy one even if one discounts her homely appearance and the way she was regarded by classmates. The novels do not offer much perspective from her until much later in the storyline, so hopefully that this is a sign that she will get more attention earlier. Her pleasant life here also raises the question of how she and the family servant ended up affiliated with the Demon Lord.
Overall, no really major events happened this episode, but plenty enough little details get thrown out to maintain interest and point towards bigger events to come.