As expected, Kumoko’s timeline returns to center stage for this episode, with the human timeline only getting the last couple of minutes as it shows a bit more of Shun stepping in to fight Hugo. As feared, the wonky use of CG also continues unabated, with more than just the purely action components getting a CG treatment. At least that aspect is better than last episode, but seeing how poorly this series is getting treated visually compared to the promise it showed earlier in the series (and especially compared to concurrently-airing fare like 86) just makes me sad, as there is only so much that the intrigues in the story can do to make up for that.
Nothing much of note is happening on the human front beyond a growing suspicion that Hugo is being influenced into his current behavior and the interesting point that Sophia is seeing to it that Yuri gets attended to; while Hugo may have lost it and Sophia would not mind seeing Oka dead, she, at least, does seem to value her allies. Aside from the overdependence on CG, the main problem I have with this part is that Oka is supposed to be badly injured at this point but is barely showing it even before getting healed. (At least it gives Window Dressing Anna something to do!) Well, that and the fact that they are supposed to be fighting in a forest but the terrain is barren all around; presumably, this was done to shortcut on the animation, either because of time or budgetary constraints or both. Also, I am unclear on who is doing the Appraisal during the telepathic conversation between Fei and Katia, especially since neither has previously been shown to have that skill.
The human side is not the only place where the camera seems overly fond of spinning around in 3D modeling, as the spider side also gets this in spades. That effect seems less distracting in those parts, however, and overall, the visuals work at least a little better. Kumoko’s commentary at the beginning of the episode is mostly anime-original, but I did expect something of the sort given that the remaining material in novel 5 is a little short on filling three episodes, and her spiel is entertaining enough. The real feature comes when Ariel shows up on the battlefield for the one-on-one fight that has been teased in the opener since the beginning of the second cour. The battle does a decent job of impressing the scale of the battle on viewers, and it makes for probably the most exciting battle in the series since Kumoko faced off against the puppet spider. It also shows why Ariel is so fearsome beyond just her stats: she can eat anything and use it to recover her stats. The interesting twist is the appearance of a very young Julius (novels later clarify that he was 11 at this point), who is present for his first battle as Hero, and how that gives even Ariel pause. Apparently in this setting, even a massive stats difference cannot negate the Hero’s innate ability to defeat the Demon Lord.
Nearly as interesting as the fight itself is what happened before that. Gülie arrived where Ariel was finishing off her epic battle against the last earth dragon and decides to help her by teleporting her to where Kumoko is. In the anime he only says that it’s recompense for the trouble his subordinates (i.e., the dragons) caused her, but he offered an additional reason in the novels: she’s the daughter of a friend. (The adaptation may have skipped that line because it is not relevant to anything else happening in this part of the story.) Also interesting, this scene is happening after Gülie spoke to Kumoko in the anime, but happened in the reverse order in the novels, where Gülie’s statements to Kumoko were also meant as an assurance that he wouldn’t do something like teleport Ariel again. That changes apparent motivations a bit.
The other important detail there, though, is that we finally get clarification on who Ariel is in the human timeline. Those who suspected that Kumoko became Ariel were neither totally correct nor totally incorrect: Ariel is being influenced by essentially melding with Kumoko’s Body Brain, so her new personality is a mix of both. Basically, her goals are still her own but her attitude and aggressiveness are shading more towards Kumoko. This accounts for all her behavioral differences between the human timeline and earlier spider timeline appearances and why she seems to know about the reincarnations. Interesting, though, that even such a powerful entity as her has no direct knowledge of D. . . anyway, the suggestion that D may have specifically done the reincarnations as part of a deliberate attempt to save the world is also an intriguing theory, and I agree with Gülie that the timing seems too suspicious.
Of course, the big feature moment at the end is that Kumoko apparently got obliterated by Ariel’s Abyss magic at the end of their scene. Obviously Kumoko isn’t permanent deadly, but how does she get out of this one? It’s been very vaguely hinted at previously, or you can just wait until next week to find out.