How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
Takuma Sakamoto is an antisocial loner and one of the biggest players on the most popular MMO in the world; Cross Reverie. There, he has established himself as the Demon Lord, and was often sought out by other players for combat-related reasons. He'd go easy on most people, however, unless the people in question were a real-life couple, in which case he'd crush them completely.
And then, completely without warning, he finds himself summoned to the world of Cross Reverie by two of its residents, although thanks to the magic-reflecting ring he's wearing, the enslavement spell bounced back on the two and put the collar of enslavement around their necks instead. Massively overpowered in this version of the world, but with no social skills whatsoever, Diablo sets out to find some way to remove the collars.
Shortly after, he learns that one of his new companions, the Pantherian Rem, has the soul of the demon lord Krebskulm resting inside of her. When Rem dies, Krebskulm's soul will be released, and she'll lay waste to all the mortal races.
My first thought upon reading the synopsis to this show was something along the lines of "Oh great; DearS is going isekai."
How Not to Summon a Demon Lord is not the first of this kind of show I have watched, and I'm sure it won't be the last either. Slave collars and a somewhat rudimentary "captured inside his favorite game" framing wasn't something I saw as a sign of success, even though many of the ones I've seen has been surprisingly decent. As overbearing as Log Horizon was. As... political... as GATE was. As shamelessly flippant as Overlord was (and more on that show later: its third season is nearing completion), it's safe to say that I had no idea what to make of How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. At least at first.
But... slave collars! Yes, I was bracing myself for a hate watch. Yes, I was expecting something along the lines of In Another World With My Smartphone -- an almost ungodly boring prospect in itself, regardless of how harmless it is -- but with the offputting addition of a subplot centered around slavery. And yes, of course it had to be available in the only streaming service that's also available in Norway for the most part. (I know there is Netflix too, but that one is a bit more limited in its selection -- or it used to be.)
Although for centering its core group mechanics around enslavement -- including some pretty heavy symbolism in the ending animation, chains and all -- Diablo enforces the collars that end up on Rem and Shera's necks exactly twice so far: once when he forces the bickering twosome to make up by way of handshake and smile, and the second when he uses it to command someone to tell the audience what she really wants out of her life. The first occurence is actually quite funny, while the second marks a rather big turning point for one of the others, no spoiling.
On that note; Diablo is a remarkably fun lead. Yes, he's overpowered like the dickens, but thanks to his exceptionally poor socializing skills, progress through the story still comes with its own set of challenges, since he's not the kind that just murders his way through the whole thing. In fact, one of the interesting thoughts How Not to Summon a Demon Lord put forth is Diablo choosing to get a more low-level weapon for himself, so that he won't kill anyone, even accidentally. And since he doesn't know how to talk to people or interact with them, his demon lord personality takes precedence, much like that one fun thing about I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job and its character Fino. But while Fino could act normally most of the time, Diablo is completely unable to do so.
Rem and Shera kind of leans towards a more stereotypical pair-up, though: Rem belongs to the Pantherian race, which in this show's term, means "cat girl" -- they're all Pantherians regardless of what kind of coloring and patterns you can see them have. She isn't specifically a tsundere, but she's got that serious-minded personality trait that isn't entirely uncommon in shows like this. And of course she has an inferiority complex about her chest size that isn't helped by the fact that Shera, her bubbleheaded elf girl partner, is on the other end of the chest size spectrum, and is not above reminding her of said differences. To her credit, Shera is a lot more clever than most people would give her credit for, especially given her general personality. Seeing her go through her own plot arc, including what's being done to her, adds a surprising level of complexity to a show I didn't expect to have any to begin with, and teaches the audience that there are far worse methods of enslavement than the collars. Although none of them are really good, I guess. That said, both Rem and Shera make for some appealing female leads for a tiddy show: they're allowed to have their own desires and fears -- Rem in particular, given the fact that Krebskulm is in stasis inside of her, but Shera's unfortunate situation is not a particularly nice one either. Yet their wishes and eventual resolve is treated with a weird sense of respect, as humble as some of them might be. The fact that Rem hasn't really thought much about her future speaks volumes of the kind of terror that rests inside of her. In a weird twist, Rem's and Shera's lives don't revolve around Diablo, because in this world, he doesn't really have one.
Which brings us back to the slave collars. From what I've seen so far, they can be used to force people to do something physically with simple commands while leaving them mentally unaltered. This means that, for good or bad, the beings under said collar has to experience everything they're being commanded to do. Given the other kind of magical control function we see in the show, the collars do come across as the least problematic variant in some respect, but their existance is still a problem in itself.
However, while this item has a lot of uses that could be called into question, the way it's been put to use in this show is fairly benevolent -- at least as far as the main characters go, which is a nice way of bucking the trend. Doubly ironically so when a slave collar prevents someone from being enslaved through that aforementioned vastly more mind rape-y means. That doesn't entirely change the fact that there is an episode called "Slave Market", and said episode containing girls who are going to be sold as slaves and seeming a little bit too happy about that. And they are all pretty girls, with the slave trader being a woman who commends Diablo for bringing her Rem and Shera, assuming he's there to sell them to her. It's a brief scene, so there's not really a lot of information to gain outside of the method of deactivating the selfsame collar, which the slave trader doesn't seem like she mind sharing. (Although to as few people as possible -- trade secret and all.)
Of course, it's not an easy solution, so don't expect the collars to come off this season, at least. It does make me curious what kind of roles the slaves can expect in this society of theirs. The few slaves we see in the show are all beautiful girls, so I highly doubt they are bought for manual labor. I likened the concept to that of DearS earlier in the review, but in said show, the girls were an alien race who were subservient by nature and made to fulfill a rather creepy ideal for lonely men who are unable to look after themselves. Compared to that, the slave collars on Rem and Shera seems largely irrelevant, since Diablo has no interest in controlling anyone, and any time the whole tribute of possession is brought up, it's more to do with an excuse not to break up the core group. And just because someone is wearnig one of those collars, that doesn't mean anyone can command the slaves to do something, as the collars seem to be intrinsically connected to whoever put it there. It's present, so it's going to be on your mind. But the show doesn't linger on it, so maybe you don't need to either. Diablo wants to get rid of them, and that's good enough for me, at least for now.
And hey, why worry when Emile Bichel Berger, defender of women everywhere, is on the job? A lot of shows have obnoxious, loudly proclamative comedic relief characters. Karin nearly ruined its anime adaptation with the relentlessly irritating Winner Sinclair, while Ren/Run from To Love-Ru served as a two-pronged annoyance in a harem show. Compared to either of them, Emile is actually quite willing to listen despite his gung-ho attitude towards being a friend to all women, and his somewhat bombastic, overbearing personality is the only thing that can be considered flirtatious. He doesn't actively chase women, and most of the girls in the show -- our two mains included -- seem to be rather fond of the guy. It also speaks in his favor that he's quite useful, even if he's not remotely close to Diablo's level, both literally and figuratively.
Whether you find it irritating or a bit of a relief, How Not to Summon a Demon Lord is big on general fanservice and pretend-sex. I wasn't overly impressed with the first episode starting the fanservice train with Diablo accidentally groping both Shera and Rem while waking up from his sleep and then somehow finding himself unable to let go, but most of the fanservice so far has been racy outfit and bouncing breasts, or -- given that Shera seems to be the cuddling type -- large breasts being pressed against arms or chests, or just dangling in (nearly) plain sight, which allows for some rather.... interesting camera angles.
It's fun because the girls are usually the ones who wants to initiate the skinship; even Rem once she gets over her initial pseudo-tsundereism, but Diablo for all his skills and bluster doesn't really have the social experience to deal with Shera's intimate flirting even as he grows closer to both of them. When it turns out that releasing the collars means more or less diving into someone's magical flow strands, it comes across as far more sexual than it really should be -- please don't ask me to explain in detail. Let's just say that skinship is part and parcel of the whole thing, which includes the how-to on releasing the soul of Krebskulm from Rem's body without actually killing her. Apparently, the explanation is summed up with "someone supplying her with mana directly", and I'll leave it to your imagination as to what would be the most convenient path to a woman's innermost region. But it's commendable and even encouraging to see when a show takes into account its female characters' desires on the matter, even in a harem where the sole reason for the male character is to obtain said harem.
Though... How Not to Summon a Demon Lord is more like a love triangle so far. Diablo's group does gain a third female member in the young Klem. (I'm not sure if Alicia counts, though delving into the reasons for that would probably be difficult without spoiling anything.) Unlike the slender but clearly adult Rem -- well... teenage, probably, though I would at least like to assume there are some age limits in place for people who want to join an adventurer's guild -- Klem is more like a child. Though she takes a rather large liking to Diablo as well, she seems just as fond of Rem and Shera, albeit in a somewhat different manner. She does sort of copy Shera's attitude to skinship, which is mildly unnerving given her age, but she's thankfully kept out of most of it. Well... at least so far.
Perhaps the part I like the most about this show is that all the mains are fairly supportive of each other, and even when they argue, they handle it quite maturely. Teasing aside, Diablo isn't there to be a victim of slapstick violence from Rem's tsundere outbursts any more than Rem and Shera isn't there for Diablo to leer or make inappropriate comments toward. Well, he does sort of stare at her humongous cleavage on purpose during one scene, which turned out to be him sort of distracting himself enough to make potions without having to figure out how -- it makes sense in context -- but later in the show, Shera and Rem invites him to skinnydip in a river anyway, not the least bit concerned with their nakedness. But more importantly, the show eventually does the "team separation" bit when Shera leaves the group through mysterious circumstances, and Diablo goes into complete lockdown mode. Diablo might be an overpowered weapon of mass destruction in this world, but his mind is still a teenage boy who has been hurt severely in his childhood by insincerity and general child jerkitude. Yet the following scene where Rem tries to rally Diablo's spirits is done with neither of them acting like passive-aggressive lecturing angry jerks, and it's all the better for it.
Isn't that the weirdest, though? Come for the tiddies, remain engaged by a surprisingly decent story that is a mixup of virtual world politics and Diablo figuring out the common elements and the differences between his favorite game and the world he's now in AND the tiddies. While this is no Re:Zero -- which also thankfully means we don't have to deal with any author's sour grapes thrown from soapboxes -- it's still an engaging show altogether. Whether Diablo has to deal with the Fallen and their desire to resurrect Krebskulm, or the elven kingdom's demands to have Shera returned under threat of war, and by a Prince who only want to turn Shera into his little babymaker by any means necessary. (Remember me mentioning there being worse ways to enslave someone than the collars? Yeah, he's all about showing you that, and in the most cartoonishly villainous ways possible.)
The show seems to have gotten quite the budget too. It's got some surprisingly good animation, both in battle and in... saucier scenes. The art style is also quite pleasant, a bit of a step up from the.... odd novel art, which can be seen in the ending animation. Not that it's entirely unpleasant, but having a more pronounced line art works better than the airbrushed style of the original, so I'm not complaining. Yeah, it does get its moments of derpfaces in short, cutaway scenes, but those aren't really all that noticeable in the grander sceme of things.
And while the show is clearly not covering the entire light novel -- which is not even finished yet anyway -- it reaches a pretty nice stopping point. It's not going to hurt too much if this is all we ever get, but honestly, the first season of How Not to Summon a Demon Lord has actually left me wanting more. Put it on your shelf along your favorite tiddy shows with confidence.
Despite its iffy angle, this show has kept itself far away from the concept of DearS or any of its ilk by basically concentrating on what's important: likable characters working their way through their dilemmas one step at a time. And tiddies. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The violence is actually pretty strong in this one. It's not outlandishly gory, but people do get decapitated or otherwise being beat to a more literal bloody pulp. Death is quite permanent in this show.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
How Not to Summon a Demon Lord © 2018 Ajiado.
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