It’s another I’ve been summoned to another world story where of course, for escapist reasons, the protagonist is severely over powered and becomes the one person who can save the day. Despite the generic premise can How Not To Summon a Demon Lord distinguish itself in a fairly flooded market?
There’s become this trend online that calling something generic is somehow a negative review of the subject matter and I guess if you’re only looking for novelty and unique story-lines (good luck with that by the way) generic would be the kiss of death. How Not To Summon a Demon Lord can well and truly be labelled generic yet still manages to be engaging and entertaining.
I guess if you’ve seen one isekai fantasy with a focus on fan-service and harem building you have seen them all, but the same could be said of action movies, romances, and more or less any other type of story. They naturally share genre traits and have a basic identifiable pattern. The important concern is how is it executed and what makes this one worth the time.
Before I get into what distinguishes How Not To Summon a Demon Lord and made it more entertaining then say Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody I do feel I should address a couple of points that are going to make this anime one that a few viewers aren’t going to like and so probably shouldn’t even start watching.
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The first, and most obvious one, is that this isn’t just a harem anime, it most definitely has earned the ecchi label that MAL has on it. And while it isn’t as confronting as some titles with that label, there are definitely some scenes and sequences that will make some viewers uncomfortable. Be prepared for nudity, groping, rubbing against another person and then the fingering scene that very nearly had me walking away and only the fairly interesting story (and the fact that it came two episodes from the end) kept me going.
The other aspect that may very well throw some viewers, and it is something that comes up in more than a handful of isekai stories, is the slavery trope. Diablo is a gamer summoned from our world into the world of the game (or close enough) and his first encounter is with two beautiful girls who kiss him in the hopes of placing an enslavement enchantment on him, and the only reason it doesn’t work is because he turns up in his in game character and happens to have a ring that reflects magic causing the spell to backfire.
But now of course we have an overpowered male character who has essentially enslaved two female characters and the end result could rub people the wrong way. It doesn’t help that the show itself insists on not taking any kind of stance on slavery one way or the other but the only encounters we have with slaves are mostly to do with very good looking female characters.
However, if those two aspects aren’t enough to put you off (or if you happen to be in the camp that is suddenly mad keen to see the anime after hearing that), then How Not To Summon a Demon Lord is a surprisingly good time. There’s definitely a balance overall in the series with almost equal weight given to fan service moments and plot/character moments and both are fairly well done.
Okay, boy summoned to magic world and forced to save city from a demon lord isn’t the most original story, but watching him learn about the world and the encounters he has are pretty entertaining and there’s a nice escalation in the danger faced throughout the series.
The characters are well designed and quite pleasant to look at. Most of the female characters fall into a type and suffer from the usual fantasy issue of clearly not noticing weather or understanding that armour works better when you actually protect your vital areas but honestly if this bothered you there’s no way you’d be reading about an isekai fantasy anime in the first place so let’s just move on rather than discussing the completely useless nature of their battle wear.
Diablo’s in game character is also quite well designed and I like the striking contrasts in his facial expressions from extreme arrogance and confidence (a facade) and his panic and turmoil when out of his depth.
Actually, Diablo’s character as a whole is a highlight and is one of the many things that really distinguishes this story. Male protagonists in this genre are usually strictly nice guys with limited personality and Diablo does meet a lot of these genre expectations. He’s certainly a generally nice person to all the girls he meets and he’s too soft-hearted to actually kill his enemies even when it would be a good idea.
So the general notion of isekai protagonist is definitely there. As is his general insecurity around girls and passiveness when seemingly being assaulted by them. Which more or less means the male fantasy and self-insert is firmly in-place, allowing this anime then expands on this basic idea by also giving Diablo a dual personality.
We have his real world persona, the fraidy-cat shut in with no social skills, competing with his in-game personality which is the demon lord Diablo. Some of the best sequences in this anime come from watching the inner-turmoil Diablo faces even while cooly conversing with other characters.
Not to mention, despite being overpowered there are genuine moments where you feel he might lose and there are consequences for overusing that power leaving Diablo weakened and vulnerable.
What we see of the world is pretty impressive and interesting. There are so many potential avenues for future exploration and it seems like there are multiple layers to the world and the power structures. It is a little disappointing that we don’t really venture far from the city in this particular stretch of episodes, but at least it feels like there is a wider world where this story is taking place rather than feeling like there’s nothing beyond the walls of the city because the writer hadn’t imagined it yet.
With magic, fight sequences, and touching emotional moments, the plot is well worth following along for. It isn’t original but it does balance things nicely and it certainly provides entertainment. I was a little disappointed with the final episode feeling they didn’t elevate the fight enough to really give it any weight as a climax, but it still does the job of wrapping up the current drama and providing a satisfactory resolution.
All and all, I’d have to say that I really enjoyed watching How Not To Summon a Demon Lord. There were definitely moments that were a little uncomfortable to watch and more than a few moments where turning the sound down became a necessity (I’d recommend headphones), but I certainly don’t regret spending time with this anime and for those who enjoy isekai, there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Images from: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord. Dir. Y Murano. Ajia-Do. 2018
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