You know, I’m starting to get a little tired of Demon Lord messing with me like this. When this show started, I was thinking I was in for a fanservice-fest, serving slavery-themed stupidity to a stock isekai audience, the sort of thing that might justify a hate-watch or at least an ironic source of jokes at its expense. But the first episode didn’t end up going in that direction, and I found myself intrigued enough to see where the show would go in the future. So now we’re seven episodes deep into all these boobs and collars and suggestive mana transfers, and what I’m forced to grapple with a terrifying question: has How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord gotten good?!
The series has always been surprisingly competent, even genuinely entertaining in its best moments. But this episode takes the story of Shera’s brother trying to reclaim her and puts the show’s best assets to the strongest uses they’ve seen yet. We start by exploring Diablo’s true anxious personality he’s been covering up with his Demon Lord persona all this time, with a flashback to his real-world childhood as Takuma making the heartbreaking discovery that his so-called friends were only nice to him to get good items in their video games. The relevance of this revelation is obvious as soon as it becomes apparent that Shera is going to (temporarily) depart with her brother, and the obviousness of the twist is the only thing holding me back from being wholly positive about the development.
By their nature, isekai shows are an escapist fantasy squarely targeted at the stereotype of an RPG gamer: a lonely guy with few emotional ties to the world who dream of excelling and being adored in an RPG world instead. Simply acknowledging that a real person in this mold would be an anxious, asocial wreck was one of Demon Lord’s best moves out of the gate with Diablo, giving us a funny running gag to contrast his personas in the meantime. But this week, we get a look at the more serious side of that setup, that Diablo’s anxiety naturally leads to him having an emotional crisis over Shera leaving. It’s a realistic portrayal of someone with these hang-ups, as Diablo’s first instinct is to go take a depression nap as he second-guesses every interaction he had with Shera prior to her leaving, blaming himself all the way.
So Demon Lord actually manages to show an understanding of its self-insert protagonist’s psyche better than any isekai iterations that feature bland ciphers, but the issue I’m having is how much of a given that should be for a decent show. Our boisterous bad-dude is allowed to sulk, cry, and show emotions without it being treated like a joke, and while that should be assumed in any competent story, I’m still shocked that this one went there. Should I be impressed by that, or is it a bare minimum that should merely be acknowledged? One issue I do have with this scene is how it’s undercut at the last minute by having Diablo too-quickly realize Shera was being hypnotized. It feels a little like a cop-out given that we were otherwise getting a strong portrayal of his relatable emotional issues. It’s a commendable step forward, but Demon Lord still has room to grow in this area.
The other high-water mark this episode reaches has to do with a new take on its treatment of the slave-fetish material, which is at least much more clever. Yes there is an unmistakably leery element to Shera’s brother Keera and his incestuous designs on his chained-up sister, so if you’ve been waiting for that kind of content, your patience has been rewarded. That said, from an outside perspective, it is pretty funny for this show to promote itself on the promise of this kind of sleaze, only to wait seven episodes and then frame the person excited by it as a gross jerk. There is more time-killing than I’d like between the slime-monster molestation and Keera loudly whining after everything goes up in flames, but the payoff is worth it.
As we’re reminded in this episode, Diablo has only used the slave-collar powers on his so-called servants once so far, and this week he uses it for the second time to let Shera break Keera’s spell by compelling her to do what she wants. I found it to be an extremely well-executed twist, regardless of how much you can see it coming as the scene builds. I’m kind of in awe of how the script pulled such a clever turn out of a concept that initially had me wondering why they didn’t just use it for porn. Instead, this episode snuck in some genuinely affecting character work and plot twists that built off its otherwise innocuous ideas, with fanservice seemingly sprinkled in just to make sure the horndogs tuning in didn’t nod off. This arc is still ongoing, and at this point I have no idea where How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord is going anymore; it’s no longer something I can predict based on rote genre expectations.
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