2018 has been a pretty solid year for Ecchi. With shows like Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs, the fourth season of High School DxD and recent additions Senran Kagura, and My Sister My Writer, there has been a steady supply of anime titty to tide over fans, which is always welcome, but there has been one show that has stood out from all of them.
I’ve already done my quick thought on this show, but now enough time has passed and my thoughts have solidified enough that I can take a proper Shallow Dive into the series. So join me after the cut as we dive into Yukiya Murasaki’s How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord.
Demon Lord should not have worked, or at least it should not have been as popular and well received as it has been.
Everything about the show is by the numbers, from the overdone Isekai trope of the overpowered shut-in gamer, the sexy fantasy girls lusting after him, and the in your face fanservice. There is nothing really new or unique about Demon Lord, and it would have been rightly dismissed as another piece of “trash” if it wasn’t for the fact that everything it does, it does really well.
The story is (stop me if you’ve heard this before) quite simple. Shut-in NEET Takuma Sakumoto finds himself transported to the game world of Cross-Reverie as his player avatar, his overpowered, overplayed and very overgeared player avatar. Summoned by the two female leads Shera L Greenwood and Rem Galleu, the spell they use to enslave him backfires and they end up becoming enslaved to him instead. Now alone in a new world with his two new companions, Takuma, or Diablo has to navigate his new life as well as helping Shera and Rem with their own issues and struggles.
Again, the plot to Demon Lord is very by the book, but it is done with enough effort and passion that you can forgive the story for being a little samey to other Isekai. Diablo’s entire gimmick of being a gamer with massive social anxiety, and therefore he has to actually roleplay being a Demon Lord is such a refreshing departure from the usual Isekai hero. Instead of the usual indecisive and milquetoast “nice guy” of so many Isekai past, Diablo is rude, brash and dismissive on the outside, but skittish, comedic and lovable on the inside. He feels more of what would be expected from someone of his lifestyle, and coping with that by roleplaying his online persona gives him an endearing image to the audience that is rare in the genre.
The female leads are also excellent here as well. Shera L Greenwood is bubbly, sexy and innocent, but also not useless and a wallflower like many other leads and her plot of wanting personal freedom and being among friends is well told and crafted. Rem Galleu may come off as more of the classic Tsundere, but she is comical and her story of having a demon sealed inside her is not overdone and thankfully doesn’t encompass the entire story. Special mention needs to be given to the English dub of Demon Lord, which does great things to help flush out the characters more. Jad Saxton is fast becoming my favorite voice actress in the business and she gives Rem the perfect mixture of sharp wit and gentle vulnerability along with some of the best English dub lines of the season. Furthermore, Sarah Wiedenheft’s performance as Shera is a star-making turn that perfectly combines sexy, innocence and excitement that seems almost tailor-made to the character. Even Eric Vale, Diablo’s voice actor is a discovery here, taking his place next to the legendary Josh Grelle when it comes to voicing Harem leads, he is a real treat in this show.
The fanservice in this show is present but is also reserved and done with more grace and tact than was to be expected. Instead of the gratuitous amount of breasts and panty shots of shows like High School DxD, we instead have more of a reserved sexiness that benefits the show well. Expect a lot of cleavage and breast comedy, but if you are coming in here expecting To-Love Ru levels of ecchi, you’ll end up disappointed. Overall I found the fanservice to be solid and enjoyable and thankfully the plot and characters were done well enough that it was able to strike an excellent balance.
Finally, while some may raise their eyebrows at the whole “slave” angle, that entire plotline seems to vanish and only come up when it is needed. It may be a fair concern that his show tries to portray the “sexy” version of slavery, Demon Lord isn’t trying to make any statements on the matter and is clearly using it more as a plot device to kickstart and then end the season. Both Shera, Rem and later Klem are all consenting figures when it comes to their relationship with Diablo, and the mutual trust and friendship shared between all three makes the entire story much more enjoyable. There are little if any “rapey” moments in this series and the now legendary scene near the end of the show is only done because Rem herself asks Diablo to do it, and only after he asks if she is ok with it.
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord is probably the biggest surprise of this season and probably one of the biggest this whole year. This show is made top to bottom with love, affection and a dedication that pays off in every way. There are not cutting corners, no cynical attempts to pander to the viewer, and the performers and animators both in Japan and the West all showed up to play here. Demon Lord is honestly everything about the Harem/Ecchi Genre done right and should be considered a template on how to make a GOOD harem/ecchi show going forward. This is already my Ecchi/titty anime of the year and I don’t see that changing at all. I highly suggest you check this show out if you are interested at all in the genre. It surprised the crap out of me, and I am sure it will do the same to you.
Plus that ending theme song man…just perfection.