Original Run: July 5, 2018 - September 20, 2018 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Harem, Isekai Based on the Series Created By: Yukiya Murasaki
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. Reader discretion is advised.**
Cross Reverie is one of the most popular MMORPGs on the market today. Amongst its many pre-programmed challenges and bosses, one player has risen to become a true demon lord.
Takuma Sakamoto, a.k.a., Diablo (voiced by Masaaki Mizunaka), is a shut-in loner who has mastered this particular game. Preferring solitude, he sometimes wonders if staying in this virtual world wouldn’t be a bad idea.
As they say, though: Be careful what you wish for.
Without warning the veteran gamer is summoned to a mysterious land that oddly resembles Cross Reverie. The confused man has also taken on the appearance of his avatar Diablo and has retained all his frightening powers.
The once solo player now finds himself part of a party. In this unusual place of might and magic, Diablo’s unmatched strength often clashes with his social awkwardness. To keep up appearances, he must take up the role as the unquestionable demon lord he has long roleplayed as.
Please go into this review after considering these three questions:
- Are you uninterested in ecchi-heavy series?
- Do ridiculous, gravity-defying boob physics cause your eyes to roll in annoyance?
- Does a story which revels in over-the-top lewdness make you instantly want to disregard it?
If you answered “yes” to any of those, know this. Although I won’t say you shouldn’t watch How Not to Summon a Demon Lord (HNSDL), don’t go thinking I didn’t warn you.
There is a big difference between a series which has ecchi elements and one that IS an ecchi. The former is a single element, and the latter is the point. If I were to get mad at HNSDL for simply having heavy-handed fanservice, it would be the same as saying a horror story sucked because it was scary or being angry that the ocean is wet.
However, just like a horror story and the ocean, a person can have no desire to watch an ecchi series due solely to its inherent nature. People are going to like what they like, and I know many who will never come to like this series regardless of what I may say about it.
Intrinsic barriers notwithstanding, there is still a right and a wrong way to do ecchi.
A show with a ton of boobs, tight clothes, suggestive poses, and other similar aspects can still work as long as it remembers that story and characters come first. The best example I have ever seen of this was Monster Musume. Conversely, if such a series completely drops the ball, an ecchi anime can be one of the most infuriating things to sit through (I’m looking at you Maken-ki).
In the case of HNSDL, it was firmly on the Monster Musume side of the spectrum.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m saying HNSDL was pretty good. If you can get past what this show is, you may just find it to be surprisingly entertaining and fun.
I know I did.
I’m not sure how it was I came to review two 2018 series with main characters who were pulled into the world of a video game (the other being Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody). If you have seen these two shows, it’s impossible to miss the many similarities between them, such as the male leads being both overpowered heroes as well as surrounded by many female admirers.
By the way, HNSDL was also a harem series. Be sure to make that another thing to consider when you’re deciding what your next anime will be.
Commonalities aside, it was HNSDL – the far more fanservice-y of the two shows – that was the stronger. Unlike Death March, which felt like an incomplete idea, this series had so much more to it.
To recap, HNSDL was an ecchi AND a harem anime; the two genres which are, arguably, the most awkward to review favorably. While that may be a rather blanketing statement, it’s not as if many ecchi and harem series are anything more than obviously cheap cash grabs with little thought or effort put into them.
Despite that, there have, on occasion, been stellar examples of the two, and I have come to notice several shared features between the ones that have managed to stand above the rest. HNSDL was as good as it was because it too had many of those same quality features.
Concerning an ecchi series, the answer is simple: Restraint. A show that can hold back when necessary has a lot more leeway to be much louder at other times. In HSNDL, for example, the character of Shera L. Greenwood was often in positions of “closeness” with protagonist Diablo. Some of this story’s more ridiculous moments involved Shera. There was no reservation when it came to showcasing her…assets.
Regardless, whenever there was a scene in which Shera or any other character had to react to something serious or tragic, HSNDL backed off with the fanservice. Had this series continued with its lewdness, that would have been a sign of there being no other purpose outside of pandering to a specific demographic.
Restraint in an ecchi anime is essential because it opens the door for characters to be more than eye candy. There was more to Shera than simply being the big-boobed character.
For a harem series to have the best chance of working, it needs to be as firm as possible with its center and its members, and this was where HSNDL was at its strongest.
For the center, Diablo was the best thing about this show.
Diablo’s player instincts gave him a decisive edge in most situations. He knew how different spells worked. He understood common battle strategies. Diablo could spot weaknesses and ascertain his own advantages in the middle of combat.
Have you ever played a video game in which you could do a second playthrough with your previously earned level, skills, and weapons intact? I don’t know about you, but when this happens, I feel like an unchallengeable god amongst enemies that may have once given me a headache. That was Diablo, but keep in mind, his chosen game, Cross Reverie, was an MMORPG. The concept of a second playthrough doesn’t really apply.
To become a demi-god-like figure in such a game, one would need to invest hundreds, if not thousands of hours into it. Although this may not be true for everyone, it was for Diablo: His social skills were lacking.
Diablo was a bumbling nerd AS WELL AS the most powerful character in the world of HNSDL. Along with the amount of times when Diablo was a badass demon lord, there were as many instances of him freaking out when talking to a pretty girl. Both sides of him were believable.
Thanks to Diablo, HNSDL was both a satisfying action series and a fairly competent comedy.
More importantly, Diablo demonstrated why others might be attracted to him. His actions and words went beyond the notion of Because-The-Story-Said-So. Not only could Diablo lend an ear, but he also had the determination to stand by his word.
It wasn’t a huge stretch to see Diablo as the focal point of a potential harem.
On the other half of this equation, the members, HNSDL was in a good spot with Rem Galleu and the aforementioned Shera. Although other characters were introduced, Rem and Shera were critical from the beginning, and they saw the benefits from that.
Going off what I said about how to have a successful ecchi anime, Rem and Shera had more to them than their looks. They each faced setbacks that drove them to do the things they did. I won’t give away what Shera went through, but since Rem’s dilemma was revealed early on: She had the spirit of an actual all-powerful demon lord residing within her.
Over the course of HNSDL, it was always clear how much strain this burden put on Rem. This brought forth a much deeper character than I would have expected. There were many moments where I felt sorry for Rem. That wouldn’t have happened if this series hadn’t put in the effort to establish her character beyond being the standoff-ish one.
From nearly beginning to end, HNSDL had my attention. Given the reputation (or rather, reputations) of this type of anime, how could I not be impressed when this series decided to take the extra steps. Like I said, if you’re willing to give this show a shot, you may just be surprised.
I will stand here and defend HNSDL as being far better than most other ecchi anime. If you were to remove all the fanservice from this show, there would still be a story left to tell.
That said, HNSDL wasn’t void of the problems that can come from an ecchi series.
Earlier I mentioned how prioritizing characters and plot can allow a show a lot more leeway when it comes to fanservice. However, there is a limit, and there are things that even make ME cringe.
For instance, though it was unintentional and Diablo never took advantage of the situation, Shera and Rem where the main character’s slaves. This series tried to spin this in a way that didn’t sound as bad as that, except it didn’t really work. There are many places where I will happily make a stand with a show, but this is not one of them.
This was just a single instance among several when HNSDL was blatantly someone else’s fantasy.
Also, the more direct a story is with its implications, the harder it is to argue suggestiveness when it decides to play hardball. There was a scene between Diablo and Rem that totally took me off guard. When what happened was first suggested, I thought it was a joke. It most certainly wasn’t.
Not even Maken-ki went that far, and damn this show for forcing me to say that.
Although HNSDL had my attention through to the end, the final few episodes definitely started to lose me. You’ll know when this series begins its decline when a certain character has a sudden shift in personality.
I don’t have a problem when someone turns out to be evil. If it makes sense, and there is plenty of foreshadowing proceeding it, a betrayal can add to a story. Unfortunately, when it just happens out of nowhere, then that feels like a cheap move.
Going into the last act of this series, HNSDL had to do a complete one-eighty with a character who never had a chance to do anything, let alone establish why they might have had ulterior motives. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it nevertheless felt hollow.
Much like the final episode was.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a show stroke its own d@#$ as hard as HNSDL did. HNSDL wasn’t in the position to be giving life lessons after some of the stunts it pulled.
Finally, there is one last thing about HNSDL that will come to hurt it in the long run. This series may have been good, but it was only passingly-good. While you’re watching, I have no doubt you’ll probably get a kick out of it.
Like I said, though, this was the SECOND series of 2018 that dragged a character into a video game world. To be fair, it was the better of the two. Too bad it wasn’t fantastically better. There was nothing about HNSDL that caused it to stand out aside from it being an above average ecchi anime.
I liked this one, but I can understand it if someone told me they weren’t willing to give it a try. Some genres aren’t for everyone, and nowhere is that more the case than with what this series was.
Assuming you do get past that initial barrier, then this show should manage to not cause you to regret your decision.
This series had a strong focus on its plot and characters. Everything was a lot deeper than surface level. Thanks to that, this show was able to be a solid fantasy adventure that happened to have a heavy dash of fanservice.
If that sounds interesting to you, then I would definitely recommend How Not to Summon a Demon Lord.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning How Not to Summon a Demon Lord? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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