The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Black Summoner ?
Community score: 3.3
What is this?
Waking up in a strange new place with no memory of his past life, Kelvin learns that he's bartered away those very memories in exchange for powerful new abilities during his recent transmigration. Heading out into a whole new world as a Summoner — with his first Follower being the very goddess who brought him over— Kelvin begins his new life as an adventurer, and it isn't long before he discovers his hidden disposition as a battle junkie.
How was the first episode?
Wow. Black Summoner is so creatively bankrupt it couldn't even come up with its own made-up fantasy names. If you first got into anime in the past, oh, two decades, you might not know this, but the Goddess of Reincarnation, Melfina, shares a name with the sweet android female lead of the '90s space western Outlaw Star. It's not a real name people have, nor is it a commonly-used fantasy name; every search engine result when you plug in the name leads to Outlaw Star. I refuse to believe this is sheer happenstance. Not that Black Summoner is anything even remotely like Outlaw Star, the only one of the classic triad of 90's space westerns not to get a modern adaptation (as long as you don't count Firefly. Take that, Joss Whedon!). It's closer to a much more ubiquitous and still-relevant piece of '90s media: Pokémon.
Imagine if you took Pokémon, removed all the charm and originality that have given the franchise the staying power to remain beloved for 25 years, and replaced it with a grab bag of generic isekai tropes. Instead of interesting-looking creatures, there are slimes. Don't get me wrong, slimes are great. How could anyone not love those little guys? But they're also little blue blobs and there's already another isekai this season heavily featuring them; not the most original. The method for a summoner to get them to join their party is more or less identical to how one catches a Pokémon. However, since Kelvin must be super-special and cool, he is the best and strongest summoner in the whole world at the cost of his memories.
But if you've watched anime for more than a year, there's nothing super-special or cool about him. He's the same Kirito clone as every single other isekai protagonist, except he has no memories. He has messy black hair, a black costume embellished with silver, and a shockingly casual attitude toward slavery. Yeah, this one has slavery too.
A while back, I read a good chunk of the Black Summoner manga. And while it's not the pinnacle of the isekai genre or anything, it does end up setting itself apart from similar stories thanks to the personality and motivations of its titular main character. Of course, in this episode we see none of that. This is definitely a story that, for the anime adaptation, should have started in media res in order to give us a taste of what the story will become and why it's so enjoyable before going back to the beginning.
Instead, we start with a relatively cookie-cutter isekai beginning. That said, there are a few twists that are somewhat intriguing. Wishing to the goddess to come along with you is one of the main distinguishing points of KONOSUBA, and Cautious Hero ends up doing something similar as well. However, while those played the concept for comedy, Black Summoner plays it straight, giving Kelvin both his first companion and goal all in the form of a disembodied voice.
The other notable twist is the fact that Kelvin traded his memories for more skills upon reincarnation, though he still seems to know things like languages, general knowledge, and the fact that he came from Japan. But what's interesting is that it's clear his past self believed that human personality is based on nature and not nurture—that even without memories he would be the same person with the same likes and wants. He believed this strongly enough that he was able to convince a literal goddess that not only did he love her but he would also love her again even without his memories. It also plants the mystery of what exactly Kelvin was like before his reincarnation and what skill combination was worth a literal loss of self? I guess we'll have to keep watching if we want to find out.
I have been informed that I can't simply insert a YouTube clip of a chimpanzee flinging its own feces around as a preview, so I guess I'll have to sit here and actually come up with something to say about this creatively bankrupt scam. This is especially upsetting because, as I sit here and type this second sentence, I have officially put more thought and effort into writing about Black Summoner than anyone ever put into making it.
In fact, I just spent maybe ten minutes writing out a whole long analogy for this second paragraph, where I compared the brazen and frankly insulting level of plagiarism that is evident in so many of these stupid isekai anime to some made-up scenario where I made a lawsuit-worthy ripoff of some Marvel movie, but you know what? Screw that. Unlike the people who make this crap, I actually respect the intelligence of my audience.
Everyone here knows that Black Summoner is just the thousandth in a long line of zero-effort carbon copies that all shamelessly recycle a bunch of clichés that were never even that interesting to begin with. Some folks don't seem to care about watching literally the same exact terrible anime a hundred times over, and whatever, more power to them. I've indulged in plenty of terrible junk, too. We all partake in vices that exist exclusively to waste our time and money in exchange for the most meager of distractions from the ravages of human existence.
The point is, if there is virtually nothing to be gained from watching Black Summoner, then there is definitely nothing to be gained from writing, talking, or even thinking about it for a single second beyond what it takes to watch the damned thing. It does every bad thing that every “Reborn in a Lame Ass RPG World” anime has ever done, and it doesn't even try to copy any of the ideas that were actually good. It is just another boil on the already plague-ridden taint of the anime industry, and the sooner we all forget it ever existed, the better.
Black Summoner is here with a first episode that has all the thrill of playing the tutorial to a game that's like virtually every other game you've ever played. I wish I was being more facetious than I am, but no: when Kelvin opens his eyes in a new realm after being killed in an accident, the first thing he sees is a magic floating status screen that immediately begins talking to him, explaining everything that's happened and walking him through his first quest. I'm sure it could be more boring if it tried, but it's still impressively dull.
As always, it's a shame when corners are cut like this in storytelling. The web novels of this series date to 2014 and the light novels to 2016, so there is some excuse for the slow start on their part, because isekai, while obviously present, perhaps wasn't the driving force it is now. But this adaptation is happening in 2022, so there are many fewer excuses to open this way, because it really is a safe bet that most viewers are going to be going into the series with a firm grasp of isekai conventions. While the old “but faithfulness!” argument could be brought out, it holds rather less water in a season where Tokyo Mew Mew New has aged its heroine up from twelve to fifteen years old. If ever a story could have benefitted from an in medias res first episode, this would be it. (And as a point of interest, that's exactly what My Isekai Life did.)
It doesn't help that this doesn't look great, either. Art is clunky, animation is awkward and stiff, and try as they might, Clotho just doesn't have the charm of the mustachioed or eyepatch slimes we saw earlier in the week. (Good name, though – I'll be sad if the next two monsters he tames to summon aren't Lachesis and Atropos.) Melfina's energetically flying status screen is kind of amusing to watch, and the elf girl that I assume Kelvin is going to buy within the next couple of episodes is blandly pretty, but there just isn't much in the visuals department either. Plus I'm really not keen on another isekai hero buying a party member, but at this point the genre is what it is and me complaining isn't likely to change it. (But I'm registering a complaint anyway.)
Long story short, this may end up better than it currently appears, but the first episode isn't doing it any favors.
Let's all save each other some time, if we can. Have you watched any – and I mean any – isekai anime that came out in the last five years? If yes, then Black Summoner has nothing to offer you here. It is a poorly stitched-together amalgam of every tired trope you've seen from any other light novel adaptation about some Melvin (sorry, Kelvin) getting yoinked to a JRPG world to futz around with tutorial quests and collect anime girls. It has nothing new, or unique, or memorable about it and you are far better served just watching anything else.
Seriously, there's just nothing here. It's empty, dull, and somehow manages to be so derivative it's incorporating parts of BOTH of the other isekai series that have already premiered this season. Not to say Black Summoner is outright stealing, but it's clearly just tossing in ideas other series have utilized because that's how you make these things now, I guess. But despite having a slime buddy with a goofy face, neither Kelvin or his gooey pokemon pal are as engaging as My Isekai Life's protagonist or his horde of wall-eyed slime familiars. It also lacks any of the interesting direction that helped that show's first episode stand out, leaving it totally redundant even in this weak season.
And just like Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World, there's slaves! Granted, Kelvin doesn't buy any sentient beings this episode – but it's not because he has any scruples about a blatantly immoral act. He just doesn't have the cash yet, but he makes it very clear to the audience that he's cool with it, and especially has eyes for the half-elf girl he sees caged in a back alley. Compound with the fact that this whole premiere's vibe is that Kelvin just wants to have a fun and easy-going life in this new world, and your skin really starts to crawl that his first instinct to seeing a collared woman is to smirk over his empty summoning slot. At least with Harem Labyrinth you had the open admission that it was aiming to be softcore for slavery fetishists, but here there's not even that. So you have all the gross moral implications of our hero wanting to own a person and there's not even the promise of a heavily-censored sex scene waiting at the end.
So that's Black Summoner – so devoid of anything to call its own, yet too incompetent to even offer competition to anything it's borrowing. A vacuous, empty piece of phoned-in entertainment if ever I've seen one.
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