How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord ?
I stand by the issue I had with the previous episode of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord feeling like it was fluffily killing time for the most part. However, the reason for all that spacing in the pacing does make more sense upon seeing this one, as a whole bunch happens in successive order. They had to include all the cute antics and sexy shenanigans the audience might want in that previous episode since there's just no time for that this week. This is How Not To Summon a Demon Lord at the most serious it's ever been, and it ends up working quite well.
Some issues I had with the previous episode do persist, chiefly the lack of information on Alicia's background and how it relates to her character. Our problematic Paladin sees her true personality come out finally in this episode, a misanthrope enthralled by the idea of Demon-powered destruction that Klem represents, making her all sadistic whispers and yandere eyes. It's an extreme shift, sure, but one that makes sense in terms of how we'd seen Alicia's mask slipping these past few episodes. The problem is that the story still hasn't laid out Alicia's actual deal or why she wants to see all of the world's mortal races wiped out in fiery vengeance. It makes her turn interesting on a base level, but left wanting for context.
There does seem to be an effective reason why her side of the story is still on pause, however, as this episode instead focuses its character development time on Rem and Klem, to great effect. It's important because, as we see by the end of this episode, getting that done was on something of a time limit. It's better that it happen sooner anyway, as while Shera and Klem's nurturing relationship (and their biscuit song at the beginning of the episode) is utterly adorable, Rem's somewhat odd relationship with the Demon Lord has deeper potential. She's been over it before, but Rem reiterates in this episode how Krebskulm's sealed presence caused issues for her and her family over the years, which is where this episode finds its most compelling angle.
In this show, some characters poke fun at those seeking understanding with races like demons or the Fallen. “Have you tried negotiating with the demons? Seeing things from their side?” The outrageous point of such gags is to call attention to how impossible such an act should be, that some forces are so evil and chaotic they can't be negotiated with. But this adorable iteration of a Demon Lord proves that if given the opportunity, she might not want to destroy humanity. Klem's assertion that she feels 'complete, perfect, and whole' as she is works as an assertion of her ability to be better than her followers, alongside Rem's realization that the suffering she endured while possessed by Krebskulm wasn't necessarily the demon's fault. It's wild to think we get this little scene between the two of them exploring societal prejudice against a Demon Lord, but it's an idea that works all the same.
Pretty much everything else that works in this episode is in orbit around that idea, on as predictable a track as you could expect. Of course I'm always down for an indictment of organized religious zealotry, and Saddler's return provides that in spades. Just to be totally on the nose, his group's base turns out to be a church filled with instruments of torture, and he's also racist against demi-humans just for good measure. While Alicia's still working as the overall villain of this storyline, Saddler comes across as a functional hate sink in this episode, which is his purpose for both the audience and Klem, since his near-murder of Rem is what finally drives her into full-on raging demon mode.
Of course, there's no way Rem's going to be dead for good, but the way the act is carried out on screen is still brutally effective. That's good, because we need to feel that impact to understand what drives Klem over the edge, and that also seals the development between the two that this episode made time for; we wouldn't be as compelled by Klem's anguish if we hadn't gotten to know her alongside Rem. So while I'm still just checking my watch in regards to Alicia, what this episode spent time on instead can hardly be called frivolous.
It's not perfect. The parts not involving Klem and Rem still feel like padding, particularly with every scene of Diablo and Shera running around without accomplishing much. Seeds of a larger plot are being thrown out seemingly just to prepare for a big finale; I'm not clear as to exactly why Edelgard and an army of Fallen are advancing on the city again. But these come off like mere mechanical necessities in the background of a story with a clever idea to illustrate and strong emotional payoff at the end. It makes this a good penultimate episode where I'm also left excitedly wondering exactly how this is all going to turn out.
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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