How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord ?
If you had appeared and told me a couple months ago that my favorite character from this upcoming slave-fetish isekai show would be the ditzy big-boobed elf, I'd have asked you who you were and what you were doing in my house. But yeah, I'm as surprised as anyone at how endearing Shera has turned out to be. Aspects of her character remain unexplored, such as her supposed headstrong streak that was only nominally cited last week, but she remains so pleasantly good-natured through the weirdness of this show's premise that it's hard to dislike her.
Enjoying things more than expected has turned out to be the tone of my experience watching How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, and this episode specifically is a strong example of that. Can you blame me for any apprehension? The title is ‘Slave Market’, and it concerns the characters travelling to a literal slave market! Of course, in practice, the show continues to be as uninterested in the slave gimmick as ever. We get one shot of Diablo being surprised that the slaves on the aforementioned market are living more happily than expected, which carries its own problematic connotations, but the show doesn't dwell on this point so I won't either. Even the alleged point of this episode in Diablo searching for a way to undo Rem and Shera's collars turns out to be a Trojan horse for more interesting world-building that affects all the characters in one way or the other.
As related by Medios, the madame of this little slave Costco, unlocking the collars ties into the ability to sense magical energy, which it turns out Shera can already do. This reveal turns out to be relatively important in that she's been aware of the demonic energy flowing out of Rem all this time, but she just didn't think much of it. This causes Rem to renew her concern over people finding out her secret and confide some of those worries in Alicia, who inadvertently casts some sort of sealing spell over her as a result. It's a layered scene of character and plot-building that comes naturally out of the characters interacting, which speaks to the surprising level of care the author has put into crafting this silly little fanservice show.
But if you're here for characters prodding at details in a different kind of way, you won't be disappointed either. Diablo ends up getting instructed on divining the magical channels of Shera's body in exactly the way you would expect. How many of these horny-on-main fantasy authors were introduced to this method of Mana Transfer by Fate/stay night, I wonder? The whole scene judiciously cuts around the more explicit parts of Diablo and Shera learning what happens when a Demon Lord and an Elf like each other very much, no obvious anime censorship techniques but still just conspicuous enough editing that I have to presume there's some Blu-ray bonus content left on the cutting room floor. The actual humor that comes from this X-rated allegory makes the whole thing decently funny rather than simply awkward. There are a couple of uncomfortable bits where Shera's protesting, but the rest is as good-natured as these two's saucy interactions tend to be. The obvious climax (you knew it was coming) of the whole bit, especially Rem and Alicia's deadpan reaction to it, pushes the scene over the edge into just a little more funny than creepy.
Honestly, the foregone conclusion that the collars won't be released yet is the biggest damper on this episode. Ambivalent as the series seems about this gimmick, it still obviously isn't going to nullify its title selling point just six episodes in (though all the characters, especially Diablo, make an appreciable show over how ready they are to be rid of it), but I find myself wishing that they had made more of the failure. The fact that Diablo just stopped because it got too difficult makes the exercise feel more like a cop-out. The plot points we got as a result were solid, and I'm eager to see where things like magic-sensing or Alicia's accidental sealing-spell go. But the story could have gotten into those without paying lip-service to the issues with its slavery premise.
The rest of the episode plays out as a calm before the storm on the way to the whole war-with-the-elves plot. Shera's aforementioned brother finally puts in an appearance, putting on a hilariously obvious facade of civility. It's so fake that Shera is the first one to call him out on it, doing better to sell the agency this storyline is so desperately trying to assert for her. Ultimately, this episode has two conversations between the female leads that aren't tied into Diablo's point-of-view. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that kind of earnest effort, but I also shouldn't be surprised that Rem and Shera deepen their bonds by effectively having sex against Diablo's back. Overall, this is a more low-key episode of Demon Lord that helps set its story up well. I may wish it hadn't teased the possibility of releasing the collars without more intention of follow-through, but for now I'm happy just to hope Shera might get her dream of opening a cafe someday.
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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