How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, Vol. 1

By Yukiya Murasaki and Takahiro Tsurusaki. Released in Japan as “Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo Dorei Majutsu” by Kodansha. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Garrison Denim.

Occasionally I get asked by people why I sometimes clearly read things that are not remotely in my genre or that I think I will dislike. The answer is that sometimes I’m wrong and I turn out to enjoy it quite a bit. Of course, sometimes I’m right and I can’t even manage to finish the volume. And then there are titles like this one, where I finished the title with a sense of “well, that had some really annoying bits but wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been”. I will note right off the bat that if you are the sort of reader who enjoys these sorts of stories – isekai with an overpowered hero, slave girls who have to obey him, one large and one small breasted girl to start, lots of fanservice and the occasional cool battle – this is a very good title to get. The writing is competent, as you’d expect with a Kodansha novel. Its market is young horny men, and it delivers.

Well, delivers to a degree. The light novel market has not gotten to the point where we’re getting explicit light novels, and so as expected our hero is surrounded by attractive girls who are falling for him but nothing happens. This is fairly realistic, given that our hero is a gamer who was transported to another world but still has zero social skills or ability to talk to women. The way he gets around this is by pretending to be the game character he played online, Diablo, who is the titular demon lord. This works well when facing down evil minions or town guards, but less so when he’s got a handful of boob, at which point his brain simply turns off. He’s summoned, somehow, though there’s a question as to who actually did it. Rem is the tsundere catgirl who’s a skilled mage with a terrible secret. Shera is the airheaded elfgirl who has a hidden past and a desire to use summoning magic. And, due to the botched summoning and the nature of “Diablo” as a character, they are also now his slaves.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I dislike the fantasy world style slavery in these sorts of isekai, particularly when it seems to be used as an excuse to get the hero a harem who can’t reject him. Diablo (his real name comes up occasionally, but for all intents and purposes he goes by his game title here) is not abusing it beyond the occasional grope, and doesn’t really order them to do anything awful, but again, the idea is “well, slavery exists here, so let’s accept it”, rather than the push back against it that I’ve enjoyed in some other novels. It’s also another book that leans heavily on the technical side to a degree, as the fantasy world is sort of like Diablo’s old game but not quite, and being an actual Demon Lord here rather than a computer creation, he has to figure out things like how much MP he can drain before it affects him. This can be interesting, but can also drag, depending how much of a gamer you are.

This isn’t terrible – the two female leads are actually amusing in a bratty rivals sort of way, and their backstories promise some interesting plots down the road. Diablo’s schtick may remind fans of Overlord, but there’s far less of a sense that we’re actually going to see a villain in the making the way that Overlrod gives us. I was also reminded of Death March, but that seems like damning with faint praise. I’m definitely picking the novel over the manga, which apparently doubles the fanservice and has Diablo being far more perverse – that’s out in 2018 from Seven Seas. In the end, another in a long line of “only if you like isekai”.

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