How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, Vol. 2

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.

The second volume of this series picks up right where the first one left off, both in terms of the plot and in terms of my feelings about it. It’s rare to see a series that has so many of the things that I dislike in it be something I still want to read, but there you have it. I want to find out what happens next to Diablo, Shera and Rem. I find the pacing and narration easy to read. The book is occasionally funny, and the battles are well done. On the minus side, we double down on “this is why slavery is OK here”, complete with explanation of how it would work if good, nice people were in charge of slaves. We get another in a long line of villains who are meant to be as evil as possible, though for a change this one is not written by Reki Kawahara. He still works in rape threats AND incestual feelings, though. That said, honestly, for fans of this sort of book? This volume delivers the goods.

Shera got the cover of the first book, so Rem features here, even though the plot revolves around Shera. Her brother is trying to force her to return to the Elven Kingdom and become a broodmare (with him, which makes the whole thing even ickier), first trying threats, then using a mind control that is so painfully obvious that the only person it would ever work on is an insecure Japanese hikkikomori with no social skills who is pretending to be an over the top demon lord. Lucky for him! (In all seriousness, Diablo’s “mask” slips quite often in the dialogue, and he frequently sounds less like a demon lord and more like a typical tsukkomi-style protagonist. No one really remarks upon, this, so I’m not sure if it’s just sloppy writing or a deliberate attempt to show his “Diablo” is not as perfect as he’d like – certainly by the end of the book Rem seems to be seeing through him.) Naturally, Diablo, once he snaps out of it, goes to Shera’s rescue, but then he has to take on the very powerful Governor of the city they’re staying in.

I continue to like the relationship between Rem and Shera, who bounce well off each other, and are rapidly becoming close friends, much as Rem may not want to admit it. And while the fanservice is not my cup of tea (particularly the final “gag” involving the grasswalker adventurer who gets Diablo drunk and lives to regret it), it’s exactly the sort of thing that readers of this series would like to see. We’re also introduced to a Holy Knight named Alicia, who’s fairly straightforward and dull, and thus the epilogue pleased me as I’d been expecting something else to be going on with her right from the start. I suspect that the next volume will get back into the whole demon lord revival thing that had been a part of the first book. In the meantime, this is only for readers of harem isekai, I want to emphasize again. But I will be sticking around despite all the book’s faults, which is a positive thing.

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”.