What They Say:
Takuma Sakamoto is famously known as Diablo throughout the MMORPG Cross Reverie. And although he’s a magical prodigy in-game, in reality, he’s a total social outcast. One day, in his video game body, Takuma is summoned to another world by two girls seeking to control him. But when he accidentally reflects their enslavement ritual back at them, the only way to save face is to act how he looks.
How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord Limited Edition contains episodes 1-12 of the anime directed by Yūta Murano housed in a rigid chipboard box and includes a 20-page artbook, lenticular art cards, a fabric poster, and a magnet sheet.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo with a new English language dub done in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works a decent blend of action and dialogue throughout it so that the various channels get well utilized for the most part. The stereo mix works the forward soundstage well for both dialogue and action effects with how everything moves back and forth at times while there are some good bits of placement and depth as well during the action. The 5.1 mix bumps everything up a bit and it feels like it has a touch more impact overall but also just a bit more clarity in the mix from the English side of it. Both tracks represent the show well and everything comes across clean and problem-free.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format with all the extras on the second disc. Animated by Ajia-do Animation Works, the series is one that has a lot of really good looking designs to it and some well-detailed backgrounds in addition to the character models and it certainly has some good color design going for it. The quality definitely comes through in the encoding and I really just loved the look of the word, its characters, and how it presented its fanservice. The encoding brings it to life well in both the quieter scenes and the high motion pieces with the more fluid animation and the end result is a show that looks great and captures the original material well. It’s colorful, richly so in some areas considering the palette used, and the details hold up well throughout.
The limited-edition release for this series is really nicely put together and ought to please fans well. The set comes in a heavy chipboard box with a front cover that gives us a matte finish look to the demon lord taking center stage but with a lot of good detail and seriousness to it that works surprisingly well. It’s got a touch of the white background to it and an unexpected use of green and yellow for the framing that works as it ties back to the source material. The back cover does the same thing with a different character artwork as we get Shera here standing tall with weapon slung over her back while still making sure to show off the assets that draw you to her at first. Both look great and I really like how the designs come across here.
Within the box, we get a gorgeous high-quality art book that presents its twenty pages of character designs from all angles. It has the really nicely done promotional pieces at the front and back plus a few cute images. But it also gives us all of the Japanese home video release artwork that did the fully clothed and fully naked versions paired together. Additionally, There’s also a box glued to the back of the set that includes some beautiful art cards, some bookmarks, and a very colorful fabric poster of the cast, and some adorable chibi magnet sheet characters. The art cards are extra fun in that if you turn the angle on them you get the nude versions of them.
The final piece we get is the Blu-ray case itself, which is a bit thicker as it has the four discs from both formats on the two hinges inside. The front cover gives us a beautiful piece used for the Japanese release that features Shera looking a little uncertain while Rem gets a very moe-ish back cover that draws you in nicely, both of which are done to the white background so you notice the character details all the more. The reverse side provides for the same two images but does away with those pesky clothes – but not their collars.
The menu design for this release is pretty standard fare as we get the clip montage playing out over the bulk of the screen. With a decent-sized logo along the center-top section, the rest of it shows off lots of action from the season with all the quality that you’d expect, so with the music playing along it’s definitely an easy sell to get the right atmosphere going into it. The navigation along the bottom is done with the white and green design that works well for this kind of property and standard font for the text itself which makes it easy to navigate on both larger and smaller sets and as both the main menu and the pop-up menu during regular playback. It’s the standard Funimation design but it functions smoothly and without problems.
The extras for this set on-disc are pretty straightforward as we get the clean version of the opening sequence, one of the original Japanese promos, and two commentary tracks. I do like that one of them is a video commentary track as it’s always fun to watch the cast talk about the show, but both tracks are pretty good.
Based on the light novel series from Yukiya Murasaki which is illustrated by Takahiro Tsurusaki, How Not To Summon A Demon Lord is a twelve-episode show that aired in the summer of 2018. A sequel season is coming in 2021 but through a completely different production company. This season saw Yuta Murano directing with Ajia-do handling the animation and it’s one that definitely looks great throughout with its characters and worldbuilding. I’m generally a fan of fantasy themed anime but it’s been frustrating for the last few years in that they’re invariably tied to isekai properties, which changes the dynamic of them greatly from a traditional fantasy. That’s definitely a thing with this series but it ended up working better than I expected and proved to be a good bit of fun as the isekai element is well-managed.
The story focuses on Takuma Sakamoto, a young man who plays the Cross Reverie game and has excelled at it to be a strong and high-level player. Unfortunately for him, he’s been summoned to a work that is essentially the Cross Reverie game with a few differences that he notices more and more as the season progresses – which in turn excites him since it’s something new. These aren’t often radical differences but just in that it’s how it would be in real life, such as there’s no re-life potions and people work and live in these places where there are adventurers, making the NPCs you usually ignore into actual people. Takuma’s other challenge is that while he’s an overpowered person here, he’s also looking like his game avatar, the Demon Lord Diablo. That means he’s tall, fit, and pretty impressive. And no matter how Takuma tries to sound, he always comes across as intense and challenging as befit a demon lord. That makes for some comical misunderstandings along the way.
Takuma was summoned to this world by Shera and Rem, both of whom have reasons for trying to bring a powerful demon lord about that they would be able to put a control collar on. Unfortunately for them, when they do try to put the collar on after Takuma arrives as Diablo, his natural defenses caused it to reverse on them and they’re now bonded to him. That, naturally, freaks them out and it panics Takuma as well as it wasn’t what he was looking for in trying to grapple with everything that’s happened. But what we learn over the course of the series is that Takuma has rarely used the collars after the very first instance – which was to get both Rem and Shera to shake hands and be friends since their sudden fighting had panicked him. That, in turn, made it easier for them to trust him a bit since they saw he wasn’t going to be able to abuse his newfound abilities and control over them.
Both Shera and Rem are familiar templates that are fleshed out well. Shera’s a princess from the elven nation of Greenwood that is trying to find her way in the world and needed someone strong to help her deal with what threatens her from home. She’s the buxom blonde elf type but she really shines with her personality and how she interacts with everyone as it progresses. Rem is a bit shorter than her, flat chested and with dark hair, and suffers from the problem of having a demon king bonded inside of her body that’s part of a family curse of sorts. So one can see how she was hoping that summoning another demon lord would help her deal with the problem that she has. If she dies, the demon is set free so she has a vested interest in staying alive for several reasons. But if she does, it can move down the family line as children are born, which she doesn’t want to happen.
A good part of the season just deals with the fun of Takuma trying to figure out this world, realizing he’s an order of power more powerful than most of those he comes across, and trying to not get caught up in sexual shenanigans with Shera and Rem and some of the other women that come into his life. It’s all standard in a way but it’s just so delightfully presented and well-structured so that it flows well even while hitting familiar marks. Just his attempts at figuring out the power levels is good when you remember his vocal problems here and combine that with his real self back in Japan being a shut-in gamer that rarely interacted with anyone in the real world. He’s thrown off often by what’s going on but when he turns serious, usually in order to protect the two that he’s been bonded with, it’s very serious and straightforward with results that sometimes go further than they should. But it factors into his demon lord persona very well.
The first half does have its moments of seriousness but it’s the back half where it picks up more, particularly with Shera’s cousin from Greenwood having taken magical control of her in order to bring her back home as he needs her for his own plans. But all of that is just manipulation on the part of Galford, one of the powerful commanders of the kingdom who has his own plans to eliminate the elves and uses the situation to take advantage of it. Which, in turn, puts Shera in trouble and forces a really great confrontation between Takuma and Galford. While Takuma’s roughly in the level 150 range, he gets to sense that Galford is at least in the 120 range and has some unknown abilities to him that he never saw in the game that makes for a real challenge. This is a lot of fun in itself and it helps to set the more serious stages that come as the season goes on and we see more of the larger forces at work and how Takuma is getting caught up in it all.
Yet, some of the best moments are just watching Takuma get drunk.
Ok, no, it isn’t, but the show measures in a good helping of silliness along the way to help ease things when it’s more serious as well. Though Takuma seems to make only female friends once he comes to this world, he does make an interesting range of them and they move in an out of the stories until the big arc at the end. Alicia provides for a look at an Imperial Knight, and the only female one at that, who is able to put people first when others are focused on duty and loyalty to their lord. You get a lot of cuteness in Sylvie as the guild master in the city that Takuma and the girls take up residence in for the time being. She’s so outgoing and friendly even realizing what kind of power Takuma contains and threat that he can become. And it’s a nice contrast to the more serious Celestine, who holds a higher role in the magical hierarchy here and is keeping a close eye on Takuma only to find herself saved by him a couple of times. But even with all these other characters, it always comes back to Rem and Shera (comically so, sometimes), as he just wants to hang out with them in a platonic way and enjoy the world. But things always keep them on the move or for shenanigans to unfold. ,
My general distaste for the isekai world meant this one fell off my radar for a bit but I’m damn glad I got to watch it. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord hits all the right beats for me while just wishing it had adjusted slightly so it would have been a solid fantasy property without the isekai element. That said, even that element works well here and I like his demon lord role and how he grows and learns through it. It’s got a lot of familiar things going on here as a fantasy show – one with some amusing and delicious fanservice – that in the end made for a really great time. There are shows where you’re a bit worn by the end of it and trying to figure out if you really made a wise choice in watching it. With this series, you know early on you made a good choice and just buckle in for the ride and enjoy the run. With a really solid and appealing limited edition release for it that has a great dub, Funimation did everything right by this show and fans should be very pleased.
Japanse Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 01 Video Commentary, Episode 11 Commentary, Promo Video, and Textless Song
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 29th, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.