Monday, May 3, 2021

Episode 4 How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord Omega


The initial three scenes of How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord Omega sort of hit the ground running regarding presenting the new characters and the continuous plot they would be driving Diablo on. While that sense of momentum was nice, it could also get a little distracting given that Demon Lord's more straightforward elements were never its most appealing feature. There was hardly even time for any fanservice! So with that in mind, this fourth episode isn't a complete detour from the plot (and has even picked up its own storyline convergences by the end), but it still comes off like a bit of a break compared to that introductory arc. It's a situational focus on just our main characters to let their personalities breathe a little bit and even have some extra fun with the setting and concepts of this show along the way.

Without a doubt, that character part is an issue I'm of numerous personalities about with this scene. I had remarked previously on the seeming regression of Diablo's people skills, and that's further on display this week as the series somewhat vaguely gestures at a character arc. It is kind of funny to see the true depths of his utter inability to engage with people outside of the supervillain persona, declaring his Demon Lord status to Laminitis despite A) that being an incredibly bad idea at that point and B) the fact that even though he is a Demon Lord, he's not the Demon Lord she's looking for at the moment. Less funny are his multiple misunderstood scoldings of his party members as he attempts to obfuscate his knowledge of the dungeon he built in-game. On paper, this is sprung out of Diablo's desire to cover up his dark past as a Gamer (understandable), but within the structure of the episode, it's just a situation to cause him to enact his persona in an extra-jerkish way on the people he spent a whole previous season growing close to, making for some hurt feelings to be made up for later on.

The thing is, Shera and Rem notice that Diablo's acting somewhat more unmistakable and tense there, yet it simply prompts the gathering individuals/polycule censuring their own deficiencies for his upsetting demeanor all things being equal. It's another odd retraction, in my opinion, since Rem and Shera had seemed to realize that Diablo's overblown evil bit was all projection in the latter portions of the first season of Demon Lord, and didn't really take him seriously in it anymore. Maybe it is all supposed to be chalked up to the shifting dynamics of the ever-growing team or the change in scenery and accompanying danger that is ramping up, but it mostly just comes off like the writing ratcheted the personalities back a bit to whatever worked for the interchanging drama and humor they wanted to sell this story and show on. There are still some bits here that work in the way the old Demon Lord did, mind you, but that's the thing: That was the old Demon Lord, I'm here to see how Diablo gets on with new characters in new ways!

That is generally me complaining about a decision that adds up to an interruption even from a pessimistic standpoint, nonetheless. This episode's dedication to revisiting the lighter elements that worked in the previous season also means there's plenty to like here. For instance, Rem and Shera get plenty more little interactions and entertaining instances in this episode. They seem to have settled into a kind of a catty sibling dynamic by now, which works well enough, and if Diablo's moments of attitude hurt their feelings, at least we get to see them care for each other instead. Given what each of them went through in the first season, Rem and Shera are a couple of characters who could really do with some found family, so an earnest portrayal of that is appreciated. As well, their implicit faith in Diablo's true nature seems to pay off with this episode's cliffhanger ending, seeing him hurl himself off a ledge after Horn. This is definitely the character these girls realized was a decent person underneath all his role-play bluster back in the first season: The kind of guy who will jump at an instant to save some kid he barely knows. If that is supposed to be playing off Diablo's earlier harshness, then it's clumsy, but it still works.

Be that as it may, the genuine star, clearly, is Diablo's prison itself. With the show's apparent commitment to its world indeed being that of Cross Reverie, a decidedly more gamified area designed by an actual gamer is a good place to really have fun showing that element off. Compared to the more human issues fueling the previous arc, what with all the corrupt church leadership and feudal lord machinations, it makes for an entertaining little video-game detour to see Diablo and company instead of dealing with stuff like shifting labyrinths and lava land trivia contests. It even provides a chance to consider the thoughtful commentary on how absurd elements like this may come off to inhabitants who always thought of this as their ‘real world. By which I mean we don't really consider it all that much and instead, all the girls take Diablo at face value when he tells all of them to dance like they want to win.

The melodic exhibition is obviously the peak of the entirety of this idiocy, the disclosure that components of the MMO's collab with a symbol game are as yet dynamic in this emphasis of Diablo's prison. That is, in my opinion, the exact sort of goofy idiosyncratic stuff more isekai should embrace about their game worlds. This isn't the most dynamic, animated idol performance in anime, once again reminding us of this season's more modest presentation. And if you ask me, the bigger crime is that Diablo himself doesn't sing at any point during the musical number. But it is an entertaining apex of outrageousness in a show that's always been aware of when to not worry about being taken seriously, and it's fun to see it do so in a manner that doesn't entirely involve saucy fanservice. At the end of the day, the girls had fun, and isn't that what video games are all about?

The more genuine principle parts of the plot do get back up with the group by the end as Gewalt, the summoner from the season debut. I wasn't exactly crazy about his presentation or antics towards Lumachina there, so I'm kind of hoping Diablo doesn't go easy on him. At least we already got to see him get yanked around by Laminitus as she found a new outlet for her church-undermining attitude. But however it picks up next week, and even with this one's rougher character choices, I had fun with it, as a reminder that they hadn't forgotten about a lot of the enjoyable parts of Demon Lord I'd missed from the first few episodes.

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