You know, perhaps I underestimated How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord Omega‘s capacity for meaningfully marrying its myriad story and character threads. The incremental advancements in Horn’s arc had been kept just visible enough that it doesn’t come out of nowhere when it’s her time to shine in this week’s episode. As with anything adjacent to the harem format, Demon Lord is an ensemble piece, so sometimes a character just needs to wait for their turn to come around. Perhaps more importantly though, the developments that inform Horn’s actions at first also feed into actions carried by the other characters, particularly Diablo, to naturally flow into this one’s ending and where the story looks to be going next. For all the milling about we got in the previous episode, this one has a clear sense of progression and escalation, which is what we’d want from a show rooted in video-game mechanics.
So we had our setup from last week’s episode, with Diablo and co. being sentenced to a long-overdue stay in Horny Jail, and poor Horn having absconded in all the confusion. As with all things Demon Lord, there’s a little more nuance to this than you might expect; I appreciate that Horn’s abandonment wasn’t borne out of pure cowardice or sense of self-preservation, but simply a belief that she had no meaningful power to contribute to the crew’s cause, and thus didn’t actually belong with them. We’ve seen previously how Horn’s experiences with previous party members informed her more mercenary impression of the idea of adventuring, and that conflicting with her admission that doing so was fun with Diablo and the others makes her grappling with her decision feel genuine. So even after only piecemeal buildup in the earlier parts of the series, the situation she arrives at feels like a natural turning point for her character, and thus, the perfect place for a fantasy anime character to stumble across a ridiculous macguffin.
I’ve got to admit, I enjoy Babalon the level-up maiden. Her initial appearance at the beginning of this episode makes for an incongruous “Wait, what?” moment totally in-line with Demon Lord’s more askew RPG-mechanic deployments. She even precedes an explanation of Horn’s accidental summoning of her that makes for an odd instance of scatological humor (something this show doesn’t dally in as much as you might expect) that I found just absurd enough to be funny. This is probably the only show that’s earned enough good will from me that they can detail how the bunny girl summoned a goddess by mistakenly peeing in the Holy Grail and I respond with “Okay, I’ll allow it”. Demon Lord gonna Demon Lord. Whereas Horn’s allyship with Diablo’s crew initially did have her come across like the hanger-on she was so conscious of being, she has a dynamic with Babalon- Possibly moreso than if they’d just attached the little gyaru goddess to Diablo’s side as might have been more expected. Babalon is a motivational affect for Horn, exemplified in how her promise of power-leveling doesn’t actually go through, and it’s instead her outside encouragement for the bunny-girl to use the previously-established master-servant collar that sets her on a path of personal progression.
Part of the entertainment value in seeing that progression is how Horn’s resulting abilities so clearly clash with her personality. This is actually one of the more robust uses of the ‘Charm’ skill I can think of seeing in a fantasy anime, especially for someone on the side of the ‘good guys’. There’s a whole effective aspect to its use as a ‘skill’ in this case as well. Horn really isn’t someone who enjoys using this kind of ability, but it’s what she’s gotten with her power boost, so she knows she has to roll with it. For all its amusement value, it also fits in thematically with Horn’s long hammered-on understanding of utility in adventuring, this time giving her something she can work with the fight on the level of those she’s storming the church to save. As well, the idea of her throwing out a facade personality as her key weapon directly correlates with Diablo’s own blusterous ‘Demon Lord’ personality, itself a utilitarian aspect that the main character has regularly relied on, despite his true self being much more akin to Horn’s true timid-rabbit self. See, they really did have plenty they could learn from each other!
And that aspect is what ties things so neatly together as the resolute Horn links back up with the previously-indecisive Diablo. As the audience realizes early on, and Horn catches onto later, the Demon Lord could have broken out of the prison at any time, but held back for worry of if that was the correct thing to do alongside Lumachina’s wishes. By aligning Horn’s understanding of this with our own, the show is able to present the point that her choice was less about physically breaking everyone out of Horny Jail, and more about showing the confidence to move forward regardless of what her abilities actually were. It was ultimately Horn’s connections to her comrades that led her to her unconventional new powers, and while motivation from her new tiny goddess friend played a big part in it, she still ultimately thought for herself jumping in to help. This is the way she ‘rescues’ Diablo, since he’s someone else who also constantly second-guesses his own judgement and needs to be reminded to believe in his own choices and how his friends and allies can also be accepting of them. Hey, there’s that whole ‘faith’ theme again that’s been running through this entire season!
Of course, Demon Lord wouldn’t be the kind of show it is with everything going perfectly, so naturally even Diablo’s impressively clever efforts to try to renew faith in Lumachina’s subjects via some reverse-psychology show of force gets torpedoed by the Pope herself. I appreciate the lady’s enthusiasm, but maybe swinging Diablo’s kayfabe into requesting he go all Old-Testament on the believers in her God is a bit much. That’s probably an arc for the rest of the show, digging into Lumachina’s overall religious faith and seeing if she can learn to parse the difference between what the actual God she worships represents and the expectations she’s projected onto Diablo. But as this episode showed, Demon Lord can do just fine with following up on those stories if we just let it get to them at its own pace. So I’ll keep my own faith that it’ll follow up well.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.