The setting of Monster Girl Encyclopedia is known for its Cute Monster Girls. But in the distant past, these were simply vicious monsters that relentlessly attacked and devoured humans. Fortunately for the humans, they had heroes who allowed them to stand a chance against the monsters.
During this era, there was one hero by the name of Adam. One day, he and his group are attacked by werewolves and everyone except Adam himself is killed. Moreover, Adam only survives thanks to the help of an unexpected saviour: Lilith, a succubus and another of the monsters who should be humanity's enemy.
Yet Lilith claims that she's not like other monsters, that she doesn't want to attack humans. After an initial rocky start, Adam and Lilith begin traveling together.
Sword and Claw provides examples of:
- Always Chaotic Evil: Monsters are generally perceived as this and not without reason, since almost all of them attack humans to eat them. Lilith is a rare exception to this, and more exceptions show up later on.
- Crapsack World: The world is filled with vicious monsters that prey on humans, and (as shown in an early chapter) they can wipe out entire villages. Even the heroes tasked to fight them don't always succeed.
- Cute Monster Girl: Mostly averted, due to the time period: the monsters are essentially predatory beasts like in most fantasy fiction, and even most of the humanoid ones aren't described as being conventionally attractive. The sole exception are the succubi. Then it's entirely played straight as of Chapter 48, when all monsters become monster girls.
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to canon Monster Girl Encyclopedia. This is justified by it taking place in the past of the setting, when things really were this bleak.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
- Chapter 49 has Adam and Lilith fighting, and winning against, the Chief God.
- In the final chapter, Adam does a more literal version of this by stopping an invasion by the monsters of chaos, who are based on the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Surprisingly averted; the succubi essentially taking human male Sex Slaves is treated as horrifying as it would be in real life, and after the monsters become monster girls, it has to be made clear that assaulting human men will not be tolerated (Deonora, the empress of Dragonia, ends up having to kill a wurm over this).
- Dracolich: A dragon zombie is an enemy in Chapter 38.
- Dragon Rider: The empire of Dragai has an army of these. They're more accurately Wyvern Riders, since they ride the weaker wyverns rather than true dragons. Since wyverns (like other monsters) are hostile towards humans, they need to be forcibly captured and tortured into serving as mounts. When the regime is overthrown and the country becomes Dragonia, the Dragon Riders start treating their mounts as equals instead.
- Emergency Transformation: Lilith, when trying to heal Adam from mortal wounds, inadvertently turns him into the first incubus.
- Fallen Hero: Justinia, the hero who killed the last Demon Lord. She later discovered that Demon Lords exist to help monsters control the human population, so she decided to delay this by controlling the population herself.
- Foregone Conclusion: As this is meant to show the past of Monster Girl Encyclopedia, it's a given that it'll eventually become a setting of Cute Monster Girls. Though the way it happens is a bit different from canon.
- Gender Bender: Lilith's transformation of monsters into monster girls inflicts this on everyone who used to be male.
- Holy Hand Grenade: Adam's Evil Obliterating Incantation, which can paralyze most monsters and (according to him) completely destroy undead or demonic monsters, while leaving humans unharmed. However, using it risks harming Lilith since she's also a monster.
- Kraken and Leviathan: A kraken is the villain of the underwater arc.
- Magic Knight: Both of the protagonists are this, though in slightly different ways: Adam is mainly a melee fighter who also uses support magic (similar to a Paladin), while Lilith is mainly a mage (specializing in elemental and mental magic) who can also fight in melee.
- Mister Seahorse: An implied example. The final chapter mentions that a second ryu was born after monsters became monster girls. The first ryu, Kagachi, was biologically male, and given how the story continues to use male pronouns for him even after the change, there's nothing to suggest he stopped identifying as male.
- Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Ghouls are mentioned in Lilith's backstory as monsters that feed on corpses.
- Power Crystal: The protagonists receive two diamonds from Thutmose (among other gifts). These allow them to store up spirit energy or demonic energy for later use.
- Pyramid Power: An ancient pyramid serves as the setting for a couple of chapters. It's a relic from an ancient civilization, and is still inhabited by a pharaoh. However, said pharaoh self-destructs the pyramid in order to take out an attacking apophis.
- Rotating Protagonist: The viewpoint character alternates between Adam and Lilith, giving roughly equal screentime to both. There's also the occasional section from a minor character's perspective.
- Sadistic Choice: The protagonists are faced with one of these when trying to deal with centaur children whose parents they've killed. The centaur children naturally hate them, and they still have the monster instinct to attack humans. Negotiating with them doesn't work, keeping them away from humans is unlikely to work in the long term, and Adam and Lilith don't want to kill them, so eventually Lilith resorts to making them fear humans so much that they'll stay away from them.
- Sole Survivor: Adam is the only one out of his original group to survive a battle with werewolves, and his survival is thanks to Lilith intervening.
- Succubi and Incubi: With the exception of Lilith, the succubi see no problem with draining men to death through sex. Due to her intervention, they start changing their ways.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Charms with Posiedon's blessing allow their users to not only breathe underwater, but also see and move around as if on land, and drink seawater.
- Telepathy: As a succubus, Lilith knows a lot of magic for interacting with other people's minds.
- Thirsty Desert: An early arc has Adam and Lilith traveling through the Ataraca Desert (based on the desert region in canon). Despite the harsh conditions and the presence of desert-themed monsters like the girtablilu, there are some humans living here. It used to have a much more temperate environment and was inhabited by a powerful kingdom, ruled over by the pharaohs. However, an attack by the Demon Lord of the time destroyed the kingdom and turned the land into its current state.
- Ultimate Blacksmith: Kalk, a dwarf blacksmith who's even more skilled than his peers. He's the one who makes new equipment for Adam and Lilith.
- Wutai: Zipangu is a Japan-themed island to the east of the continent where most of the action takes place. It's also the only place where humans and monsters get along on a societal level.