Overlord - TV Series


Overlord

Overlord - TV Series

Introduction

Overlord isn’t exactly what one would call a mainstream anime. Although it has a fair number of viewers, you can’t really say that it “took off” in the way that other major shounen and isekai anime have in the past. I’d heard several mentions of Overlord in the community over the years, especially after the release of the sequel to Isekai Quartet.

Deciding that I wanted to watch all the anime that the characters in Isekai Quartet came from was probably the dominating factor that led me to watch Overlord, and I was pleasantly surprised when I did come to watch it. Its plot progression isn’t great, but it did pretty well overall.

Overlord originally came out in 2015 and was produced by Madhouse, the legendary studio behind Hunter x Hunter (2011), Death Note, One Punch Man, and a lot of other anime ingrained in the public mind. The show currently has an 8.02 out of 10 on MyAnimeList which, while a fair score, may not represent the totality of Overlord’s situation.

Plot and Story

Overlord’s basis in a typical isekai format, although partially melded with the VRMMO genre. Actually, Overlord’s premise is pretty similar, in essence to that of Log Horizon. The main character, at first named Momonga, is the sorcerer leader of the guild Ainz Ooal Gown in the Dive MMORPG known as Yggdrasil.

Yggdrasil is outdated, however, and the show begins on the final day of its operation. Momonga tours his guild’s base, the Tomb of Nazarick, and spends some time with the NPCs they created, having a little fun with them before the servers finally shut down for good. However, when the clock strikes midnight, Momonga finds himself still fully immersed in the world around him, and the NPCs have also gained new, richer personalities.

Just like in Log Horizon, the character is transported to another world identical to that of his video game and with similar mechanics. However, unlike in Log Horizon, I felt as though the initial transfer was a lot clearer and less ambiguous in Overlord. I was able to fully grasp the reality of the new world, figured out what was new to Momonga and what was familiar, and Momonga himself began questioning things around him, something very important to establishing plot details and informed characters.

The first few episodes of Overlord begin to set up the world around Momonga, his objective, and the personalities of the various NPCs around him. Interestingly enough, Momonga is clearly made overpowered on purpose, but the world around him is unfamiliar enough to demand improvisation and exploration on his part.

At first, and in the opening theme, Momonga makes it clear that his objective is to explore the new world he’s found himself in, since the geography and map around him was changed from Yggdrasil’s despite maintaining Yggdrasil’s magic and mechanics. From here, the main premise of the show is introduced; Momonga explores the world around him and interacts with it in his new body and position as a master undead sorcerer with an army of lethal servants at his beck and call.

He continues to do so over the first three or four episodes, gathering intelligence and organizing his small army of followers, and later going to rescue a nearby village from an attack by an opposing nation. This first, introductory segment felt very fresh and new. Very few anime I’d seen before held a similar concept, and the idea of an overpowered Overlord conquering the world around him, exploring, and raising his flag from a position of excessive power and ability was fresh.

However, the middle of the show, the second arc covered by the season, reverted to a very traditional, and boring, isekai protagonist setup. Momonga and one of his guardians, Narberal Gamma, take on aliases and join the local adventurer’s guild in order to establish themselves in the national order of warriors.

They have a series of pretty inconsequential adventures where Momonga pretends to be a warrior looking for glory and battle, and they end up putting down a small conspiracy that was set on raiding E-Rantel (the city closest to the Tomb of Nazarik in the New World) using an army of undead. This arc was pretty useless, to be frank, and while it did give the anime space to play around with its characters and develop them a little, it really wasn’t something I felt was building on the potential introduced in the beginning.

It felt almost like a safe play; instead of pushing onwards through the middle of the series with more expansion on Momonga’s plans and his invasion, we get this basic “undercover” mission that follows stereotypical adventure plotlines. Not bad, just not overly great either, especially when we already know so much about how the series is actually going and who Momonga really is.

In any case, the final arc also felt dry. Shalltear, another of Momonga’s guardians falls under the mind control of an unknown entity. Momonga drags out his most powerful weapons to protect his other guardians and engages Shalltear in combat, in an attempt to recover the honor he lost in allowing one of his servants to fall under mind control.

He bests Shalltear and kills her, later reviving her to break the mind control. This honestly felt more like a time burner than anything, but I did appreciate the glimpse this arc gave us into Nazarik’s treasury and the remnants of Momonga’s old comrades. Also, based on Momonga’s comments, this suggests that other entities, possibly ex-players like Momonga, exist in the New World, entities that Momonga will have to fight and defeat to continue spreading his name.


When I finished the first season of Overlord, I realized that the season played out exactly like the first book of a light novel. The premise is exciting and unique, but the plot took a while to get into gear and explore the meat of the premise, taking a little time to make safer plays and make sure their characters were set up.

I’m not sure if this means that the anime, in adapting later volumes, would resolve this issue and move back to playing out bigger and more consequential conflicts, but only time will tell.

Characters

The cast of Overlord is pretty standard for an isekai, but it does have its own set of quirks. The protagonist, Momonga, inhabits the body of an undead and as such lacks many emotions and thought patterns that normal humans have.

We see an interesting emotion, repressing magic, which appears whenever Momonga gets too excited about something, and there’s often a little bit of dissonance between Momonga’s internal voice, which we assume to be the voice of the person that originally played Momonga in Yggdrasil, and Momonga’s voice himself. It creates this interesting shift in character that is well worth exploring.

Momonga himself is relatively unique as far as fantasy protagonists go, instead of employing the young, cocky youth that is the stereotype for the vast majority of isekai out there, Overlord goes with the emotionless, scheming warlord type which is a refreshing take on the genre that I was more than happy to see.

The characters around Momonga are a little one dimensional, but that’s part of their charm. The guardians of Nazarik, who act as the main supporting cast, are really nonplayer characters brought to life by the same force that transported Momonga to this New World, and while this force brought them new life and complexity, the characters all remain loyal to the NPC code that Momonga and his guildmates first wrote.

The interactions between Momonga and the guardians are always fun to watch. One such moment was Momonga internally cringing at the antics of Pandora’s Actor, the NPC he himself created, as Pandora’s Actor acted embarrassingly in front of the other guardians.

The question of how deep the NPCs’ characters go is definitely something I’ve been thinking about, but I’m not sure if it provides a safe avenue of exploration for the story later on. I can easily see these flat characters getting too boring to watch later on.

Art and Animation

The art style in Overlord is very typical of a fantasy story, but it does maintain its own unique theme. Plenty of objects and costumes have specific themes to them, and while they’re often dropped in favor of more classically fantastical props and items, the originals, like Momonga’s signature god-tier armor, do look absolutely fantastic.

My main comment regarding the animation is the show’s heavy usage of CGI. Unlike most anime, even today, which only go so far as using CGI to generate 3D scenes once every few episodes if at all, Overlord uses CGI almost all the time, often blending traditional animation with CGI, which it uses primarily for monsters. Skeletons, zombies, and undead, are all rendered in 3D as they sway and march along in battle.

To be frank, CGI is CGI, and while I have seen worse 3D animation from 2015, its look was pretty incongruous, and the limitations posed by using the technology made for pretty stiff looking character models and an uncanny valley-type uneasiness from the slick looking skeletons. Traditional animation would have been more than fine for the purposes of skeleton armies or the occasional monster.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Overlord is a pretty solid anime. Although it’s neither flawless nor mind blowing by any stretch of the animation, Overlord is definitely a piece of high-quality construction. All of its aspects are well above par, its characters are engaging to watch, and its humor keeps things moving along quite nicely. Its premise is quite strong, but it could definitely use some work on developing plot points and keeping the show’s momentum going for the future. I give Overlord a 8/10 and thank it for a job well done. I look forward to watching the next season with great anticipation.


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