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Overlord Anime Cover

Score: 7.99/10

Synopsis

The final hour of the popular virtual reality game Yggdrasil has come. However, Momonga, a powerful wizard and master of the dark guild Ainz Ooal Gown, decides to spend his last few moments in the game as the servers begin to shut down. To his surprise, despite the clock having struck midnight, Momonga is still fully conscious as his character and, moreover, the non-player characters appear to have developed personalities of their own! Confronted with this abnormal situation, Momonga commands his loyal servants to help him investigate and take control of this new world, with the hopes of figuring out what has caused this development and if there may be others in the same predicament. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

Anime adaptation revolving around RPG and MMORPG themed worlds can usually be a hit or miss. As a fan of MMORPG games in real life, there should be expectations with the world fiction such as the monsters, mechanics, story, setting, and overall execution. Where does that put Overlord? A bit overboard? Underwhelming? It’s not really like that but Overlord is the type of show that can be hard to judge.

The series is based on a light novel that originated from a Japanese web novel. The original source has about 9 volumes although the adaptation by Madhouse studio consists of only a single cour. (13 episodes) That usually sets off a red flag with the story pacing. And it isn’t wrong either as the first two or so episodes carries a weak weight on itself.

Taking place in the online world of Yggdrasil, we meet Momonga, a salary-man who apparently tried to log out at the very last minute. Things go a bit wary and he gets stuck in-game as an online avatar in the form of a ‘skeletal lich’. It also just happens so that the avatar is also a very powerful wizard. What’s more is that the NPC around him also exhibit their own personalities as if they are alive and have minds of their own. Essentially, the story marks its territory at the Tomb of Nazarick. The first two episodes establishes Momonga (or going by his in-game name Ainz Ooal Gown) as someone with immense powers. Now, I have a problem with overrated characters and Ainz is no exception to this. The show demonstrates his invulnerability to poison along with elite fighting skills, weapon set, and even an intellectual mind as the story progresses. However, the series also takes a few different turns. Monomga still display his human traits as he interacts with the NPCs he encounters. Apparently, they serve him like he is their God so it takes time for him to adapt. Momonga’s personality also becomes suppressed and he displays cunning behavior throughout the show. However, I would not say that he is an arrogant character as he is quite loyal, honest, and respects his servants. As the story progresses, there is a lack of feeling he develops towards death. (Given the irony that he himself is a skeleton, a personification of death)

The show can be taken to light from different perspectives. From the perspective of a light novel reader and adaptation, it’s easy to say that the series focuses quite a bit on Momonga. Almost every episode highlights his role, personality, or overall character. The relationship building and associations he establishes with other characters are also played out in a variety of ways. This can be seen with the seductive Albedo who is utterly in love with him. Even among the Floor Guardians of Momonga’s guild, she is one of the most loyal and obsessive towards Momonga. It doesn’t help that the show also introduces rivals such as Shalltear who shows sexual tendencies. The show’s initial impressions sets off this red flag as it almost makes fun of itself. It also introduces other characters that each get a little bit of his or her screen time such as the Mare and Aura twins, butler Sebas, Cocytus, and intelligent demon Demiurge. In relation to Momonga, they all seemingly show an undying love and respect for him; just expressed definitely from one way or another. As a bit of character driven story, this is really a miss as the characters are unappealing from first impressions. Only Momonga can be legitimately interesting as we want to find out his potential as a guild master and person in real life. It makes us wonder what he is capable of with his new role and how these new changes can apply to his character.

The remainder course of the show opens up realms of possibilities. Like most MMORPG worlds, Yggdrasil seems to be resourceful with landscapes, guilds, and monsters. The story mechanics of the series is explained such as weaponry, skills, and monsters that exhibit its world. It’s nothing original when compared to some other MMORPG style shows. In the past, series such as Sword Art Online and Log Horizon also has fantasy game mechanics; albeit in different fashion. For Overlord, it slowly does this while unraveling the main course of the story. There’s also some common monsters you’ll usually find in fantasy worlds such as goblins, undead beings, and even angels. What makes Overlord stands out a little bit more is that the show is more than just about conquering and survival. I think the key word is the title itself, “Overlord”. This is because Momonga/Ainz is actually trying to take over the world as the new ruler. So in a way, he wants to be an overlord despite his lack of inexperience. This is clearly shown throughout the show with his intentions.

As both a character and story driven series, it will definitely takes patience and adapting to get used to the show. I actually recommend re-watching some scenes to get a better understanding of the series’ intentions at few cases. Examples such as Momonga’s lack of remorse towards death, Albedo’s distasteful view on humans, and other ideals makes the show appealing. It makes the NPCs feel real. In addition, the game mechanics such as spells, weaponry, magical items, and potion making really brings out its fantasy realm to life. There’s some good amount of action as well although fairly predictable with Momonga’s newfound skills. In addition, the story also makes it clear that he isn’t the only character that matters. Others he encounters and associates with such as the Sword of Darkness and his own battle maids get their additional spotlight too. The story also introduces antagonists with their own independent malevolent intentions. It shouldn’t take too long for viewers to realize that Overlord isn’t just Momonga’s personal show.

But for all its creativity, the series suffers much from the over emphasis of Momonga. It focuses far too much on his character while adding the ridiculousness of his servants’ love for him. The first two episodes will likely be a make or break for most viewers as the feeling of an MMORPG game feels isolated. There’s also die-hard comedy with character rivalries, expressions, and overall tone of their generalization. I will say the show has a diverse cast of the characters though. And given the set up for the world, it introduces plenty of important ones to bring the best of Momonga. However, be very aware of the pacing of this story. The first half really tests the patience of the viewers despite foreshadowing some future events and making small promises of improvement. While it’s doing all of this, the comedy is also a hit or miss with its controversially timed scenarios. And lastly, it seems like the adaptation itself is more of a tease for viewers to “read the novels”.

Madhouse puts their work into this show’s animation style. Taking place in such a fantasy world, the colors are focused on the characters rather than the background. Characters are diverse and decorated distinctively that makes them look unique. Momonga/Ainz is obviously the one that stands out the most with his skeletal avatar. When on the road, he takes the form of a dark warrior encased in an armor that makes him look like a badass hero. And that’s really an underrated word. Among Momonga’s followers, the term ‘badass’ can be applied to several characters with their designs such as Albedo, Shelltear, and the battle maid Nabe. There’s also the monsters introduced that is classic to most MMORPG worlds. Human characters are created to look human and most of them gives the impressions of themselves as adventurers. As a fantasy adventure, the show is also no stranger to action and violence. In essence, the action is decent in terms of fantasy standards. It’s the type of stuff you’ll see often in MMORPG related games. On the other hand, the violence creates a grimmer tone. There’s no censorship with the blood and even gore-like scenes during battle sequences. Fan service also exists with Albedo’s role in the story. But what really brings out their characters is the expressions. It has the experimental feel when you see how they react as NPCs while displaying human traits.

If you want stereo music, then you got stereo music. Namely, the OP theme song is an intense beat to the ears while the ED theme always decorates itself with unorthodox imagery. The OST displays a familiar fantasy feel in terms of content. And for all that’s worth, character voice mannerism plays some key roles to make their characters into life. Momonga is actually one of the less noticeable characters for his voice because he sounds similarly like a human. On the other hand, the NPCs has a distinctive voice with their character roles. These voice diversity ranges from Albedo’s seductiveness, Sheltear’s aggressiveness, Sebas’ sophisticated personality, or Nabes’ loyalty. Clementine also gives off a presence of violence thanks to her sinister voice tone that persuades viewers to see how far she will go with her plans. Despite the large cast of characters, a strength of the show does come from the voices.

In the end, Overlord is more or less a refreshingly adventurous tale about a dude stuck in a skeletal avatar. It has functioning creative imagination with a colorful cast of characters. But when it comes to story, Overlord smells like a show with money in mind. In other words, it seems like an advertisement to the main novel. Director Naoyuki Itou puts his experience with other fantasy series at work and is a bit of a mixed bag. The adaptation isn’t unique in either pacing or leaves strong first impressions. The fantasy world itself does generate a decent amount of interest when it comes to its core mechanics. But for a show like Overlord, it needed to hold together and makes sense. Sometimes it accomplishes that, other times it doesn’t. Overlord is a show that needs improvement so pick your poison.

Obligatory spoiler warning because Overlord is a masterpiece that must be experienced first-hand. So apparently what Sword Art Online needed was for Kirito to be a skeleton wizard and Asuna to be Mahouka's Miyuki. The concept of this series is the same as what most people are already familiar with; A guy is playing a game, and then he's suddenly trapped in it because of some unexplained reason. Overlord does absolutely nothing original aside from having a few aesthetic and irrelevant differences from the rest, and people seem to consider it as a brilliant masterpiece because it apparently managed to appeal to those who wanted to play as the bad guy in a roleplaying forum. The original LN has some pretty nice art and cool character designs. That's about the only good thing about the series as a whole- Everything else, including the writing, ranges from mediocre to genuinely awful. Apparently when Madhouse realized that they were going to be animating One Punch Man, they saw Overlord's amazing budget saving potential- Most notably, zooming in the unmoving skeleton man's face so they don't have to animate anything at all while he's talking. The animation is really subpar, and there's a lot of terrible looking CGI in the show while it's not focusing on Momonga's face. It only truly picks up in quality at the very end of the series, and even then, it doesn't manage to be very impressive. The OST is very forgettable to the point that I might even consider it one of the worst in the shows I've seen- Basically take whatever Yasuharu Takanashi does and make it even more generic than some of his worst works. That about describes it. Visually and aurally, it's definitely below average. But surely despite all that mediocrity, the writing must be amazing. After all, the main character is a skeleton wizard and leads an army of Saturday morning cartoon villains. Despite the series attempting to present the protagonist and his group as evil, the best it does is having them kill completely unlikable characters that barely get more than a minute of screen time. That's some evil right there. Momonga is an incredibly boring character. Aside from providing exposition after exposition through his internal monologues from his experience with the MMO when describing what's happening on the screen, he really does not have much personality. His entire character motivation is to find out about the world he's trapped in, just like the viewers- Basically, it can be summed up that his motivation pretty much does not exist because it simply exists as a parallel to the plot itself. Furthermore, he's very powerful- Apparently overpowered MCs are acceptable as long as they're not designed like teenage boys, which makes it admitedly harder for neckbeards to relate to. But Momonga's degree of power exceeds even that- He's powerful to the point that nearly nothing poses a serious threat to him. This is a problem in storytelling because no conflict is ever relevant- Momonga's powerful enough to just solve it easily without any effort. One could say that it was the writer's intent to make Momonga seem powerful and impressive, but it doesn't even do that correctly. Power is relative, so when Momonga just one-shots random fodders that spend more time boasting about themselves than actually showing what they're capable of, it's not impressive in the slightest. A key example of this happens in the fourth episode, where the bad guy summons what is supposedly a super-powerful monster, and when Momonga kills it, it's supposed to look impressive. But the audience doesn't know what this monster was even capable of, outside of the bad guy boasting about its supposed strength, so it just feels completely flat. While he makes all these unnecessary convoluted plans about how he would spread his name around the world to catch the attention of those who might have been trapped in the world like him, he essentially just solves all his problems through his raw power. His problems are more self-imposed than anything due to his tendency to be incredibly paranoid due to his fear of something that “might” be more powerful than him. And to make it worse, he just outright contradicts himself near the end of the show by risking his life in an unnecessary one-on-one combat due to his ego. Brilliant. And to make it more brilliant, there really was no reason for the MMO backdrop at all- It's a completely unnecessary addition. The series could have worked just as well with Momonga being a genuine evil skeleton lich in a genuine fantasy world instead of “some guy trapped in a MMO world that became REAL.” All this does, essentially, is to give an excuse for some parts of poor storytelling to exist, such as exposition dumps from Momonga based on his experience with the MMO, and floor guardians being completely, unquestionably loyal to him for no reason. The series never references back to the real world, so it might as well not exist- And since the audience has no idea about the said MMO, it only emphasizes the point about this just being a pointless hook, and a justification for awful storytelling that relies on the backwards idea of “Tell, don't show.” All the floor guardians and Momonga's lackies are uninteresting and flat- They have some interesting designs, especially the maids, but all their personality is about as interesting as a rock. First few episodes make it clear that they absolutely adore Momonga, and they spend their entire screen time thinking and/or talking about how great Momonga is. One of the worst examples is Albedo, who spends every moment of her screen time doing just all that. She never does anything outside of praising Momonga, whether he's in the same scene as her or not- Comparing this to Mahouka, she's basically this series' equivalent of Miyuki if Miyuki did absolutely nothing outside of praising Tatsuya, which makes Albedo far, far more annoying. Remember how people absolutely despised Miyuki because she wouldn't shut up about her onii-sama? There's an exact same character here, if arguably worse, but Albedo gets a free pass because her target of affection looks like a skeleton wizard and has a fanservice design. There's also nothing interesting about floor guardians' interaction with one another, as all they talk about is how great Momonga is and how they should do their job and serve him. I guess the assumption the author made was that his target audience was so stupid that they needed to be reminded of the obvious every scene, every line. Another awful aspect of this series is the pacing- It's always painfully slow. A lot of people seem to defend slow pacing by claiming that it's character development, but there's no development. I'm not sure where people got the idea that character interaction equate to character development, but I guess just listening to pointless filler dialogue gives some people a false impression that something must be going on even though nothing is really going on. This is especially noticeable in the episodes where Momonga teams up with a lower class group of adventurers to complete a quest- The show spends several episodes attempting to develop this group of nobodies by giving them cardboard personalities, but in the end it's completely pointless. They're not likable because they haven't really done anything, their interaction with Momonga is pretty bland, and the series makes it clear that they're not important to begin with. And surprise, it turns out they were completely irrelevant. Amazing character development for characters that never mattered with pointless, drawn-out character interaction that did nothing for everyone in the cast. If all that wasn't enough, the series doesn't even tie itself up properly- The last part of the show involves one of Momonga's minions, who is just as powerful as he is, suddenly being brainwashed through the power of plot convenience because the author thought an actually threatening conflict was needed around this time in the series. Despite taking all the safety precautions with all his power previously, Momonga decides that he needs to make a point about how he's the leader, even though there was absolutely no need for him to do so when all the floor guardians already adore him unquestionably. Basically, Momonga is not very intelligent- Everything goes as he plans because of his raw power and having so many tools to work with- Not because he's actually skilled at strategizing. It also should be noted that this last part of the show was incredibly grating, because the brainwashed minion still sucks up to Momonga while still opposing him. Really, Overlord? So to summarize what happened in this entire cour: First quarter spends its time on just introductions on characters that have no personality whatsoever outside of all sucking up to Momonga in perfect unison. Second quarter is about Momonga effortlessly beating an army of literal nobodies that won't matter for the rest of the season. Third quarter is about Momonga effortlessly beating an army of zombies and two bad guys that won't matter for the rest of the season. And finally, the last quarter is about Momonga beating a brainwashed minion only because he handicapped himself even though it would've been just as effortless because he's a poorly written character. I can't even really claim that this is a pacing issue with the show itself- This is more like a pacing issue of the novels because the show covers fair amount of the novels. Remember that statement about how MMO setting is used as nothing more than an exposition tool? Yeah, it's apparently being used as a filler as well in the novels, explaining things that nobody gives a shit about to pad out the content. I really don't understand the praise for this series- Aside from simple aesthetic differences, this series has all the flaws that all generic light novels have. The MC is just yet another generic Stu protagonist that has next to no character motivation, the side characters are cardboard cutouts that constantly suck up to Momonga only because they were quite literally made to do so, and the storytelling is a complete mess where the MMO backdrop is only used as a convenient excuse to make way for exposition through Momonga's inner monologues. Instead of being from a perspective of a genuine evil villain, it's from a perspective of a generic MC that only looks like a villain with underlings who are about as laughably as evil as Akame ga Kill's antagonists. As an adaptation, it fails- And as for the series as a whole, it's just another generic fantasy novel with a gimmick element as a hook. There's literally nothing positive about the series, aside from the LN's art and character designs, which all just seem like a waste of talent and effort. Both of which are not present in the adaptation or the writer. The spin-off series, Ple Ple Pleiades is actually far more entertaining. Go watch that instead. Helpful show less

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