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Overlord II Anime Cover

Score: 7.82/10

Synopsis

Ainz Ooal Gown, the undead sorcerer formerly known as Momonga, has accepted his place in this new world. Though it bears similarities to his beloved virtual reality game Yggdrasil, it still holds many mysteries which he intends to uncover, by utilizing his power as ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. However, ever since the disastrous brainwashing of one of his subordinates, Ainz has become wary of the impending dangers of the Slane Theocracy, as well as the possible existence of other former Yggdrasil players. Meanwhile, Albedo, Demiurge and the rest of Ainz's loyal guardians set out to prepare for the next step in their campaign: Nazarick's first war… Overlord II picks up immediately after its prequel, continuing the story of Ainz Ooal Gown, his eclectic army of human-hating guardians, and the many hapless humans affected by the Overlord's arrival. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

The greatest allure and strength of the Overlord narrative has always been Ainz’s delicate dance between the ordinary dime-a-dozen salary man of Earth and his Overlord status in this other world. His utterly devoted fanatical underlings treat him like that of a god who can do no wrong. He can’t afford to make mistakes because his servants cannot imagine him making one. To make one is to not be a god. And he intends to keep that image because anything else might disrupt the equilibrium of Nazarick and, more importantly, jeopardize his safety and base of operations. In the strange world he finds himself in, the most powerful known beings who can threaten his safety are those under him. On and on, his everyman impulses struggles with what he thinks a supreme ruler should act. He must pretend to be prescient when he knows next to nothing and carefully delegate his subordinates in a way that gets his wishes done without revealing that he knows less than them on how to carry it out.

He’s a man trapped in a situation that already slipped out of his control, propelled by his ever-faithful minions’ tendency misconstrue his words as gospel, his musings as genius, and his luck as omniscience, as well as their fear that he would leave them as his guildmates already have. He’s all they have left of the great beings they worship, and by jove they will raze the world to the ground in his name if that’s what it takes to keep him by their side.

Everything else about Overlord is just barely decent. The problem with the anime series is that it fails so hard to translate and convey the strongest core selling point of Overlord.

What Overlord S2 is trying to sell now is the idea of a world bigger than its protagonist and that one fails too on two fronts: the core idea itself and the execution of that idea.

Overlord, due to the nature of the LN, is a series that adds and adds, but rarely expands. You might wonder how can adding more and more detracts from a narrative. It does when you keep adding without expanding on what is already established. Overlord has multiple plot points and threads hanging in the air, the energy and time establishing them being wasted away. We’re not going to tackle the source materials here though because it is a review of the anime adaptation so let’s keep it to the anime adaptation.

Suffice is it to say that the way Overlord is setup forces a quandary on the series. The first season does not easily expand into this second season and the first arc of this season does not expand into the second arc. You could say that they are merely individual build-ups sections – badly done build-ups at that, not because there is no immediate pay-off but because they feel like (and probably are) build-up to different things. It’s risking the fact that you may not get invested in the flow of the story because there is really no smooth flow of the story yet. Again, this isn’t a fault of the adaptation and it can very easily be rectified by solid execution. It starts off with a little bit of disadvantage but just really needs to present itself right and everything will fall into place.

Does it?

Season 2 is an adaptation of Volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the light novel. Volumes 5 and 6 are two continuous stories, a mega-arc if you will. Volume 4, however, connects to Volume 5 with only the barest, thinnest of threads. These are two very different arcs with vastly different locales, (massive) set of characters, and conflicts that need to be established all under 13 episodes. That’s simply not enough time for two different stories (with at least two different storylines running in parallel.) in two different types of settings. That is insane.

The characters could have been the saving grace in the transition but here’s the thing: Overlord S2 sidelines the Season 1 characters with significant screentime to side character status. That’s not a bad thing. Heck, done well it could have been a good thing. The problem is that the new season starts with a new set of characters you don’t really care about and then the show botched its attempt at making you care about them and then uses them for only five episodes before they are then discarded to introduce yet another fresh batch of characters. The problem here isn’t even in you losing track of who they all are. The problem here is if you even care at all who they are. It’s a large mess that frankly is easier to follow than to care about.

Madhouse forgot one simple Ron Swanson principle: never half-ass two things; whole-ass one thing. You can feel the oozing, overpowering, rank mediocrity as the studio rushes through the Lizardman Arc to get to the next arc. Rather than skip the first arc to focus on the next or give the first arc justice, they decide to do the first arc but do it in such a way that they get to the next arc faster, a decision that they didn’t even do justice come the next arc. This decision gives us a lot of hastened info dumps, uninspired character designs, insipid backdrops, and budget fight scenes.

What few genuinely strong moments it could have had, it squanders for lack of pacing. A painful example of this is Zaryusu’s rather interesting and compelling argument (on why they should fight) that lost every sense of impact possible due to the fact that it was said immediately with nary a proper establishment of the Lizardmen economy and culture or Zaryusu’s place in all that. It was pulled out of the hat and we’re supposed to just accept it because it was said so without planting the seeds of ideas first in the viewers (sadly this isn’t an isolated case or adaptation specific failure even). It didn’t even need to go to great lengths for its setting. It just needs to establish the setting enough to ground the arc’s main character in it. It failed. It simply did not have the luxury of time for the size of the story it attempted to tell.

Imagine if it developed that. Imagine a tribal setting, a rarity in anime, with Lizardmen instead of humans as the main characters, which is even rarer. Imagine how much it could have had expanded on what little the LN established. Imagine the different tribal colors and patterns depending on the locale of a specific tribe: say solid, blocky lines for the mountainous, flowing curves for the lake-bound. Paint a picture in your mind’s eyes, a cacophony of colors and patterns anime never tackled before. Imagine the new-ness, the fresh-ness of it all. Can you see it? It’s only a simple scenario of how they could have gone with the series if they focused on one arc and did it justice.

To be frank, Overlord S2 is boring. Not because it’s too slow but because it’s too fast. The entire season feels like it’s just a pure un-distilled fan-service for the LN readers. It’s a chance for them to see their favourite scenes and characters animated and acted out. If you’re an anime-only watcher, expect not to care about anything because this show is the equivalent of you in a tour through a safari/wildlife preserve and your tour vehicle is moving at 100km/h. There’s something out there, you just can’t savour it.

In fact, the second season seemed like it was made just to keep the Overlord flame going. The studio realized they have a popular IP and they need to keep what little hype was left from the first season two+ years ago so that they can revisit the idea of another season down the road if they need to. And it shows. This is as cheap, as rushed, and as unimaginative as they can make it. Frankly you should ask yourself this: if Madhouse couldn’t be arsed enough to care, why should you?

I have never understood why Overlord receives so much praise. It is practically Sword Art Online but with older characters, giving it the illusion of maturity. Overlord is not mature, it’s not remotely well written, it's visuals don't even look good. The character designs look cool and all but that isn’t enough to carry a boatload of mediocrity. Both this season and the first were at best disposable entertainment, like any other isekai light novel adaptation. What's the appeal of it? Is it that Momonga is a ridiculously overpowered self-insert protagonist and his legion of ladies all want him? Momonga IS Kirito. An overpowered character doesn’t become good just by not being a teenage boy. Skeleton or kid, there is no difference. Skeletons are cool and all, I like them as much as the next guy, but he's not a very interesting character beyond his intimidating design. His character is entirely devoid of substance, only existing to continue the story. Even his character art fails at conveying the intimidation of his design. The designs made for the light novel look really good, but this adaptation’s art lacks detail. During conversations, his skeleton face remains unanimated; his voice is undeniably booming, but there’s no impact. Momonga being a villain changes almost nothing. Everyone still loves him anyway, and he acts like the generic ‘nice guy’ harem protagonist. He’s constantly speaking in his nice guy voice in his head to remind us, he’s not actually a real villain, he’s doing the best he can to be nice. It’s lovely how nice of a guy he is really–wait, stop right there... If the villain protagonist isn’t actually a villain, then this show is literally just the same as anything else… Like the meak voice hiding behind the intimidating demonic skeleton exterior, Overlord is masquerading as something far better and more original than it actually is. The philosophy of: “How can I self-insert if my main character isn’t a good guy?” breaks any potential this show had to become something original. It’s funny how Overlord shamelessly admits that its female characters are coded to love Momonga, but that doesn’t make it any less bad of writing. A story’s world should ebb and flow without the audience needing to be there. Here it feels like a pandering fest; the characters bend over backward to praise Mr. Skeletor, he wins nearly every fight, and there is no substance beyond “moderately self-aware SAO”. This new season of Overlord isn’t all harem bullshit, it tries a few new things… and fails at all of them. For some reason, whenever the story follows any character other than Momonga it becomes insufferably boring. We got classic stories to be loved for ages like the tribe of lizard idiots who inevitably get taken over by Momonga, the thrilling backstory for Momonga’s butler (aka Plank of Wood), some random knight guy, and a princess with a dark secret! Remember how Overlord’s first season had somewhat slow pacing at times? This is 10 times worse! Entire episodes are dedicated to characters that we don’t have a reason to care about. We're forced to watch them fighting in their own battles, with their own drama, and all of it barely connected to the characters introduced in the first season. In the end, the stories come together, but does the moderately entertaining end justify the tiresome means? Not at all. It’s rare for anime to put me to sleep, but Overlord’s first three (lizard focused) episodes truly tested my fortitude. The only plausible reason for the story breaking off from Ainz to follow the lizard people is to keep his harem junk from becoming too repetitive. The thing is though, Overlord will be repetitive no matter what crap they shove down our throats during the filler episodes. Isekai anime are so oversaturated that simply making more of the same isn’t enough these days. I’ve seen so many of these isekai power fantasies—perhaps Overlord was more original when the light novel first began publication, but today it’s trite, overdone, a waste of time. At least the few episodes Momonga gets are slightly more entertaining than the filler ones. He and the people who surround him have eye-catching character designs, wacky personalities, and enjoyably overdone voice acting. There’s almost no substance to any of them, but at least they’re fun to watch in small doses. The thing is, this new season is barely about the actually exciting characters. The only one in Momonga’s legion who gets a backstory is his butler (the blandest of them all). He has an actually intimidating personality, but none of the charisma necessary to hold up entire episodes on his own. There was a small amount of development seen for a few members of the huge cast, but it’s for the boring ones that no one is watching the show for. An occasional twist in a character's personality following a surprising betrayal may offer some fleeting intrigue, but you will quickly realize that is all those twists exist for. To momentarily add a fresh coat of paint to a cast of rotting cardboard cutouts. Momga’s episodes were at least better than the ones about random boring side characters, especially during the last three episodes of this season. We see all-out violence using nonsensical magic to create exciting gorefests and lots of angry expressions. It’s still never what I’d call good, but it’s passable entertainment. Momonga’s storylines do tend to get repetitive quickly; an issue arises among his legion or in the world, he is literally the most powerful being in the universe and kills shit, then gives us a comment on it in his ‘nice guy’ voice, rinse and repeat. The only reprieve from the mind-numbing formula is the final few episodes, full of gory action, plot twists, and even betrayals that actually had me surprised. Although I struggled to care about the turns the plot took or the characters who took radical changes, it provided a fresh perspective on the tired story even if for a moment. Sadly, the action-packed moments weren’t much better than what we’ve seen before from Overlord; plagued with issues caused by a rushed production. The action scenes are lackluster at best. Madhouse is airing three anime just this season alone, so it would be unreasonable to expect flawless quality, but this is just flat out the same mediocre visuals as the first season. Action scenes rely on zoom in on still shots, unanimated motion tweens, and jarring CGI. Environments are dreadfully ugly to look at; dull colors, low res repeated textures, a lack of detail and defining traits. It all feels so lifeless, bland, boring. It’s the kind of show I would have forgotten entirely if I wasn’t reviewing it. The soundtrack is equally mediocre, totally forgettable. The bog-standard sort of booming orchestral music they’re going for simply fades into the background. I didn’t particularly care for the opening song, just a generic rock song lacking of individuality. The ending track “Hydra” was wonderfully wispy with haunting vocals. If the rest of the show carried even half of the emotional weight the ed does then we’d have a much better show on our hands. It was the best part of the show, the only reason why I was hesitant to drop it all season. Anything separating Overlord from the hordes of low effort isekai adaptations we see every season is only superficial; neither the audiovisual or writing are above average. The main character being a ‘villain’ is just a cheap facade, the setting is lifeless, and even the cool designs are diminished by lackluster visuals. Overlord is overrated. It’s just more of the same boring isekai drivel.

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