Overlord is based on a series of light novels by Maruyama Kugane. The anime version came out last year and was produced by Madhouse. Going into this one, about all I know is the basic premise and that opinions are a bit divided on the series. So, let’s take a look and I’ll put in my pfennig.
In the distant future, virtual reality gaming is a thing and it’s given rise to a new breed of MMORPGs, which allow the users to immerse themselves in the game worlds. Our story takes place with a popular game, Yggdrasil, entering the end of its life-span and shutting down its servers.In spite of having strong tech to back it up it was published by EA so it was only a matter of time before terrible business practices did it in. That is my head canon explanation for that. Anyway, on the last day of the servers running, Momonga, a man with no life, is reflecting on all the good times he had with his guild mates before they quit playing. He watches the clock tick down but stays online, determined to enjoy the game until the last moment. The day finally rolls over and, much to his surprise, he’s still in the game. Not only that, but the NPCs that he and his former comrades made are displaying personalities and Nazarick, his guild base, has been transported into unfamiliar territory that still seems to follow game logic.
This opens up a lot of interesting story possibilities about how this happened and what’s happening with Momonga’s body. Is this still a game that his brain has somehow become trapped in, has he just lost his mind and been lost in delusions of the only thing he cares about or is it some kind of other dimension, one that he unwittingly helped create, that he was able to cross into? There are so many possibilities. The series then proceeds to toss that little plot point to the wayside and not really bring it up. Well, that seems a waste. But it’s fine, there’s another compelling story angle they could go with here, since Momonga and his NPC comrades are all monsters of various kinds. Stories about antagonists and/or beastly groups can be really good. Except that they don’t really do anything with that either. About the biggest impact it has is that they present themselves as humans and do some things that are semi-villainous. But that’s fine too. The NPCs keep bringing up the way they were created by Momonga’s comrades and that could be a really interesting angle from a philosophical standpoint & from a narrative, “how exactly is this working?” stand point. Except that they don’t do anything with that either. How do you have elements that could lead to three different strong stories and not take advantage of any of them?
That may be the biggest flaw with the series. It doesn’t properly take advantage of any of its potentially fascinating story ideas. The second biggest issue is a matter of tension. It’s established early on that Momonga is absurdly powerful when compared to the people/NPCs of this world. Not only that, but it’s established that he has ways to resurrect people who die. Which means that there’s no reason for us, as the audience, to be concerned about him or the other major characters.
That being said, there are some areas where I will give the series credit. The world building is quite good and, to be completely fair, they’re clearly setting up for a sequel so it’s entirely possible that the more compelling aspects of the story do get better built on in the later material. As such, I can’t really fault the series for prioritising the world building in the early stuff. Of course, that’s also assuming that they do give us more of the interesting aspects. I haven’t read the light novels so, for all I know, they may still be unaddressed after nine volumes.
The characters are pretty under-developed in this. On one hand, you can somewhat understand it since this series focuses on the world building. However, we really need strong characters in a series like this where the main protagonist is so over-powered. We need compelling characters to keep our interest and all this series gives us is characters who might become interesting at some point.
The art is actually pretty strong with creative designs for a lot of Nazarick’s guardians and action sequences that are really good. There are some designs that are quite typical, but it also makes sense given the context.
The voice acting is pretty passable but also standard. Hino Satoshi’s performance as the lich, Momonga, is a bit odd and seems out of place. However, he’s also a regular person in a video game skin. As such it works to have his voice be a bit out of place for the character. The music is pretty good.
The series doesn’t really have any ho-yay.
What Overlord ultimately gives us is potential. There’s potential for a compelling narrative. There’s the potential for interesting characters. As the first series in a longer franchise, it’s not a bad introduction. That being said, the series also isn’t good. Maybe if it gets renewed for a second series, that one will be. As is, it’s pretty mundane. The main protagonist is too powerful for the series to have any real tension. The good ideas haven’t been developed, nor have the characters and the voice acting is just standard. Overall, I give it a 5/10. Next week, I’ll take a look at Kannazuki no Miko.