I like it when a show surprises me. That feeling when you watch episode after episode of quality stuff is one of the things that define a great series for me, but finding shows like that are more of an exception than the norm.
But…if you do eventually find one, it makes the experience all the more amazing.
Overlord was in released in 2015, and from what I’ve seen, faded into obscurity after the first two to three mediocre episodes. It is a short series with around 13 episodes, and is a light novel adaptation. Anime that adapts from light novels are a tricky thing. The quality for these types of shows can vary from show to show, and the most horrible and poorly adapted ones always seem to get the most press. It’s probably because of this stigma that Overlord didn’t get the critical reception it deserved.
Another reason why the show wasn’t so well received is probably because it’s another ‘trapped in a game’ anime that we’ve seen so much off. I’ve seen many people comparing Overlord to Sword Art Online, which is frankly, doing the show a disservice because it implies that the two are similar. I’m not saying that SAO is bad (it has its flaws but it’s a fun romp if I ever saw one) but I’m of the opinion that no two shows are alike. In fact, the only thing Overlord and SAO have in common is the distasteful fan service.
Overlord kicks off the show with an interesting spin on the ‘trapped in a game’ story idea. The main character of the show, Lord Momonga, is the guild leader in a game that’s about to be shut down. The first episode opens to a strong sense of loneliness as it’s revealed that out of the forty-one members of the guild, only Lord Momonga is there to spend the last hour in the game before its servers are taken down, forever.
In addition, the episode introduces not only our main character, but several other supporting characters as well, in the form of NPCs (Non-playable characters). As the episode draws to a close a giant timer countdowns to zero, and Lord Momonga, who’d expected himself to be booted out of the game, finds himself in the literal shoes of the undead character he plays.
From there, the story takes several more episodes to establish the world setting and its supporting cast. The world building is decent enough to keep the viewer interested, but there can be quite an info dump at times. Personally, I just ignored the nitty gritty details because there’s far too much to remember. Most of the time, I was more focused on the action and character interaction because that was where the show shined.
Overlord has three arcs, and in my opinion has one of the tightest narratives I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I believe the 13 episode limit helped a lot in this regard. There is a start and end to each arc, and the end of each arc is clearly defined, with each major character in that arc getting a fair amount of development.
This is one of the things I really liked about Overlord, which is the sense of progression as the story slowly unfolds.
The story is mostly light hearted and humorous, but there is some surprisingly violent and mature subjects that it tackles. It’s not in the same vein as shows like Psycho Pass, but there were quite a few moments where I was left speechless by how the story unfolded. The theme of unity is also prevalent in the show, which I found unexpected but welcome.
I think Lord Momonga is a great main character. He’s a nice guy and it shows, but despite this he’s not scared of doing questionable things to further his goal. One of the unique points of this anime is the fact that the main character fits more into the mold of an anti-hero, rather than your typical shining white knight. It’s a breath of fresh air from the generic main character who wants to save everybody. That trope is so worn out that I can embrace a change like this with wide open arms.
Lord Momonga is developed well and he’s so…likeable! I think he’s what made Overlord so fun for me. His actions gives the viewer quite a few laughs, and overall he truly tries to be a great leader for his underlings. The small things he does for them do not go unnoticed, and for that, they love and respect him. It was heartwarming to see Lord Momonga in action. Call me a sap if you want, but I’m glad we finally have a protagonist who isn’t acting so dark and moody all the time.
There are several other characters that get a decent amount of character development, which is surprising, seeing as there’s only 13 episodes. Although the show doesn’t manage to flesh out all the characters – some are still remain one dimensional caricatures even in the last episode – it can be overlooked because they actually fleshed out the important characters in each of the three arcs. It was a good call to focus on the characters that truly mattered to the plot, rather than trying to do it for all the characters and doing a poor job of it.
And that brings me to one of the aspects I hated about the show. The Fanservice.
Albedo, one of the female characters in the show, greatly suffered because of this. Yes, there were times were her personality shone through, but most of the show was just her trying to get into Lord Momonga’s pants and flashing a fair bit of skin to the viewer. Now, I’m fine with fan service if it doesn’t get in the way of the story and character development, but in Overlord, Albedo is reduced to a one dimensional anime waifu with huge knockers. Frankly, it’s makes me angry to even think about it. One word I’d use to describe it is wasted potential.
The very first episode establishes her role in the story. She’s there to look pretty and that’s pretty much it. Albedo gets her chest groped (with permission!) by Lord Momonga in the first episode.
While I know fan service is a staple of anime because of how well it works to attract viewers, it kills any respect the viewer might have had for a character. It can be funny in small doses and there were certain scenes that I found myself chuckling when one character made a boob joke of some sort, but it just grates on my nerves when it’s literally shoved in my face.
All in all, I think Overlord is a fantastic show. In fact, I’m hoping to rewatch it after I finish a couple other shows.
The show is well animated and great to look at, and the action very well done. The opening and ending is superb and fits the show perfectly. The only times I skipped either of them was when I was too impatient to get to watching the episode, which is saying something when you’re binge watching all 13 of them.
The fan service, while grating, was luckily not extreme enough to curb my enjoyment, and I have to give the show props for a few good instances of dirty humor that was actually hilarious.
If you like shows such as SAO, Log Horizon, I have no doubt you’d enjoy this one. If you don’t, heck, just try Overlord anyway.