(Recommended by D.)
If MyAnimeList is any indication, western anime fans adore one thing: wish-fulfillment. No Game No Life, Problem Children, Sword Art Online, and others within the realm of “Being set to a different world where your otherwise useless skills suddenly make you top dog” are all very well received, while also incredibly divisive. Overlord is yet another entry into this specific, increasingly popular niche, and much like the titles mentioned before (all of which I’ve seen), I didn’t particularly care for it.
Not all entries within this subset are subjected to the same variety of working parts, but Overlord does absolutely nothing different with them. The closest comparison I could make is with No Game No Life, as both follow one overpowered character who never has to face a challenge throughout the span of their parent anime while garnering the attention of everyone around them. Overlord is an interesting case, as while the set-up is little different, the execution is wildly unapologetic. I thought No Game No Life was stuffed to high heaven with atrociously self-inflating writing… this series takes the cake and the factory it was made in.
The series features the main character, Ains, or Momon, or Momonga—whatever you decide to call him. Originally, the world he inhabited for most of his life was a huge MMORPG, where he built the foundation of the strongest fortress in the game with his guildmates. He’s reached the level cap in the game and has attained every ounce of world-class items and spells and abilities, showing a level of determination that would make his parents groan for his future. Over time, all of his guildmates leave for other things, leaving Ains as the only member left within his all-powerful fortress. However, he is accompanied by his (majority female) collection of underlings, whose designs and personalities were created by the guildies themselves. When the MMORPG announces it will shut down its servers, Ains reflects on his adventures, only to be greeted by something peculiar: when the servers shut down, he is still within the game, and cannot access any game menus or GM’s. Even more, his underlings begin to interact with him as though he was his character, fully capable of interacting with him as any real person/creature would.
So with this context set, what can one expect from the series? Ains will try to figure out why the world of the MMORPG became real while dominating everything and everyone in his path because he’s level 100 and has all the tools necessary to be God of the realm. Along the way, everyone (especially his underlings) continually shower him with praise as he flicks every bug off his shoulder like they’re nothing as he gloats about how weak everyone else is. Don’t fret, however, as some “magical force” prevents him from going overboard with his emotions, as any level of emotional exertion, including excitedness, embarrassment, and “libido” (Really?) is reduced to moot within a second. I suppose the purpose is to have him retain his undead, all-powerful image? Why does the universe care, though? I get that the anime wants to make him look cool for the sake of furthering wish-fulfillment, as well as letting those little slips be meant for comic relief, but how does any of this make sense at all? What is this “magical force” controlling him? Why does it exist? What are its limits?
Because Ains is all-powerful, every situation loses all sense of tension because he’s that much more powerful than everyone around him. He has everything completely under control because the “magical force” keeps him in check and he’s already at the level cap. The series would be far more interesting if the “magical force” went away and he had to deal with his conflicting emotions and relative unease with being a leader of many expectations. Instead, it’s a long spurt of Ains interacting with his underlings, who can’t go two seconds without kissing his feet, and going on fun fantasy quests and putting his God-like power on display for everyone else to kiss his feet. This type of blatant fan service is disgusting to me, and it made me hold a festered disdain for series like No Game No Life and Problem Children, despite how fun they are to watch.
There’s no denying it, either. Overlord is entertaining. That is its biggest draw. It’s likely why its rating is so high on most anime databases. It is incredibly easy to watch, as it’s filled with fun fantasy fluff and situations that are pathetically easy to immerse oneself in, whether in Ains’s shoes or if one were in the minor characters’ situations. There’s no real tension and a level of intrigue of what’s to come next that anyone can speed through it without blinking. A very easy-going series. Overlord‘s writing leaves so many holes and blatant attempts at holding the main character’s hand that it sickens me, but it’d be very easy for someone who doesn’t care about that to find a wonderland of enjoyment, especially those into the “Trapped in a video game” niche.
Anyone can tell by reading this that I didn’t like how the series was handled. I am also incredibly cynical. It’s an easy recommendation for those who can easily “turn off their brains” and enjoy flashy moments and peppy character interaction. That is the type of audience it wishes to appeal to, anyway. It’d be easy for me to disregard it and say the series just isn’t for me, but the genre is so damn popular that more and more anime/manga/novels like it keep getting green-lighted every year. That annoys me, especially seeing as that leaves less room for more intellectually-involved series to come to light. That’s a complaint for another day.
Personal Score: C
Critical Score: D+
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.