Overlord and Overlord II Ep. 1: What is this?

What’s so great about this anime? It’s not SAO bad, thankfully, but it’s not exactly a must-watch series either. I even had a coworker ask me if I had seen this yet, because (according to her) it’s totally different from all those “stuck in an MMO” adaptations. After all, the protagonist isn’t some generic, dual-wielding adventurer with a harem. Instead, it’s skeleton man who also masquerades as an adventurer, has a bag of overpowered tricks, and comes pre-installed with a harem right from the get-go. Ainz doesn’t even have to work for it. Simply just programs one of the girls to love him and voila… instant haremette. I guess my main problem is that people had to sell me on this show, and in order to do so — to convince me that Overlord is truly unique and different — they made it seem like the main character is some kind of villainous overlord (hence the name of the series).

Unfortunately, Ainz or Momonoga is not very villainous at all. He’s actually quite nice. I’m actually reminded of Velvet in Tales of Berseria. Early on, you might think you’re watching a badass in action, but as the story progresses, the main character eventually ends up being quite a boring goody-two-shoes. It’s also unclear how inhuman Ainz is supposed to be. Because he’s a Lich now or whatever, you can’t kill him by stabbing him in the eyes. Also, Albedo’s sexual charms don’t work on him, ’cause he no longer has a human libido. Most of all, it’s claimed that he doesn’t have as much empathy as before. But then he still has his inner voice — the middle-aged salary man voice — that comes out every once in a while, and that voice sure does seem human to me. Like how he’s completely embarrassed by Pandora’s Actor. That seems pretty damn human to me. All of a sudden, he can feel shame. Huh.

The other problem is that Ainz’s supposed selling point — his badassery — actually seems like a weakness to me. He’s completely boring as Ainz. He’s just this overpowered dude who is super prepared and knowledgeable about MMO mechanics. But unlike One Punch Man, which using comedic timing to take full advantage of the ease with which Saitama destroys his foes, Overlord plays it straight. Ainz just destroys his foes and there’s no further twist. I was completely bored by both major encounters in the first season: his duels against Clementine and Shalltear. They felt like a pair of fighters just shouting movelists at each other, and of course, Ainz comes out on top. There’s really no drama at any point in the first season. There’s no tension in any of the fights. The same is true with One Punch Man, but again, Saitama is a goofy dork that I can laugh at. I don’t know what to do with Ainz.

What is potentially interesting about Ainz is his human side, but it actually doesn’t come out as often as it should. Often times, when it does emerge, it’s usually only because he is uncomfortable with Albedo’s lovey-dovey behavior. Har har, get it, ’cause he’s a pathetic nerd in the real world who’s never been on a real date. This is a disservice to Ainz’s actual conflict, because the truth is that he’s completely alone in this world. He’s surrounded by fawning sycophants, which makes you wonder if he finds it maddening. After all, when’s the last time he’s had a meaningful conversation with a person and not a subject? Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of human Ainz to answer that question. There isn’t enough of human Ainz to lend any emotional weight to the story. We know he wants to find other players, but his feelings aren’t fully explored here.

The other characters are… well, they’re there. Points for showing up. None of them have any interesting personalities, though. They’re all super one-dimensional. The NPCs all worship Ainz because they were programmed to, so it just can’t be helped. And that’s it, really. For now, there’s no further depth to any of them. There’s no greater conflict with any of them to explore. Shalltear launches a rebellion, but it’s only because she was mind-controlled. Albedo is crazy, crazy in love and nothing more. Narberal looks down on humans like the rest of her kind, and she’s a maid. There’s really no other way to describe her because she’s that boring and simple a character. The other dudes are barely onscreen long enough to even leave an impression much less have any sort of character development. Early on, I thought maybe Demiurge was planning something behind Ainz’s back, but nah, he just misunderstood his boss and thought they should conquer the world.

The world so far hasn’t gripped me either. I mean, sure, there’s the mystery of why Nazarick has suddenly been transported to a new world. You wonder if there are any other Yggdrasil players in this world. You wonder where that girl even got a Rubik’s cube. You wonder about the world items and whatever. But these are just hints at something larger. These are just hints that have been planted so that the audience feels as though there’s a larger story being planned. But whether or not we’ll ever get to that larger story, nobody knows. In the meantime, I gotta watch Ainz pretend to be an adventurer so he can build up his fame like a regular MMO schmuck. And oh no, some downtrodden lizard dudes are under attack. None of these are particularly compelling stories. The MMO mechanics almost feel like a hindrance. Why are we even dealing with adventurer ranks and whatnot?

This is a post mostly about the first season of Overlord, because the first episode of Overlord II features a whole lot of talking and exposition. Soldier dude talks to some crazy girl who wants to mate with someone stronger than her. Old lady dude talks to dragon dude about getting more information. Soldier dude who I almost forgot about goes to speak to his king. Ainz returns to Nazarick to talk to Albedo about future plans. Then some lizard dudes talk to each other before they are under attack. It’s not the most scintillating way to kick off a new season. It’s actually downright boring. It’s just a whole bunch of setup. Yeah, sure, we need to set the stage for the stories to come, but again, the execution leaves me wanting. This is not some edge-of-your-seat political drama where I can’t allow a single spoken word to elude me.

But at the very end of the episode, I spy a sweet thank you message from Madhouse. They even mention their international supporters. So even though I don’t particularly enjoy this show, I’m glad its fans got to see their beloved series continue. I only wish I knew why they love it so much. Anyway, I might keep following Overlord II because it’s not horrible. I guess that’s the silver lining.

7 thoughts on “Overlord and Overlord II Ep. 1: What is this?

  1. Oby

    Maybe a lot of people like Overlord because of how blatant it is and it drops most(?) pretenses?

    I mean, the MC is no longer a low-key handsome guy like Kirito or Tatsuya or millions of harem protags out there. He’s a damn skeleton without flesh or organs. So even if various females throw themselves at him, he can never consummate anything from it. Not to mention there’s a built-in self-control in himself to reduce either his desire or emotion (or both) whenever he’s excited. It forced him to act like a lich.

    Most of the times, there’s no pretense or faux-tension in this show (unlike SAO). Like Saitama, Ainz is already pre-established as an OP individual. So…I guess the point of the story is to watch his Nazarick dungeon expand in this fantasy-land in order to draw the attention of possible other Players in it. Along the way, we might see how Ainz solves some problems and probably we’ll see interesting interactions between Nazarick dwellers & the locals.

    I guess that’s pretty much the show. People seem to follow it just to watch the novelty unfolds. And I do prefer a series like this than Harem show like SAO.

  2. Hogart

    What interesting pretenses does it actually drop, though? There really isn’t anything new here aside from some window dressing. What’s fundamentally different between this and (say) Mahouka, setting aside superficial differences/gimmicks?

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that’s the honest reason why: simple wish-fulfillment fantasy for slightly older viewers who feel a bit too proud or ashamed to enjoy Mahouka for the same thing. Nothing wrong with that, mind you. It just doesn’t have much for anyone who’s expecting it to have a bit more to it. In fact, I’d say it’s practically devoid of any other kind of appeal.

    1. Oby

      “What’s fundamentally different between this and (say) Mahouka, setting aside superficial differences/gimmicks?”

      At least Overlord is not about highschool kids living their lives in magical schools with splattering of action in it like in Mahouka. In Overlord, we actually see Ainz managing and expanding his kingdom almost like watching a CEO managing a company or president managing a nation. At least we see Ainz constantly doing action, making progress, expanding his kingdom and continuously driving the plot forward instead of watching Tatsuya passively react to everything that’s thrown at him in Mahouka.

  3. Pia

    Unfortunately every MMO related anime will be compared to SAO and if is slightly better (which is almost garanteed) it will be regarded as a masterpiece of some sorts, like Log Horizon that has better writting, but is very boring to watch.

    Overlord looks different to SAO and any other MMO anime, is also intriging because they’re witholding a lot of information and it doesn’t have a clear path to follow, is not a must watch but a guilty pleasure for the most part, the idea of being a powerful overlord from the get go is very alluring indeed.

  4. Birdway

    The fact that the protagonist is too powerful takes away a lot of tension and fun from the anime. It is difficult to achieve a good history of main OP even if we eliminate all cliché and generic for the MC.
    I think other stories make it better at least in other aspects such as worldbuilding, the development of the MC and how it adapts to its new identity as a good example is Tensei shitara slime

  5. Cozy

    Ohey there, I didn’t notice you watched this…

    Overlord is pure power fantasy entertainment, and knows it. I’ve been viewing it just about the opposite way you have, I think… You’re asking the big questions, like why Nazarick was sent to a new world and whether there are other players, but I don’t really care about any of that — I watch to see how Nazarick and its OP denizens interact with the new world.

    The show avoids harem tropes by removing the MC’s interest in sex entirely. The few harem-ey scenes are played as comedy more-so than fan-service, the world population is fairly balanced between men and women (read: world population is not composed of 95% haremettes), only a handful of female characters are sexualized at all, and male characters get development as well. Sad that these things feel special enough to be mentioned, but that’s the state of anime for you.

    Ainz does become less human and more ‘sociopathic’ over time… maybe not enough so to really start noticing yet after season 1… but he isn’t even the main focus of the story at many points — one of the best things Overlord has to offer that other similar shows don’t is the huge supporting cast of Nazarick minions (and new, non-Nazarick minions, eventually), all with distinct personalities. Ainz is just one of them. Yes, the minions all serve Ainz, but that’s just about the only thing they have in common.

    Another thing is that Ainz isn’t actually a NEET, as is the stereotype in most MMO anime — one of the requirements of his guild is essentially that all members ‘have a life’ in the real world. Just another minor detail that I appreciate.

    1. Sean Post author

      I think you mention a lot of things that play into exactly what I don’t like about Overlord. I don’t enjoy an open-ended story that has no end in sight. Overlord goes on and on forever, but without a goal tangible goal, I’m not particularly interested in seeing how these characters’ lives simply play out. And because the story is so open-ended, the focus constantly shifts to all sorts of new and different characters. Unfortunately, I have a hard enough time caring about Ainz, so I’m even less inclined to take a detour and follow the lives and mating rituals of lizards or the milquetoast heroism of Climb. But hey, to each their own. Overlord is clearly not the show for me.


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