This one was a show that didn’t intrigue me from the beginning. I have been known to occasionally side with the villain in the usual good vs evil confrontation, so a few anime-minded acquaintances recommended this series but the first episode didn’t sold me on the “right” evil vibe. It took a few more until I started to enjoy the show. Whether I was going to write a review on it became a moot question when I realize that I was finishing the second season without noticing it.
Overlord was directed by Naoyuki Itō, written by Yukie Sugawara based on the light novel by Kugane Maruyama. It’s not exactly an isekai anime, since our villain is already in his own lair. It’s his lair itself that gets transported to a different world. The main character is a nameless salary worker who we never see. The show starts while he’s already in the online fantasy-themed game of Yggdrasil, saying good-bye to another member of his guild as the game’s servers are about to shut down. When they do, he realizes he’s still in the game as his character, Lord Momonga. The guild’s secret lair, the Great Tomb of Nazarick, as well as all its Guardians and minions still have their incredible power levels but not their reputation. They’ll have to build a new fame here.
The show starts to pickup speed as Momonga decides to take the name of the guild as his own and be known as Lord Ainz Ooal Gown expanding his reach outside Nazarick. Although I initially found the whole fanatical reverence of his minions a little too much, it soon becomes obvious that although Lord Ainz is conducting himself pretty much in accordance to his character role, he’s still unsure of how to rule over his domain. With the help of Lady Albedo, a succubus that becomes infatuated with him, and the tactical talent of Demiurge, a demon mastermind, Lord Ainz slowly starts mind games with the nearby kingdoms and even takes over a civilization or two.
This one’s a strange one, as mostly Lord Ainz and his minions are already at the top level of their game and are now dealing with a supposedly real fantasy world. I like insolence done right, but definitely there’s too much tradition, decorum and rules in Nazarick. Everything swears fealty to Lord Ainz again and again, which is how we start and how I was almost ready to turn off. It’s when we go out into the world and people actually die that the show starts getting interesting. Lord Ainz soon realizes that Demiurge is always several moves ahead, thinking he has guessed out his boss’ masterplan. In reality, Ainz has done nothing of the sort, but he’s content with letting the demon tactician come up with the most elaborate schemes and taking the credit for it.
As team Nazarick starts to carefully pick the “good” humans and kill the “bad” ones, I started thinking perhaps this show was going to become a little too good for my taste. It’s when the scheming starts, which almost always is done by accident by Lord Ainz or by Demiurge second-guessing his master, where things start getting fun. At times the show feels it must develop new opponents or create a new race for our villains to go against and then we spend half a season with the lizard men.
Overall, however, it becomes a little bit of a guilty pleasure to see Lord Ainz manipulate entire kingdoms by playing both the hero and the villain as he crushes would-be adversaries with ease. Sometimes the fights do feel boring, as you know that any of the guardians of Nazarick can kick everyone’s butt from here until next week, but then the challenges also appear when we meet some lawful heroes that seeks to make something of themselves. Whether they will end up like fodder or become allies of Lord Ainz Ooal Gown or his alter ego Momon, who is a knight that uses two blades.
Why does it work? Honestly, I think it’s just fun. As new characters and new storylines appears, it’s just a matter of time until Nazarick absorbs them into the main narrative. Sometimes the show seems to imply the evil that the newly introduced characters face is unsurmountable but the audience know it’s just a matter of time until they get squashed by Lord Ainz forces. It’s a power fantasy in for everyone who’s ever wanted to have an evil cadre of villains to command. And again, people will perish so make no mistake, we’re cheering for the dark side here.
Recommended for anime fans of the isekai genre or gaming fans of the anime genre who want to feel what it would be to take the role of the big bad boss calling the shots against the hero party in a regular RPG game. The quality of the animation varies, and some of the stories and characters are filled with tropes and cliches, but you know that evil is rearing its skeletal mug just around the corner to show do-gooders that their efforts are futile. As overpowered as the Nazarick gang is, it’s extremely satisfying to see them kicking everyone’s ass.
That will do for now.