Overlord

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

There are two kinds of isekai anime. In the first, the MC is fairly ordinary, and has to struggle and strive to achieve greatness. This is not that! Overlord is the second kind, where the MC is so overwhelmingly powerful that they have zero chance of losing a single conflict.

And it’s so much rip-roaring, rocking fun! Through three seasons as of the time of this writing, 39 full-length episodes flies by faster than FLCL could dream of. With simple yet sufficient storylines, fantastic artwork, and those amazing characters we’ve come to expect from the kings of isekai at Kadokawa, this is one of funnest viewing experiences you’ll ever have!

Characters

Rating: 9

This is a veritable parade of the mighty. And in more ways than one. In the show, Ains Ool Gown and his direct subordinates, survivors of the unexplained phenomenon that occurred upon the server shutdown for the full-dive online game they call Yggdrasil, are so strong compared to those in the world they find themselves in it’s actually funny sometimes. You might think this would make for boring battles and storylines. And usually, I would say this is the case in anime. It takes exceptional work in every other aspect of the show to effectively manage this dynamic. And Overlord does this.

Ains Ool Gown is…wait a minute, huh? What kind of a name is this? While I’m sure someone has a good explanation behind this name, I don’t have it. If you know what it is, feel free to enlighten me, because I don’t the hell know. But it doesn’t matter! It’s an amazing arrangement of letters! Such a fantastically memorable name for a fantastic character!

Now, there’s not much to our Supreme Overlord Ains. As a player in Yggdrasil, he was among the most powerful, creating a guild that built the famous Tomb of Nazarick. “Irl,” he was an office worker of some kind, leading the isekai-anime-typical boring life. That all changes when he ends up locked inside the character Momonaga, his original name from Yggdrasil. He loses some of his “irl” mentality and personality, having it replaced with the mentality of his undead MMORPG character. As such, he loses much of his human compassion, particularly for the living. Thus he is able to implement measures, through his own actions and his orders to subordinates, that claim the lives of, ultimately, thousands of living beings. But at the same time, he begins to assume the mentality of a true leader, loving his subordinates and valuing their interests above all other things.

His attitude towards them is strangely admirable. I think this is something the writers did a really good job with. He expects rigorous loyalty and for people to jump when he says jump, and he does not leave them any uncertainty about that. At the same time he loves them dearly, and rewards them and compliments them and encourages them copiously. As harsh as he can be, and as ultimately self-centered his actions are towards his position as Overlord of Nazarick, it is quite easy to believe that you could show loyalty to this guy. It’s a little weird, and more than a little funny, because this guy is an office worker in real life. He has these natural inclinations towards good leadership qualities, but he also tries very hard to meet the expectations for a worthy leader. He regularly expresses humility to his subordinates (who of course gush that they don’t deserve such kindness) and takes the blame almost every time something goes a little wrong. One part of S3 is hilarious, where he’s standing alone in front of a mirror in his chamber and practicing a pose and an imperious phrase which he intends to use at some point. It’s really funny watching it, and then when he really does use it many episodes later it’s hilarious, as his subordinates gasp in fear and admiration. At one point he makes a specific effort to sit down in an ostentatious kind of manner, flipping his robe aside as he sits, and he comments internally how that was good, because he sat down like a lord would. Right away one of the Dark Elf twins comments on how lordly he looked as he sat down, and with gratification and love in his voice he tell the elf how happy that makes him to hear. It’s really funny but really nice at the same time.

The crew for Nazarick behaves in a very traditional Japanese militaristic manner, something we’re all fairly familiar with observationally. The Guardians treat Ains as the “lord,” and they act with unshakeable loyalty to his every will. Sometimes too much so. Their outpourings of servility are hilariously sincere, and despite their floury nature, it never really gets old. By the time the third season rolls around though, you can tell that it’s wearing thin with Ains. One of the funnier lines in the show happens at the very beginning of the third season when Ains’ butler at Nazarick, Sebas (ooh, veiled reference to another famous butler?), graciously refuses to request a reward from Ains when it’s offered to him. Ains instantly shoots him down by saying “Know that is sometimes displeasing to rule over the selfless.” After watching the Guardians behave this way all the time up to that point, this line is really funny in context. Sidetracking for a second, as many morally questionable and dark things that happen in this show, it finds its funny for certain several times in the third season. It’s well handled with the characters.

Speaking of the crew of Nazarick, the Floor Guardians are NPCs from the game Yggdrasil, created by those who built the Tomb itself inside the game. When the Tomb magically zips off to the other world, these characters evolve into individually functioning entities. The sci-fi aside, this makes for some very fun and original characters for our viewing pleasure. Essentially, they were designed to defend the various “floors” (the topography, for lack of a better word, of Nazarick is highly uncertain, beyond the stereotypical floor system we’re familiar with from games) of the Tomb, presumably from other players who might attempt to enter it. Different players in the game designed each of the Guardians, giving them individual traits, similarly to…how storywriters create characters! Imagine that. Anyway, all of these characters contributes to the show in different degrees, and so I’ll go over a couple of them here.

Let me tell you, there isn’t a much grander moment in anime than occurs very close to the end of season three. Ains has just subjugated the city of E-Rantel, and the morning after his victory he is marching his army into the city in a magnificent martial display. And leading his troops, in a scene often included in anime montages, is the astoundingly gorgeous and overwhelmingly powerful Albedo. I can tell you, there isn’t much sexier on this planet than watching the mighty Albedo lead her lord’s army victoriously into a conquered city. Albedo’s power is not to be underestimated.

Ains Ool Gown’s second in command, the extremely formal and highly orgasmic Albedo is one of the most recognized powerful females in anime. Yes, she is very formal. And if her gushing of formal servility makes you uncomfortable (and it will), when compared to her explicit declarations of love it’s downright ordinary. Simply being addressed by Ains is just about enough to make her…well, you get the idea. She fits the seductive yandere label perfectly. Fierce and merciless, she will defend “Ains-sama” from enemies both foreign and domestic with a fury which hell hath no.

Sexy as hell. I mentioned her orgasmic outbursts, which are suggestive enough. But figure and face and dress on this one are fantastic. The black lock of hair that runs unnaturally across her face, her reptilian yellow eyes, horns that shouldn’t be that sexy, the arachnidian white one-piece that is simultaneously formal, sexy, and martial, she is astounding to look upon. We get to see her in full armor at the beginning of S1, and even that sets her character fantastically. We see a lot of sexy armor in anime, but this is truly full armor, and it’s still sexy. Yes we get plenty of fanservice from her in her standard outfit, but that sort of takes a backseat even. She’s just so sexy overall, even in her face, and her tone that always implies she’s about to…well, you know. And almost every scene she’s in, she’s viciously declaring her love to Ains, violently at the beginning of S3. It’s kind of funny, but super cringy. It’s just one of those superb little bits of character design that we’re so used to from these Kadokawa characters.

Let’s back up for a second: enemies foreign and domestic? Foreign I get, but domestic? Ahaha, Shalltear Bloodfallen. Bizarre and Westernesque names aside, this loli vampire Guardian is Albedo’s rival in love for Ains. Or in her own mind at least. Aside, Ains doesn’t really seem to reciprocate either’s person’s feelings. Shalltear’s just a monster. If she’s got Albedo in any area, it’s in this nasty way. No, not that nasty way. You know how most vampires have a kind of demon alternate appearance? Bat wings, big fangs, red eyes? Shalltear’s beast form is of a lamprey, a bloodsucking aquatic monster that sinks its hundreds of teeth into the flesh of its victims and holds on as it sucks the life out of them. She’s utterly disgusting in that form, screeching wild laughter and lolling her long tongue everywhere. But other than that, she wears a really nice Victorian style red dress, is quite pale and cutesy, pretty red eyes, silver-blonde hair, and a sarcastic and grating loli tone of voice. She’s pretty remarkable, the important word being “pretty.” She is arguably the strongest Guardian, built for battle in every way. She cannot overcome Ains in her prolonged battle with him of course. I wonder how she’d stack up against Albedo. We actually don’t get a look at Albedo in action much. She chops off one head of a powerless nobody, but that’s it. Hey we got to see her fight a bit in Isekai Quartet, but that only counts a little. I look forward to seeing her show forth her power in S4. But I ended up talking about Albedo again.

Demiurge is a fun character. He might be the sole reason that Shalltear is given a lamprey beast form, since this guy already looks like a vampire more than she does. He has an alternate form too, but it’s some kind of weird ass winged frog of a thing, not super effective. He’s the brains of Nazarick. Also the source of some really good humor when the writers have him begin that well-known schtick where he’s actually thinking up the plan, but giving Ains the credit by saying that Ains already thought of it and he’s just observing it unfold. It’s hilarious watching those two go at it when this happens, because Ains is completely in the dark but the Guardians continue to gush more about his amazing wisdom.

The other Guardians have limited roles. Cocytus is crustacean of a thing that is featured in battle once against the lizardmen. Sebas is of course the butler, immovable in battle and personality, yet nowhere near the strongest of them. Mare and Aura, the rather sexually confused Dark Elf twins, are nicely designed and fun to encounter. We only see Gargantua and Victim for a very brief time, so maybe they’ll get featured a bit more in S4. But overall, the dynamic and interaction of these characters, both among themselves and with the utterly inferior powers of the outside world, is a lot of fun to watch.

Another artistic stroke of genius from the writers is the use of the seven sisters, the Pleiades, as the basis for a group of seven head battle maids in the Tomb of Nazarick. These characters are as diverse and entertaining as you could possibly hope. The rather Russian Yuri Alpha (the Greek titles denoting their rank are a nice touch, in homage to both the Greek origin of the Pleiades myth and to astronomy that likes to make use of such Greek alphabetical nomenclature) is kind of their leader, at least as far as we see. Aureole Omega is supposedly their leader, but I don’t think we ever actually see her. Lupisregina Beta, the wolf queen, is my and probably most people’s favorite, full of personality and life, and probably bears the least hatred toward the “inferior races.” I love how she can suddenly become deathly serious. Narbarel Gamma we see the most, as she accompanies Ains on his adventures as he plays the role of the adventurer Momon, and she takes the name Nabe. Cold and powerful but secretly into all forms of kawaii, she is instantly endearing. The one holding the Delta title is fondly called CZ, but if I’m not mistaken this is just a shortening of a code-like name that she actually has, where some other random numbers and letters follow the CZ. I could be remembering that wrong. She is the only gun user we ever see in the series (unsurprising given the time period we find ourselves in on that world). She’s not featured much beyond one battle and a brief scene where she more or less disrupts lunch at cafeteria for the maids at Nazarick, but she’s nicely designed. Solution Epsilon accompanies Sebas on his assignment, and so we see her a little bit more than most of the sisters. She is haughty and confident, disdainful masses of blonde hair curling down her shoulders. Batshit crazy too, if I didn’t mention that. Unrivaled in her distaste for the human race, she sates her sadism upon them by word, which we hear plenty, and by action which we don’t get to see mercifully. The most bizarre one is Entoma Zeta. Right now you’re going, oh yeah, I remember her, she’s the crazy bug creature that eats people. She is rather unsettling and disgusting, her loli appearance actually being a contrivance using various insect parts and her collapsed long insect limbs. “Entoma” as in the prefix “ento-“, which has to do with insects. Hey, if Aureole is any more memorable than these six she’ll be quite a remarkable addition.

If every character in the show was as high quality as those from Nazarick, this show would be ridiculously good. Unfortunately, as decent as some of the other characters could be, they tend to be a little ordinary. For one, there’s too many of them. Between the good and bad guys of the Re-estize kingdom, the leadership under the Gilgamesh-esque Emperor El Nix of the Baharuth Empire, the handful of operatives we briefly see from the Slane Theocracy, the lizardmen and that kind of silly side story, and the various adventurer groups we encounter and their various fates, it’s all too much to do much of anything with. Granted a lot of these people end up dead, which tends to hurt character development. But still, while most of them are memorable for one reason or another, there are too many of them, and they exhibit a lot of the overused, stereotypical anime character behaviors we often encounter.

That being said, I want to note something about all these characters that’s important. I mentioned how having overwhelmingly strong characters can create a rather boring dynamic if one is not careful. That doesn’t happen in Overlord. All of the battles we see the members of Nazarick engage in always have something interesting in them. Arguably the least interesting battle is between Ains and Shalltear. Well, I guess his “battle” with Gazef doesn’t amount to much either. But even there, the overwhelming power is well showcased. And that’s how it is in every battle. And this isn’t possible without us having some idea of the skills of those other characters that end up, unhappily, engaging with these monsters. Every character is shown to have various levels of skill, usually enough to warrant some attention in their world. They’re either quality adventurers, known warriors, or famous mage-types. In no uncertain terms, these are not fodder for slaughter. I’ll note the best examples. Primarily, there’s a lot of lead-up to the battle between Gazef and Ains, and one can only wonder how this is going to unfold. But when it starts, Ains ends it instantly with a time-stopping ability (think Dio in Jojo), killing Gazef instantly. It’s so underwhelming and yet so overwhelming at the same time, you kind of just feel the overwhelming part. Another good example is Ains’ battle with Clementine, way back at the beginning of S1. For one thing, Clementine is voiced by one of the more prolific actors in the show, Aoi Yuuki. I could go on and on, but to name a few of her roles: Tsuyu Asui from My Hero Academia, Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Diane in The Seven Deadly Sins, Yuuki from Sword Art Online, Tamaki Kotatsu in Fire Force, Major Tanya von Degurechaff from The Saga of Tanya the Evil…I’ll stop there. So she has that aura about her. But by the time you realize that, she’s already dead. Ains briefly humors her powerful attacks, attacks she’s murdered several of our friends with already, before killing her brutally. Another example. As much as I don’t like the lizardmen arc, there’s a lot of buildup of those characters’ situation and their strength. They even gain a victory over a decent army from Nazarick. But once Cocytus himself enters the fray to atone for the defeat of his army (after Ains scares the hell out of the lizardmen with his mighty display, and the only appearance of Gargantua in the series), he easily defeats them all, without even much contention. So we kind of always have a good idea of the power of Nazarick’s foes, and it makes it all the more interesting when the inevitable beatdown ultimately arrives. So for all the ordinariness of these other characters, the writers did a great job using them to set up these battles.

But the set of characters from Nazarick is enough to warrant high esteem for this cast of characters. Design, presentation, acting (decent actually; who would want to voice all those lines for Albedo in that tone?), artwork, all of it is really, really well done. Animes live and die on characters, and in Overlord it does both. It lives most strongly on the members of Nazarick, and most of the other characters die at their hands. Macabre jokes aside, characters are everything in this anime, and Kadokawa once again does not disappoint.

Story

Rating: 6

While everything ties together nicely, and even the loose ends are appropriately “loose,” there’s a lot of different storylines that usually don’t amount to much in the end, or are still hanging out there to be resolved. The Re-estize kingdom has way too much political drama, and it never amounts to much. Indeed, many of their leadership are dead, and any machinations they might have imagined important are going to be meaningless under the rule of Nazarick. The yandere princess is a little confusing, but perhaps she’s just there for the fun factor. The Slane Theocracy appears and disappears just as fast during the first season, as well as the mysterious characters associated with them. Most of these storylines are of course cut short by the arrival of the might of Nazarick, which can only cause one outcome really. In that sense, the storylines serve their purpose, if it’s a little confusing why there’s so much put into them initially.

The lizardmen arc…yeah, I never am a fan of lizardmen. For one thing, if anime is about characters and the contention between reality and art in the beauty of the human characters, why introduce this weird creature that has “human” expressions but really just looks like a lizard? This bugs me in every anime it’s ever used in. I get it, it gives the opportunity to have a different enemy for Nazarick than all these hapless human societies, and so it works well enough for that. But I joined in shocked unison with the Ains and the Guardians when they unintentionally intruded upon Zaryasu and Crusch’s sexual encounter. The cringy ridiculousness of this whole arc kind of explodes upon you at that point, and you just kind of accept it for what it is.

As mentioned, the story nonetheless serves the anime well. It is called “Overlord,” and that is the end to which the story is heading. By the end of S3, Ains has subjugated two of the largest kingdoms in this world, one by treaty/intimidation and one by force, and has firmly set himself up as the overlord of this land. I look forward to seeing how this dynamic plays out in season four. Hopefully he and the Guardians will have returned from highschool by then.

Artwork

Rating: 10

Very, very eye catching. No I’m not just talking about Albedo. The colors are extremely bright, lots of contrast, lots of large areas of uniform color. It’s not super detailed, but uses light shadowing and outlines extremely well. It’s very engaging visually. An anime that is memorable simply by its art like this is, even though there’s nothing fancy particularly about it, deserves an A+.

Ains’ artwork is quite carefully done. His skeletal visage and red eye dots are at all times either intimidating, powerful, confused, humored, and even proud. Not proud as in arrogant, although you do see that at times too, but proud of his subordinates. All his emotions come through his visage quite clearly, despite the monstrosity of it. The best is when he’s utterly dumbfounded by something and his jaw falls open. The scene just flashes to his face straight on and his mouth is already open in complete confusion and disbelief, and you want to fall out of your chair laughing. For something as un-lively as a skull face to show so much emotion/reaction is quite remarkable. Just one more accolade for Kadokawa.

Every character has a very visually pleasing palette of colors. No I’m not just talking about Albedo. Ains mostly has black and purple, with gold and red used in appropriate places. Although that red light that shines just below his ribcage has me wondering sometimes. Funny, his open shirt style would be considered sexy for a male if he had skin. Although I don’t doubt Albedo and Shalltear find it sexy anyway. Hell I know Albedo does, who spends her downtime wrapping her body around numerous body pillows of Ains that she made herself, dreaming of her “first time” with him. Personally I don’t like imagining this given his, er, physical structure, but I stray. Albedo’s palette is white and gold, quite attractive. I don’t exactly know how she moves around in that outfit, but it never seems to hinder her. It’s not technically fanservice, but her cutaways at the hips are add a light touch of sexiness to her, as if she needed more. She is pretty revealing at the top, but not nearly as much as some characters from certain shows. Though her size is quite apparent to her, and to Shalltear. She’s very aware of Shalltear’s size as well, but again I stray. Shalltear is all red all the time, just lots of different shades of it. Never revealing, always formal. If I had to characterize it, I would call it Victorian gothic ice cream loli. Take that however you will. The Pleiades all have aspects of maid outfits that quite clearly denote them as the stereotypical meido, but they also have very individualistic parts of their outfit that define each individual clearly. Even without visage or hair you could probably name each maid by outfit (well, I’ll throw body shape in there too).

The other characters do the same kind of thing but to a lesser extent. Armor is all pretty nice. It’s always a little bulky, and usually pretty convenient. Climb’s “mythril” (shameless Lord of the Rings reference) armor doesn’t clank or make any sound when he moves. A lot of people have armor in this series actually. Even the goblins have armor in some instances (that was a little ridiculous at the end of S3 too). The various undead that Ains can summon have different armor. The golden armor stands out finely behind the mighty Albedo as she leads the army in the aforementioned scene. Hey she has armor too! I mentioned that earlier. A very dark gray, not black. I guess they didn’t want both Albedo and Momon (Ains the adventurer) to have the same color armor. His armor is fun too, if very traditional and somewhat plain. Oh, Shalltear has red armor. It really looks good on her. She looks like a tank class hero, if a little undersized. She doesn’t need it except when she fights Ains. Everything else she can just block with her fingernails, not kidding. But anyway, nice armor is always fun. And they never overdo it in this show. We’ve all seen the overdone armor.

Overall: 9

When I rewatch this show, it’s over within a short time after it starts. I even remember when I first watched this show, I was so mad there wasn’t already a season four, because I wanted to keep watching! From across the Kadokawa hall, Echidna would be proud. I need more of this show!

I usually don’t talk a lot about music, as it’s so very underwhelming usually. But Kadokawa almost always makes an exception for this. Openings and endings are given a ton of attention for their series. MYTH & ROID does a lot of work for Kadokawa, and they get to flex their muscles once more here, doing both an opening and an ending song for different seasons. The ending for the first season is spectacular. Featuring Albedo in multiple beautiful still drawings, the song seems to focus on her. I love how MYTH & ROID lapses in and out of Japanese and English. Lots of anime songs do this, but they do it particularly well. Don’t let your kids listen to that yet though, they sneak “f**king” in there once! It’s kind of fun in its own way though. Side note, I wonder if this series, at least initially, was targeted at more mature audiences. Maybe only by degree, but I wonder. The brutality of Ains and some of the Guardians’ language is definitely on the mature side in the first season, and L.L.L. from MYTH & ROID strays into that territory. But that aside, that song and sequence glorifies Albedo, and it’s so much fun! Their opening for S3 is tons of fun too, lots of references to eating (Voracity I think is the song’s name), and it feels and sounds bizarre. The haughty laughter mixed in is a fine touch from these super fun artists. All the openings are fun, even the other two by the male singers. S1’s opening will put a smile on your face as you feel the power of these characters exuded through the music and the images paired with it. S2’s opening features a lot of characters, but still is extremely memorable. The somewhat calmer endings, relatively, for S2 and S3, are a little bit of a letdown after the riotous openings, but they’re still really tuneful and easy to remember. You can hear any of these six songs and be like “Right, that’s from Overlord.” Not many animes can make that claim.

Anime should be beautiful and it should inspire all manner of strong feelings in its viewers. This one, above all, inspires a kind of awe, a feeling we’re not really used to in our lives. It’s very unusual in that sense. You want to laugh like Albedo at some points, not in humor, but in the sheer and overwhelming joy of possessing and using absolute power. Philosophy aside, it does have its appeal, and is definitely not something we encounter very much at all. Anime, here with Overlord, once again fills in that gap, and more effectively than superheroes or aliens or any other similar media. This one makes you feel crazy, makes you laugh, makes you cry a little even, and then suddenly it’s over and we’re looking for season four.

Bring on season four!!!

2 thoughts on “Overlord

  1. Season 4, season 4!!, season 4!!. I love overlord, everything you wrote is bang on. The lizardmen arc I found boring, the funniest bit is where I remember when they had a mirror to spy and ended up seeing lizard porn XDD.

    Liked by 1 person

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