First Impressions Digest – Himouto! Umaru-chan, Overlord

Himouto - 01 -14 Himouto - 01 -22 Overlord - 01 -3 Overlord - 01 -13

A VRMMORPG?  What could possibly go wrong?

Himouto! Umari-chan – 01

Himouto - 01 -1 Himouto - 01 -2 Himouto - 01 -3
Himouto - 01 -4 Himouto - 01 -5 Himouto - 01 -6
Himouto - 01 -7 Himouto - 01 -8 Himouto - 01 -9
Himouto - 01 -10 Himouto - 01 -11 Himouto - 01 -13
Himouto - 01 -14 Himouto - 01 -15 Himouto - 01 -16
Himouto - 01 -17 Himouto - 01 -18 Himouto - 01 -19
Himouto - 01 -20 Himouto - 01 -21 Himouto - 01 -23
Himouto - 01 -24 Himouto - 01 -25 Himouto - 01 -26

I can sum up my reasons for giving this series a shot in two words: Oota Masahiko.

And that’s no exaggeration.  I can truthfully say there’s nothing else in the premise that would have made me give Himouto! Umaru-chan a second glance, but when it comes to gag comedy, Oota-sensei is the best.  One thing can be said for sure – whatever mileage can possibly be gotten out of the source material, Oota will get it.

However, having watched the premiere, I’m highly skeptical that will be enough.  Oota is the best when it comes to adapting gag manga, and he’s proved it with the likes of Minami-ke (the first and best season), Mitsudomoe and Kotoura-san (which while ultimately a failure, came close to seeing Oota’s miraculous transformation succeed).  But not every Oota Masahiko show has worked, because even he can only do so much with the material he’s given.  And that, for me, seems a big problem inherent in this series.

There’s a common problem with gag manga as anime source material, and it’s that when adapted they often amount to one joke stretched way too far (especially when they’re full-length, as this one is).  Himouto seems a classic case of that.  I get the joke – Umaru is a two-face, someone who’s a complete nightmare at home and plays the role of perfect angel outside it.  She’s a terrible person who makes the life of her older brother a living hell, spends his money and runs him ragged, and never shows a shred of gratitude.  But it’s one joke – and for me, one episode of it is too long, never mind an entire series.  It’s sort of funny, as long as you don’t mind the female lead being a horrible person, but only to a point.

Well, who knows.  I mean, at least it doesn’t appear to be an incest comedy, which places it above most imouto shows.  Maybe unlike with Kotoura-san Oota will drop the bomb after the premiere, and the series will turn out to have depth and nuance. But if what we got in the first episode is the extent of the appeal, I don’t think even Oota Masahiko is enough of a magician to pull this trick off.

Overlord – 01

Overlord - 01 -1 Overlord - 01 -2 Overlord - 01 -4
Overlord - 01 -5 Overlord - 01 -6 Overlord - 01 -7
Overlord - 01 -8 Overlord - 01 -9 Overlord - 01 -10
Overlord - 01 -11 Overlord - 01 -12 Overlord - 01 -14
Overlord - 01 -15 Overlord - 01 -16 Overlord - 01 -17
Overlord - 01 -18 Overlord - 01 -19 Overlord - 01 -20


Here’s a show which certainly presents a bit of a conundrum.  Let’s be honest – in broad terms, this has been done to death.  .Hack, SAO, Log Horizon, the list goes on and on.  I think the fundamental hurdle which Overlord must surmount is simply this: can an anime possibly put a new spin on this premise?  Can anything original or essential still be mined from it?

On the other hand, Overlord is a Madhouse show.  The director Itou Naoyuki has sone some terrific work (Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu, which I absolutely adore), and the Animation Director/C.D. is Madhouse stalwart Yoshimatsu Takahiro.  And flat-out, the execution in the premise is very good.  The visuals are not remotely impressive by Madhouse standards – lots of CGI and not much fluidity – but the storytelling and cinematography is pretty much perfect.  As I said, a conundrum.

I’m not sure exactly what the timeline is between this, LH and SAO – the Overlord LNs premiered in 2010 – but does the anime have an obligation to try and do something fresh?  I think it sort of does, actually.  That’s a tough ask, but it’s obviously far too early to tell – for now, all I can do is focus on the material in the can, which is as I said pretty good.  I especially love the first ten minutes when protagonist Momonga (Hino Satoshi) is preparing to say goodbye to the elaborate Tomb HQ he and his guild built inside the VRMMORPG Yggdrasil, which is being shut down.  The year may be 2136, but the melancholy here is very universal – this was a fantasy he and his online friends threw themselves into building over more than a decade, but they’ve all moved on and now it sits empty bar a few NPCs, waiting to be erased.  The feels here are quite genuine.

Things get interesting when the clock runs out and the servers shut down, but for some reason Momonga remains stuck inside his Skeletor-like avatar inside the game.  The NPCs start to take on personalities and free will (as well pulses and aromas), though they remain loyal to their master.  What’s going on?  Too early to tell – if anything, it seems as if Overlord is less tech-y and jargon-focused than its neighbors in this sphere, and heavier on the fantasy-magic side of the equation.  But the feel of the premiere is interesting, with Momonga stuck seemingly alone inside his cavernous tomb, trying to make sense of what’s happened.  For one episode at least, Overlord feels familiar but not played out – and if it can maintain that, it should be able to deliver a pretty satisfying run.

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8 comments

  1. S

    I enjoyed Overlord too, even though I'm dismayed at the low quality of the animation. Goes to show that while they've become very common, MMORPG anime are hardly such a big genre commercially (especially geeky ones like Log Horizon and possibly this one). But yeah, nice setup. The protagonist is taking an analytical, level-headed approach to the situation and the fact that he's forced to just do stuff on his own for the first ten minutes gave us a very nice bit of anime. Hope it keeps itself interesting.

  2. E

    I think the choppiness of the animation was due to Funimation's encoding, several people have said that they didn't experience it in the raw.

    Is it just me, or does the setting feel more like the afterlife rather than a game? The dark tone, the reminiscing and the thought that the protagonist preferred the game world could lead to some really dark places…

  3. S

    The choppiness, yeah, but even without that it was nothing special.

    And that would be one GOOD twist. The server malfunctioned and Momonga died. He is now in his own private purgatory XD.

  4. Interesting theory, that would indeed be interesting. Of course, you'd need to explain why the server shutting down would kill somebody.

  5. S

    It's hyper-realistic, total immersion VR, so I suppose it's connected to the brain in some way. You could imagine that, if some kind of safety failed, a sudden disconnection could be harmful/fatal. It's pushing it a bit because one would expect multiple safety switches but sometimes weird unexpected things happen (like that one Pokemon episode which induced seizures in multiple people).

  6. K

    I agree that the feels in the first ten minutes of Overlord felt really genuine. Sort of like a lonely old man looking wistfully back at his bright and happy youth. Very bittersweet.

    While I only have limited experience with other MMO animes (SOA, Log Horizon, Hack), I think this series might differentiate itself enough simply by having a different type of protagonist. IIRC, the other MMO series all have teenage MCs who are trapped in their games and trying to get out. Momonga, on the other hand, seems more mature (we know he's at least old enough to hold down a job for ten plus years) and doesn't seem all that interested in getting out of his game at all (at least not initially).

    Another little twist that might have big implications is the fact that the entire rest of the cast is made up of NPCs. In the other series, the characters are almost all human so there is no ambiguity regarding how they should be treated. Interacting with NPCs (especially ones that were lovingly created by your friends) could be an interesting dilemma for Momonga.

    Lastly, I have a good feeling that this show might be different simply because, unlike the other MMO series, I really don’t have any strong sense of where this story is going to go. The other MMO series all had well-defined goals for their MCs providing strong motivation toward and fairly obvious eventual conclusion. Maybe Overlord’s plot direction will become more obvious with the second episode but so far, the lack of obvious direction means it at least has the potential to lead us somewhere interesting.

  7. D

    Haha, I know you said "IIRC", but let me take this moment to correct you. I haven't seen .Hack and that's definitely what SAO was about, but Log Horizon was not about getting out of the game. They only touched that element at the end of season 2 and it was mostly about the characters founding a new life and economy in the game world. It was very geeky in a way to appreciate how they could abuse the game's rules for their favor, but also sad as the show tried to get you sympathize with the NPCs too. Also the cast was anywhere from children to adults in their middle ages.

  8. K

    Ah, thank you for the correction. I guess I shouldn't talk too much about stuff I'm not much an expert on! I did give Log Horizon a brief try but I was honestly bored out of my mind for some reason so I didn't get very far into it and mostly forgot what it was about (obviously lol).

    It's kind of strange though since it sounds like LH has many of the thematic elements that I am finding interesting in Overlord but for some reason, I found Overlord much more compelling (at least for one episode). Maybe its just a case of "same ideas with different execution?" If nothing else, I think the first ten minutes of Momonga's bittersweet reminiscing went a long way towards grabbing my attention.

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