And so we turn to the third in this season’s triumvirate of bubble series. Overlord. It’s already the group’s odd duck in that it’s not a comedy, but happily this show stands out as well because unlike Jitsu wa Watashi wa and Joukamachi no Dandelion, it came through with its best episode so far. There’s a serious tortoise effect going on with it, because this is not a series that blows you away so much as sneaks up on you.
This was a curious episode in that when it ended, I was stunned to see that 22 minutes had passed. I wasn’t conscious of any feeling that I was watching something exceptional, but I was so wrapped in the matter-of-fact narrative that I totally lost track of the passage of time. It takes a pretty good show to do that for me, so my respect for Overlord has gone up quite a bit. There’s always been interesting stuff going on here, but this episode really kicked it up in terms of pure entertainment.
The pre-open actually made me wonder if I’d accidentally queued up Gate, because it was a complete left turn, introducing us to Gazeff Stronoff (Shirokuma Hiroshi) and his band of knights. Are these NPCs are not? Presumably yes (it’s confirmed later), because they speak of growing up peasants and having their villages attacked by monsters. They’re more evidence that to the game characters, this world is very real – and the presence of human “players” is not necessary for them to have consciousness (these trees makes a noise when they fall, clearly). And Gazeff’s idealism marks a sharp contrast to the way Momonga is approaching this world.
There’s a lot out there beyond the walls of Nazarick, clearly, and Momonga is slowly learning about at least some of it. Nazarick apparently exists as part of the Re-Estize Kingdom, and some things here are very different from Yggdrasil – though Ainz Ooal Gown’s spells seem to work. He puts them to use saving a village he spies being razed by knights, but only after Sebas Tian’s manner reminds him of the butler’s creator “Touch Me”, who was apparently quite the altruist himself.
This is really fascinating and well-executed stuff here, though the animation remains the series’ weak point. The sacking of the village is shown in starkly graphic terms, as is the massacring of the attacking knights by the zombie warrior Momonga creates from the first knight he kills – the latter depicted beneath a low-key voice over by Momonga to great effect. And then there’s Momonga himself, who’s aware that he seems to be slowly losing connection to his human emotions (it struck me that it would be pretty spectacular if we were headed towards a role-reversal between players and NPCs, though I don’t expect that). Momonga is no white knight – he’s a pretty cold bastard, in fact, and his acts of good will towards the village seem almost entirely to be selfishly motivated.
We’re definitely in tip-of-the-iceberg territory here, and that’s a pretty powerful place for a series to take you. There’s an awful lot going on in this world that both the protagonist and the audience know so little about – complex politics and militarism, corruption, recognizably human love and grief. As long as Overlord can keep me interested in what’s going on it’s in pretty good shape, but when it does so in as compelling a fashion as it did this week it’s reaching into the realms of genuine excellence.