Whatever the threshold Overlord needs to cross in order to be relevant in this extremely played-out genre, I’d say based on the first two episodes it has a chance of meeting it. It’s no sure thing, mind you, but there’s something present here that I find lacking in the likes of Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, and that’s self-awareness. Too much of that in anime can be off-putting (in comedy especially) but in a genre with so many florid representatives, it’s a necessary ingredient as far as I’m concerned.
One threshold Overlord has certainly met is making me curious about what’s going on and what’s going to happen next, and that’s a good start. The dichotomy between the hesitant schlub and the all-powerful supreme being playing out in Satoshi Hino’s performance is working pretty well at establishing the disconnect with reality Momonga is experiencing. The various guardians are mostly pretty predictable thus far, but Momonga makes for an intriguingly fragile protagonist, and in this sort of premise I think that’s a good thing.
One clue that interesting stuff is happening here is that the NPCs continue to act and speak even when Momonga isn’t present, and it’s also interesting that the series chooses to show us that rather than leave us guessing about that crucial plot element. What’s most distinctive about the guardians, in fact, is the little clues about their creators that their design is slowly letting slip, like the elven siblings wearing genderswapped outfits – Mare is in fact an otokonoko (pronounced as one word in this context, crucially). It seems likely this original group of creators was a bunch of otaku, based on what they’ve created – it’s hard not to wonder whether they’re going to end up playing a role in the narrative directly.
Stuff like the waifu fight between Shalltear and Albedo is pretty tired, but there’s a spark of wit in stuff like Albedo’s reaction to Mare getting his ring first (I definitely saw that coming) and the butler being named “Sebas Tian”. I also found the conversation between Demiurge, Cocytus and Mare about Momonga producing an heir to be a pretty interesting one in-context – it seems to me an important thing that these NPCs are able to reflect on the disappearance of Nazarick’s other creators, and what it would mean for them if Momonga left them behind too. There’s just enough that’s skewed and thought-provoking about this setup to make it work, at least so far – and there seems to be enough potential to keep it doing so for at least a while.