Second Impressions – Overlord

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OK, it’s interesting – I’ll give you that.

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.

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6 comments

  1. A

    As opposed to SAO and LH most of the cast here were once NPC's in the game and I kinda like that. Instead of having to focus on a group of players and how they feel now that they're trapped in the game, they just focus on one guy. I'm kinda excited to see how different (or undifferent) this anime ends up compared to the likes of the rest in the same genre.

    Also I wonder just HOW aware the NPC characters are of the phenomenon that occured when the servers shut down…

  2. K

    I agree that there is something interesting about a single human player interacting with nothing but sentient NPCs. Especially since he doesn't exactly see them as real people and yet still values them as the very personal creations of his old friends. They are just as much a part of his Guild's legacy as the guild weapon and Nazarick which is all Momonga seems to value at this point in his life.

    Another aspect of Overlord that I find refreshing is that the MC is so powerful right from the start and that the supporting cast of characters are not so much his companions or friends but his willing minions. Aside from Black Butler, I can't really think of any animes that explore this dynamic. The fact that all the characters look like they should be the villains of the series is a nice little added twist as well. I’m also enjoying the disconnect between Momonga’s competent and decisive exterior and his hesitant and unsure inner dialog. In a way, I think most great leaders experience this and it makes such a character much more relatable to the audience.

    Regarding the NPC's awareness of their new personalities, the show hasn't given us any indication that they have any at all. From what I can tell, they all seem to think that they have always been this way. If they were aware of the change, I'm sure we'd see a lot of confusion initially and their personalities would show themselves much more gradually.

  3. A

    You're right, the decision to make them look like "bad guys" is a plus in my book too.
    In regard to that last part though, it was badly worded by me but what I tried to refer to was, for example, when Sebas described Momonga as "a mercifull leader who stayed behind with us until the end."
    I feel like this implies that they're aware of the fact that the servers shut down (or something like that).

  4. K

    That's a really good point. I wonder if that was just a writing screw-up that no one caught or if it was an intentional little hint for the audience. I suppose it could also be a phrase that didn't get translated into English as well as it could have. Perhaps in Japanese, it meant something more like "a merciful leader who never abandoned us."

  5. E

    I find it interesting that two of the LN shows these season have adult main characters despite the really overdone premise, the way they react to the harem stuff shows a bit more depth than the usual stuttering male.

    The episode was mostly okay setup, I enjoyed the flying scenes with the frogman most along with the various reasons why the servants admired Momonga. Next episode looks like it's going to be action so maybe the series will reveal its true direction then.

  6. S

    I think the series revealed itself to be about the relationship between Momonga and his NPC guardians. A rather delicate affair I would think.

    There'll be action too, but for a top level supreme leader like Momonga, he feels awfully fragile. And he can't really practise against his guardians, since he wouldn't want to appear weak. NPCs should be extremely comfortable with combat and which spells to choose and so on, so I don't think the MC would be better by pure instinct. He'll have to think outside the box maybe. I don't know. Maybe the staff is OP, though.

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