I first became interested in anime centered around MMOs when Sword Art Online aired back in 2012. Since then I’ve had a fondness for the genre and have made attempts to watch every series from it, however one managed to slip me by: Overlord. With Anime Limited now bringing the series to the UK, I’ve finally had a chance to give it a watch and see if it brings anything exciting to an already crowded market.
Overlord, as you may have already guessed, is based around an MMO (or DMMORPG) called Yggdrasil. Sadly, Yggdrasil is being closed down after its 12-year run. Our main character, Momonga, has signed in to say goodbye to the game he’s spent so long playing, as well as the Great Tomb of Nazarick – the guildhall that he and his friends built. However, as the clock strikes midnight Momonga suddenly finds himself trapped in the game!
Momonga quickly discovers that the world he’s been transported into isn’t Yggdrasil. With this in mind he decides the best course of action is to leave some of his (formally NPC) floor guardians to look after Nazarick while he travels to research the areas nearby. Momonga also wishes to attract the attention of his former guild mates, if they’re in this world, thus changes his name to that of the guild itself: Ainz Ooal Gown (often shortened to Ainz). While journeying through the world and looking for his friends, just how will our hero choose to live?
Overlord has a fairly basic set-up and in many ways reminds me of Log Horizon. Ainz is very knowledgeable about the world of Yggdrasil and the place he’s found himself living in now is very similar. Having played the Yggdrasil game for so many years he’s also very powerful, as are the Floor Guardians who were formally created by the members of the guild. While it’s nice not having a novice protagonist for a change, it also means that there isn’t much that is a real threat for Ainz (at least for the majority of this season).
I find this series fairly difficult to pin down in terms of what makes it unique, and perhaps the only thing that does is its cast of characters. Rather than Ainz being a humanoid character, he’s actually a skeletal monster type. Only one of the Floor Guardians appears to be human as well. The other interesting thing is that Ainz does not care about saving the world or being a nice person. He has no issue with killing someone who gets in his way or isn’t useful to him. This results in a nice contrast to Log Horizon with its mostly human cast and views on trying to make the world safe for all the adventurers.
When it comes to the plot, I did find that Overlord sometimes gets bogged down with too many details. This isn’t dissimilar to Log Horizon’s way of storytelling. That’s not a bad thing overall but it does mean the show is hard to marathon because there’s so much information to take in. This first season also ends very openly, and if not for the news of a season two now forthcoming I’d be complaining about this a bit more. However, the open-ending isn’t really the anime’s fault as the show is based on a light novel series (which Yen Press publish in English) and adapts the first three volumes. It’s likely that there just wasn’t a better stopping point to hit.
Animation for the series has been handled by Madhouse, who I usually find are a solid studio but the work for Overlord wasn’t great. The animation on the whole is nicely detailed for scenes without much movement, but when you move to a battle scene it’s littered with awful CGI monsters that feel incredibly out of place against the more traditional animation. It was obviously a measure to save costs but it just leaves the series looking unremarkable and downright ugly. Hopefully the next season has better CGI or just drops it unless it’s being used for magic.
The music for Overlord fares a lot better than the animation. Shuji Katayama (Super Loves, Saga of Tanya the Evil) is the composer behind the soundtrack and has put together some wonderful scores full of violins, guitar and piano pieces. It works well both within the context of the show and as a standalone album, which I always really appreciate. The opening theme for the series is “Clattanoia” by OxT, which is a punk-rock track that works as the perfect opening for an anime like this. The ending theme is “L.L.L” by Myth & Roid, which is also a rock track that works well as the closing song.
On the whole voice actor performances are good but nothing remarkable. Ainz is played by Satoshi Hino (Daichi Sawamura in Haikyu!!, Warbler in ACCA) in Japanese and Hino brings a lot of character to the overlord. There is also an English dub on offer and while it doesn’t sound bad, it’s not memorable enough for me to mention the voice actors involved.
This release comes to the UK thanks to Funimation, who have released it on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a Blu-ray collector’s edition. The collector’s edition includes 9 art cards, but all of the sets include trailers, clean opening and closing videos, episode commentaries, and Play Play Pleiades shorts. The releases include all 13 episodes both subbed and dubbed.
Overall Overlord isn’t a bad watch but I think if you’ve read the light novels before watching the anime you’ll probably enjoy it more. The series is trying to do something different to the norm but is let down by some truly awful CGI. If not for a second season I’m not sure I’d be recommending it, but with that in mind I think Overlord is worth giving a chance if you like this genre of anime. Just maybe make sure you read the books afterwards, if you haven’t already.