Continuing in his quest to rule the new world he found himself in, human turned sorcerer supreme Ains Ooal Gown, ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, continues to put the pieces in place to secure his conquest of the land of E-Rantel. Between the uprising of a tribe of Lizard Men and keeping up his double life as the adamantite adventurer Lord Momon, Ains truly has his work cut out for him. Thankfully, his most loyal subordinates are more than willing to give him a helping hand in securing his takeover.
Although I’d say I liked the 2015 light novel adaptation Overlord a little more than Demelza did in her review of the first season, generally speaking, my thoughts line up fairly nicely with hers. It was a solid fantasy anime, nothing that particularly broke the mold, but an enjoyable watch nonetheless, with the unique angle of having an anti-hero protagonist being enough to make it stand out amongst the dozens of shows looking to cash in on the isekai craze that went into full swing in the wake of Sword Art Online’s monumental popularity. So, with a solid foundation in place, did Overlord’s sequel build on its predecessor? In some respects, yes, but it is a mixed bag.
As I previously mentioned, a lot of the main appeal of Overlord came from the protagonist Ains Ooal Gown. Not only did his attempts to rule the world set him apart from your average bland protagonist, alongside his distinct skeletal design, but he was just a whole ton of fun to watch, making for an engaging lead and excellent audience surrogate. So, it was to my initial disappointment, and I imagine to the disappointment of many others, that Season 2 opts to almost immediately jettison Ains from the show entirely. His appearances this time around are rather sparse, outside of a couple of episodes, sometimes not even showing up at all, essentially being relegated to a side character in his own show, zapping a lot of the initial enthusiasm I had for the franchise in the process.
A lot of the time, it feels like an entirely different anime as opposed to an Overlord sequel, with the actual plot of world conquest not really being furthered much at all. The prime example of this is the entire first half, which involves a tribe of Lizard Men attempting to combat an oncoming attack from Ains. Taken as its own story, I have absolutely zero qualms about this arc, there are some new characters introduced that are very likeable, and a sizeable chunk of good action to boot, but when you take it as part of Overlord as a whole, it suddenly becomes quite flawed. You spend five or so episodes with these new characters, who essentially become the protagonists for a while, only for them to never be relevant again after the sixth episode. The benefit of foresight also means I know that they barely appear in the show’s third season either, meaning that’s a good eighteen episodes before these characters might actually become relevant again, and that’s just on the assumption more anime even happens at all, which it might not. When you look at it like this, it becomes very hard not to see these episodes as an exercise in excessive time wasting, the likes of which I’d thought would be relegated to Naruto and its ilk.
It is also when watching this arc of the show that a gaping flaw comes into view on a conceptual level too, and that is that Ains is far too powerful, and it strips the series of any sort of tension in the slightest. Ains, for all we have seen in the anime so far at least, is easily the most powerful being in existence, meaning that all the screen time spent showing the Lizard Men coming up with plans to combat Ains and mounting a defence is all moot, because you know they don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell at winning. When the main character can steamroll anything and anytime with no effort, you quickly find yourself running out of reasons to care.
Luckily, the second half of Overlord II finds ways around this crippling design flaw, as we shift the focus to Ains’ butler Sebas. Whilst the goings-on with the Lizard Men directly involved Ains, the main conflict in the Eight Fingers arc sees him out of the picture entirely, and despite how much I love the character, this does absolute wonders for the quality of the show. Sebas, whilst still crazy strong, has nothing on his God-tier master, and the addition of human companions, who are vulnerable by their own admission, brings back some much needed dramatic tension, even if it is somewhat undone by the existence of resurrection magic.
Although Ains’ doesn’t get a ton of screen time this go-around, his sacrifice is not in vain, as we see two characters who were previously in support roles get a larger spotlight. The first of these is Cocytus, who was a bit of a let-down. Outside of gaining some knowledge on battle tactics, we don’t really see him develop, nor do we find out anything about his personality, as he remains as bland as he was before. On the other hand, we have Sebas, who is easily the MVP of Overlord II. Sebas was not a memorable character in the slightest before, whereas here, I quickly found myself very attached to him, with the combination of cuddly grandad and ruthless killing machine making for an oddly compelling lead that guides the entire second arc. There are a handful of new characters who make their debut here, most notably Princess Renner and her guard Climb, but neither make for particularly memorable or compelling additions to the cast.
Fan favourite studio Madhouse (Death Note, Cardcaptor Sakura, Hunter x Hunter) return once more to animate this follow up, and once again they don’t exactly bring their a-game. The animation is far from bad, it’s probably a lot better than some other studios could muster on their best days, but by the standards set by Madhouse themselves on previous productions, it just isn’t really up to snuff. This is also not to mention the continued use of rather atrocious looking CG work that rears its ugly head once more to remind you that there is no good replacement for traditional animation, at least within the realm of anime.
For a cast stocked with relatively unknown actors, Overlord II manages to pull off a surprisingly great English dub. Leading the cast is Chris Guerrero (Assassination Classroom, Black Clover, My Hero Academia), who manages to swap between the imposing outer voice of Ains and his more subdued and nervous inner voice with ease, sounding like two completely different people. Other cast members include Elizabeth Maxwell (Fuuka, Ghost in the Shell Arise, Attack on Titan), Felecia Angelle (Gangsta., Keijo, Seraph of the End) and Amanda Lee (Zombie Land Saga, Hinamatsuri, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card).
OxT and MYTH&ROID return to once again contribute the opening and ending respectively, both delivering two solid songs, especially OxT with ‘Go Cry Go’, which is an absolutely fantastic tune that gets you really pumped up like any good action opening should. Shuji Katayama also reprises his position as the composer, creating a pretty great soundtrack.
Overlord II is being released by Manga Entertainment as a limited Collector’s Edition from zavvi in the UK, taking over from Anime Limited, who brought out the first season. Whilst a nice looking release, with fantastic artwork from the light novel’s artist so-bin, I cannot abide by the price point. At £50, even the addition of a booklet and poster can’t justify the absurd hike over the cost of Season 1’s Limited Edition, which went for a little over £30. Disappointingly, there are no plans to release a standard edition DVD or Blu-ray either, meaning there isn’t a cheaper alternative to the high-priced collector’s fare.
An entertaining yet woefully uneven follow up, Overlord II will no doubt divide fans over the lack of Ains, yet those willing to overlook that will certainly find something to enjoy, especially in the excellent latter half.