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Listening to: Clattanoia – O x T (Overlord Opening)

This review is free of major spoilers, in the interests of being helpful to those who are considering watching the show in question.

“Please bestow your orders upon us, Supreme One. We offer our complete loyalty to you.”

To the most casual observer, Overlord might appear to be derivative. It shares a basic premise with Sword Art Online: a protagonist trapped inside a video game, and the adventures that they have as they attempt to navigate the world. However, the two series could not be more different, both in tone and the way that the premise is carried out. As for how that makes a difference… well, wait and see.

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Overlord opens with the announcement that the servers of the popular Dive-MMORPG, Yggdrasil Online, will be shutting down. Momonga, the leader of the guild Ainz Ooal Gown, decides to hold a vigil of sorts, staying online until the servers are shut down at midnight. When midnight passes, however, Momonga finds himself still in the Tomb of Nazarick–his guild’s headquarters. What’s more, the NPC guardians that his guild trained are suddenly showing a lot more personality than programs usually do.

Momonga decides to make the best of things, taking on the persona of the Overlord that all of the guardians expect him to be. In the meantime, he tries to find out as much as he can about how the world has changed, and perhaps if other players from Yggdrasil found their way inside the new world as well.

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The protagonist of Overlord, Momonga, is a fairly interesting case. During the first half of the episode, while he’s communicating with his former guild-mates, he is soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and generally cheerful. This is a far cry from the persona that he strives to cultivate in front of his subordinates: a stoic lich with unfathomable magical powers, seen by the adoring guardians as a sort of god. His right-hand woman, a succubus named Albedo, is his fiercest supporter, and very quick to call out anyone she perceives as being disrespectful to her lord.

The minor characters are all quite entertaining, from the jocular air of the six-armed colossus Cocytus to the self-assured poise of the glasses-wearing demon, Demiurge. My favorite minor character, however, has to be Narberal, a doppelganger woman with an extreme distaste for human society and an irritated lack of respect for anyone that isn’t her immediate superior. Her peeved reactions at being ordered to act out normal human interaction are quite a sight to behold.

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The plot is fairly solid, and quite entertaining. This isn’t really an underdog story: Momonga has already hit max level when the story begins, and his difficulties stem more from trying to secure his subordinates’ place in the world and find other players than they do from actually having trouble fighting. The very beginning is probably the strongest part, though: Momonga’s sadness and difficulty in letting go of the online community after everyone else has moved on is almost too true to life.

The one plot thread that might cause hesitation is Momonga’s relationship with Albedo. While waiting for the servers to go down, Momonga edits her code from “is a bitch” to “is in love with Momonga.” When she begins displaying a personality, he is (rightly) horrified at having edited her–partially because he edited something that one of his friends had done to begin with, and partially because he wasn’t anticipating that kind of consequences. I was of the opinion that he handled the aftermath fairly well, all things considered, but others may differ. Fortunately, this isn’t a romance anime, so most of the “romantic” elements get shoved aside in favor of action scenes.

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And goodness gracious, those action scenes. From the beginning scene, where an Yggdrasil Online party attempts to raid the Tomb of Nazarick, the action scenes are frequent and gorgeous. Madhouse, the company behind the anime, definitely went all-out on this one. The differing animation styles between the summoned undead and the normal characters can be a bit distracting at times, but it fits in well with the conceit that the anime was a game to begin with. (As a bonus, Albedo’s combat scenes have her scorning the usual female-demon armor of “two postage stamps and a piece of string” in favor of full plate armor and a battle-axe. She. Looks. Awesome.)

The music is written by Shuji Katayama, and it lives up to the challenge of accompanying the fight scenes. From grand choruses during Momonga’s magic duels to percussion underscoring hand-to-hand combat, Katayama does a fine job of highlighting the action without having the score take over completely.

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Overlord was probably one of the series I enjoyed the most this season, especially being able to participate in the fandom and see others react to each episode. While a second season has yet to be announced, the finale dropped enough hints at future plotlines that it’s a definite possibility. Hopefully we’ll see more of this in the future!

CONCLUSION

Rating: 3.9 out of 5
Ruling: Overlord is an entertaining spin on a tried-and-true premise, and the unique perspective from which it shows events is especially refreshing. Whether you’re a fan of villain protagonists or are just looking for the next fantasy anime on your list, definitely give Overlord a try.

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