Produced by Studio Madhouse in 2015, Overlord is another entry into the ‘trapped in another world’ light novel adaptation genre. Unlike most of the entries, though, the original writer Kugane Maruyama is an avid fan of tabletop RPGs, the grandfather of video games, so expectations are slightly raised going in. ARE YOU READY TO SUBMIT TO THE GREAT AINZ OOAL GOWN?
Around the year 2150, a Dive Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Game entitled Yggdrassil is being shut down after a loss of sales and player interest. On the final day of the servers being up, the elder lich player Momonga, is saying farewell to the game with the few remaining members of his guild. They all end up logging out much earlier than him, so Momonga decides to walk the halls of the place they all called home, ‘The tomb of Nazerick’. Just before midnight, as the game is about to be turned offline, he closes his eyes and waits to be auto-logged out. Of course, this is an anime, so instead, he wakes up back in the tomb, but everything is real life instead of a video game. Outside the walls of the tomb is a whole new world, and as a mighty Elder Lich with an army at his side, he decides to try and take over the world, taking the name of his old guild, ’Ainz Ooal Gown,’ as his own.
The show consists of the first three volumes of the light novel. In a similar light to other Madhouse production One Punch Man, Momonga and his army are overpowered characters in comparison to the rest of the world. This could become tiresome after a few episodes, as you know who is going to win every fight, and how simplistic it is for your ‘villains’ to achieve victory. Luckily, as the show only covers the first three arcs of the story, this doesn’t get to the point of repetitiveness, even though the power fantasy is still present.
Surprisingly, this show feels a lot more like a typical battle shounen than you would expect at first glance, with each arc culminating with a gigantic boss fight. The strange part about this, though, is that the gender distribution of the antagonists is evenly split amongst males and females. Considering this is set in a contemporary medieval land, you would think it would predominantly be a bunch of masculine dudes or hulking grotesque monsters. This is an important reason why, I assume, Maruyama decided to have his main cast be a plethora of demons and monsters, to show more creativity and allow the whole spectrum of humanity to get slaughtered mercilessly, without looking like a horrible person. It could also be that the writer was a pervert and wanted more beautiful girls to fantasise about, which is backed by the fact that a man comprised of only a skeleton has a harem.
The original artist of Overlord is So-bin. They use detailed watercolour techniques to create masterpieces that highlight the dark depravity of the show. In the anime, it uses the super generic post-2010 art style that every other popular series uses, which is cheap to design and animate. For a lot of the more serious scenes, it feels off-putting, instead of morbid, and the viscera doesn’t have as much impact as it otherwise could have had with that grittier feel.
I spent most of my time reviewing this title using the dub track, and I will say that it is a really competent effort by Funimation. Chris Guerrero, who has never had a main character role before, provides the voice of both Ainz and Momonga. The differences in these two voices, whilst still sounding like they are the same person, are well done as they both sound human and lich respectively, and Ainz’s voice especially has the power behind it of a strong leader. When I originally watched the Japanese I didn’t even realise they were two separate voices. The two twins, Aura and Marie, were also better implemented in the dub, avoiding the annoyingly high pitched little girl voice that Japan seem to love for some reason.
I decided to treat myself and bought the fancy collector’s edition, so I should probably mention it. The exterior box is a matte black, with So-Bin’s Artwork adorning the front and back, a nice change from the key art you see on most releases. The two Blu-ray discs are then each in their own separate black Amaray case, to make it feel a bit meatier to hold. It also contains 8 art cards, which fit inside the box, unlike funi’s US release. The premium feel is great but is definitely not worth the extra £12 unless you are already a fan of the show.
Included as a bonus feature are the 6 Ple Ple Pleides shorts. These were originally released with each volume of the Japanese Blu-ray release, and chronicle Ainz’s misfortune with a magical item that makes him lose his ability to keep a rational mind at all times. These are animated in a chibi artwork style and total approximately 24 minutes. The shorts are a welcome addition to the release, and I believe they add to the overall package by giving a lighter side to the story, even though it can itself have some creepy moments.
Also included in the release are; English commentaries for episodes 2, 9 and 13 (I could not personally make it through one of them,) textless opening and ending videos (with irremovable English translation and romanji subtitles,) Japanese BD, DVD and TV spots, Japanese promos, and a ‘special preview collection’ containing alternate next episode previews voiced by the most important character from the previous episode, which were a nice touch to find bundled away.
Overlord is a great anime, and even though not having the best talent for character design it is still a competently put together production, with an amazing story. This show is worth picking up the standard edition version for any fan of anime, but try the anime on your streaming service of choice if you want to dive into owning the Collector’s Edition.