By Tim Minahan, 25 March 2016
If you’re wondering what I do when I’m not playing video games or drawing comics, it’s actually not watching TV. I seldom get the chance to sit down to watch a new show, be it cartoon or drama unless it’s for a podcast (Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, I’m looking at you two). So when friends suggest shows for me to watch such as Overlord, I typically never get around to it. Clearly, I found some time to watch this one though, otherwise this post would be about my lack of downtime instead. My friends Kittifer and Steelix told me I had to watch this anime, as it was similar to two others that I’ve enjoyed, but way better. With a review like that I had to check it out right? So I popped it onto my tablet, and set out to watch it while running on the elliptical. First things first, I watched the subbed version for two reasons. Firstly, it was the only version I could find, and second, my focusing on the subtitles helped me ignore the pain in my legs.
For the uninitiated, Overlord started as a Japanese light novel series by Kugane Maruyama and illustrated by so-bin that had its anime debut in the Fall of 2015. The story follows Momonga, the last member of the illustrious, non-human guild of the MMO Yggdrasil. As he stays for the last few minutes that the server will be active, to honor the game he loved and the guildmates/friends he’s made in that fantasy world. As the last minute ticks past, and a new day begins, Momonga finds that he’s still in his avatar’s body, that of an undead magic caster, and unable to contact admins or access user functions indicative of the MMO Yggdrasil.
This is where Overlord divides from the archetype that .Hack and Sword Art Online set before it. In the former animes, the protagonists felt some plight in their situation and needed a way to escape the virtual world. Momonga very much doesn’t care to go back, stating that he has no life worth going back to. Instead he decides to do what any good gamer would do; try and take over the world.
Well, not exactly that. Momonga’s guild, Ains Ool Gown, was one of the most powerful and famous of Yggdrasil guilds. Momonga’s mission is to spread that fame across the new world that he inhabits to find other Yggdrasil gamers to aid them, and perpetuate the guild’s name into the future.
Overlord serves as an outlet for any gamer who has reached max level with their virtual avatar, but never got to feel the true godhood that comes with it. Momonga is very clearly an all powerful being, being the highest level caster possible in Yggdrasil, and all the NPC subjects, now bequeathed with life and free will in the new world, recognize him as a god. The show tows the line between Momonga’s personal feelings and goals, with his duties as the only guild leader left in Ains Ool Gown, responsible for its treasures and its people. It’s something that you very rarely think about when you, yourself are a gamer. In a game, we are protected by code to have things most precious taken from us, hoarding them as if they were real. In Overlord, these treasures all have meaning, history, and would be catastrophic to lose. I’d John Wick a village as my Lvl 83 Blood Elf Paladin if someone took my baby phoenix, Nephthys.
As mentioned, the NPCs of Yggdrasil now have a new found life, and act as the supporting cast to Momonga. They are all extremely high level, and possess skills, weapons, and personalities as programmed by their former creators. It’s difficult to not find one that you are drawn to. It’s also fascinating to see how once lifeless being react once alive. I found myself more often interested in what they were doing rather than Momonga. As you get to know me, you’ll realize that I love side characters more often than the protagonist. It’s in part because protagonists suffer from plot armor. One Punch Man beautifully satirizes this concept that’s been endemic in the medium for years. There are things that I like about Momonga, but I’m not worried about his survival. If anything, I worry about his NPCs more, because they are the most likely avenue to introducing conflict and personal character growth in the Undead Overlord.
Overlord is a good time, that captures the attention of anyone who has ever dreamed of being their virtual avatar or being a god. It’ll grip at you, and make you interested in it’s world and characters to the point that you’ll ignore the inflammation in your calf from running at a resistance of four for 2 miles, which is both impressive for the shows and concerning for my own personal safety. I give Overlord a solid 4 surprisingly satisfying buns out of 5.
If you want more Overlord goodness, Jim and I will be having a podcast on the anime this Saturday, March 26th, at 1:00pm EST on our Twitch channel. We’ll be playing Torchlight 2, partially because it’s fitting with the conversation but mostly because I’ve been ignoring his invites for 7 months.