Overlord and Overlord II Ep. 1: What is this?

What’s so great about this anime? It’s not SAO bad, thankfully, but it’s not exactly a must-watch series either. I even had a coworker ask me if I had seen this yet, because (according to her) it’s totally different from all those “stuck in an MMO” adaptations. After all, the protagonist isn’t some generic, dual-wielding adventurer with a harem. Instead, it’s skeleton man who also masquerades as an adventurer, has a bag of overpowered tricks, and comes pre-installed with a harem right from the get-go. Ainz doesn’t even have to work for it. Simply just programs one of the girls to love him and voila… instant haremette. I guess my main problem is that people had to sell me on this show, and in order to do so — to convince me that Overlord is truly unique and different — they made it seem like the main character is some kind of villainous overlord (hence the name of the series).

Unfortunately, Ainz or Momonoga is not very villainous at all. He’s actually quite nice. I’m actually reminded of Velvet in Tales of Berseria. Early on, you might think you’re watching a badass in action, but as the story progresses, the main character eventually ends up being quite a boring goody-two-shoes. It’s also unclear how inhuman Ainz is supposed to be. Because he’s a Lich now or whatever, you can’t kill him by stabbing him in the eyes. Also, Albedo’s sexual charms don’t work on him, ’cause he no longer has a human libido. Most of all, it’s claimed that he doesn’t have as much empathy as before. But then he still has his inner voice — the middle-aged salary man voice — that comes out every once in a while, and that voice sure does seem human to me. Like how he’s completely embarrassed by Pandora’s Actor. That seems pretty damn human to me. All of a sudden, he can feel shame. Huh.

The other problem is that Ainz’s supposed selling point — his badassery — actually seems like a weakness to me. He’s completely boring as Ainz. He’s just this overpowered dude who is super prepared and knowledgeable about MMO mechanics. But unlike One Punch Man, which using comedic timing to take full advantage of the ease with which Saitama destroys his foes, Overlord plays it straight. Ainz just destroys his foes and there’s no further twist. I was completely bored by both major encounters in the first season: his duels against Clementine and Shalltear. They felt like a pair of fighters just shouting movelists at each other, and of course, Ainz comes out on top. There’s really no drama at any point in the first season. There’s no tension in any of the fights. The same is true with One Punch Man, but again, Saitama is a goofy dork that I can laugh at. I don’t know what to do with Ainz.

What is potentially interesting about Ainz is his human side, but it actually doesn’t come out as often as it should. Often times, when it does emerge, it’s usually only because he is uncomfortable with Albedo’s lovey-dovey behavior. Har har, get it, ’cause he’s a pathetic nerd in the real world who’s never been on a real date. This is a disservice to Ainz’s actual conflict, because the truth is that he’s completely alone in this world. He’s surrounded by fawning sycophants, which makes you wonder if he finds it maddening. After all, when’s the last time he’s had a meaningful conversation with a person and not a subject? Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of human Ainz to answer that question. There isn’t enough of human Ainz to lend any emotional weight to the story. We know he wants to find other players, but his feelings aren’t fully explored here.

The other characters are… well, they’re there. Points for showing up. None of them have any interesting personalities, though. They’re all super one-dimensional. The NPCs all worship Ainz because they were programmed to, so it just can’t be helped. And that’s it, really. For now, there’s no further depth to any of them. There’s no greater conflict with any of them to explore. Shalltear launches a rebellion, but it’s only because she was mind-controlled. Albedo is crazy, crazy in love and nothing more. Narberal looks down on humans like the rest of her kind, and she’s a maid. There’s really no other way to describe her because she’s that boring and simple a character. The other dudes are barely onscreen long enough to even leave an impression much less have any sort of character development. Early on, I thought maybe Demiurge was planning something behind Ainz’s back, but nah, he just misunderstood his boss and thought they should conquer the world.

The world so far hasn’t gripped me either. I mean, sure, there’s the mystery of why Nazarick has suddenly been transported to a new world. You wonder if there are any other Yggdrasil players in this world. You wonder where that girl even got a Rubik’s cube. You wonder about the world items and whatever. But these are just hints at something larger. These are just hints that have been planted so that the audience feels as though there’s a larger story being planned. But whether or not we’ll ever get to that larger story, nobody knows. In the meantime, I gotta watch Ainz pretend to be an adventurer so he can build up his fame like a regular MMO schmuck. And oh no, some downtrodden lizard dudes are under attack. None of these are particularly compelling stories. The MMO mechanics almost feel like a hindrance. Why are we even dealing with adventurer ranks and whatnot?

This is a post mostly about the first season of Overlord, because the first episode of Overlord II features a whole lot of talking and exposition. Soldier dude talks to some crazy girl who wants to mate with someone stronger than her. Old lady dude talks to dragon dude about getting more information. Soldier dude who I almost forgot about goes to speak to his king. Ainz returns to Nazarick to talk to Albedo about future plans. Then some lizard dudes talk to each other before they are under attack. It’s not the most scintillating way to kick off a new season. It’s actually downright boring. It’s just a whole bunch of setup. Yeah, sure, we need to set the stage for the stories to come, but again, the execution leaves me wanting. This is not some edge-of-your-seat political drama where I can’t allow a single spoken word to elude me.

But at the very end of the episode, I spy a sweet thank you message from Madhouse. They even mention their international supporters. So even though I don’t particularly enjoy this show, I’m glad its fans got to see their beloved series continue. I only wish I knew why they love it so much. Anyway, I might keep following Overlord II because it’s not horrible. I guess that’s the silver lining.

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