The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Overlord II ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
What is clear from the first episode is that this is not a jumping-on point for the franchise. Although there is some scattered recapping of events from the first season, it isn't anywhere near enough on its own to make full sense of even the series’ basic scenario, much less what has transpired to date. If you haven't already watched the first season (or read its corresponding novels), go back and do that first.
For that matter, even returning viewers may want to go back and rewatch parts of the first season before starting this one, as there are some characters outside of the Nazarick crew who look like they will be carrying over and the actions of some new characters look like they will be connected to things that happened in the first season. On top of that, the series throws out a bevy of new faces to go with the old ones. The girl who is playing with the Rubik's cube in the opening scene looks like one of the season's new villains, but the man talking to her very briefly appeared in the scene in episode 10 where Shalltear got controlled (he's the one that she said was “strong”), so presumably that's all connected. Our old buddy Gazef Stronoff is back, talking to newly-appearing King of Re-Estize, its Princess Renner, and her loyal soldier/guard(?) Climb. We also have a dragon and an old woman who appear to know about Yggdrasil (and one of whom may have encountered Shalltear before, based on a brief flashback) and, most interestingly, some lizard men. The opener suggests that all of them plus some we haven't met yet are going to be involved in this season's plot lines, with the lizard men up first.
The problem is that, at this point, what's going on is all a jumble, as there are just so many threads spinning right now. Ains acquiring a partial world map allows for some more expansive exposition on what exists where, and we get some further hints that the world-jumping has been happening over the course of centuries, but we also have threads pointing to Ains eventually meeting the king, the creation of a dummy Nazarick, whatever war Cocytus is marching off to, and so forth. Granted, this all gives this season a lot to work with plot-wise, and that seems to have been the point here, so I can give the series a little leeway for that. Also filtered in are some lighter moments, like Ains continuing to be thrown off by Albedo's overzealous devotion, Shalltear's futile attempt to get drunk, Aura randomly eating a cheeseburger, fries, and Coke for lunch, or the penguin assistant butler. Yggdrasil must have been a pretty weird game.
Basically, this episode gives the impression of the story trying to get its act together enough to push forward. That definitely doesn't place it among the better episodes of animation so far, even though the technical merits remain about the same. The real test will be what the series does as the plots get underway.
Funimation's simuldub for the first episode of the second season is also now underway. Unsurprisingly, it seems to be carrying over the whole cast from the dub of the first season. That means my likes and dislikes for established roles are the same: the titular character sounds fine in his inner voice but never feels quite deep or commanding enough when speaking as Ains, while Cocytus sounds especially fitting. Of new roles, Monica Rial was my first thought for who should voice the young woman at the beginning of the episode, and apparently the ADR director was of the same mind. The penguin butler and lizard men are also quite fittingly-cast and dialog interpretations so far are reasonable. I am most interested to see how Crusch will be handled, but we'll have to wait another episode for that.
Alright, full disclosure up front: I ain't the biggest fan of Overlord. In fact, I don't really like it at all! But I totally get what its intended audience digs about it. Overlord is an unrestrained MMO-based power fantasy that doesn't bend to the standard fantasy light novel cliches in its choice of aesthetic or narrative goals (even if very little about it is different from every other overpowered isekai fantasy under the surface). But sure, I get it. Ains's dream of conquering the world in order to find other humans from his own universe is a great hook, and taking the artifice out of the "most powerful hero" premise by making him an outright "villain" gaming this fantasy world to his advantage is cathartic in a pure-id kind of way. I just got tired of seeing every conflict resolve the exact same way; Ains rattles off a litany of skills and dredges up items from his god-tier arsenal, the bad guys (okay, worse guys) cower and crumble, begin the next quest with a bazillion proper nouns and arbitrary plot points.
Anyway, this first episode of season two reminded of all the things I really don't like about Overlord, but also the one thing I really do like about it. Once you get past several dozen bullshit scenes of setup for the next arc (with new characters spouting more proper nouns we don't know) and recap of the last arc (framed as harem-lite scenes with Ains' obsessive demon and vampire girlfriends to hold your attention I guess), Overlord II finally dips its toe into fresh plot momentum with an unexpected assault on an innocent village of lizardmen. Will Ains show up to save the day while furthering his goal of world domination, playing the role of conqueror while secretly being a good guy (from a certain point of view) on the inside? Yeah, probably. But more importantly, we got a ton of what I do like about the show: its wide array of gnarly, monstrous characters in lieu of any standard anime designs. This episode serves us up a frankenstein dog maid, a rock hopper penguin butler, a pustulous shroom-headed bartender, and of course that village full of lizard-men that are just buff and armored enough to avoid looking like generic scrub-monsters. Even the more standard gothic lolita vampire Shalltear has a truly repulsive alternate form that resembles a ghoulish Gollum-esque lamprey. I dig those touches, and I think they really do help Overlord stand out from the crowd.
All that said, this is not the best reprise of a premiere Overlord could have delivered. With so much time spent reiterating stuff we already know or foreshadowing stuff we have yet to care about through flatly-staged monologues, it's clear that Ains Ooal Gown's best days are still ahead of him. This episode was kind of a snoozer, but with any luck, maybe this season will deliver more on its premise than the first one did and push our hero/villain's plans forward with more gusto and more reveals about the true nature of his new world.
It's never easy to get going after a prolonged break. How much do you trust your viewers to remember about the previous season? Do you need to go full recap, or maybe just partial? Overlord II¸ a follow-up to 2015's initial adaptation of Kugane Maruyama's light novel series, goes the latter route with a first episode that's part recap, part character introduction until it gets down to the good (i.e. new) stuff in the last three minutes. That doesn't make for a terrible episode, but it also isn't a particularly interesting one.
Basically things pick up right after Ains has taken care of the brain-washed Shalltear problem that the first series ended on, which is also the end of volume three of the original novels. In book terms that leaves at the start of The Lizardman Heroes, but rather than jumping right in there, the anime chooses to reacquaint us with Ains’ retainers and what they're up to along with a few other character introductions. Judging by the opening theme (which is pretty good), the princess Renner and her knight Climb are going to be the most important new characters other than the lizardmen themselves, but it looks like there will be a fairly substantial amount of people overall. Dragons also look set to form part of the cast, with this episode introducing us to Tsa and his former human companion Rigrit, now an old woman. Then there's the whole Rubik's Cube scene that may be the new bad guys’ entry into the story, plus the various heads of state…honestly, it feels like the show might have been better off just jumping into the new plot and introducing people organically as they pop up in the story.
The idea of lizardmen as main characters is intriguing, since they're usually not given main character status, much less a heroic one. The giant ball of mouths is appropriately grotesque and vaguely terrifying (somehow disembodied mouths are scarier than other random body parts), and the fact that lizardmen are apparently an insular community means that this is not going to be an easy fight for them – they're almost certain to need outside help that they're going to be reluctant to ask for. It seems as if there's going to be plenty of exciting plot to build this second season on…it's just too bad so little of it made it into this episode.
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