The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide Overlord II
How would you rate episode 1 of
Overlord II (TV 2) ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
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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