Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Limited Edition BD+DVD
Ains Ooal Goan is growing ever more used to his new life as what was once his character in the defunct MMORPG Yggdrasil, and that means that he's continuing to expand the reach of the Tomb of Nazarick. This entails both setting his minions to see what they can do, as Cocytus is set to wage war on the tribes of lizardmen and Sebas keeps and eye on things in more populous areas, and continuing to maintain his legacy as the adventurer Momon. But even the best of evil overlords can get into unexpected situations, and when Sebas seems to be taking unnecessary actions, will Ains remember his past as an ordinary guy?
There's a fairly substantial gap between seasons one and two of Overlord (although nothing like the wait between seasons of Fullmetal Panic), but despite that it's pretty easy to get back into the adventures of the giant skeleton known as Ains Ooal Goan. In part this is due to some well-executed flashbacks and character reintroductions in the initial episode – we're reminded of the major political players in what was once the MMORPG Yggdrasil, Ains' role as he learns to navigate them in real-time, and who his companions/minions are and what they've been up to. Most importantly in relation to season one, we see that Shalltear Bloodfallen, the vampire who went berserk at the end of season one, is back in the fold, albeit in a severely depressed state. Getting her back to herself is one of Ains' first jobs as the lord of Nazarick, and with that comes a reminder that perhaps the kindest, most Ains-y thing he can do is to punish her, even if he doesn't believe that she strictly needs it.
Ains' relationship with his Tomb Guardians is, to a degree, at the root of the first of two story arcs that make up this thirteen-episode season. The over-plot for this arc is Nazarick's war with the lizardman tribes who live in a relatively nearby area; Ains sets Cocytus on them to see what he's capable of and whether or not the lizardmen are worth bringing into the Nazarick fold. At only five episodes and with some truly odd plot points, as well as a couple of uncomfortable ones, this arc makes for a very entertaining commentary episode but not a particularly strong story overall. In part this is because the lizardmen, who are iconographically similar to early depictions of many native peoples in colonized lands, are treated as inferiors by the outsiders they interact with. While this is hardly limited to how Overlord depicts the species, it is still troublesome, particularly when their weaponry and magic use is so obviously behind the more humanoid races. (Granted, Cocytus looks like a giant insect and he's working for a giant skeleton, but it still treads some uncomfortable ground.) They're depicted as more primitive than most of the others in the series as a whole, and while Ains does eventually decide that they're worth bringing under his fold, and that Cocytus is doing a good job as his minion, there's an unpleasant connotation to the whole thing that won't sit well with all viewers.
On the other hand, lizardman sex. Yes, this arc has a sex scene between two of the lizard people, which is more surprising than explicit, and also brings us one of both Ains voice actors' funnier moments, when he accidentally spies on the two while trying to figure out where all of the major players in the battle got to. Ains isn't thrilled to get an eyeful (as opposed to the lizard who walks in on them; privacy is clearly not meant to be for these two), but he's more worried that he's now going to have to give the birds and the bees talk to the twins, the youngest of his retainers. In terms of the way the whole scene is actually presented, if nothing else it does an excellent job with the follow-through on how lizardmen use their tails to enhance their communication, a particular strength of the arc in general.
Episode six switches things over to the continuation of Ains' adventures among the humans as he and several others shift their attention to a crime syndicate known as Eight Fingers. The group has grown too powerful for anyone's liking, and Sebas, along with Pleide Epsilon, have been sent undercover in the city to suss them out. This leads to Sebas discovering Tuare, a young woman who has been horrifically beaten and abused by an Eight Fingers-owned brothel. The images of her are far more disturbing than any amount of consensual lizardman intercourse – Tuare has had her teeth and nails pulled out, is covered in cuts and bruises, and is barely recognizable as a human woman. All of this is shown very clearly, and what we can't see is described for us by Epsilon once Sebas gets the young woman to his house. Whether or not it means to, Overlord showcases the dangers that can befall sex workers and victims of human trafficking in a few very powerful scenes that are rendered even more so by the lack of sensationalism they display.
And Sebas is not going to stand for it.
Sebas' role in this season is the strongest piece of character work that the series has showcased thus far, in part because it has to be done in only seven episodes, whereas Ains has basically the rest of the series to develop. Sebas is the creation of the most good-aligned member of Ains' old guild, and that shows in how he reacts – like all of Ains' followers, he's ludicrously strong, but unlike Demiurge, who just wants to burn the world for fun, or Albedo, who slavishly serves Ains, Sebas uses his power to do what he believes is right. While he wouldn't overtly go against Ains (and perhaps knows his leader a bit better than anyone in that he seems to assume that Ains will ultimately do the right [good] thing), he also isn't going to let Epsilon talk him out of saving and keeping Tuare safe, nor is he going to let the men who almost killed her live. Amusingly enough, this also gains Sebas a couple of do-gooder groupies, the knight Climb and Lord Brain, whom Shalltear defeated in season one. Both men see Sebas as a force for ultimate good, and they aren't entirely wrong. While we're unlikely to get a Law&Order: Sebas Unit spin-off of the series, it doesn't feel like it would be entirely out of character for our elderly gentleman to star in one – something Ains understands when he agrees that Tuare will become a maid at the Tomb and serve him so that he can join Sebas as her guardian. This also allows Ains to reaffirm to himself that he hasn't completely lost touch with his former humanity, something he worries about, although it still begs the question of who is ultimately more human: Ains or Sebas.
While there are other interesting pieces of character development, with Princess Renner particularly standing out, those are largely sidelined for season three as part of the political machinations going on among the many rulers of what was once Yggdrasil. Fortunately both dub and sub do a good job of keeping up with these developments, with Princess Renner's VAs having some interesting shifts to work with. It's also worth mentioning that Sebas this season is played by Bill Jenkins replacing the late Ed Blaylock – Jenkins does a good job of sounding enough like Blaylock that it isn't disconcerting while still feeling like he makes the role his own. The visuals also remain sound, although there are consistent difficulties with Sebas' walk cycle.
Overlord II's ending feels a bit anti-climactic, but with season three coming much closer on its heels than it followed on season one, that feels like it might be excusable. For the most part it balances its issues – the treatment of the lizardmen and the uncomfortable depiction of Cocco Doll, who reads like an insensitive bad-old-days transperson portrayal – with its positives, such as the moments of humor as Ains screws something up (which no one but him notices) or Albedo's amazing “nude” Ains hug pillows. The limited edition comes with an art booklet and a cloth poster of an unmasked Evileye as well as the usual DVD and BD with two episode commentaries, clean songs, Anime Expo messages and interviews, previews, trailers, and the “Play Play Pleides” video, all in a very attractive box. You definitely need to be familiar with the first season (or the novels that it's based on), but if you are, this is a worthy continuation of Ains' tale of domination.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Great musical score, strong character development for Sebas, some great moments of humor
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