Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
BD + DVD [Standard Edition]
As Ainz more fully adjusts to his new life, he begins to implement his plans for the Great Tomb of Nazarick and its environs – namely, changing those “environs” to “territory.” Having already studied both Carne Village and the lizardman battles, he feels ready to move on to the next steps of asserting control through violence over the city of E-Rantel. Is Ainz' new form warping his sense of his former humanity? Does he still think of this as a game? And is the former Yggdrasil ready for the rule of the Sorcerer King?
Overlord's third anime season enjoys playing with your emotions. In part this has all been set up in the previous seasons – we've become accustomed to thinking of Ainz as just a regular guy trapped in the body of an undead sorcerer; a giant skeleton on the outside, but still basically human on the inside. After all, we watched him save Carne Village and Tuare – those are acts of goodness, right? This season's initial episodes are also invested in reminding us of Ainz' more human qualities: he takes a bath, he's oblivious over the ladies fighting over him (when he's not panicking about it), he's totally winging it when everyone thinks he's got everything all planned out…in the first four episodes, we can almost see him as the super-powerful skeleton version of any old shounen fantasy hero.
And then things begin to change.
Episode five (of thirteen) marks where the shift happens, but if you've been paying attention, Ainz has been making a slow slide into villain territory for quite some time now. While he continues to look out for his own, there's now some doubt as to who that is and what it means – he's always going to have his floor guardians at the forefront of his mind, but do the villagers in Carne count as “his own?” And is it in the same sense? As we watch him shift his focus to conquest and increasingly high body counts, it feels as if saving Tuare for Sebas in season two really was an aberration, and one done strictly for Sebas rather than out of any care for what the girl herself had gone through. This is viciously driven home in the sequence of events surrounding the Baharuth Empire, when the emperor sends out bands of adventurers to explore Nazarick, which they believe to be an ancient, uninhabited ruin.
The initial “discovery” of the Great Tomb can be read as the natives of the world that was once Yggdrasil finally noticing that things are somehow different. We haven't seen tons of evidence that they noticed a shift in the way that their world worked when Ainz found himself trapped in the former game, and this is the first major movement against those changes we've been privy to. Essentially it's our window into how regular everyday people see Ainz and his home, and given the basic sword and sorcery fantasy setting, it makes sense that their inclination would be “explore and exploit.” For Ainz and his people, this could easily be interpreted as an act of aggression, and it's well within Ainz' rights to react to it as such.
Where things go a step further, however, is simply in how he does so. Up until this point, we've had reason to believe that Ainz would do away with the truly bad people and allow the good ones (or those presented as “less bad”) to go home with a warning for the emperor. To see him break with that is, therefore, if not shocking, then at least disturbing. The show goes to great lengths to set up the adventurer party Foresight as a group of four basically good people, all with their own specific motivations for taking the job, none of which are their own glorification. Arche, in particular, is shown to be working to free her younger sisters from her avaricious parents' grasp, a motive that would in past seasons almost certainly aroused Ainz' kindness. That it does not here is a clear sign that something has changed within him; even before he remarks that he feels no guilt at the deaths he's causing, just mild curiosity about how his spells and items will work, we can see that's what's going on. While I hesitate to say that this remorseless Ainz is new, this certainly feels like the first time he's so wholeheartedly embraced that facet of his character, and the results are disturbing.
That also makes it interesting when we see smaller moments of his old humanity shine through. His actions towards Gazeff are particularly worth noting, as they indicate his true fondness for the man, and his fascination with Carne Village and its leader Enri are also something we should pay attention to. (This is especially true if it turns out that Enri's surprising power comes from her humanity and kindness; we could be setting her up as the ultimate rival/enemy for Ainz as she weaponizes emotions he seems to be losing touch with.) He's also far nicer when in his guise as the adventurer Momon, as we see towards the very end of the series – essentially he plays his human side against his growing evil side, and if a fourth season does materialize (as English ADR director Kyle Phillips implies there will be numerous times through all three commentaries), that's also going to be worth keeping an eye on, especially if other former players show up – and Ainz' continual reference to them as “players” really could indicate that a piece of him still sees this whole thing as a game.
The standard edition of this series lacks fancy extras but is still good with the on-disc bonuses. There are three dub commentaries, one of which is a video commentary, and all three vary their discussions nicely enough that they don't feel repetitive, with the two standards – for episodes eight and thirteen – covering some interesting industry topics, such as the use of idioms in dub scripts. The third installment of the “Play Play Pleiades” mini-series is also included, as well as a good selection of commercials. Animation is still quite uneven, with an increase in clunky-looking CG, which is too bad, and a few of the earlier seasons' questionable artistic choices still present, such as Ainz' Christmas goblin mask. The English dub continues strong, although no two actors pronounce the name of the emperor quite the same way.
Overlord III marks a darker turn for the franchise, and it's one that largely works. It may be a bit too much for some viewers in a few places – if you're not a fan of cockroaches, be warned – but its balance of lighter fare and the grimmer content is good, allowing the series to maintain its position as one of the most interesting in its genre.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Driving music, interesting shift to darker material, plenty of potential foreshadowing of future developments
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