Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
BD+DVD - Complete Collection [Limited Edition]
An ordinary office worker has been finding friendship and fun in the MMORPG “Yggdrasil” since it opened its servers, but after over a decade, it's time to say goodbye. Remaining logged in as his undead character Momonga until the bitter end, the man suddenly finds that when the servers close, he can't log out – somehow he's been trapped in Momonga's giant skeletal body in a real-life version of the game. What's the guild leader of a gang of non-humans to do? Take over the world and remake it in his own image, of course!
By this point, the fantasy subgenre of “trapped in an MMORPG” is beginning to wear thin, so what is it about Overlord that makes it worth your time? Well, if you've already written this genre off, the series isn't likely to change your mind, but if you still harbor warm feelings for living in a game made real, the draw to Overlord is that our protagonist Momonga isn't just setting out to live there – he's going to take over the world!
That's not to say that he's evil, necessarily. For much of the series, there's a clear disconnect between Momonga and Ains Ooal Gown, as he comes to call himself, with the former representing the “real” man behind the character. Momonga marvels at how calmly he can carry out ruthless and gruesome acts as Ains, who represents the perfect incarnation of the vicious undead overlord, brutally pursuing his goals with violence and not truly caring about the lives he has to end on his way. The way that the protagonist reconciles Momonga with Ains is probably the most interesting aspect of the story – he must come to see that the people inhabiting this world are not just NPCs, but actual humans, which he uses to temper his actions as Ains. This speaks to the disconnect between how we act when we play a video game versus how we act in real life; most people who spend their free time killing virtual bandits and monsters don't go out and slaughter squirrels once they're done playing the game. That's what's going on inside Momonga/Ains' gigantic skeletal body – the Japanese guy who just played “Yggdrasil” as a form of entertainment can't quite process what Ains, being actually undead, sees as the real world. While the two are never officially declared to be two separate people, the fact that all of the former NPCs clearly have their own autonomous thoughts and can recognize the change in their circumstances from when “Yggdrasil” was a game implies that the avatar Momonga created may also have its own ingrained thoughts and goals that Momonga has now adopted.
Perhaps the best indication of this is the way that Momonga uses two voices – his normal human voice, which is how we hear his thoughts, and his deep and ominous Ains voice, which is how the other people in the game world hear him. With the exception of some more humorous moments, which largely stem from Ains/Momonga being made uncomfortable when a few of the ladies hit on him, the two voices are reserved for entirely separate thought processes. Ultimately, this narrative trick will determine your preference for the English or Japanese vocal tracks, because regardless of whether it's Satoshi Hino or Chris Guerrero, the distinction between these two halves of the character drive the show. Guerrero achieves a more noticeable vocal shift, but Hino has a lighter touch with some of the comedy, so it really will be up to personal preference. Other vocal performances are fairly similar from track to track, although the English dub gives Hamsuke a Yoda-like quality to his lines, which is a bit distracting, and Pandora's actor has some unsettlingly stereotyped vocal patterns in both languages.
The story itself is fairly standard in the way Momonga comes to terms with his new reality, at which point it becomes a much more typical fantasy adventure. It feels like a halfway point between Log Horizon and Re: Zero in its approach to the genre, although many of the character designs look more like they came from the Blaz Blue franchise, especially the vampire Shalltear. It is unflinching in its violence when it needs to be, although it doesn't revel too much and it certainly isn't afraid to kill off characters with little warning. The art and animation do a good job at allowing us to understand how vicious or gruesome someone's death is without fully showing it; a few well-placed pools of blood or dried-up corpses tell the story in a sufficiently grim way without veering into the realm of excess.
On the subject of art, this limited edition release, apart from coming in a box with separate cases for the DVDs and BDs, includes a pack of eleven art cards, many of which are from the ending theme. At roughly the size of a standard postcard, these are a nice bonus, and having the cards in your hands allows you to better appreciate details in the art. Other extras include both audio and video commentary along with the standard trailers, previews, and clean theme songs. There are also a series of gag shorts, which are decently entertaining but not great.
Overlord tries to take a new approach to an overworked genre, and it does a decent job. It's still clearly part of the “transported to a game world” genre and doesn't veer too far from it, but its use of the protagonist's conflict about how he would have acted in his old world versus the new does give it a little something that may win back jaded fans. It doesn't always balance its humor and action well, and the final fight drags on for far too long, but if you aren't tired of this basic premise, it's a pretty good time.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Nice variety of character faces and pretty magic designs, the disconnect between Momonga/Ains is interesting and gives the show an edge
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