I started watching Overlord, streaming on Funimation, late in the season, so I just got caught up. The story begins with the main character playing a server-hosted game that’s about to be shut down. He’s the last of his friends to be online, and he’s determined to stay until the very end, when the hosting company powers down the servers.
Except, that doesn’t happen. After the appointed hour, the world’s still intact, except that he can’t log out.
Now, I love Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, so I wondered if there was room in the “online world gone awry” trope to keep my interest.
After the first episode of Overlord, I found the answer was a resounding “Yes!”
As Episode 9 dawns, the main character, who’s attempting to establish the persona Ainz Ooal Gown, and his sidekick Narberal Gamma, have caught up with those responsible for killing their party. Ainz divides the combat: he takes on Lady Clementine, a nasty piece of work that the story has built up to deadly. At the same time, he leaves Zuranon, a warlock aligned with Clementine and determined to drown the world with an undead army, to Narberal. The narrative built up Zuranon and Clementine’s plan over the last few episodes until its success almost seemed inevitable.
However, their plan begins to show some weakness on both fronts. Clementine tries to bait Ainz by teasing him about how she killed his friends. That didn’t work; he even conceded that it would be hypocritical for him to criticize her, since he’s driven by his plans much as she is driven by hers.
However, he’s not happy that she interfered with his plans to establish his reputation, so he puts her on notice when he said, “For interrupting my plans, your very existence is offensive!”
The story switches back to Narberal, where Zuranon summons a Skeletal Dragon to attack her. Kudos to Overlord’s anime artists; I thought the Skeletal Dragon was stunning. But no less stunning was Narberal’s reaction to Zuranon’s boast that no magic could harm it.
She sighed and wrapped the scabbard’s ties around the sword hilt, saying “I’ll beat it to death.”
I’m not one for battle boasting, but that was cool. She followed it up by dealing such a blow that the dragon crashed to the ground.
I have to give Zuranon credit. He didn’t want to believe he was outclassed; he used all of the power at his disposal to attack Narberal — even to the point of using the Jewel of Death to summon another dragon.
You would have thought that Zuranon would have taken the hint when the second dragon didn’t phase her.
Things didn’t go much better for Clementine. An attack she had been certain would cripple Ainz didn’t even annoy him. Even when she stabs her blade into his helmet’s eye slit, he just replied, “Well, I realize just how much I have to learn. You have my gratitude.”
There’s a danger in any entertainment form: if a character is too powerful, the story can become boring. Half way into this episode (and indeed, in the back of my mind for much of this series so far), I wondered it Overlord would fall into that trap. After all, Ainz was a player who created characters; in this world, more or less, he is a god. How could such a character be interesting?
This is where I think Overlord shines, and it’s where this episode really interests me. The story’s not about power or strength. It’s about Ainz trying to make sense of the world he’s in. It’s a character study of what’s important to him as a human; of the relationships he sees as important to his survival. It’s about depending on his friends and trying to fulfill his vision of what a meaningful life is.
He trusts his people, who used to be Non Player Characters (NPCs). They trust him because of his investment in them. Like when he releases Narberal to show her true form, the Pleiades Battle Maid.
I haven’t seen a phrase as cool as “Pleiades Battle Maid” for a long time!
First, she looked so pleased when she heard his order! Second, she seemed almost relieved to be done with her need to interact with lesser beings. To show Zurannon just how measly she felt he and his dragons were, she used her overpowering magic to trash everything in sight. That he thought such a show of force was impossible just made it all the more fun.
But that’s a Pleiades Battle Maid for you.
Ain continued the theme when he observed Clementine’s various attacks. After cataloging what he needed to know, and after ordering Narberal’s to wrap up, he decided to do the same.
Clementine eventually jabbed two electrified blades into Ainz’ eye slits, but given that he is undead, the attack was fruitless.
As she finally realized just what she was up against, he listed all the ways that he could kill her — just to give her an idea of what she was up against.
At first, I wondered why Ainz didn’t just put her down. She was dangerous to everyone around her, after all; and she didn’t care who she killed as long as it was fun. Then we find out that Ainz was still angry that Clementine had killed his friends — the party he was “using” to increase his reputation. I took from this that he didn’t just use them; he actually felt something for them.
And he was not pleased that Clementine killed them.
Should I have felt outrage that he drug her death out until she dropped each of the name tags from his former party? Should I have been angered that he didn’t just put her out of her misery?
How about when he says, “I forgot to tell you. I’m very hypocritical.”
It’s an interesting theological question. I almost feel embarrassed that I’m with Ainz on this one. Yes, he was using the party to further his interests. But no, he didn’t hurt them. In fact, he protected them. He even ordered Narberal, who, let’s face it, doesn’t love humans, to protect them. Ainz uses people for his own ends. But so far, he’s never abused them. He’s matched his needs with theirs.
That’s what I love about this series. Ainz is trying to find his way, and so far, he’s not letting his innate power destroy him. The writers are working with some powerful themes here. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they develop Ainz in the future.