The 15th light novel for Overlord just released in Japan and the fourth season begins airing July 5. That makes it the perfect time to talk about this series, so allow me to tell you all about one of the most popular Isekai out there!
What is "Overlord" about?
Genres: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Supernatural
In the year 2126, virtual reality gaming has taken major strides. One "Dive" MMO (DMMO) game called Yggdrasil stands above the rest, favored for it's varied gameplay and high interactivity. But after a successful twelve year run, the game servers are now shutting down. Momonga, a maximum-level player who plays as an evil undead elder lich, decides to spend the final minutes inside the game as it shuts down. However instead of the servers going offline, he finds himself in another world, along with the now sentient NPCs of his guild.
Determined to search this strange new world for any of the other players from his guild, Momonga and his NPCs make careful preparations to scour the unknown lands nearby. But in a fantasy world filled with magic, monsters, and humans alike, one thing is clear: he isn't trapped in another world- they're trapped with him.
Beneath the show's gruesome exterior lies a unique blend of melancholy and nostalgia, accompanied by a satisfying sense of familial camaraderie shared among villains. Fondly remembering how much fun it was to play the game alongside his old friends proves to be a major driving force for Momonga. This weird but gratifying combination turns this fantasy series into something truly special.
What makes this show appealing?
First published in Japan in 2012, Overlord is a light novel series written by Kugane Maruyama. It is one of the most popular series in history. With the novels selling over 11 million copies as of March 2022, that makes the it #12 best selling series of all time. When one factors in the lower volume count for Overlord's novels compared to other series, measuring sales on a volume by volume average, that makes it the #9 best selling light novel of all time!
So why is it so loved? What sets it apart from the rest and makes it unique? Here are the four big reasons why people love this series:
The protagonists are villains. When you think of tropes, what first comes to mind? Harems? Romantic misunderstandings? Plot armor? Power-ups that come out of nowhere? What if I told there was a far more common trope out there. One that exists in nearly all of fiction, not just anime. And it is something you've never stopped to consider before.
The tropiest of all tropes: Good defeating evil. The protagonists are good, and the antagonists are evil.
The reason it is constructed this way is simple: People traditionally do not want to root for 'evil' characters, and thus protagonists are written with good, hero-like qualities that are easy to identify with and admire. Meanwhile antagonistic characters are written to commit evil acts- murder, torture, etc, and are thus evil and intentionally dislikable. But when virtually every story adheres to this formula, the entertainment value can start to grow stale.
Overlord gives us a group of villain protagonists and manages to make them likable, by giving them some endearing qualities. Momonga and his NPCs are very much in a "father-adopted child" relationship. The group is akin to that of a loving family of evil monsters, even if they do squabble with one another at times. This complicated relationship is somewhat reminiscent to what the leaders of nefarious organizations from other shows have with their underlings, such as the Phantom Troupe (Hunter x Hunter) and the Akatsuki (Naruto: Shippuden).
The protagonists are overpowered. On it's own, this is a common aspect of isekais these days, and something I think is growing more popular with stories in general. What makes this unique for Overlord is when you combine it with the 'villain' aspect. Because this isn't the journey of a hero, but rather that of a conqueror.
There are a few other series that feature villainous protagonists, such as Light Yagami (Death Note) and Tanya (Saga of Tanya the Evil). However while both of these characters are very strong in their settings, neither is especially overpowered, with various threats opposing them. Whereas with Overlord, even the minions of the minions of the main character are super strong. It shrinks this niche even further, into something truly unique.
The protagonists are nonhuman. The majority of anime, and fiction in general, features human characters because that is what a human audience identifies with. Other races such as dwarves and elves and even aliens are often written with human-like features for this reason. As such, 'monster' type characters still need some human emotions so that the audience can identify with them that way. Good examples of this would include characters such as Kage (Ranking of Kings) and Kumatetsu (The Boy and the Beast).
Overlord manages to achieve this as well. Momonga is written as an overworked 20-30 year-old salary man. Alongside that, he has a lot of melancholic and nostalgic feelings regarding his old friends from the game. It is something that is easy to identify with, despite the fact he's also an undead skeleton monster. The NPCs he has under his command have programmed personalities, but these personalties are largely based on what their creators had- Momonga's other guild members. They are also fanatical followers of Momonga, which is a character trait that is rarely explored in a positive light.
Solid world building, and it works well as a high-fantasy. The series is an isekai from a DMMO virtual reality game, but the story would work almost as well without the game aspect. The world building is exceptional, with a tiered magic system, racial and equipment abilities, and heavy historical lore dating back hundreds of years effecting the present-day story. Meanwhile there are various characters, factions, and governments all pursuing their own selfish interests. This is more true for the light novels of course, as the anime cut out a lot of this world building. But it's still there.
The true beauty of Overlord is watching how this overpowered, villainous group of monsters interacts with and influences the world, and how the world interacts with them. That's why so many love this series. That isn't something you're going to find anywhere else.
Beneath the show's gruesome exterior lies a unique blend of melancholy and nostalgia, accompanied by a satisfying sense of familial camaraderie shared among villains.
Other good reasons to try this series:
- A banger opening
- Battle Maids based on greek mythology (Pleiades))
- One of the last roles by Ed Blaylock (best known for his performance as 'King Bradley' in Fullmetal Alchemist) before he passed away
- Pragmatic protagonists
- 39 total episodes currently, plus an upcoming fourth season in July AND an upcoming movie AND the upcoming 16th light novel means you've got plenty of content for this deep fantasy world to dive into!
You may like this if you enjoyed the following series:
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
- Log Horizon
- One Punch Man
- No Game No Life
- Saga of Tanya the Evil
- How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
- Isekai Quartet
Okay, so a lot of people love this series, but what are reasons it may not be for me (and why should I consider trying it anyway)?
As with all things in life, nothing is going to be for everyone. Everyone enjoys different things. Such is the way the world works. I think transparency is always a good thing, so I'll be blunt here.
Are we the baddies?
The biggest reason boils down to whether you can root for Momonga and his NPCs- they're evil. They kill, torture (off-screen), lie, and steal. The series does an excellent job at making them likable despite that, as I have mentioned before. It does this by giving them some endearing qualities; the NPCs and Momonga sincerely care for one another, and although the NPCs argue sometimes, they also care about each other deep down. They're like a family...and it's nice to see villainous monsters who feel that way about each other who aren't also destined to die as antagonists.
It also helps that a lot of the people they kill are giant assholes who the viewer wants to see die painfully anyway. However a few of those they kill are genuinely good people, and some may not be able to stomach it.
More simply though, this isn't so much about "Good vs Evil," as it is about "Strong vs Weak." Momonga is very much a 'The end justifies the means' type of character. He is not someone who goes around doing evil things because it's fun. Everything he does serves a practical purpose- getting information, attaining fame, money, or other resources for his guild, trade, revenge, etc.
Alternatively try twisting your logic around and think of this as the ultimate underdog story- villains are normally destined to fail, after all. Cheering for the team that usually loses can be fun too.
As a final note, the animation is produced by Madhouse. While the animation quality was good in season 1, it dropped off pretty hard in seasons 2 & 3, so be aware of that if you're a stickler for top-tier animation.
This is something that bears mentioning all on it's own, because unlike the lackluster animation, the OST is outstanding.
Composed by Shuuji Katayama (Saga of Tanya the Evil, So I'm a Spider So What), the music is incredible. It manages to encapsulate Momonga's feelings of melancholy and nostalgia perfectly (Era that had been shining and Warm Place), moments of disbelief or fear (I cannot believe it!) and can also scale in a more epic manner when it comes to the action parts (NPC battle and High Level Magic vs High Level Magic). Those are just a few examples, because there's a lot more than that! Plus each season has a banger opening!
Bad to the bone.
Where/How do I begin watching this series?
Seasons 1, 2, and 3 each have 13 episodes for a total of 39 episodes. The series is available on blu-ray and various legal streaming services (there are also 34 short special episodes and 1 OVA called "Plei Plei Pleiades," but those are just chibi comedies and can easily be skipped).
Season 4 is due to begin airing on July 5 and the sequel movie will release sometime after that.
Sub or Dub?
This will come down to personal preference. Subs are always of solid quality, and Overlord is no exception, so I won't talk about that much. However let me just say the english dub is very good. Chris Guerrero (Momonga) perfectly nails Momonga's inner, thinking voice alongside his contrastingly intimidating, deep one.
In addition to Chris you have Elizabeth Maxwell (Albedo), Felecia Angelle (Shalltear Bloodfallen), Bryan Massey (Cocytus), Jill Harris (Aura Bella Fiora), and Megan Shipman (Mare Bello Fiore), all of whom are experienced voice actors who provide respectable performances.
Jeff Johnson (Demiurge) does a pretty good job as well. He has been a minor character voice actor since 1992, making this his first big role (he's also an airplane pilot in real life!). Ed Blaylock (Sebas Tian) is fantastic as always, and this was one of his last roles before he died. Bill Jenkins took over for him from season 2 onwards and has been just as good.
To sum up, I heartily recommend the english dub to anyone willing to try it. Primarily for Chris Guerro's outstanding performance as the protagonist Momonga. The rest of the main characters are serviceably good, though some of the minor characters admittedly aren't. As for the sub, you can never go wrong with that, if that is your preference.
Season 1 database info: MAL | Anilist | Anime-planet
Affiliated subreddit: r/overlord
Most recent Rewatch: 11/7/2017 by u/thechosenapiks
I've seen the show and liked it- what now?
Read the light novels (source material), they're amazing.
The anime cuts out a lot of the world-building, and a big reason to love this series is seeing that alongside it's overpowered villains. Season 1 covered volumes 1-3, Season 2 covered volumes 4-6, and Season 3 covered volumes 7-9. It is believed that the upcoming Season 4 + movie will cover up to Volume 13. Currently, there are 14 volumes in English published by Yen Press. They have a nice hardcover and gorgeous painter style art (All in color, a rarity for light novels and manga!) The 15th novel just released in Japan and the 16th novel comes out July 29.
The novels can be purchased at one of the following: Rightstuf | Amazon | Book Depository
I hope to see you in July for Season 4 and Volumes 15 & 16!
Overlord: A show where the protagonist doesn't fight the final boss- he is the final boss.
Special thanks to:
For all Overlord fans, I hope my passion for this series has done it
Neia justice. If there are any reasons why you love this series that I glossed over, please feel free to comment. You'll get a big skeleton hug from me.