I don’t get hooked on new long-running novel series often, but then Overlord came along, and here I am 6 books later. Overlord is a fantasy light novel series with 13 volumes, a manga, an anime that is about to start season 3, and is too much fun to not write an entire article about.
It’s easy to pass over at first glance, but worth a deeper look. Hopefully I can convince you why you too should be reading and watching Overlord.
The theme of Overlord may make you roll your eyes. It is the overly abundant, real world main character gets trapped in a video game (異世界 ) genre. While this genre has actually existed for a long time, Sword Art Online brought this genre to the masses (for better or worse), and for the past several years you can’t escape novels and anime that take on this theme.
Don’t let that deter you. Yes, the main character is thrust into a virtual video game world like in so many other stories. But most series that do this just use it as an excuse to create a fantasy world. Once the initial “wow, I’m in a video game” wears off, it just becomes a typical fantasy, where the premise is almost completely forgotten. In Overlord, this premise plays strong in the first few volumes and beyond, and the main character must analyze the way the game world works in order to progress. It plays a critical role in the plot.
An Overpowered Overlord
In these trapped in a video game stories, the main character is usually one of two things:
1. Initially weak, and must get stronger
2. Overpowered and seemingly invincible from day one
Overlord is the latter, which appeals to the “power fantasy” of the reader. This can be fun to experience at first, but the sense of danger and worry for a main character are hard to develop if he is always going to win.
However, the main character in Overlord – Ainz Ooal Gown (Momonga) – is kind of the villain. In any fantasy story, he would be the evil demon king that a hero must prevail against. Experiencing a fantasy from a likable villain’s perspective is fresh. His empire of super high level characters could easily take over a kingdom or two right from the start. But there is careful strategy planned out to conquer the world, which is enjoyable to watch as it unfolds.
Who is the main character again?
One of the greatest strengths (and weaknesses) of the series, is that while Ainz Ooal Gown may be the main character, he sometimes doesn’t even appear once in an entire volume. 300+ pages of a book, and maybe his name is mentioned once. It would be like reading the Lord of the Rings and Frodo disappeared for an entire book.
Overlord succeeds in character and world building in ways that you wouldn’t expect. For example, an entire book is spent on developing a race of warriors called the Lizard Men, who Ainz Ooal Gown wants to conquer. Instead of just making them a nameless enemy to overcome, it spends a meticulous amount of timing building up the Lizard Men characters. Enough to make you want the Lizard Men to win and Ainz Ooal Gown to lose.
However, sometimes I found myself wanting the story just to get back to Ainz Ooal Gown already. Characters I weren’t interested in got too much time. Explanations of the world those characters live in grew tiresome. This becomes apparent when you get to “The Men in the Kingdom” volume 5 of Overlord. I skimmed through a bunch of the political stuff involving characters I didn’t care about.
The Novel or the Anime?
I had originally watched the first 2 seasons of Overlord before even knowing about the novel. I’ve now read 6 volumes, which perfectly coincides with season 3 that will begin on July 7th.
Which is more interesting?
They both present a completely different experience. 3-4 anime episodes equal around 1 light novel. That’s a lot of story and detail to compress. Some of the most intriguing elements of the Overlord world are left out in the anime. This leaves parts of the anime puzzling for non-readers.
The novel isn’t easy reading. It is high fantasy, and while the names of weapons, spells, etc. may have a katakana version, this series uses a lot of complex language. There is also a manga series (which I haven’t read), but it is closer to the anime I’ve heard.
I was also super excited when I found out that Overlord is slowly being released on Audible (currently up to the first half of volume 2). It uses a bunch of different pro voice actors to bring the story to life. Sometimes it even sounds like they got the voice actors from the anime to read the audio book (though this might just be my imagination).
I have been watching the anime, reading the novels, and listening to the audio books. I recommend all three.
Have you read/seen it?
Are you enjoying or interested in Overlord?
***I will remove comments revealing any spoilers, so please don’t leave any. This post is to get people excited to read the book/watch the anime. Not ruin the story for them.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.