“PVP: Player vs. Player”
Alright be honest, who was actually surprised how things went this week. No? Really not? Yeah I thought so. It was pretty much a given how Overlord would choose to end things with this finale—i.e. setting up for even greater shenanigans later on—but there were certainly a few eyebrow raising morsels to spice up the smorgasbord. Gazef actually dying? Momon returning in a hilariously fitting role? El Nix finally understanding the true risk of his plan? We got all that and more (including everyone’s favourite little princess) as Overlord, for all intents and purpose, gets set to start exploring the world at large. Where the story goes from here is going to be the purview of the light novels for a while yet (if there’s ever a sequel), but you can bet when Ainz and friends come back, this little tale—and the scale of it—will be wilder than it ever was before.
One way or another it’s hard to deny: Overlord has certainly shown its past two seasons just what makes it so damn popular. From standard-fare isekai into fully-fledged fantasy, the show has evolved in ways few of contemporaries ever have, delving deep into its tale of anti-heroic evil and and one man’s (skeleton’s?) pursuit of answers. It’s a show which has matured well in these past arcs, and while not devoid of issues, it’s one which has shown that not all isekai is necessarily made the same.
The defining trait of Overlord of course lies with Ainz and the show’s focus on his anti-heroism. From the start this was the show’s main selling point, it defined certain actions, gave a reason to watch it over similar isekai, and kept everyone on their toes to wait and see when Ainz would finally start doing the naughty (the other naughty). While the previous seasons sustained themselves without a hard focus on this (mostly on the back of world building and minor character development), eventually Ainz would have to go full evil and this season was arguably the best point for it. We had received all the fleshing out and premise-building beforehand, we got an understanding an emotional connection with Overlord’s world at large, all we needed was a real threat and like clockwork here comes Ainz to provide that threat in spades. It’s the ideal execution of a story focused hard on long-term development (and one likely not possible without all that buildup time), and while arguably cutting off just as things are really getting started, it’s to Overlord’s strength that little effort was spared in ensuring Ainz’s “awakening” would be as dramatic as possible.
Where there’s a problem with Overlord’s strategy though is in terms of longevity. For better or worse anti-heroes (or protagonist villains) are hit or miss, you’ll either love them or hate them with no middle ground, and Ainz accentuates the issue. Our spooky boy is not just evil, he’s evil without a counterweight; there’s no L to Ainz’s Kira, no Suzaku to this murderous Lelouch, just one lich who keeps on winning and winning and—you guessed it—winning. It can be wickedly fun to watch for the first bit, but everyone has a tolerance limit for this type of character and Overlord will eventually pass it overall. I’d personally argue it hasn’t at this stage considering the heavy focus on certain matters requiring character thought, intelligence, and strategy (ex. setting up Ainz’s country, infiltrating neighbouring foreign powers, the presence of side “filler” arcs), but soon Ainz will need someone capable of giving him a run for his money to keep things refreshing. Of course we may be building up to that considering the musing from the likes of El Nix, Gazef, and a few others this season, but until Ainz does meets his match, until a bit of effort has to be expended for Ainz Ooal Gown to come out victorious, this will remain one prominent concern dangling overhead.
Building off of this as well is one aspect with no room for excuse: visuals. While last season was never particularly stunning in terms of visuals, this one definitely was a letdown (particularly the latter half), with not only shoddy animation at times, but some horrendous use of 3D CGI negatively impacting certain key scenes. Whether or not computer animation is here to stay in anime matters not, one cannot deny stuff like this simply hurts the eyes to look at and negatively impacts the viewing experience. Now to be fair this matter isn’t entirely Madhouse’s fault (they are given a set budget and timeframe to work with after all), but considering Overlord’s popularity you’d imagine someone would want to throw a bit more money at this, at least enough to enhance what the light novels bring to the table. Anyone’s guess really, but without a doubt the choices made here hurt the show far more than they ideally should have.
In the end, however, Overlord this season easily did what it set out to do, warts and all: the story was advanced, Ainz’s true nature was brought to light, and the hint of even greater things to come successfully laid bare. A fourth season may or may not be coming anytime soon (and bets are on not considering that ending scene), but you can bet this series will be sticking around the collective conscious for a good while yet. No other isekai (at least in anime form) has successfully done what this one has so far, and until a competitor finally emerges from the vacuous nether, Overlord will remain a good example of just what’s possible with some writing chops and a little bit of imagination.