Review for Overlord III - Season 3 Collection
The anime industry has changed in recent years, and in a massive way. When I first plummeted into fandom, anime was just a means to an end. Most of it was a ‘one and done’ deal, an OVA episode, 13 episode series, 24 episodes if you were really lucky, and they were there usually to sell the manga, or the light novel. Here’s a taste of the story, and the characters; if you want to find out what the whole thing is like, pop down to your local bookstore and pick up 40 volumes of manga, where broadcast standards don’t apply. It was either that, or they were selling some card game, some video game, some plastic models of giant robots shrunk down to 12 inches high.
Today, more and more often, the anime is the end. More and more shows are getting multiple seasons, more and more are faithfully adapting source material, and more and more are aiming to a definite conclusion. It won’t be long before you’ll be able to watch all of Attack on Titan and you won’t need to read the manga. You may want to and choose to, but you won’t just have a fraction of the experience by sticking with the anime. I’m not sure what’s driving this shift, as making an anime is an order of magnitude more time consuming and labour intensive than writing a manga, and way more expensive, but it does mean that as well as getting the sure fire hits like My Hero Academia, we’re also getting a few head scratchers. Season 3 of Overlord shows up in my review pile and I’m like “Whothewhatnow?” Season 1 bombed in my estimation, and while Season 2 clawed back a little respect, it’s not one of the shows that rank highly for me, yet not only is it getting an ongoing adaptation, it’s getting the Collector’s Edition treatment too.
In the mid 22nd Century, the Dive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games have a great popularity, literally immersing players in fantastic worlds. After 12 years, the Ygdrassil game is coming to an end, its servers being shut down. For one player, Momonga, it’s the end of an era. It’s a game that he and his teammates have excelled at, have in some ways defined, and unwilling to say goodbye, Momonga decides to stay logged in until after the servers are switched off. The last of his teammates log out and all that’s left in the castle that they created is Momonga, and the non-player characters that he and his team programmed. He has one last goof, reprogramming the ‘bitchy’ Albedo character to instead love him unconditionally, and then waits.
The hour comes and passes, and the world still exists. Only it has changed. No longer can Momonga access the ‘game’, and suddenly the NPC characters have personalities, are acting of their own volition. Momonga’s trapped in Ygdrassil, albeit lord of all he surveys. Only he’s not in Ygdrassil anymore. The castle has changed location, it’s in another world altogether, with a whole bunch of other people, and there’s Momonga with godlike powers. What’s a god to do?
13 episodes are presented across 2 Blu-rays from Manga Entertainment.
1. A Ruler’s Melancholy
2. Carne Village Once More
3. Enri’s Upheaval and Hectic Days
4. Giant of the East, Demon Snake of the West
5. Two Leaders
6. Invitation to Death
7. Butterfly Entangled in a Spider’s Web
8. A Handful of Hope
9. War of Words
10. Preparation for War
11. Another Battle
Overlord gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with strong, consistent colours, no visible artefacts or aliasing, and just the minimal of digital banding. The consistency of HD transfers is one thing, the quality of the original animation is another, and coming from studio Madhouse, you’d expect Overlord to be something memorable. Instead, it’s really just... good. The character designs are nice and memorable, especially the main cast, while the world design is suitably fantasy oriented. The animation too is robust, characters staying on model, and the appropriate flourishes applied to action sequences and bursts of magic. Maybe I’m getting spoiled, but Overlord doesn’t really stand out as anything special.
Overlord gets the usual Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese from Funimation, with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate track. The Japanese audio is fine, characters cast appropriately for their stereotypes, and the performances working well in terms of the story. I gave the dub a try, and I can confirm that it exists, but I didn’t sample enough to develop an opinion. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos.
The discs present their content with animated menus, and I’ve only seen the BD check disc, and can’t comment on the packaging or the physical extras.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Funimation NOW.
There is a commentary on episode 8 with ADR director Kyle Phillips, Chris Guerrero (Ains Ooal Gown), and the adaptive writer Aaron Dismuke.
Disc 2 has the bulk of the extras.
There is a video commentary on episode 11 with Kyle Phillips, Skyler McIntosh (Enri), and Chris Guerrero.
The audio commentary on episode 13 features Kyle Phillips, Chad Holbrook (Brain), Coby Lewin (Climb), and Ray Hurd (Gazef).
The Play Play Pleiades 3 offers 19:57 of short comedy animation.
There is the Special Preview Collection (6:56), and the Chapter 1 Preview (0:32) as well as 1:06 of Commercials for the show.
Finally there are the textless credits.
We’re back to square one with Overlord. I had hoped that Season 2 was a sign of things to come with the franchise, that it had rebalanced its story, given more focus to characters that you could invest in, even if for the first half of that season, those characters were a bunch of lizard-men. I find Overlord to be most dull when it’s focusing on the main character, Ains Ooal Gown and his minions. He’s practically a god in the show, and the only comedic potential for the character, the one recurring joke is that his underlings continually misinterpret his actions, random at times, as part of some great, celestially ordained plan, to the point where he has to ask them to elucidate to understand the exact nature of his brilliance. That gets old pretty fast.
Overlord is like a videogame that you’re not allowed to play, only watch someone else playing. That is probably the dullest activity that I can think of. Only it’s not. Imagine watching someone playing a videogame with an infinite lives cheat, or an invulnerability cheat. I’ve never done that, although I have on occasion given up on a Spectrum game and poked a cheat into it myself, just to see an otherwise impossible to reach end screen. Let’s face it; it was the only way to get off the first level of Green Beret. Playing a game that way is boring enough, and Spectrum game end screens were never worth the effort. But imagine watching someone else play a game that way...
Ains Ooal Gown is never threatened, never challenged, never even tested. He’s got the cheat mode to this world, and he’s just coasting through. As I said in the Season 2 review, the best you can hope for is to treat him as a force of nature, and instead invest in the little people. That’s okay for the first half of this collection, as the focus returns to Carne village, which we last encountered in the first season, as we get to see how they are rebuilding with the aid of the goblins that de facto village chief Enri summoned. There’s also a bit of her slowly developing romance with alchemist Nphirea. We get to know the goblins a little more in this story, and they are quite fun characters. But once again the village comes under threat from the nearby forest, as a couple of powerful beings are throwing their weight around, while Ains Ooal Gown wants to test Enri again.
The second half of the series takes on a national and political scope, as an Empire and a Kingdom (I didn’t care enough to remember their names, although we’ve seen the Kingdom before in previous seasons) are on the verge of a war, and once again, Ains is meddling, looking to carve out a chunk of land with which to stamp his authority and from where to launch his world domination plans. He’s playing both sides against each other, and he gets to cast the first spell in the war, to wipe out a quarter of the Kingdom’s army in a flash, and at the same time give his temporary Imperial allies such a collective brown trouser moment that they are liable to capitulate out of sheer shock. Ains Ooal Gown is like the foot of God in the Monty Python animations, only not as funny.
Overlord Season 3 is just as watchable as what has come before. The pacing is lively, the animation is strong, and I can happily sit down in front of an episode and enjoy it for what it is. It isn’t satisfying as a narrative though. You have a protagonist who is so overpowered that the only potential antagonist for him would be himself. He’s also a god without a conscience. Any moment his emotions might flare, some magic activates to damp those feelings down, so no agonising over the decisions he might make, no empathising with the lives that he toys with, no recriminations at making mistakes. What is the point of a story like that? Every time Overlord concentrates on its main characters, I question the point of the whole thing. At this juncture, all I can hope for is that Ains gets his wish, and finds a fellow player in this world, someone at his level to deal with. However, at this time, no Season 4 has been announced, only hinted at. Without any balance, Overlord is a waste of time, a very well made and occasionally entertaining waste of time.