The story begins when Yggdrasil, a popular online game is quietly shut down one day. However, the protagonist Momonga decides to not log out until the end. Momonga is then transformed into the image of a skeleton as "the most powerful wizard." The world continues to change, with non-player characters (NPCs) beginning to have personalities. Having no parents, friends, or place in society, this ordinary young man Momonga then strives to take over the new world the game has become.
"Conquering the world is a very interesting idea."
(There are quite a few allusions to minor spoilers in this review, fair warning.
I have read 9 Volumes.)
There is an inherent truth in the world of anime, manga, and light novels; this truth is that far more often than not the protagonist will bear remarkable similarities to the image of a "Virtuous Hero"! That guy with the friendly demeanor who will help anyone and everyone. That often times young hero will hold the mindset of not letting anyone they know get killed. They won't give up and believe that even the villains deserve a chance at redemption. If they see someone in need they will lend their help free of charge. From mundane day-to-day tasks to a conflict fraught with danger and potential death, these heroes are always there to lend a friend, ally, or on occasion a complete stranger their ever so capable hands. Overlord is not that kind of story.
Another fundamental fact also exists that there are very few anime, manga, or light novels that have their protagonist as a villain. The character that will kill any who get in their way, will victimize innocents, the type that will look back on the blood they've shed and smile as they continue to swathe their way through a crimson tide. Overlord is not that kind of story.
Overlord is one of those stories that has the protagonist feel real. He's not perfect or morally righteous but nor is he evil or blood-thirsty. I mention this now because I saw that misconception as being the greatest form of interest in this series. With allusions to stories such as Death Note, Overlord was initially illustrated to me (along with many others) as a story following an Undead Lich as he sought to take over the world. While that is certainly not a lie it is also far from the truth. However, this series is unquestionably one that is worth reading.
Allow me to make one thing crystal clear: This is NOT a story about being trapped in a video game. Anyone who is laboring under the delusion that this story is akin to Sword Art Online or Log Horizon I urge you to throw your hoe into the ground, straighten your back and wipe the sweat from your brow. Despite the initial picture you may have woven thanks to the synopsis, it is far more accurate to say that our protagonist is transported to a fantasy world with his in-game avatar being the catalyst for his conveyance into this new world. Sword Art Online was obviously a video game. Log Horizon was a video game with real life elements but it was still a game, with raids, drops from killing monsters, the purchasing of buildings through a system run by the world. Overlord is real life with a few elements reminiscent of a game.
The story predominantly follows Momonga (Or Ainz Ooal Gown, as I will be referring to him from now on, Ainz for short) as he and the eternally loyal bastion known as the Great Tomb of Nazarick seek to claim this new world as their own. I was immediately enthralled by this premise. Quite simply, I adore stories of conquest. From my childhood spent building fortifications with Legos only to have it come under assault by my army of Lego Orcs (I can thank Lord of the Rings for that one), to my many days spent playing Warcraft 3 as I surged into human establishments with my army of undead. I have always enjoyed that concept of conquering whatever adversary stands in front of you through the use of strategy. Overlord has not left me feeling dissatisfied in that regard even in the slightest fashion. Though that is not to say you should expect an all out war from the very beginning. A substantial amount of time has been devoted to the more subtle elements surrounding world conquest, principally that little commodity known as knowledge. Overlord subscribes to the assessment that knowledge is power, a correct conclusion if I do say so myself. Thankfully though, intelligence gathering does not stand as Nazarick's single asset; to quote Game of Thrones: "Power is power", and believe me, Nazarick has an abundance of power, so much so that the golden chest it resides in was blasted apart due to the swelling within, the power then shattered the vault and poured out into every passageway in the building.
Though an implication may have already arisen, allow me to definitively state that this author has poured in an extensive amount of detail into this fantasy world. The world powers and their relations to one another. The individual states of the countries' governments and the factions formed, the social classes present within these countries. Crime, the magic in the world, the magical items, alchemy, swordplay, the system of the guild that utilizes these fantastical elements, every single one of these concepts are delved into with a phenomenal amount of detail.
While Ainz is the preeminent character in this series, we've also been made privy to the perspectives of many of the other characters present in this story. This has helped pave the way to a veritably fascinating cast. These perspectives aren't just limited to the allies of our main character, we'll hear from friend and enemy alike as they perceive the events of the plot.
Allow me to introduce Ainz Ooal Gown-sama, the Supreme One, the highest of the Almighty 41 Supreme Beings, the Supreme Overlord of Death. Clearly the inhabitants of this world hold a fondness for the word "supreme", no? Ainz is a character that is enchanting to read about. Formerly your average human serving as a member of the Japanese work-force, Ainz is now a skeletal Lich and finds himself the leader of an organization whose members feel undying loyalty and love towards him. Ainz is immediately presented as both smart and responsible as he tries to maintain the appearance of the leader his subjects have envisioned. Then devoting himself towards the discovery of the nuances of his new body, his power and capabilities, as well as the details of the world he suddenly finds himself existing in. We see two sides of Ainz, one being the Ruler of Nazarick, the Ainz that is exhibited to the world, the Ainz that emanates a constant state of power, knowledge, and control. But then you have the Ainz that resides solely in thought. The Ainz that struggles over the mental taxation he feels, the one that has to rigorously think through every scenario to try and present the powerful demeanor, the Ainz that takes notice of how cold and calculating he's become, and the Ainz that ponders the intrinsic lack of emotion capable of being felt by one who no longer has a human body. Far from evil and still retaining a slight sense of justice, Ainz is one who doesn't feel emotion towards the nameless human he saw struck down, he doesn't cause suffering for fun, but nor does he hesitate should the need arise. He casts off the notion of taking action because it is "the right thing to do", rather he intervenes in situations where he stands to gain a profit.
The only other character I am going to make specific mention of is Albedo. Albedo is the Overseer of the Floor Guardians and is extraordinarily in love with Ainz. In the Layman's terms of this site she's a Yandere. Inordinate feelings of anger and jealousy at her beloved's interaction with another female? Check. Immense feelings of joy and pleasure upon receiving praise from her beloved? Check. Desire to kill love-rivals so as to spend eternity with her cherished one? Well, half-check. Suffice to say, Albedo is characterized by her excessive love and devotion towards Ainz.
The remainder of the cast I am not going to delve into, I am however going to bring the spotlight towards the dynamic that exists between many of these characters. The Great Tomb of Nazarick is my personal most cherished element that exists in this series. The Great Tomb of Nazarick serves as an organization of monsters all in service to their ruler. Every single denizen of Nazarick shares one cohesive thought: absolute, undying loyalty and service towards Ainz Ooal Gown. I hold an unequivocal adoration towards that simple sentiment. The denizens of Nazarick view humans as lower life-forms, equivalent to the cockroaches that we find so repulsive. They will slaughter an entire village without a moment's hesitation or guilt, they will torture with a smile as they feed humans their own limbs. Nazarick can be described as a genuinely evil organization. Though its an interesting fact that any cruelty dealt against humans is perceived as normalcy. Humans don't consider the ants they crush underfoot and neither does Nazarick. Yet despite their "evil" actions they're kind to one another. They get along, sharing in bouts of laughter and tears alike. Not every member gets along with one another perfectly, but more often than not they hold affection towards one another, affection that can even be referred to as love. This mindset is also held by Ainz as he is 100% devoted towards Nazarick and every single member he rules over, in both duty and love Ainz is standing alongside this group of monsters.
Despite all my words of praise I do still hold two issues with these characters, well two characters in particular: Ainz and Albedo. The dilemma I hold with Albedo is the exhaustive extent that her feelings towards Ainz are displayed. I love that a character like her exists in this story, but I find myself feeling annoyance when she continually displays only the aspect of her that causes strife and discord with the other characters. She loves Ainz, everyone knows and understands this, but when she continually starts arguments with her allies simply due to perceived jealousy, well, I can't say I enjoy that. In essence, she's obtrusive to the interactions between the other characters.
The single greatest fault I held with this series was actually Ainz himself. I do not know how it was perceived, but I tried to stress how fascinating I believed Ainz to be. I truly enjoyed the duality he presented. However, I eventually reached a threshold where this constant state of struggle was only recognizable as a placation to development. You see, Ainz and the rest of Nazarick's thoughts and plans weren't in a state of harmony with one another. Initially this disconnect was something I viewed with interest and intrigue, but it came to serve as a source of slight aggravation. Too many times did Ainz restrain his allies. For too long did Ainz's inner monologue serve as a source of naive grief and confusion. Ainz himself became a constraint to the progression of the plot. That's not to say I actually disliked him because of this. Ainz still remains a fantastic character and an excellent addition to protagonists that aren't perfect heroes. The actions he has taken at times can be perfectly chronicled as evil, villainous acts taken against the denizens of this world. I really wished I could have sooner dropped the preface "at times". Thus was my endemic grievance with Overlord, it may not be shared by others but I felt the compulsion to share it alongside the other subjective assessments I held.
The illustrations... Spectacular scarcely does them justice. Incredible is a travestied description. This art is nothing short of gorgeous and is easily stands as the pinnacle of illustrations I have had the pleasure to see associated with Light Novels. I am clearly not a writer for an art magazine, but I can encourage you to seek out these exquisite illustrations and observe them with your own eyes.
A story that strays away from a morally virtuous protagonist. A series that will follow the monsters who slaughter in glee and the humans that fear them alike. It's dark but refrains from having an sense of overbearing despair. You will peruse the thoughts of those who have to stare inevitable death in the face as they face an existence that is beyond their wildest night mares. You will hear the laughing of the monster that roams the halls of a building as they seek more death. Joy and despair, insanity and serenity, sadism and mirth, the vast array of viewpoints allows us to see these emotions from the perspectives of those who are feeling them. You'll laugh in amusement from the witty dialogue, but you'll also laugh in sick fascination as monsters make victims of "the good guys". I have no doubt these words have been long since anticipated, but if the aforementioned elements are even remotely interesting to you then Overlord is a series I recommend wholeheartedly. read more
"The main character of the book is a skeletal mage, leading a large evil organization like the last boss of a game.
I don't believe the main characters in novels and movies who rescue people without asking for anything in return.
Readers who acknowledge that prioritizing yourself is the right mentality will enjoy this book.
It's very direct."
After reading it, he was right.
Story + Character + Enjoyment -
This series is in the view point of the invaders instead of the more common angle of the invaded.
It takes heavy inspiration from d&d and other mythology and has a distinct "strategy + game" feeling to it.
The protagonist of Overlord isn’t the type who only deals with the danger right before them, but one who will take the initiative to accomplish his goals and gain benefits for himself.
Detailed descriptions and subtle future hints are abound but do not defer in the enjoyment even for a reader who does not like reading that much.
The characters are all well characterized and developed even for those who do not have much screen time since the direct writing style really brings out the personalities in a clear and concise manner.
Beautifully drawn art by so-bin that fits the series and everything in it.
If is something to compare it to it would be Tolkien books.
Truly a masterpiece in the making not just in novels but in all of literature.read more
This is my first time writing a review of a piece of literature from a very different culture than mine (western) and as such there may be critical cultural views that I miss in my critique of this. I also hope that you will forgive me for skipping art critique as there is not much to be said.
I would love feedback if any readers of this would have any.
I have read up to and including volume 5 (can't find any further translated).
Here we go...
The story is set in a vast fantasy universe of unknown size that we aren't told anything about. Instead the readers are taught about this world as the main character himself, Momonga, progresses trough the world and learns about it. Whereas this setting in itself is not anything special, as an added twist Momonga is the supposed villain. Before coming to this new world he was an average human, but in this new world he is a powerful undead lich with the power over life and death.
Personally I find the story interesting, not only how the main character is a villain but also how the writer introduces us to the new world along with. It helps keeping the readers interested, because (hopefully at least) we want to learn about the world, just like Momonga.
The greatest complaint there can be (besides minor details here and there) is that the story progresses very slowly, though I personally don't find that a problem. The reason for this leads us to...
In the past few years one of the most popular fantasy genres currently flourishing is A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). I must bring up this reference, because just like in Game of Thrones the writer of this tries to bring his characters to life. In the fantasy universe there are two types of characters, flat and round. Flat characters are either good or bad, whereas round characters are a mix of both. Round characters is an excellent way to make characters interesting and bring them to life.
So the question remains, how well does the writer succeed in creating these round characters?
The reason the story (as mentioned before) progresses so slowly is because the writer doesn't include the viewpoint and thoughts of Momonga, instead he splits the chapters up in parts where the main characters switches. As such we don't just get to know Momonga but also the enemies that he faces.
For the most part the writer succeeds, however there are some characters who gets their own part of a chapter that really don't matter in any way, those chapters felt like quite a waste of time.
Breaking down the characters themselves is probably where my culture hinders me in appreciating them.
This is a rather gruesome story involving rape, torture and massacring the innocent. As such it really hurts when Shalltear and Albedo argue like two 14 year old girls, or when the characters (that are otherwise well established) suddenly break character to act out some Japanese joke character (IE, the wife asking the husband that just returned if he wants food, a bath or her). I deducted a fair amount of points for this, but I may be in the wrong here.
Regarding the main character himself, Momonga, he is quite the interesting character.
Despite him now being an undead commanding a vast army he still has a human side. He is constantly struggling between his human side (what he really wants?) and what he believes his subjects expects of him as their supreme ruler. His human side is what makes him round, from how the others observe and judge him he is seen as pure evil (well, except his subjects of course).
Enjoyment and overall:
Despite all the small things here and there I'm thoroughly enjoying this. The writer put in a lot of effort in creating a world that was just his, so it's not just the standard fairytale creatures and world you come across. Even the creatures and such that is standard (can't avoid it completely) the writer put his personal twist on.
As such I can definitely recommend this if you are interested in fantasy. read more
Before I get into talking about the LN I need to point out that the art in this series is amazing... Seriously the picture where Ainz is face palming after talking to Pandora Actor had me laughing for minutes. Anyway the story is pretty simple, our MC/Ainz loves a virtual reality MMO and well the one he spent hundreds of hours and any spare money he had is ending. The guild members he considered his family are all gone and when hes in tears and the games last day is about to end he is transported to a mysterious world that even after 4 volumes cant quite be explained. The world is kind of similar to the game yet it isn't... IDK but it is quite interesting and im curious to see how the story ends. My favorite part and definitely the thing that stood out the most for me was the characters, there is tons of side characters all with vast personalities and hilarious troupes. All of the characters were formerly NPC'S made by the guild members except for Ainz and well they are all quite weird but entertaining. Oh another thing that is quite original is that the main character is a Lich who has thousands of spells in his disposal that are considered to only be obtained by Gods in the new world. I enjoyed this series quite a bit and it has just about a bit of everything for most people, mystery, action, adventure, comedy and well even romance... I am curious to see where the story heads and have high hopes for the anime. read more