There’s something fascinating about light novels. In a medium so accessible to lazy writers, anything that’s popular enough gets a whole slew of imitations. Sword Art Online inexplicably became a hit, and suddenly “Trapped in an MMO” is a genre. “Isn’t that a little niche?” a naive person might say, “How many times can you put an original spin on that?”. But that’s the beauty of light novels. You don’t have to.
Right out of the gate, this gives Overlord a slight edge over its competitors, since it’s actually trying to do something novel. The first episode, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything.
The introduction scene is actually pretty good. The protagonist’s character, the evil skeleton lord Momonga, is hanging out in the deserted halls of his old guild. An old friend drops by to say hello, but has no time to stay around. No one plays the game anymore. It’s been two years, and real-life commitments have torn them apart. In just a minute or two, it effectively establishes the setting. But then… it sorta keeps going.
We see him staring wistfully at the staff his guild worked hard to create. We see the NPCs they designed and scripted to serve them. We see him giving orders to the NPCs, which they mindlessly follow. We see him pouring over the stats of another NPC (and changing her personality script from ‘bitch’ to ‘loves Momonga’. Guess where that is going). We listen to him list off the names of all his past guild members.
All right, all right, get on with it.
The servers of this dying game are about to be shut down for good, and Momonga’s player wants to be there when it happens. When the hour comes, he closes his eyes, and… nothing happens. The game continues to run. Not everything‘s the same, though. Menus and game commands no longer work, and much to Momonga’s surprise, the NPCs have become sentient.
Okay, big deal. We’ve seen this before, you know the drill. But no, Momonga spends the next 5 minutes trying different stuff, speculating about what happened, yadda yadda. It’s getting really tedious at this point. It’s not like the mystery of how he got trapped in an MMO is relevant to the story. We’re now 15 minutes into the show, and everything so far could’ve been summed up by a 2 minute introduction scene and “Suddenly I found myself trapped in this world”.
But surely something will actually happen now, right?
Oh, it spends the rest of the show introducing all his servants.
When I read about the premise of the show, my main thought was “Okay that sounds vaguely novel, but where will it go?”. Twenty-five minutes later, I still don’t have a clue. I didn’t learn anything I couldn’t have picked upfrom a single-paragraph summary.
Maybe Overlord will be okay, but the first episode didn’t inspire me with confidence.
First Episode Rating: 6/10
What would it take for me to watch another episode? MMO nostalgia. Thankfully I don’t play any.