#1 Forgetting the original goal
As a long-time player of MMORPGs, I could strongly relate to the emotions of Momonga. He is the guild leader of Ainz Ooal Gown, once the mightiest group of players in the full-dive MMO Yggdrasil Online. However, over the years, all the other members stopped playing, leaving only Momonga to man their player-created fortress of Nazarick. On the night of server shutdown, he alone sits in the throne room, surrounded by the NPCs he and his players had created as defenders years ago.
Midnight passes, but the game doesn’t stop. Momonga finds himself now truly being his character and the NPCs, once bound by commands and pre-programmed behaviors, have now come alive and treat him like the supreme overlord that his character was in the game. Furthermore, the world is no longer the Yggdrasil he remembers, but a new medieval fantasy realm entirely.
Momonga vows to do whatever he can to safeguard the legacy of Ainz Ooal Gown and he wishes to spread that name far & wide so that, if his friends are out there somewhere, they will hear of him and the guild will be reunited. A touching goal and one that very much intrigued me, but Overlord never does anything with it. By the end of season 3, 39 episodes in, basically 0 progress has been made and the anime has instead developed into a story about Momonga being really cool and beating up everything and anything in the world that is considered strong.
The writer seriously just meanders around with side-stories for 2 seasons before deciding to shoot for world domination on a whim.
#2 Zero challenge
Now world domination sounds like an impressive goal, but Overlord handicaps that right out of the gate by making its unique selling point just how untouchable the protagonist is. There is only 1 battle in the entire show posing any kind of threat to him and that’s the finale of season 1, which was only possible because of a one-time fluke.
Momonga wields powers that surpass those of the new world’s Gods and any of his servants, even the weakest of maids, could stand against entire armies and overthrow kingdoms. It’s cool and cathartic to watch the cool skeleton man do his thing throughout season 1, but it just drags on and on, until season 3 is spending entire episodes on Momonga and friends dealing with absolutely negligible threats. The joke has worn thin, yet Overlord just keeps repeating it, hoping it’ll come around to being clever again.
Anytime a storyline could prove to be a bit of a threat to the main character, it’s immediately discarded. There might be other players out there just as strong as him? Probably not, would have bloody well seen them by now. The force that was able to mind-control one of Momonga’s servants away? That hasn’t been relevant since episode 14. Any kind of counter-plot from the various factions of the fantasy world or an internal problem with his guardians? Preposterous.
It all feels so pointless. It’s just an unopposed march towards guaranteed victory that tries to be shocking by repeatedly dedicating mini-arcs to fleshing out minor characters that are just going to get killed.
#3 Zero repercussions
With a main chararcter who is a giant skeleton man wielding necromancy and other dark sorceries, it’s probably no surprise that Overlord aims for a different kind of protagonist. Originally, Momonga starts out as a bit of anti-hero, who doesn’t aim to hurt people, but also doesn’t feel like helping them unless there is some benefit for him. Even then, he allows the memories of his old friends to sometimes motivate him into doing good as well, making for quite an interesting character.
These qualities, again, vanish as the story goes on. It becomes increasingly rare for the overlord to perform anything resembling kindness unless it’s towards his guardians and his willingness to do evil grows, even when the benefits are negligible. Especially in season 3, this makes the show feel more like a lighter version of Akema ga Kill, as atrocity after atrocity is thrown in, none of which goes contested even though the story is full of opportunity for it.
I should note that I don’t mind darker stories and took quite a liking to Goblin Slayer and Saga of Tanya the Evil just recently. What bothers me is that Momonga does these things and is never challenged on them; everybody just applauds and praises him, and the story moves on.
This makes it a shame that the story about finding his lost guildmates has been abandoned, because I would love for some of them to turn up and realize what their old friend has done and become. Having to face his old friends and explain why sexually torturing people, kidnapping citizens for experiments, and cruelly toying with his opponents were necessary; that would be the only course the story could take to give these moments purpose.
But even on a smaller scale, where is Cocytus at when his master greatly dishonors a brave warrior in a duel? Why is Sebas still accepting anything his master does, even as it goes against the will of his true creator? Overlord is slowly becoming Edgelord, and the blame lies with an author desperate to coddle and protect his precious skeleton boy from the consequences of his actions.
#4 Side-characters without purpose
What made season 2 bearable to watch is its increased focus on the side-characters. Momonga is surrounded by this enormous cast of NPCs that were created by him and his friends, all of which have amazing designs and interesting personalities. Watching these characters interact with each other and their master is very interesting, but after a few brief arcs, attention shifts back to Momonga and these characters begin to appear less and less.
There are like 20 phenomenal characters all sitting around Momonga’s fortress doing nothing. Even when they get a little chore, like the dark elf kid being ordered to mess up a troll in the forest, Momonga still personally accompanies them and does most of the work. He hogs every damn scene and still finds a way to be utterly stagnant in his character development.
There are characters that haven’t done anything since the start of the series and they are still introducing more new characters that then also don’t get anything to do. I would love to see more of these characters and what they are up to, but everything just has to be about Momonga and he derails all chances of anybody getting meaningful arcs to work through.
#5 CGI everywhere
Overlord isn’t the worst-looking show out there, but it certainly doesn’t live up to the visuals seen in its light novel counterpart. The animation style is fine and goes for a more generic look, but it also frequently supplements traditional animation with some glaringly obvious CG that really takes me out of the experience.
Soldiers and monsters are often given this treatment, leading to armies of clones and creatures that don’t look like they belong in the the show’s universe, almost as if they are layered over what should actually be there. And I do get how in a big battle with thousands of soldiers in it, you probably don’t want to be animating every single one of them individually, but why have it on smaller scenes as well?
Tragically, in season 3, this undermines the conclusion of one of the most interesting and longest side-stories. After numerous twists, two armies are lined up for battle, completely lacking mouth flaps as they speak and issue orders, before engaging in a battle that is literally devoid of choreography or any kind of logical cohesion. Without exaggeration, it’s easily the worst animation and directing I have seen in decades. I haven’t seen anything this laughably bad since 1970’s Cleopatra.