#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 player faction 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 pays a final visit to the guild’s throne room; taking in the nostalgic memories whilst surrounded by Nazarick’s NPC servants.
Midnight passes, but the game doesn’t stop. Momonga finds himself now trapped in the body of 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. 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 that resonated with me personally. I put a lot of time into MMORPGs as a teenager and I too have fond memories of old guildmates I’ve long since lost contact with. Momonga’s quest was one I could relate to strongly, but the anime never does anything with it.
Reuniting with his friends vanishes from the priority list almost instantly. Instead we get a plodding story with disconnected arcs, all about showing off what a badass Momonga is. A generic villain story about world conquest, which carries none of the emotional weight implied in his origin story.
#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. Only 1 battle in the entire show poses 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 or 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. Even in season 3 we still get entire episodes about Momonga beating up “enemies” that we already know are faaaaaaaaaaaar below his level. 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. It tries to be shocking by repeatedly dedicating mini-arcs to fleshing out minor characters that are just going to die horribly, but this too has long since stopped being surprising.
#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. However, the memories of his old friends sometimes motivate him to do the right thing, 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. His willingness to do evil intensifies in parallel, even when the benefits for doing so 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. Just recently, for example, I have taken quite a liking to Goblin Slayer and Saga of Tanya the Evil. 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. 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 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 whom have amazing designs and interesting personalities. Watching these characters interact and work made for some of the best stories in Overlord, 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. He derails all chances of anybody else 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 source material. The animation style is “fine”. It’s fairly generic, but it also frequently supplements this traditional animation with some glaringly obvious CGI. The results are… laughable.
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. I am honestly not sure what’s worse to look at: one giant CGI monster that looks like crap or a thousand CGI soldiers in goofy animation loops
Tragically, in season 3, this undermines the conclusion of one of the most interesting and longest side-stories. Two armies are meant to clash in a desperate battle, but the models look like they belong on the Gamecube. There’s dialogue, but no mouth flaps or any kind of indication which of the many clones is speaking. When the battle then finally breaks out, it’s a mockery of choreography. It can’t even be called animation.
Without exaggeration, it’s easily the worst directing I have seen in decades. I haven’t seen anything this laughably bad since 1970’s Cleopatra.