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Overlord Season 1 Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

overlord-season-1-coverWhat happens after the game is turned off?

What They Say:
On the night his favorite MMORPG is scheduled to be shut down, veteran player Momonga stays logged in until the clock hits zero. The screen goes dark for only a few moments before he finds himself completely immersed in the online world of Yggdrasil. Left with all of his character’s devastating powers, total dominion over his loyal NPCs, and nothing better to do…Momonga decides to try his hand at taking over the world.

All the hours he’s spent grinding and dungeon crawling have certainly paid off, and as he tests his strength on local rogues and legendary beasts he comes to realize that not one opponent can stand against his might. Embracing his new identity as the fearsome mage Ainz Ooal Gown, Momonga continues his search for bigger, badder adversaries. Leaving the people of Yggdrasil to wonder who exactly is trapped with who?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a healthy blend of different types of action with the usual dialogue and the mixes both work well for it. The dub naturally has a bit more placement at times and overall clarity but also just a higher sound level in some instances that’s complemented by the bass levels in the action sequences. The show is one that works some fun battles, though they rarely go on long until the end of the season, but what we get is nicely creative with some good sword fights, fist fights, and the use of magic. Sometimes at the same time and that makes for a nice bit of cacophony. The encoding captures all of it well as both tracks are clean throughout with what they do and the end result is one that’s certainly pleasing on the ear, whether it’s the opening or closing songs or everything in between.

Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, which is also where the bulk of the extras are. Animated by Madhouse, the show has a great look about it with a rich color palette that knows when to go vibrant and when to stick to more traditional fantasy era earth tones. The mix of different elements plus the “gaming” elements as well makes for a pretty rich looking visual experience tied in with some great character designs and really fluid motion sequences during the bigger battles. The character designs have some solid detail to it and the show goes big with the main character since there’s a bit more effort involved there and the encoding captures all of it very well. Colors are bold and clean with no noise to be had or breakup while backgrounds are solid throughout and nothing to really take issue with during regular playback.

The packaging for this limited edition release is definitely pretty good all around, especially in the visual delivery area. The heavy chipboard box is done in darker tones using some of the fantastic illustration pieces that’s in line with the novels in how they’re done with the covers as opposed to animation pieces and it sets a pretty distinct tone that, for fans of the genre, it’ll be delightful to have and show off. The main panel is my favorite with Momonga and Albedo together as it’s so stark and engaging with what it presents that it’s a pretty powerful piece. The back cover is a really good one as well as it’s a larger full cast image that focuses on those that serve Momonga and it has its own darkness bathed in red that’s highly appealing. Within the box we get two Blu-ray cases that provide more of this kind of illustration/painted artwork on the front with each format getting its own case while the back side has some fun character artwork from within the show along with a breakdown of the episodes by number and title with disc and what extras there are. There’s also artwork on the reverse side that features more character material done in animation form.The really great part of this set is that we get a pack-in box that also includes eleven art cards that replicates a good deal of the Japanese cover artwork, whcih is what populates the set itself. These are fantastic pieces and really deserve some kind of framing to bring it together in a very visible way instead of sitting inside your box.

With so much attention on so many other things with this set, the menus come across as a bit standard in a way as we get a series of nicely chosen darker clips that play throughout it as the main piece. The logo is kept to the center top in decent fashion and the layout is standard with the navigation along the bottom, which is done with a kind of old book style background that makes for easy reading of the selections themselves, which are done in white. It’s not a standout menu, though as I said the clip pieces chosen are good as they set the tone, but it’s one of those rare cases where using some of the art card artwork would have made for a more imposing piece that would set the tone far better.

This set has a lot of extras to it and a lot to dig into that’s very worthwhile. For English dub fans, not only do we get two audio commentary tracks with the cast but we also get a video commentary for the thirteenth episode. This brings four of the main actors together and they have a lot of fun talking about the show, and each other, as it progresses. The other big extra is the inclusion of Play Play Pleiades shorts, which were streamed during broadcast and are like short-form low-rent comedy pieces in terms of animation but poke fun at themselves in a really cute way. They’re all in one extra but you can thankfully skip around them easily enough. The same can be done with the special preview collection that highlights each of the episodes as broadcast and we also get the usual round of TV spots, pre-broadcast promos, and the home video releases promos. Add in the clean opening and closing and it’s a solid hour of material to dig into not including the audio commentary pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series of the same name from Kugane Maruyama, Overlord is a thirteen episode anime series that aired in the summer 2015 season as animated by Madhouse. The original novels began back in 2012 and have eleven volumes to their name so far and Yen Press is bringing those out in delicious hardcover form. I hadn’t watched the anime adaptation when it came out since I was a bit tired of the whole trapped in a videogame thing and figured that something like this would work better marathoned. And boy was I right. This series quickly won me over with what it did and how it did it because it sidestepped so many familiar cliches while playing well with others so that, while not feeling fresh per se, it didn’t feel like we were being dragged through the same thing over and over again.

As we know from the novels, as I don’t think it was mentioned in-show, the series takes place in 2138 where an immersive game called Yggdrasil has come to its end after a twelve-year run and a lot of fans. The closing day is here and we’re introduced to Momonga, a powerful member of one of the more powerful guilds of the land known as Ainz Ooal Gown. Momongais a strong and experienced player but one that enjoyed the whole regulations and management side of the game than the combat, though he gave himself quite the imposing look with his skeletal body, cloaking, and large frame that exudes power. The end of the game is very quiet as only one other member of the 41-member guild is there and they don’t even stick around to the end. For Ainz, this was a big part of who he was and he’s going to be there as the lights shut off for it.

Of course, things don’t quite go as he thought it would and while the moment happens, the world ends up continuing on. Of course, the difference is that he can’t exit the game and since seemingly nobody else he knew was there at the time, he’s unsure if there are other players in the game as well. The NPC characters are continuing on with their lives and everything moves forward as though nothing happened. This leaves open the idea of what it is that went on and trapped him here, is it a dream or something else, but that’s not the intent of the story. What it wants to focus on is Momonga figuring out what it is this place is like now and making sure that he can function here. With the entirety of the guild at his disposal, including a host of a dozen or so powerful NPCs that were designed as servants for their headquarters, he’s certainly capable of doing so. But, it’s a big world out there and all those unknowns means he has to get out into it and establish himself in order to protect himself.

So, you can easily see how this will go in a lot of basic ways. Momonga gets out into the world, sends some of his NPCs off to investigate other areas, and tries to get a handle on whether there are more players out there. Within this, we’re introduced to the basics of how the world works – which is standard fantasy fare – and some of his minor struggles, such as not having local currency that works, figuring out the political situation, and attempting to make a name and reputation for himself under the guise of Ainz in order to keep secret who he really is. This involves an amusing armor suit that he wears so that he can move somewhat freely and without issue as an adventurer, though he’s thought of early on as a rich young noble that’s just playing and having fun since he’s got a low level ranking and some high powered gear that they figure was bought for him. He’s quite skilled and a natural strategist and that plays well in the long term here, but I like that he’s not cocky about it and doesn’t overperform in situations as he’s crafting a persona.

While there’s a lot of familiar to be had here with basic villains, simple politics, and local guild elements for Momonga to deal with, it’s how it’s dealt with that works for me. First, Momonga in his “natural” game state is the creepy skeleton head with red dot eyes. We get one moment where we don’t see what may be his true identity outside of the game but otherwise it’s all about the skull or a complete helmet that covers him. With no usual anime eyes to look into the window of his soul or expressiveness to come across with facial tics, Momonga is a fascinating character because the vocal performance carries a huge part of it as well as his overall physicality of the body. The end result is one that really works well because it’s so rare to see it done, especially for a leading character. This makes you work to grasp who he is and how he thinks more through the performance rather than it all come through the face.

Another big plus in its favor is that it doesn’t take the easy way out. When Momonga works to establish himself and ends up connecting with a group of seasoned but not high level adventurers, we get about four episodes with them and really get to know them. So when things go south as someone is looking for the person they’re protecting as an assignment, the death of all of the NPCs isn’t too much of a surprise. What Momonga does, however, is because he has the magical ability to reanimate them. Which you expect after he got to know and connect with them. But he knows that they’re not “real” in that sense and though he’s not exactly happy about them being dead, he’s not put out either. It fits with the character visual to be sure but it says loads about him as a character in terms of being pragmatic that I suspect plays a bigger role in the novels as the series goes on. There are a few instances like this where we see just how cut and dried he views things related to the game and the emotional detachment is highly interesting considering how overly emotional most anime characters get.

In Summary:
Overlord was a very good surprise and it was the kind of series where at the end of it I was pretty much primed for another season to be here, like now. The idea is familiar to be sure but the execution is spot on with just about all levels in making something that stands apart all while still playing within the familiar rules. Momonga is an intriguing character and I love his interactions with Albedo, as she was configured to really love him, as it provides for some good humor along the way. The show plays things serious with humor spread throughout that never feels forced or out of place and combines with some great action sequences with a good mix of fantasy, magic, and swordplay. Funimation did a great job with this limited edition release with what’s included as it has a classy look and feel about it that stands apart in a lot of ways. I really enjoyed the hell out of this show and hope that there’s more before I get sucked into reading the novels.

Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Language, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Episode 2 Commentary, Episode 9 Commentary, Episode 13 Video Commentary, Play Play Pleiades, Special Preview Collection, Episode 1 Preview, Promotional Videos, TV Spots, DVD/BD Spots, Textless Opening Song ”Clattanoia”, Textless Closing Song ”L.L.L.”, U.S. Trailer, Trailers

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 8th, 2016
MSRP: $84.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.