Overlord Vol. 1 - Manga Review

One young man finds himself suddenly stranded in a strange new world in the body of his Lich Lord avatar from his favorite MMO. Coming to terms with his new power, as well as his newly sentient crew of former NPC’s can he find the strength to master himself, and perhaps conquer this new world?

The Lowdown

The MMO Yggdrasil is in its final hours and Momonga, leader of the top-teir Ainz Ooal Gown guild has decided to stay on until the bitter end. However, when the clock strikes midnight Momonga does not exit the game as planned, instead finding himself permanently inside the body of his in-game avatar, surrounded by his guild’s NPC servants. Even more startling is that it seems the entire dungeon that he and his guild called home has been uprooted entirely and placed in a new world that no-one has any knowledge of. Momonga must therefore take charge as the leader and push forward into the new frontier.

How Was It?

Overlord’s first foray into its manga adaptation is an enjoyable beginning for what looks to be a fun, different take on the seemingly overcrowded “trapped in a rpg videogame” genre. A blatant power fantasy that does away with any notion of being an “underdog” story, Momonga is shown to be an insanely powerful and competent warrior, tactician and leader. However his magical prowess is not what makes him interesting as a character, as instead of having to “prove” his physical ability, rather he struggles in enacting the “role” of Overlord and the all the responsibility, prestige and expectation that entails. It’s the ultimate realization of imposter syndrome as Momonga now has to literally “role play” the character that he has played as an avatar for years, living up to the god-like reverence his guild’s created NPC’s hold him in. This made for an interesting character dynamic that gave Overlord a different feel from its genre peers.

One of the unique things about the tone of Overlord is the melancholia that really begins the story. Instead of high octane action, or mystery, we see Momonga dealing with the loss of his friends even as the game that had seemingly consumed his life for years shuts down. The art manages to portray the feel of Momonga’s emptiness quite well as the clock ticks down. Once midnight strikes, and the revelation that Momonga has now become part of this new world occurs, the shift from the disoriented Momonga to the powerful overlord Ainz Ooal Gown is a fun exercise in explosive joy as he slowly understands the extent of his powers and the begins creating his over-lordly persona.

My favorite part of this series though has to be the depth of the game system that has been brought into the story. In a similar manner to the Log Horizon series Overlord has a highly detailed backdrop of sophisticated RPG game mechanics, systems and world building. However the Overlord manga wisely decides to provide this extra exposition via some highly in-depth chapter dividers that allows for both the plot and panels to be uncluttered, yet still contain the same amount of information that a novel could have. They were a fascinating-to-read addition, and one that felt like the creators had had given some reverence to manga-only readers. Along with that was the bonus short story that comes with the book, which even if frivolous (it’s called “Blah, Blah, Blah…”) its at least entertaining, and shows that the original author cared enough about the manga adaptation to write something for fans.

It’s good to note then that the art by Hugin Miyama at least hold its own in this adaptation to the graphic image. Each of the main characters are drawn very well, highly detailed and energetic while the have some fun compositions, and above average layouts. Only a couple panels here and there seemed ill conceived, with a couple backgrounds feeling a bit lackluster, but on the whole Miyama does a good job on expressing emotion for this cast of grotesques and monsters through the blocking and composition, while the action scenes are lively and dynamic. So while it may not be the pinnacle of artistic quality, it has enough character to sell the world and cast, and to never become boring to read.

Final Thoughts

Overlord Vol. 1 is a very good beginning to a manga that seems to hold a lot of promise. A blatantly fun power fantasy with just enough emotional depth to keep the overly powerful protagonist from feeling boring, and an excellently crafted underlying game system that gives texture and backstory to the new lands and old game of the story. This is definitely one to check out for those looking for a fun adventure.

Overlord, Vol. 1 - manga (Overlord Manga)
By Kugane Maruyama, Satoshi Oshio

Overlord Vol. 1 was published in English by Yen Press, on June 28, 2016, translated by Emily Balistrieri. The manga was written by Satoshi Ōshio with art by Hugin Miyama, based on Kagane Maruyama’s original Light Novels. Volume 2 releases in English on September 27 2016.



Date of Publication: June 28th, 2016

Translator: Emily Balistrieri

Author: Satoshi Oshio

Publisher: Yen Press