Ainz: The Overlord of Villain Protagonists | Overlord

Sometimes the bad guys get the limelight.

Overlord is one of the big four isekai to take the world by storm. But what is it that makes these adventures in depravity to engaging for people?


Hellooooo. Riiileeey, we’re liiive.
I’m awake. Look, I’m just gonna be honest, here. I don’t get it.
The appeal. I don’t see it.
The appeal of Overlord?
Bingo. Point blank? I don’t understand it. It’s alien to me. I’m not wired for it.
Sooo does that mean… gasp! I get the episode to myself?!
I… didn’t exactly say-
Okay! Then in that case, I’m Rila and this is-… um…
What’s the matter, sis? Is the “brain of the operation” havin’ a tough time comin’ up with a topic?
Nope! Just… trying to come up with a name! You wouldn’t happened to have any ideas, would you?
Well, I wouldn’t want to intrude. You are getting this episode to yourself, after all.
Ahaha. You and your jokes, Riley. Such a kidder. But I really would appreciate a hand!
Weeell… maybe if ya throw in a “pretty please-”
Riley. Help. Please and Thank You.
Tch. Fine, whatever. But you owe me, gremlin.
Right. So this is Ainz – The Overlord of Villain Protagonists.
Ooh! That’s good!

It’s like I said. The Villain Protagonist is a hard sell. Just ask my sister!
To be fair, the trope of villain protagonist isn’t really anything that turns me away on its own. It depends entirely on presentation. And applying it to the typical power fantasy formula of the standard isekai is… nooot one I’m cool with.
Ahaha! That’s funny, Riley! But don’t you have a script you should be sticking to?
Oi. If I have to sit through this, I’m gonna be as spiteful and petty as I want. You don’t have a problem with that… do you?
Eh? Ah… oh… um… n-no. No problem at all.
Good. Anyway to answer your stupid question, yes. It’s a hard sell. There are ways to do it. Showing the audience a slow descent into villainy is one way. Or showing a villain’s steady path towards redemption. Among other methods.
But then there’s Overlord, which decides “Nah!” And just shows us the bad guys being bad without any intention of softening the blow!

Hm? Oh. Yeah. It’s not a method used all that often. Usually when it is, you can expect to see the bad guy’s eventual downfall. But here… well… Isekai Power Fantasy. That’s… not happening. So you wind up with something that’s pretty unique and therefore memorable. For better or worse…
And on that note, the series does a great job of understanding that an Isekai Power Fantasy is pretty much a perfect playground for a Flat Arc Protagonist.
Oh. An arc. Is that what we’re calling it?
What was that, Riley?
Hm? Wha? Oh, did I say somethin’? Nah. Pretty sure you’re hearin’ things.
Ahaha. Suuure.
Anyway, all that’s helped along by the story’s solid worldbuilding, sure. So all the waves even made by Ainz ripple out and you get to actually see the impact they have. You catch all that? Cool. So let’s get this over with.
Say, Riley, could you maybe – just as a suggestion – at least pretend to-
No. I can’t.
Hm. So disagreeable.

If there’s one area of the anime where a lot of fans and non-fans are extremely critical, it’s that the show honestly kind of downplays exactly how awful Ainz and his followers are in the earlier stages, probably to make it more palatable. It… didn’t really have the effect they wanted.
For people who followed the source material, they didn’t like how watered down the more evil sides of the characters were. Not gonna pretend I know or care why, but there you have it. For people who didn’t know anything about the series in advance, this had the effect of being extremely jarring, later on. Especially when Season 3 came along.
If you didn’t know anything about Ainz when the anime began, you could get the impression that he was more of an anti-hero, or at least a somewhat lighter anti-villain. But… he’s reeeally not. And when Season 3 comes around, the invasion of the tomb pretty much makes it clear that Ainz… is nooot the good guy.
The source material doesn’t downplay this at all. And while every version of the story does pretty much establish that Ainz is nowhere near as evil as his companions – especially Demiurge, Shalltear, and Albedo – he’s still evil. Period. Full-Stop.
A noble demon is, after all, still a demon. He may have some admirable traits, like his sense of honor and companionship, but he still has almost no sense of empathy and can be extremely cruel, if he decides it’s necessary or beneficial in any way.
Part of the twisted amusement of the series – I guess – comes from seeing how absolutely depraved the characters are as they go about their tasks and execute their plan for world domination. It’s not often we get to see that side of things. And because of how broken they all are – combined with the fact that in this world everyone traditionally “good” is either weak or stupid – you get to see it unimpeded. So naturally any opposition they face gets… pretty easily steamrolled and/or absorbed into Ainz’s forces. If you’re into that sort of thing, I guess.
The fact that Ainz lets them indulge in whatever terrible things they want is pretty telling.
That said, you could maybe argue that it’s his positive traits that contribute to Ainz’s – ahem – “Flat Character Arc.”
Boy, you are really intent on making enemies today, aren’t you, Riley?
If you squint hard enough at it, Ainz isn’t evil. He’s just a pragmatic guy who lives by his principles and does what serves his interests.
Screw that, he’s evil. He’s evil with standards, but he’s evil. But those two qualities are what drive his ability to change the world. That and the overwhelming power at his disposal. But mostly those first two things… maybe.
Ainz genuinely loves his followers, all created by himself and his former companions. And it’s his love for them that drives a lot of his actions. He’s looking out for them, their wellbeing, and their interests… even if those interests happen to be… um… “warped.” Yeah, that’s what we’ll call it.
Still, his old companions all had a considerable influence over him. With one of them, in particular, inspiring him in his sense of nobility. This lends itself to how he handles himself in a lot of ways. And it’s by exhibiting that sense of honor – however twisted it is – that he’s able to garner a lot of respect from his followers and others around the world. Even despite all his scheming and manipulation and outright villainous behavior, he’s still “Fair.” Or… something.
On top of that is his sense of order, which he uses to rein in a dark, chaotic world.
Riiight… but I guess that brings us to the final point.

Far as I can tell, the biggest draw the series has for a lot of people is the worldbuilding. Gee, I wonder why. I mean, it’s not like 90% of the “good” characters you want to see succeed after all they struggle through get violently screwed over or anything. Oh. Wait…
Eheheh… A-anyway, the world building is great! In a series where the lead has a strong Flat Character Arc, having a world being this fleshed out is a major plus. Because you’re able to see all the ripples their actions have.
The world that the series takes place in is, frankly, awful. Which kind of serves as a point of justification. The series plays a lot with the notion of “Justifiable Evil,” mostly by showing that the world is actually worse than Ainz is. And any characters that live by traditionally held values of “goodness” are incapable of upholding them because – as I said earlier – they’re either weak or stupid. Yeah. Surprisingly, that wasn’t just a dig at the story, it’s also honestly how the story portrays those characters.
Setting aside some of the really unfortunate implications of this, the point is that those characters aren’t equipped to change the world the way Ainz does. All the darker, more ruthless and pragmatic characters are the ones who have that capacity. And a lot of Ainz’s smaller moves are used to get them in his pocket, somehow.
Meanwhile, the seedier, more chaotic parts of the world that are shown to us get pretty swiftly crushed underfoot.
Every move Ainz makes has some kind of ripple effect that we get to see unfolding on a larger scale. And that is fascinating.
Assuming you care enough about literally any of it.
You’re in rare form today, aren’t you, sis?
What? Did I say out loud that I’d be completely content if Ainz, his followers, and this entire world died in a fire as long as Carne Village went untouched? I don’t remember anything like that coming from my mouth. Nope. No siree.
Heeeh? Scary. Is her quiet anger actually scarier?

And that’s a wrap! Ainz is more than just a Villain Protagonist. He’s a masterclass in how to handle the archetype in the most unrelenting way possible by not shying away from the darker implications, showing the world he’s trying to conquer, and letting us see exactly the drive that allows him to change it. It’s refreshing, in a way!

Riley, your turn.
Thanks, I hate it.
*Sigh* Just what am I going to do with you?
Do you want me to actually be critical? Because I’m totally down with railing on it for being another pretty standard power fantasy. Or shall I talk about how glacially slow and boring Season 2 was? No? Okay then. It looks nice, it’s funny every blue moon, and it’s mostly competently written. Now if you’d kindly just get all the way off’a my back about not liking it, that’d be great. Thanks.
G-getting off! S-so what do you all think of Overlord? Let us know, down below! And give that like button a zap while you’re down there!
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*sinister giggle*
Whaaat the hell was that about?
Nothing at all. Stay Toon’d.

Rila – Mocha Vampire

Riley – AxusX
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