Power Fantasy? Overlord Is Overpowering

Battle Maids or w/e

The question is, as stated:

Considering how much people bitched about the JSDF exercising overwhelming force against armies of chumps with swords, and how many viewers argued Kirito was overpowered in Sword Art Online, I wouldn’t have expected Momonga to get a pass. He’s constantly overestimating the abilities of his enemies and dismantling them with embarrassing ease despite handicapping himself time and again, yet nobody seems to have any qualms about that. My theory is that it’s because he’s really tall and speaks (externally, anyway) with an authoritative voice. That and being a big skeleton guy. I’m pretty sure Tony Robbins had a chapter on that.

The answer? Overlord differs by spinning the narrative towards what I call “world building.” Momonga’s unmatched prowess is not rooted in a sense of vulnerability. SAO and others are criticized because their narratives leverage their powerful protagonists through lenses in which mere mortals like me can sympathize with. (The fact that there is a damsel in distress and not some equally badass level one billion demon to pair with Kirito is all you need to address the feminist critique, although on those grounds Overlord fares poorly as well.) Momon, on the other hand, is a thorough lich, complete with all the leanings and quirks we have come to expect a lich who plays as a guy trapped from another world. At any given time throughout these first 9-10 episodes, he has no real skin in the game. Pun aside, Overlord stresses this by actually ignoring the “he’s trapped in another world and can’t escape” part.

Instead, we are invited by Overlord to learn about this strange new world ala Log Horizon’s styles. (Which, by the way, should share the same scrutiny about power fantasies.) It becomes world building as we learn with Momo-Boney-Goals or whatever he calls himself. We go on adventures with as much attachment as I do with my FFXIV character (who has been sitting in neglect for over a year). In other words, not that much. In that sense, we don’t really feel both the vulnerabilities or share in the same kind of delight of Momonga, as he crushes the truly worthless things beneath his left pinky toe bone. I guess in a way we are invited to take delight when scrubs are put down by something legitimate, but I think the schtik of Overlord is to exaggerate that gap so it becomes disfigured from what we’re used to: it becomes world building, to explain how things work.

GATE, in contrast, invite us to enjoy, celebrate, and watch it for precisely that gap. I would raise my hands when asked if a modern army machine-gunning 12th century footmen and knights on horses is a major reason why I watch the show.

In the story of Overlord we are not asked to pity or sympathize with Momonga, but more his allies, like the people who were slain ruthlessly after trying to befriend him. Or his pet hamster. If Momonga is God, then Overlord reincarnates him as a Coke bottle in subcontinental Africa; we watch it for the cast of characters around him and await what happens at the end. Or maybe Momonga is like the Mars Rover Curiosity and his foes are like rocks in front of a vaporizing laser? I’m grasping here.

PS. Hara is great in this, but I see where he’s coming from.

PPS. So-bin is good stuff.


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