- The Original Overlord story – web novel version
- Similarities between the Overlord Light novel and the Anime
- Difference between the Light novel and the Anime
- Missing/disregarded important details
- Sequence of events
I find anime and light novel versions of anime franchises can be very different from each other. While most manga and anime try their best to follow the light novel version, if that’s how they originated, they often deviate in some ways.
Let’s not forget that these are two different media, and light novels have more leeway compared to animes that are often time constrained and have a limited budget.
Overlord anime is one of those titles that have lost essential information relevant to the continuation of the story – because of the limitations inherent in anime production.
Not everything in the light novel can ever be told in the anime version, no matter how much animators and directors try. There will always be something missing in the anime version. It’s just a matter of how the director copes with those missing pieces to make an anime worth watching.
In this article, I’ll dig deeper into how much difference there really is in the literary versions of the Overlord franchise compared to its anime releases.
If you after my overall thoughts on Overlord more generally, see my Overlord review.
The Original Overlord story – web novel version
Contrary to popular belief, Overlord actually started as a web novel. It mostly deals with stories and characters that probably will never be discussed in the light novel version and the anime.
When the web novel version came to its bittersweet end, many readers realized it was actually a good story. It was later adapted to a light novel, but carried a different plot from the web novel.
You can think of the light novel as an alternate universe for the same story. A story where many characters don’t die –well, not as much as in the web novel plot, at least. The focus of the story shifts to the development of the main protagonist and his allies.
Character differences in Overlord web novel version
Believe it or not, our favorite character, Albedo, the face of the Overlord franchise, doesn’t even exist in the web novel version! Yes! It is an alternate world that is a lot darker, where important characters in the present plot are nowhere to be found.
Some important characters in the light novel don’t exist in the web novel. These include:
Rubredo (older sister of Albedo and the Nigredo),
Nigredo (The strongest being in the entire Nazarick –much stronger than the protagonist, Ains, or any other floor guardians),
Hamsuke (the fluffy hamster named as the wise of the forest)
Nfirea Bareare (an important character in the development of Carne village arc).
It’s hard to imagine a world in Overlord without the ever so cute “trap” Mare Bello Fiore. Yet that’s how it is in the web novel version.
Mare is such an important character in the overlord franchise—as important as Albedo. An entire volume in the light novel is dedicated to her (the coming Volume 16 of the Elven Kingdom arc)!
And since Albedo doesn’t exist in the web novel version, Demiurge is instead the overseer of the floor guardians in Nazarick. In contrast to the web novel, Demiurge is only 7th in the ranks of the floor guardians in terms of strength in the light novel. All other floor guardians also have different attributes and are placed in different floor orders.
The web novel also talks about certain important characters that are never discussed in the light novel version, such as the founding members of the Slain Theocracy.
While the flow of the story in the light novel is somewhat similar to the original web novel story, there are plenty of changes made to the light novel making it slightly unrecognizable by fans. When you read the web novel and compare it to the light novel, you would think that different authors had written the novels and that one is a doujin (fan-fiction) – but which would be which!?
Similarities between the Overlord Light novel and the Anime
For the most part, the light novel and the anime version of Overlord are the same. They mostly follow the same plot since the anime version is based on the light novel itself. You can think of the Anime as a summarized depiction of the light novel.
The Anime’s beginning is similar to the first chapter of the light novel.
In fact, I would even say that the start of the Anime is a visual representation of chapter 1. Even the personal dialogue of Satoru and the mannerisms of the characters in the light novel are properly conveyed in the Anime.
The Anime gave me a good impression. You can visualize what is written in the light novel, rather than just relying on imagination to make sense of the words in the novel.
The animators did very well in portraying each character and their outfit from the light novel, especially the Pleiades and the floor guardians.
When I first read the descriptions of the Pleiades in the light novel, I was thinking about typical maid outfits in Anime. On the other hand, the animators add details related to each battle maid’s skills and characteristics, which are eventually highlighted in the later chapters of the light novel.
It makes sense to make each character design of the Pleiades unique, since, in the story, all of them were made individually by a member of Ain’s guild. Thus, the battle maids are similar, having the same job description, but still very different from one another. It’s hard to imagine what this would look like when you are just reading a text.
The Anime’s plot follows the general flow of the story in the light novel. There are no major changes in seasons 1-3 of the Anime that are detrimental to the plot.
Although some “chunky” parts in the light novel are missing in the Anime, the anime still manages to follow the light novel closely. Even the settings of each scene are properly depicted in the Anime as described in the light novel.
Difference between the Light novel and the Anime
The anime version of Overlord is its own entity, but fans of Overlord anime are missing a lot from not reading the light novel. While the Anime tries its best not to deviate from the light novel, the differences are glaring to light novel readers.
Missing/disregarded important details
The Anime doesn’t have the leeway to be as detailed as the light novel. However, as a light novel reader, it’s hard to ignore the missing information that is essential to the story, especially those dialogues that explain the behavior of each character in Overlord.
Here are some examples of details that should have been in the Anime:
In the light novel, there was plenty of foreshadowing of Albedo’s resentment against the supreme beings for “abandoning” their NPC creations and guild leader Ains.
While it wasn’t explicitly stated in the light novel how much Albedo resented the supreme beings, she has mentioned several times in the light novel her disappointment of how the supreme beings suddenly vanished without saying goodbye.
She felt like the supreme beings suddenly got bored and decided to abandon them in Nazarick.
There is also a time in the Anime when Albedo expresses her unhappiness towards “Ains.” This has left the audience confused about why she would say such a thing, when she is programmed to be in love with the guild master of Nazarick.
The nuance is actually very obvious in the light novel as Albedo tells Momonga (The original name of Ains in the game) that she is against his decision to change his name to Ains Ooal Goal. This is mainly because her flavor text clearly states that her adoration is to the being called Momonga. She resents the name Ains. Because she is “in love” with the person originally named Momonga, she endures her resentment. Still these feelings somehow leak out once in a while.
This has caused plenty of speculation by the anime fans that Albedo will someday betray “Ains” and that Albedo is making moves behind the scenes.
The Relationship between the Arcs
One more reason light novel readers feel slightly disappointed with the anime Overlord is that the Anime eventually ignores the essential details that link the story arcs.
It’s very clear in the light novel what triggers the start of the next story arc. For example, the trigger for the shift from the undead king arc to the dark warrior arc is the discovery of Yggdrasil items. Another example is the link between the Lizardmen arc and the Dwarven kingdom arc, which are actually the rune-crafted weapons of the lizardman tribe.
All these important details seem to be put aside in the Anime, in spite of their importance in the development of the plot.
Sequence of events
The way the story arcs are sequenced in the Anime are slightly different from the light novel. From seasons 1 to 3, most events follow that of the light novel, and any changes made don’t affect the plot much. However, the recent release (season 4) has a major difference in the sequence of the arc.
The middle episodes of season 4 deals with the Dwarven kingdom and the rune crafts. While this still follows the light novel, what comes after the Dwarven kingdom arc is supposed to be the Holy kingdom arc. The Anime turned the Holy kingdom arc into a separate movie that will be released in the autumn/spring of 2023.
In the light novel, the holy kingdom arc paves the way to the spread and use of rune-crafted weapons. Ains obtains the crafting technology in the Dwarven kingdom arc. Here, Ains wants to test out the viability of rune crafts by spreading their effectiveness in the holy kingdom.
Consequently, the following events in the Holy kingdom arc pave the way to the development of the next section of the light novel: the Destruction of E-Rantel.
In the Anime, the destruction of E-Rantel follows immediately after the Dwarven kingdom. This has caused some confusion. The trigger of the invasion of E-Rantel is the commandeering of the humanitarian aid of Nazarick to the destroyed Holy Kingdom. This still hasn’t happened in the Anime.
The Anime has some mistakes in its English subtitle translations. The Japanese dub dialogue clearly states “Oukoku” or Holy kingdom, but the English subtitle mentions Slane Theocracy instead, which makes no sense. All this confusion is because of the shifting of story arcs.
This isn’t the first time, though, that the Anime shifted the story sequence.
In season 3 of the Anime, the chronological order of events is:
- the Lizardmen,
- the men in the kingdom (Sebas’ story),
- the two leaders arc (the invasion of Carne village),
- and then, the tomb raid arc.
In the light novel, on the other hand, the Carne village comes first before the story of Sebas. The shifting has a detrimental effect on the character of Lupus Regina. Many anime fans perceive Lupus Regina as someone who finds it hard to follow commands, making her a rebellious and somewhat thoughtless character. In truth, if you read the light novel, this is not the case at all.
These major adjustments in the sequence of events change important details of the plot, which in effect, causes a lot of misunderstanding among fans.
To see our recommendations on the best order to watch Overlord, see here.
Comparing Anime and light novel versions is like comparing apples and oranges: each version has its own merits and demerits. The light novel version is more expressive and detailed, while the anime version is more compressed and stimulating.
As a light novel reader, I greatly appreciate watching the anime version since it gives a visual representation of what I normally just imagine from the texts I read, making the experience more exciting and interesting.
The anime itself is a masterpiece, but it’s important to remember that it is not meant to be as detail-oriented as the light novel—you only get what you see. Most of the time, the speed at which the story is told in the anime is fast-paced, compressing several story arcs into a few episodes.
If you enjoy the plot in the anime, I recommend you also read the light novel version to understand the plot in a much deeper way than what the Anime presents.
See our article on Overlord merch here. If you are looking for similar anime to Overlord, look here.
Article by John Salinas.
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