How would you rate episode 4 of
Overlord IV ? Community score: 4.3
There’s an old critical thinking exercise I like to do to get my thoughts in order before reviewing anything. I try to summarize the episode—be that the plot or the themes explored—in a single sentence. This is what I came up with this week: “Ainz accidentally overthrows an empire as part of an advertising campaign.”
In other words, what we got this week is a comedy episode. One of the strengths of Overlord overall is the breadth of stories it can tell without feeling incongruent in either its tone or lore. So many of the stories on the human side of things are tragedies—like that of Arche and her sisters. On the other hand, when it comes to our cast of monsters, we can have scenes of Albedo cuddling with her Ainz-themed body pillow or Pandora’s Actor reveling in his over-the-top theatrics. Yet, both the serious and the silly fit well within the fictional world of Overlord.
This is because the core of the series—the fact that Ainz is completely out of his depth—has always been inherently comedic. He is not the all-knowing god the denizens of Nazarick believe him to be. He’s just some random dude who played an MMORPG a lot. Much of the show’s comedy comes from the juxtaposition of his internal monologue and his outward appearance—ie, how he panics inside even as he tries to pretend that he knows what’s going on. But what sells the joke is the punchline: no matter how ignorant he is or what events he accidentally sets in motion, everything always works out for him in the end.
This episode in particular takes that framework and uses it to explore the difference between Ainz’s true motives for his actions and the message his actions actually send. In his mind, Ainz is simply looking to make a new kind of adventurer’s guild and has decided that the best place to recruit would be his country’s only ally nation, the Baharuth Empire. He feels that showing off his strength to the masses and then promising to lend that strength to the adventures under his care is the best way to advertise.
But that’s not how those in power see what he’s doing. I mean, just take a look at Ainz’s actions from Emperor Jircniv’s point of view: just when you are laying the groundwork for an alliance to oppose Ainz, the skeletal Overlord just happens to show up to say “hi.” There’s really only one way to take this: that Ainz knows what is going on—and wants Jircniv to know that he knows. Ainz then follows things up by defeating the Empire’s greatest fighter in front of thousands of spectators—only to then resurrect said warrior to be his loyal servant.
The message, whether Ainz intended it or not, is clear as day: those who oppose Ainz will be killed… but those who agree to serve him unquestionably will gain a second chance at life. In Jircniv’s eyes he has already betrayed Ainz and had been caught red-handed in the act. Now the only chance for both himself and his empire to survive is to pledge themselves to Ainz. The fact that Ainz initially rejects Jircniv’s proposal to make the Empire a vassal state further suggests to Jircniv that his entire nation is worth less to Ainz than the single warrior he bested in the arena—prompting Jircniv’s terror in the episode’s final moments. I wonder what Jircniv would think if he knew Ainz simply didn’t know what the words “vassal state” actually meant. That’s comedic gold right there.
• With Albedo and Demiurge off doing their own things, who would even handle negotiations between the Sorcerous Kingdom and the Empire? Shalltear? Cocytus? Either of them would be a disaster. I supposed Sebas would be the best choice but I secretly hope for it to be Victim—just for the pure comedy of having Jircniv try to make a deal with a giant floating fetus that can’t speak any human language.
• Dwarven Magic runes, eh? That sounds like a plot hook to me.
• I laughed at Ainz lying that his WMD magic can only be used once every 10 years to try and calm the promoter down—only to immediately backtrack and say he had other WMD spells to use when he realized the implications of his words. That’s A-grade statecraft right there.
• I liked how nice Ainz was to The Warrior King. Rather than call him weak when prompted, he protected the warrior’s ego. It’s always good to see that although his undead nature tempers his strong emotions, it doesn’t make him a spiteful person. It helps to remind us of why his good-aligned, non-Nazarik subordinates like Enri would follow him despite his objectively evil acts.
Overlord IV is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.