The show's grown a plot. I hadn't expected that at all. To my surprise, I want to see Season 4.
Until now, this show had been The Somewhat Random Adventures of Overpowered Villains. It hadn't really occurred to me that the story arcs might be going somewhere like this. They're all very distinct, you see, with each novel (three per anime season) having its own protagonists, setting and enemies. Ainz has at least two or three dozen fiends, demons, abominations, etc. under him at Nazarick, so the show's got its hands full trying to rotate through them.
- Season 1: Narberal and Shalltear.
- Season 2: Cocytus, Sebas, Solution, Demiurge, Entoma
- Season 3: Lupusregina, and even hers is a relatively small role. Well, apart of course from Ainz himself.
With hindsight, admittedly, you can look back at the first two seasons and see the worldbuilding and the foundations for the longer story. Season 1 has the city of E-Rantel, what Ainz does to Carne village and the mystery of what happened to Shalltear. Season 2 raises the stakes with, ultimately, a battle in the Royal Capital of the Re-Estize Kingdom. (Dunno if we'll ever return to the Lizardmen, though.)
Also, more and more, this is no longer just the story of Ainz. It's the story of an entire world with empires, politics and heroes. Ainz and Nazarick are just one faction. By the end of Season 3, we have quite a complicated world with seven kingdoms (and a nascent eighth in Carne), a number of extremely evil rulers and still that unknown power who brainwiped Shalltear back in Season 1. The plot's moving. Kingdoms are losing wars. Ainz doesn't appear in ep.10 until the end credits. It's also, though, quite unsettling to watch, because Ainz is fully capable of putting entire communities to the sword and we're reminded that his victims will have families, children, etc. Carne village scared me. Enri, Nfirea and the others are lovely people. Ainz is interested in them. It seems unlikely that this will end well. That said, though, it's an unusual way of creating dramatic tension even with ridiculously overpowered anti-heroes. Almost everyone in Nazarick is so strong that the show barely even bothers showing their fight scenes, but you have no idea what they'll do next.
Will you care about any of this? Is it possible to like Ainz and his minions? Well, among themselves they're a big happy family and Ainz is a benevolent, caring boss. He asks them politely to do things and worries about how to make them relax and take time off. There's also the occasional comedy of Ainz trying to live up to his grandiose image (e.g. practising his Cool Sitting Down) and being gobsmacked when Demiurge explains clever but evil things that everyone thinks Ainz already knew.
Then there's the fact that Ainz's actions tend to have a context. He saved Carne village in Season 1, so he's in there for the long haul and he even has a (short) list of people he's ordered his minions to keep alive. (Every so often he has to explain something nice or compassionate he once did in machiavellian terms so that his subordinates can process it.) On the other hand, he checks the motivations and expectations of the mercenaries who've been sent to raid Nazarick. They're simply doing a job, so he takes that at face value.
"So you've been offered an amount of money sufficient to justify putting your lives on the line."
(Nothing justifies the two little sisters, though.)
Then there's the war. Is Ainz a war criminal? Maybe, but the Baharuth Empire and Re-Estize Kingdom had been at war for years. They had an annual invasion. Their nobles treated it like a sporting event, or perhaps a summer holiday. Despite his (terrifying) body count, at least Ainz is honest about what he's doing. In the long run, the world will be better for what he did. (That's overlooking many, many thousands of individual lives, though.)
There's lots of obvious CGI, e.g. the ogres and of course the battles in eps.10-11. It's pretty glaring, but that was the only way of doing it on a TV budget.
I'm interested in Enri's story. She's like a reflection of Ainz (and I think she'll have no choice but to start her own little empire), but she's kind and good. Oh, and modest. That's something Ainz can't allow himself.
Apparently light novel readers hate the anime's version of the scene in ep.4 where Ainz gets angry. He's scarier in the book.
Jircniv Rune Farlord El Nix, Emperor of the Baharuth Empire, looks like Reinhard von Lohengramm from Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Similar job. Similar modus operandi. (Both are bloody tyrants at the head of an empire, but also good at governing.) Once I'd said that, Tomoko couldn't unsee it.
The Lovecraftian things Ainz summons (you'll know when) are an exact fit for their canonical descriptions. (They also have cute voices.)
For what it's worth, the light novel series will probably end at vol.17 and these three seasons have adapted vols.1-9. I hope they reach the end. This is a good show, in its uncomfortable way. It's a massive chuunibyou power fantasy, but made fresh by the ever-escalating victories of evil. The show's not glossing over the horror, but at the same time it's also quite cool and sometimes funny.