What is the difference between Overlord manga and light novel? Explained
Overlord is a very interesting case regarding isekai and fantasy because the anime is focused on Ainz, who also happens to be a villain, and that gives the series a very unique role. This has given newcomers a very strong impression of what the series is all about because of Madhouse's adaptation, but the truth of the matter is that the manga and the light novels are very different... and are different even between one another.
That is the thing when it comes to the Overlord series: it is a very different experience depending on which medium a person consumes it on.
Every adaptation has its own interpretation and this can lead to a lot of different variables, which is something that is going to be addressed here as both the manga and the light novels of this RPG-based story have several differences.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for the Overlord manga and light novels.
Key differences between the Overlord manga and light novels
The Overlord franchise has very humble beginnings, which is crazy considering how much of a juggernaut it has become over the years, but it all started as a novel by Kugane Maruyama in 2010.
Since that publication, the series has had a lot of light novels and a couple of manga adaptations, with the anime by Madhouse being the series' biggest call to fame, of course.
Be that as it may, it has to be said that the light novels by Maruyama are the definitive canon source of the series. A lot of fans have this confusion regarding which stuff is canon or which stuff is the most reliable when it comes to power scaling, statements, and what not, leading to some of the most heated debates in the fandom.
When it comes to the differences between the mediums, a light novel is mostly written as a book, although it has some illustrations from time to time that help transmit some ideas.
On the other hand, manga is just like Western comics in that they have sequential art to tell a story, thus becoming a lot more graphic than a light novel in terms of expressing something visually.
Biggest differences within the story
One big difference that the Overlord manga and light novels have when compared to the Madhouse anime adaptation is the focus on the character of Ainz. While Ainz is the main character in the anime, he is just another part of the series' world in the other two mediums, which helps make the story feel a lot grander and more expansive when compared to the adaptation on the small screen.
The manga also has the disctintion that it complements the Overlord anime in many ways, which is why they are easier to compare than the novels.
The light novels follow their rhythm and approach to things, which is something that can give newcomers a much more different feel when compared to the other two.
Naturally, the light novels can also give a lot more depth to the characters because Maruyama can explain their thoughts and what they are feeling.
While it is true that the manga could do likewise and even an anime could try a similar approach with a narrator, prose narrative has a natural inclination to use this tool that works in a very efficient manner.
The Overlord series is a major success story and is one of the most popular isekai series ever written, so Maruyama should definitely feel a lot of pride.
In that regard, every medium in which the story has been adapted has its own unique charm and ups and downs, which should be taken into account by the newcomers.