The World of 2138 refers to the name of the world in which the main protagonist of Overlord, Suzuki Satoru, or commonly known Ainz Ooal Gown originated from. The setting takes place in the real world, but a hundred years into the far future.
In the World of 2138, the destruction of the environment had continued at ever-increasing speed to the point where the surface of the Earth was hopelessly polluted; gorgeous nature existed only in video games. The sky was always hidden behind black smog, the sun making only brief appearances. Thick, toxic fog frequently covered the cities, so almost no one went out without a gas mask. Since the plants that would have converted carbon dioxide to oxygen and absorbed nitrogen oxide had all withered due to a dearth of sun, the atmospheric pollution only worsened. As the number of plants decreased, the populations of birds and insects that ate their leaves and fruit dropped as well.
Of course, the pollution extended to the water as well, and all the rivers turned horrible colors and ran murky. The pollution was so bad that water purification systems ceased to function, so even tap water had to be passed through a filter before it could be drunk.
The practice of traditional farming, which depended on rainwater and sunlight, declined, and all vegetables and grains were cultivated in domes. The price of food inevitably soared, and raw fruits and vegetables became luxury goods that ordinary people couldn't get their hands on.
In the World of 2138, Japan, in practice, was run not by the government but by corporations. Huge conglomerates had even altered the laws to be to companies' advantages, and the reality was that they controlled the people.
At the end of the twenty-first century, though the old structure of society was showing signs of strain, it was still intact somehow. But at the beginning of the twenty-second century, with the collapse of the primary-sector industries due to advanced environmental destruction and the drying up of crops, there were food riots in all corners of the country. The riots eventually turned into a coup d'etat, and when the politicians were targeted by the people's discontent, they were tried by the mob.
Into the power vacuum left by the halt of government functions, due to the coup d'etat, came the huge conglomerates, which seized the legislative, executive, and judicial powers. They succeeded in taking over the country.
But the ones who caused the environmental destruction in the first place were the huge conglomerates. If they had protected the environment, there wouldn't have been food shortages or riots. Looking at it that way, it seemed like the world had been being manipulated by the conglomerates for a long time.
Meanwhile, those in the conglomerates had taken refuge in "complete environment cities" called arcologies. Employees and affiliates exulted in how different they were from the outside world.
So arcologies ended up becoming states with cities built around them. At certain times for various reasons, arcologies went to war with one another. Spoken on television, there was the conflict that started last year between the 2nd European Arcology and the 3rd European Arcology reportedly mentions by a Japanese news anchor.
On the other hand, there were even news regarding the three mega corporations in the capital known as Neo Kyoto, an unknown individual or group arrested for the sale of illegal cyberware in Neo Kyoto Hachijo, and so on.
In the World of 2138, the government had basically ceased functioning, and police remained only in name. Naturally, public safety worsened, and gangs of thieves and hackers operated in the open, but society as a whole wasn't actually thrown into chaos. Most people quietly commuted to an office and put in their hours. Employees were treated cruelly, but they never complained, and almost no one rebelled against their administration. The reason they didn't was that anyone who revolted against their company would have been unable to survive in that world.
In the past, if one were forced to leave their company, they might have been able to be self-sufficient and get their own food, but in 2138, that was a dream within a dream. Even if seeds were sown in the polluted earth, they wouldn't sprout, so anyone who couldn't live in a city would starve to death unless they stole food from someone. For people who weren't ready to take that step away from humanity, the only option left was to just follow company orders and keep working.
Very rarely, there were terror attacks on the wealthy (those who belonged to the huge conglomerates), but they almost never actually affected their target because the upper crust of society lived their lives cut off from the outside world. Only the rich could attack the rich, but even when the wealthy clashed, it was the poor who lost their lives. They were the ones who had to take orders and actually go to war. To the wealthy, terrorism, war, and looting were fantastical things that happened in some far-off land.
That's the way the world was, so if there were passionate police officers, they would have been upset by the gap between their ideals and reality and might have tried to go looking for justice somewhere.
After the huge conglomerates took over the country, under the pretext of "getting public expenditure under control", but with the true aim of robbing the poor of their ability to think, the compulsory education system was dismantled. In the World of 2138, tuition was required to attend even elementary school level.
Parents who wanted their children to be able to get a halfway decent job still sent them to school, but wasn't easy for the poor to scrape together tuition. There were many who bent over backward and ruined their health working to pay for it. Really, elementary education shouldn't have cost that much, but prices soared because the wealthy wanted to rob the poor of educational opportunities.
To the wealthy of 2138, the poor (anyone who wasn't rich) were no more than worker bees who existed to make them richer. What was demanded of worker bees was to loyally follow after their superiors' orders, not to think for themselves. On the other hand, people who thought for themselves were considered outsiders who disrupted teamwork, harmful elements who threatened public safety. To the wealthy who wanted the poor to stay stupid, the fewer schools, the better.
People who graduated elementary school had at least a minimum level of knowledge, which they used as a gear in the system to get a job. That was the definition of success if one was considered to be poor financially.
Since the environment had been destroyed, it had gotten difficult to acquire fresh meat or vegetables, so the poor ate mostly supplements and processed food designed with only nutrition delivery in mind. As ingredients were exhausted, the dining industry declined, and a gourmet meal was something only residents of the arcologies could enjoy.
Due to the atmospheric pollution, playing sports outside was also a dream that would never come true. Renting an indoor playing field was very expensive, and thus out of reach for the poor. People such as Suzuki Satoru had to wear an air filtering mask along with goggles to protect themselves from being contaminated by outside air while moving afoot. However, the clothes worn will still be affected through the polluted atmosphere.
Since the mountains and oceans were also polluted, tourism as a leisure activity had gone extinct.
The only leisure activities the poor could enjoy were things they could do at home: board games like shogi and Go, streaming movies, and DMMO-RPGs such as YGGDRASIL. By immersing themselves in a DMMO-RPG, players could gaze at beautiful natural vistas without stepping out of their rooms, and they could meet a lot of people, even if only through a screen. They could take out their work frustrations on monsters and build the kind of house in the game they could never have in real life. Maybe they would even find love.
The reason DMMO-RPGs became so popular in the twenty-second century was due partially to how interesting the games were, but another reason was probably that so many people wanted to escape their hopeless reality. To players, the DMMO-RPG was not an "alternate" reality; it had already replaced the real world.
However, these games, which players turned to for support, were developed by affiliates of the huge conglomerates.
There are technological tools used in this world such as the unknown helmet used by Suzuki Satoru included a system that would automatically record everything which went on in the virtual world. As an aside, it would retain footage for a month, automatically deleting it after that. Naturally, a lot of people would want to avoid wearing that kind of helmet since its an indicator of giving up one’s privacy.
However, most if not almost everyone had the unknown helmet on them was because it is not only mandated by computer laws, but also to protect people at the same time. The neural nano-interface was a human brain augmentation which allowed it to function as a supercomputer — a super high-performance personal computer. It was essential for daily life, but sometimes they were used in crimes as well.
In particular, hackers would use the brains of others as a springboard to commit crimes. Because of that, helmets like these could prove one’s innocence, even if the wearer was implicated in a crime. One could say this was the safety net of the computing world. In contrast, not having one of these greatly increased the chances that one might be charged when involved in a crime, so only a handful of people chose not to wear them.
On the other hand, the person wearing this unknown helmet needs to replenish nano-machines before engaging in a game as YGGDRASIL. To start off, this can actually be done through a syringe with enough quantity of cerebral nano-machines infused on the person using it.
- An Overlord Special pertaining to the World of 2138 was released with volume three of the manga series.
- The parents of players like Momonga and Ulbert Alain Odle had came across similar circumstances due to overworking or work related and they ended up dying soon after.
- This World of 2138 plus Suzuki Satoru's day-to-day leisure seems to bear resemblance to the crisis in modern China with its own pollution, where people have to wear a mask for protection.