The trouble with goblins is, nobody takes them seriously. They’re just goblins after all; little more than an irritation. How many games have you played, or stories have you read/watched, where goblins are a monster enemy? 10, 20, 100? What proportion of those treated them as anything more difficult than fodder for you, or the main character, to cut your teeth on early doors. It usually isn’t long before you “level up” and start tackling the “real” monsters or story, right? Well, in Goblin Slayer, as the name suggests, things are a bit different from the usual.
Confusingly, Goblin Slayer is the name of the main character as well as the name of the show itself. A name he has chosen and is known by because that is what he does; he slays goblins. It’s all he does and all he thinks about. Goblin Slayer is consumed by slaying goblins. You’d think that would make him incredibly one dimensional as a character, and it does, yet somehow it doesn’t. Yes it is genuinely all he seems to think about, but there’s still a full human character in there somewhere. I don’t know how they’ve managed to pull off such an amazing walking paradox but they have. There’s more to Goblin Slayer than goblin slaying, but I couldn’t tell you what it is yet.
So, why the obsession with goblin slaying in Goblin Slayer? To be frank, goblins are utterly despicable in every imaginable way. In this world they aren’t just fodder for aspiring adventurers to gain experience; they are vicious, conniving, horrid monsters. They don’t just attack villages and farms, they don’t just kill and pillage, they also kidnap women, use them as playthings and then kill them. Monsters is the only fitting word for them, the stuff of nightmares that often go unchecked because “they are just goblins” is a perception shared by many people in that world who are in a position to help from high ranking adventurers all the way to the actual military forces. A perception that is soon shattered when a horde of them come calling and people experience what they are really like.
This dedication to portraying goblins as the truly awful monsters that they are, is actually the cause of a controversy that surrounded the show when it first aired. Namely the depiction of rape. Without wishing to open that particular can of worms, I felt it necessary to mention it. It’s fair to say that in its attempt to portray the goblins as a serious and horrible threat, to get you as a viewer to take them as seriously as the main character does, they ram right up against the limit of what is acceptable to put on screen; however briefly. I understand why they’ve done it, it makes for incredibly uncomfortable viewing during those brief moments it is on screen; which is obviously the intent as it shows why Goblin Slayer, the character, is so singularly focused on killing them. I also understand why a lot of people were very unhappy with it.
That aside, the story and characters are actually really interesting. The goblins themselves are also interesting as adversaries for Goblin Slayer and the other adventurers he eventually teams up with. It’s paced well with the progression feeling very natural. It does a good job of playing with your expectations and not being quite what you expect. Goblin Slayer is driven by his one and only goal but is still amazingly well rounded in a strange way.
The animation for the show is a little strange, it has a weird blend of 2D and 3D animation. It meshes together quite well but it often just doesn’t look quite right. There are often moments where characters look incredibly stiff in their movements as well. You get used to these things but this isn’t the best animation you’ll see that is for sure. In some ways I think Goblin Slayers stiff movement in general shows how he’s stifled as an individual by his purpose, he then comes to life in battle. Perhaps I’m just rationalising though.
The show is an adaptation of light novels. I haven’t read them so I don’t know what the future holds for Goblin Slayer and his friends. Personally I’d quite like to see the world go slowly to complete and utter ruin around him while he focuses on the only thing that matters to him. “Before the Demons destroy the world the Goblins will destroy the villages. They can’t be spared just because the world is in danger.” Goblin Slayer says those words and I think it would be interesting to follow that through. That’d be an interesting twist compared to the usual fantasy hero story we often see. I look forward to seeing what unfolds in Season 2.
Season 1 of Goblin Slayer will be available on BR & DVD from Manga Entertainment on the 4th of November 2019. It is also available to stream on Funimation Now in the UK.