When the first episode of Goblin Slayer dropped, a frenzy ensued. A controversial scene and an even more controversial content warning divided the anime community. As the series continued on, the divide in the community grew ever deeper, as discussion was held on whether the series was actually good. Did it just rely on shock and horror to cover a weak story? With each of my weekly reviews, my position jumped between each camp. I could never quite make up my mind on whether I enjoyed this series or not. But now, twelve (plus one recap) episodes later, let’s take a look at the series as a whole.
A masked hero travels the land, saving villages and villagers from goblin attacks. He’s simply known as ‘Goblin Slayer’, and while considerably strong, he sticks to his well-honed craft of cutting down the goblin hordes. While his work is under-appreciated, our hero remains humble and happy, even more so as he begins to form his own Goblin Slaying Squad.
Plot & Story
While many fantasy anime are structured with one character fighting ‘The Big Bad’, Goblin Slayer was a refreshing take on the genre. Goblin Slayer is what many people would consider a side character. He is the guy who does the small-time dirty work while other heroes go off on grand adventures and gain glory. So, I enjoyed this story of a humble people’s man who wants to keep villages safe because he knows there isn’t only one bad thing in the world. There are many, and they are tiny, green, nasty creatures.
While I can applaud Goblin Slayer for its originality, there were some key problems in its structuring. I don’t expect a series to be non-stop action, nor do I expect it to be all relaxing and slice of life. So I can appreciate that Goblin Slayer tried to have a balance of both, but the way it was executed just didn’t work. One episode would be full of tense battle scenes and then the next would be… Goblin Slayer going shopping!? The series felt disjointed, and if comic relief scenes were interspersed throughout the action scenes, it would have worked much better. But instead, it was like the studio had created two very different anime and mashed them up together.
In terms of characters, there were quite a few to get to know in a short time. Thankfully, none of these characters have proper names. They are being referred to by their title such as Guild Girl, High Elf Archer, and, the strangest of them all, Cow Girl. I won’t hold this against the series, but it took awhile to get used to. The series did a good job of creating likeable characters, and while character development wasn’t in depth for all of them, little snippets of their personalities worked quite well. The characters that had the best story arcs were Goblin Slayer and Priestess. I loved seeing them work together and build off one another. As Goblin Slayer learns that there is more to life than killing goblins, Priestess learns the dark side of adventuring and grows in strength. They were two very different sides of the same coin and it was great to see their stories come full circle.
Art & Music
Art and music in Goblin Slayer had the same issue: the great stuff was reserved for the big scenes. It does make sense; of course you’d want to save the best music and put the most effort into a final battle scene or a graphic opening. But it just left the rest of the series feeling lackluster and bland. Especially during the slice of life episodes where characters hung out around town. There was nothing interesting in these episodes art or music wise, and if there was some detailed scenery or nice beats, I think I could have tolerated the episodes a bit more. When effort was put into these two features, for those grand episodes, it was pretty incredible.
Finally, I want to talk about the opening song and the Episode 12 ending song by Mili. I discovered the group about a year or so, when one of their songs was used in an anime AMV, because, that’s how all of us discover new music, right? So I’m really glad that they had the opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider audience.
Themes & Trivia
References: If you’ve been following my weekly reviews, you’ll know that nearly each week a new reference was found. From multiple The Lord of the Rings items and scene parallels to an actual Guts look-a-like from Berserk, Goblin Slayer had a lot of fun pulling from pop culture to create its world.
Trauma: I mentioned this theme in one of the mid-season reviews, but trauma links nearly all the characters in Goblin Slayer. Through these characters we view how trauma changes one’s life, and the challenges of overcoming it. The series positively portrays the healing process, with no way depicted as the ‘right’ one. The series ends with a message of continuing on your life’s path and doing what you dream of.
The gods’ will: The final episode of Goblin Slayer reminisces that he is a man who constantly surprises the gods, and never does what they intend him to do. Unlike everyone else, he rolls the die and the chips fall where they may. It brought an interesting contrast to other series where characters escape the jaws of death through luck. Goblin Slayer escapes death with grit and determination.
Goblin Slayer is a series that shocked, amused, and frustrated me. The series seemed aimless in what it was trying to achieve. From one week to the next, it would jump from a slash-and-dash bloodfest to a heartwarming relaxing anime. At some points in the story it worked, and at other points it was a hot mess. In the middle of this confusion, I enjoyed getting to know the various characters in the universe, but would have liked to have spent more time with them. In particular, with Shield Maiden, whose last episode required quite a lengthy explanation on her intentions. Other characters fell flat and one-dimensional. Notably, Cow Girl, who could have been an incredibly interesting character, having experienced a similar loss to Goblin Slayer (but without having a front row seat to it). But she ended up just being random fan service. Hopefully, these issues will be rectified in the next season of Goblin Slayer.
To Watch or ‘Slay’ Away?
- Unique story premise
- Great development of two main characters
- Fight scene animation is fluid and dynamic
- Story pacing is random and inconsistent
- Art and music quality varies
- Random recap episode just before the final two episodes
As I mentioned in my introduction, thoughts on Goblin Slayer were mostly divided into two camps. The first believed it was the best series to hit Fall 2018 and the second thought of it as edgy trash that relied on a shock-jock first episode for popularity. I’m caught in the middle. Goblin Slayer is definitely not a fantastic anime; it’s passably entertaining with some truly boring episodes, but it’s not awful. The character development of Goblin Slayer and Priestess combined with great battle scenes make this a pretty decent series. So while I wouldn’t be shouting about it from the rooftops, I can say it’s all right in my books.
Fall 2018 | Anime Info