In Goblin Slayer episode 1, "The Fate of Particular Adventurers," Onna Shinkan joins the adventurers' guild because she's a priestess and wants to help other adventurers. She thinks she's lucky to meet a new team of adventurers within minutes of signing the admission forms, but she should have put more stock in the guild representative's worried look. She also should have trusted her instincts when they began screaming warnings at her. Will Onna get a chance to learn from experience? Or will this cruel world inflict its Darwinian wisdom on yet another party?
Warning: This series presents decidedly mature themes, and it contains a dramatic representative of violence against women (including rape). If any of these these trouble you, please do not watch this series or read this review.
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
The adventurers were enthusiastic, courageous, and lovable! Too bad they were complete unprepared. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Foreshadowing is a good thing. Little details, from the guild representative's first look of alarm (2:33), to the newbie party leader's blithe dismissal of the representative's suggestion to wait for a bigger party (2:54), it was clear that trouble awaited our little band of adventurers. The best instance by far was just minutes before they encountered the goblins. The leader tried to impress his team with his swordsmanship. Instead of a clean overhand swing, though, his sword was so long that it hit a stalactite (4:20). He seemed so energetic, and his companions seemed so upbeat and relatively competent, that I couldn't help but feel like I was going to have to mourn their passing. Seriously, if Onna hadn't've figured so prominently in the key art, I would have assumed she was pretty much done for, too.
This is one of the most realistic depictions of abject terror that I've seen for awhile. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Please don't take this the wrong way, because my next "favorite" moment reflects an admiration of realism and not a fetish. As Onna tried to escape with the party's dying wizard, she tripped and took a goblin arrow in the shoulder. Intent on finishing what they had started (when they had earlier stabbed the wizard), the goblins began tearing her clothes off. Onna showed on of the most realistic reactions I can think of for what was happening before her: she lost control of her bladder (10:23). Fantasy anime, even ones I enjoyed like Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, had some level of realism, but nothing like Goblin Slayer showed in this scene. A new adventurer like Onna would be absolutely terrified. No grand gesture of heroism; no sudden burst of hidden power of skill. She was a terrified human who could see no way out. All she could do is pray; I'm not even sure she realized that she'd released her urine. Now, I grew up on a farm, and I've been too close to several large mammals (like a cow or a pig) when they relieved themselves, so in this moment, I actually wondered if she was about to draw the goblin's attention -- to her detriment. That stuff is pungent, and the cave was a confined space, so I was honestly horrified on her behalf when one of the goblins did notice (10:30). I thought she was dead for sure. The scene's realism made it all the more dramatically effective. My disbelief was so completely suspended that I wasn't even thinking of the key art at this point.
Onna had every excuse to walk away. But she didn't. That's courage! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
After everything she'd been through, I don't think any of us would have blamed Onna if she'd retired, then and there. But she didn't. Not the death of her friends; not the terrible treatment of the kidnapped women or the fighter from her own team; not even the slaughter of the young goblins shook her will. My third favorite scene is near the end. Goblin Slayer stood talking to the guild spokesperson. Onna is thinking about what she just went through and realizes there are only two things she's sure of. First, she asserts that she's still an adventurer (21:18). As proof, she shows him that she just purchased chain mail and is wearing it under her robes (21:39). Second, she's decided that she's staying close to Goblin Slayer (22:00). I liked this scene for a couple of reasons. It shows how strong she really is, and I like that! Second, it demonstrates a remarkable amount of growth in a single episode. At the beginning of the episode, she was too timid to trust her own instincts. Now, she's able to make confident decisions -- like sticking close to the strongest warrior she's met!
There is at least one scene in this episode that seems to be generating a lot of controversy: the scene where a goblin rapes a woman adventurer. There also seems to be a backlash in some anime reviewer circles -- anyone who says they enjoyed this episode has come under fire. The accusation? That liking this episode constitutes approval of what that scene contained. So let's address that point head-on: I am emphatically against any violence against people in general. That means I'm against violence against women in particular and I am most emphatically against rape. And yet, I decided to review this series.
That's because the show seems to be using that terrible scene in a proper dramatic fashion. It's designed to make two things crystal clear. First, goblins are very bad. These are not the goblins from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash; they're not sympathetic characters. We get a hint that not all goblins might be bad (19:33), but by and large, goblins are vicious, brutal, and need to be put down. Second, the world is unforgiving. If you're stupid, the best you can hope for is a quick death.
If the show later turns out to in some way condone this behavior, or even to gloss over how terrible it is, I'll be sure to call it out in future reviews. But I have a sense that the writers aren't trying to do anything that prurient.
The world of Goblin Slayer is brutal and unforgiving. It's going to take all of Onna's skill to survive, much less thrive! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
This show might seem an odd pick for a site that celebrates anime. Maybe you're curious why I chose it? I was trying to decide what to review for this season. For whatever reason, my region can't get A Certain Magical Index III (legally, anyway), and it was my first choice! So I watched a number of other shows, and several looked interesting. Today, I watched first Goblin Slayer and then Radiant. The contrast between the two shows reminded me of something: Namely, that I have missed a realistic portrayal of a fantasy world. Yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed Record of Grancrest War, and it has some great instances of realism here and there, but let's face it. An accurate portrayal of warfare it wasn't! That's not a slam, because it never claimed to be.
But I've missed the feeling of real danger. I've missed a sense that any of these characters could die at any moment. I've missed the clear link between preparation/planning and successful campaigns. If this show delivers on the promises it made in this episode, then it could be something really powerful.
And I think "the promises" include the need for it to address questions like "Why does Onna really want to be an adventurer" and "Just what the heck is Goblin Slayer?"
What do you think? Am I misjudging the show's intent? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!