Goblin Slayer Episode 1 Review: Brutal Reality and Always, Always Be Prepared

October 9, 2018

Quick Summary

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.

Moment 1

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.

Moment 2

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.

Moment 3

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!

Thoughts

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!

Other Posts of Interest

  • AstralGemini says:

    Great review! I think a lot of people had a negative kneejerk reaction to the show, because let’s face it… it’s pretty brutal. But, like you, I feel it used its themes of cruelty and brutality in respectful and meaningful ways. There were a few lines of dialogue that were cut from the original Light Novel that would have filled a few of the issues the episode presents, but overall, I think they did a good job.

    For sure, though, it’s not a show for everyone!

  • Railgunfan75 says:

    I don’t condone the types of things you saw in this episode. However, I thought that it did serve a narrative purpose as some have pointed out and it was not done in the most tasteless way that I have seen. Besides that, I was impressed by the first episode and the amazing job it did with character introductions and it’s hints at the world that they live in. It was dark and realistic and I certainly want to see more. This could be a very refeshing anime to watch. Great post!

    • tcrow says:

      “It was dark and realistic and I certainly want to see more. This could be a very refeshing anime to watch. Great post!”

      First, thanks!

      Second, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: I want to see something both dark and realistic! I want to see consequence! If a character decides, “Hey, no potions for me!” then I want to see that character regret such a short-sighted decision!

      And boy, did they regret it…

      Glad you stopped by!

  • WeeaBroDerek says:

    Yeah. I felt inclined to write about this one, too. Still may or may not lol, but I agree with you on the brutality. Not just because it shows that the goblins are very bad or whatever, but also because is displays the serious danger involved in wandering around dangerous places while unprepared.

    In most games you can respawn or restart when things get out of hand, but that scene is a reminder of what can happen when the characters involved can’t do that and have to deal with the consequences at hand. This first episode was very unsettling, but in the Berserk kind of way–not the H-game style.

    • tcrow says:

      “Yeah. I felt inclined to write about this one, too.”

      Please do! I’d love to read your take on it.

      “Not just because it shows that the goblins are very bad or whatever, but also because is displays the serious danger involved in wandering around dangerous places while unprepared.”

      That sense of danger is almost refreshing! I mean, I like Ainz Ooal Gown as much as anyone, but there’s just no sense of danger when he takes the field.

      Onna, on the other hand? I’m not sure she’ll make it to the guild’s door safely!

  • kimchi says:

    This was a great review and to some part those who can’t recognize foreshadowing were probably the most off put by the scene. I knew something bad was going to happen but I guess I didn’t know how bad. It was hard to watch but like you mentioned this isn’t going to be an easy world. Having friendship isn’t going to save you. So I’m also a bit excited to have a more realistic fantasy world.
    The only thing at the point is I’m hoping the MC will show us her growth and the Goblin Slayer isn’t stuck with a dud for a partner. I think she will. If she is willing to still be an adventure she either has no other option, is brave and sees the world needs help, or she is just really dumb (which I’m hoping is not the case).
    Great review and I think you really pointed out the strength of this series.

    • tcrow says:

      “The only thing at the point is I’m hoping the MC will show us her growth and the Goblin Slayer isn’t stuck with a dud for a partner. I think she will.”

      I’m putting all my hope in the character development for those two as well! A dangerous environment doesn’t mean much if I don’t care about the characters!

  • Highway says:

    I thought the episode was good at a couple things. One is that it showed what happens to a novice party when they go in over their head and it all goes bad. Like bad bad, not laugh it off later “Wow, that was harder than we thought.” The second is that it didn’t sugarcoat the fact that Goblin Slayer and Onna are murderers too. Just straight up murdering goblins. Do they feel justified in it? Yes, but I think it kind of put that stain on them as far as the viewers go.

    • tcrow says:

      “One is that it showed what happens to a novice party when they go in over their head and it all goes bad. ”

      I really liked that aspect of the episode, too!

      “The second is that it didn’t sugarcoat the fact that Goblin Slayer and Onna are murderers too. Just straight up murdering goblins.”

      I was surprised — and intrigued! — at how callous Goblin Slayer was! And even a little surprised at how quickly Onna accepted what he had to do. Sure, she’d just seen some horrific stuff, but she’d been a priestess all her life, so I expected a little more psychological inertia!

      But maybe that was fully intentional! Like I said to Kimchi, I’m really hoping for some great characters in this show!

  • Dawnstorm says:

    I haven’t quite figured out yet where I stand on Goblin Slayer. There are a two things I clearly don’t like (“clearly” as in I’m clear on it that I don’t like that): (a) evil goblins, and (b) the focus on rape. None of that is a particularly unusual thing to dislike, but figuring out the particulars is hard, and it’s even harder to figure it out in public without rousing emotions on both side. Instinctively, my method is to imagine what could have been different, and see what we have in that light. It’s not primarily a method to say what “should have been”, but to figure out what effects the show that is there has. I’ll go into more detail later, but first my bias:

    I went into Goblin Slayer with minimal knowledge. I knew the title, I knew it was going to brutal in some abstract way, and I’d seen the preview. I wasn’t predisposed to like the show for one reason. The way goblins were depicted in the preview along with the name Goblin Slayer made me worry that they were going to invoke one of my least favourite tropes: the ugly races are evil.

    You mention Grimgar and that’s what I was thinking of. Grimgar took the trope and subverted it into “the ugly races deserve empathy”, but they still played to the trope: the otherness of the goblins in Grimgar was mostly still used to soften the blow. Imagine the first-kill scene in Grimgar, if they fighting human brigands, and waylayed a rookie sent to fetch water (that’s not a job for veterans). The surprise value of oh-wait-Goblins-want-to-live-too would completely missing, and what we’d have was a protagonist band of cowards and bullies who prey on the weak, even if the weak are part of a criminal organisation. All esle being equal, the first kill being a goblin makes things easier. To me, this felt dishonest and left a bad taste in my mouth, even as I acknowledge that the intentions were good.

    It’s much easier to ignore that sort of stuff if goblins are just trash fodder, as so often in RPGs or fantasy. Goblin Slayer takes a different route: they make them more monstrous. They look impossible to communicate with (a trait that’s less obivous but still there in Grimgar). All that matters is that they’re a threat to erradicate. The entire first episode hammers the point home. They kill, and they don’t kill quickly. They’re brutal. And they rape, too. (At that point I wondered, why would goblins rape humans? How does sexual attraction work? More on that later.)

    There are emotional beats: you have to kill the children, Goblin Slayer says, because they mature quickly and hold grudges. No mercy. Our blonde waif priestess must play the purity counterpoint and show likable compassion. We don’t know yet where the story goes with this, but the contrast is going to be important. This is a show about killing goblins, but – I presume – also about what killing does to people. Goblin Slayer is actually an interesting character: both cold and efficient, but also caring about the safety of people present. We see him kill the poisoned girl; there was no alternative (as he says – end the suffering). Killing is something you get used to.

    In-world, it’s hard to argue that the goblin’s aren’t a threat. If plundering and killing were all they did, you could have a two-front war – kill or be killed. But they also rape – this is a one way road. There’s no combat-romantics, no rugged he-man adventure in the notion of rape. It’s the macho idea of dirtiness. To kill is mutual language; to rape makes you evil. Goblins rape, so they are without a doubt evil.

    Now they rape girls not boys. They’re descerning, you see. From this point on, it’s impossible for me to be entirely in world. There’s a meta-layer of anime voyeurism, and the camera bears this out in this show, too. It’s probably force of habit more than intent, but that makes this insiduous and hard to deal with: when they dismember the boy, he’s covered with goblins – the camera cuts away before the arm we still see gets severed. Goblin children are killed off-screen. Girls? We wait at least until they’re nude for the camera to cut away. We make sure the vulnerability of their positions sink in before we cut away. Rape is where the show needs to hammer the point in: goblins are bad, goblins must die.

    Now, here’s a thing. I have this theory that the show’s going to throw a wrench into that theory: unless goblin males and females are indistinguishable, I haven’t seen any – in a cave with children. This isn’t just a raiding party; why would they bring kids and leave their women at home? My guess is that the women were there. Goblins, every single one of them, are rape babies. See? If I’m right about that, the show is going to make you choose between rape and genocide. I sure hope I’m wrong, but I’d find this plausible. The problem with this? We’d get a situation where outrage over rape trumps compassion towards women (because only women are raped); and where outrage against genocide remains hollow, emotionally empty.

    The set-up has potential, but it’s fiendishly hard to pull this off well. Now, why do I think the show won’t likely manage to do this well? Our female point-of-view character? A blonde, blue-eyed waif, pure and kind. The episode has her witness horrible things, but she gets away with an arrow to the shoulder. After witnessing all she has witnessed, she still has enough kindness left to feel for helpless goblin-children. I suppose she’s supposed to be a counter-point to Goblin Slayer, but I’m not sure yet. The show might try to break her, or change her. The first thing we see in the show is her terror, though. And we end with her smile.

    Smiling, for anime girls, is often innocent and spontaneous, but sometimes it’s also an action you take. Idol shows especially thrive on the purity of a smile, the uplifting effect. For that to be plausible, we can’t (yet?) have our protagonist be raped. Imagine, if you will, a different show. What if martial arts girl can’t get rid of goblin-images in her head and seeks apprenticeship with Goblin Slayer? Genocidal duo on a rampage. The thing is this: martial arts training focusses on a calm of mind; she’d actually be able to control her impulses, rather than go the fools-rush-in berserk mode. A rape-revenge fantasy coupled with whatever Goblin Slayer’s background is (if he has one, and doesn’t remain a mysterious figure). A very different prospect.

    Again, I can be sure about none of this. But I do think our heroine escaping rape is vital for the set-up (not sure she’s off hook, plotwise). This way rape-victims can remain legitimisation for moral outrage rather than the recepients of compassion, while they stay off-screen in a monastery until we need a reminder (there has to be a reason for martial arts girl to survive).

    Again, the show is well-written enough and has lots of potential to be not an automatic drop. I’m completely undecided on whether I should watch the next episode. The necessity of the show’s brutality is unconvincing, but Goblin Slayer himself is an interesting figure who lives in an uncanny valley between ruthless killing machine and kind protector; functionally the former, not quite the latter. The voice actor is excellent. A lot will hinge on what (if any) development he gets. I’m less sold on the priestess, who’s a calculated moe figure to maximise the threat-level and rouse protective instincts. If anything, I’m curious. The problem? If I watch twelve episodes of this and nothing comes of it, I’ll have waded through all that sleaze for nothing. And even if I end up somewhat liking the show, I’ll probably not change my mind on the goblins-are-evil and mining-rape-for-macho-outrage tropes. But even here: who knows?

    (I guess I’ll see if the software has a word-limit. Sorry for such a lengthy post.)

    • tcrow says:

      “they were going to invoke one of my least favourite tropes: the ugly races are evil.”

      Did you see Overlord III? Its treatment of goblins, especially those in Carne Village, seems different. Or would you say they’re still playing with the same trope, just from a different perspective?

      “when they dismember the boy, he’s covered with goblins – the camera cuts away before the arm we still see gets severed. Goblin children are killed off-screen. Girls? We wait at least until they’re nude for the camera to cut away.”

      I can’t fault your logic. I’m kicking around the idea that social mores have an impact on how fiction depicts pretty much everything, including this kind of violence. So while I saw the scenes as both reinforcements that the goblins are, by and large, “bad,” I admit that I did so through the lens of my western culture — with all the baggage that entails.

      “Now, here’s a thing. I have this theory that the show’s going to throw a wrench into that theory: unless goblin males and females are indistinguishable, I haven’t seen any – in a cave with children. This isn’t just a raiding party; why would they bring kids and leave their women at home?”

      I know nothing about this story line — but yours isn’t the first conjecture I’ve seen. A bit chilling to say the least. Might play to some ugly stereotypes…

      “This way rape-victims can remain legitimisation for moral outrage rather than the recepients of compassion, while they stay off-screen in a monastery until we need a reminder (there has to be a reason for martial arts girl to survive).”

      It might seem strange, but that scene was the one that bothered me the most. My review didn’t touch on it because even now I still haven’t fully processed it, but it bugged the heck out of me that they were treated like luggage. They’ve been through a terrible ordeal, and I wanted to see them receive some treatment — certainly something better than being hauled in an open wagon to the monastery! To me, that felt like the most dehumanizing moment of the entire episode.

      I hope martial arts girl survived to be more than a plot device!

      “Goblin Slayer himself is an interesting figure who lives in an uncanny valley between ruthless killing machine and kind protector”

      Honestly, his character is one of the reasons I want to watch this series. What’s his back story? Where’s he going? And I agree — the voice actor was solid! I’m even interested in seeing how Onna’s character develops.

      “If I watch twelve episodes of this and nothing comes of it, I’ll have waded through all that sleaze for nothing.”

      Well, looking on the bright side, you’d have positive evidence that your deductions were right!

      Thanks for leaving such a seriously thought-provoking comment!

      • Dawnstorm says:

        Yeah, I’ve seen Overlord. It’s playing very deliberately with those tropes, but the goblins here are basically just a race. “Evil” here is, and I find this fascinating, a remnant from the game. They were role playing evil people and now that the world becomes real the fiction takes over more and more. “Evil” here is a slef-fulfilling prophecy, or the side-effect of moral-throughtlesness in games. I low-key like the show.

        I also find it fascinating that Goblin Slayer airs parallel to the slime re-incarnation show. Episode 2 had goblins, who are basically just harrassed villagers, who illicit sympathy. It’s the polar opposite. Which is also why I can’t consider shows like Goblin Slayer realistic. It’s just replacing dreams with nightmares, if that makes sense.

        (I wish I could remember which author said that: Realism in fantasy: your archer nicks his finger while fletching arrows and loses his hand to gangrene. There were a lot of similar set-backs. It was fun imagining a novel like that, where you replace party members for petty accidents.)

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