Anime

Goblin Slayer Episode 11: A Practical Request and the Power of Strategy

Quick Summary

In Goblin Slayer episode 11, "A Gathering of Adventurers," Goblin Slayer reads the signs of an impending goblin attack and begs Ushikai Musume to run for her life. Unwilling to abandon him, knowing he will stay and try to fight them alone (and to his death) if she leaves, she declined, forcing him to make a difficult decision. He goes to town and immediately begs the others adventurers for help. Will the high-ranking adventurers agree to fight lowly goblins? Or will Goblin Slayer have to stand against a sea of goblins with only the Elf Yousei Yunde, the Dwarf Kouhito Doushi, and the Lizardman Tokage Souryo at his side? Is it possible even they would abandon him?

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

Ushikai seemed terrified to her core when Goblin Slayer admitted he would not be able to stop all 100 goblins alone. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 1

If I had any doubts about Ushikai's courage, they're gone now. The woman is as brave as any adventurer we've met. Goblin Slayer comes back from his morning rounds and tells her, "Run" (1:50). He offered no explanation until she asked, and he explained that he'd discovered tracks. Rattled, she tried to brush the threat aside by saying she was sure he could defeat them. "I can't," he said with his characteristic honesty. She's not an idiot. As Goblin Slayer's friend, she's completely aware of what goblins are capable of doing. His words terrified her (2:13). But remember, courage isn't not feeling fear. Courage is making the necessary decision in spite of fear. She knew that if she ran as he asked, he'd still stay and fight, alone, until he was dead. So, she told him that she was sorry, but she was staying. That was the only way she could think of to keep him alive -- even though it put her in harm's way. Did her sadly defiant expression tug at your heart? It did mine!

Lancer asks how much Goblin Slayer is willing to pay for the adventurers' help. "Everything," he answers simply. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 2

Goblin Slayer couldn't convince Ushikai to flee, and he knew he couldn't hold the goblin army back on his own. He's shown us time and time again that he's a reasonable man (perhaps to a fault!), but he's nearly unskilled with human interaction. So he does exactly what I'd expect Goblin Slayer to do in this situation: he goes to the Guild Hall and asked everyone for help defend the farm against 100 goblins. Yaritsukai (Lancer) is the first to talk to him; the others more or less ignore him (though Majo the Witch watches with interest). Adventurers being adventurers, they can't just help for free; they have professional pride, and Yaritsukai tries to explain this to him. Lancer used a condescending tone to maintain appearances, but I could see that he was really trying to get Goblin Slayer to offer some kind of reward so he could say yes. So he asks Goblin Slayer how much he's willing to pay for help. "Everything," is his answer (8:44). He was willing to pay everything he had, up to and including his life, if they would help him defend Ushikai's farm. Except for one thing: he withheld the commitment to actually die. "There's someone who might cry if I die. I was told that I can't make them cry." After that moment, there's no way I can think of Goblin Slayer as emotionless. He might not be able to express it, but there are emotions going on in there!

I would not want to be in that Goblin Lord's shoes about now... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 3

The show's called "Goblin Slayer," and the main character is named "Goblin Slayer." The second half of this episode lived up completely to the title. The adventurers, relying on Goblin Slayer's strategy and tactics, were able to counter each goblin attack wave, until the Goblin Lord decided to flee. That's when the main character stepped in to live up to his name. The fleeing Goblin Lord skidded to a half, half sensing and half seeing a presence in the trees (21:42). A moment later, he saw a red glow. I'll be you know what's coming! Yep! It was Goblin Slayer in trade-mark mode (21:45)! Yeah, it might be gimmicky. Yeah, it was almost mandatory that it show up in this episode. But dang, it was still cool!

Thoughts

Yaritsukai (hard not to think of him as Lancer!) gets the bro-ful quote of the episode when he said, "I don't need your life, you dumbass! Just buy me a drink later" (9:44). Hard to say how the conversation would have gone without him directing it!

Nowadays, it's almost impossible to see the word masculinity without it being prefaced with "toxic." High-profile people (at least in the United States) too often assert their "manliness" at the expense of a woman's dignity. If one of the most powerful men in the "free" world can act the way he does in the name of masculinity, then I can understand why it's so often seen as toxic. It's really the only reasonable reaction.

Watching this episode of Goblin Slayer made me wonder if it's time to redeem the idea of masculinity? 

On one hand, I could argue that no, Goblin Slayer just perpetuates the stereotype of the damsel in distress, which is a tributary to the idea of toxic masculinity. He even says, "'You have to protect the girls,' huh" (5:48) as he's trying to work out what he should do after Ushikai refused to run away. But I think that interpretation doesn't do the character justice. 

This is not the look Ushikai would give a male exhibiting toxic masculinity. Her reaction would be more of a "punch in the throat" sort of thing. Violent, sure, but understandable. No, this is the look she gives someone she trusts completely. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Consider how he acted when she made it clear to him that she was not going to leave. "Don't make that face," he begs her, his voice as close to panic as I've ever heard it (5:25). A classic (and I'd argue "toxic") male response would be to do the chest-thumping thing and brag how he would find some way to save her; with the clear implication that he would have his way with her when this was all over. Going out into the yard, tearing up some grass, and throwing it into the air would be optional.*

That's not what our hero did. He was terrified on her behalf. He nearly panicked. He wanted desperately to keep her safe, not because she was "his," but because he saw her as under his protection. That's Goblin Slayer-speak for what most of us would think of as family and friends. His honestly had long ago killed and buried his bravado. The grim realism of his fighting had driven away any inflated sense of his own abilities. Goblin Slayer knew what he was capable of, he knew he couldn't save her on his own. Yet, he was absolutely committed to keeping her alive. 

Seeing Ushikai as his friend or family (and not a prize), the commitment to protect her and the farm, that honesty about his own capabilities, and the willingness to look beyond his own abilities to ask for the help of the other adventurers -- to me, that combination is what constitutes masculinity. 

I couldn't find a place for it in the post, but I just loved this shot of Yousei dangling from Tokage's grip (you can't see it, but her feet are off the ground!), as she reacted to Goblin Slayer saying he'd offer "Everything" to save Ushikai. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

But wait, you might say. Didn't Goblin Slayer said he had to protect "the girls?" Isn't even his idea of masculinity demeaning? Depends on who he was talking about. From the context, I think he meant "the girls who don't have their own combat capabilities." Ushikai had no idea how to fight; that's not what she had trained for. So, he knew he had to protect her. But notice how he treated other women who were adventurers. He didn't show the slightest hesitation in accepting Yousei's offer to help. Same thing with Majo the Witch. Or the Amazon or Paladin. What Goblin Slayer meant was that he had to protect those who could not protect themselves -- by standing beside those who could defend themselves. 

Gender was not an issue in either side of that equation. 

But wait again, you might say! What about the word historically seen as the "opposite" of masculinity -- femininity? What does it mean in this context? Isn't it still socially negative?

In this case, I suspect it means the same thing as masculinity. I'm inclined to simply replace both with "humanity," though I admit I don't have the experience or authority to actually suggest any disposition for the word femininity. So I'll continue to think of it as an equivalent until someone more qualified has a better idea. 

I'm pretty sure the fighter on the left is no less capable than the fighter on the right. Goblin Slayer welcomed both of them to the fight! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Personally, I'd like to replace the phrase "toxic masculinity" with the more accurate phrase "morally reprehensible behavior." It's more clear, and goodness knows public discourse on the subject could use the clarity! Plus, it redeems a word that really could use a makeover! 

What do you think? What were your favorite moments in this episode? Let me know in the comments!

* Yes, I have a dim view of the antiquated views of masculinity, and I'm not shy about expressing it.

Other Posts of Interest

5 thoughts on “Goblin Slayer Episode 11: A Practical Request and the Power of Strategy

  1. Seeing Ushikai as his friend or family (and not a prize), the commitment to protect her and the farm, that honesty about his own capabilities, and the willingness to look beyond his own abilities to ask for the help of the other adventurers — to me, that combination is what constitutes masculinity.

    But wait, you might say. Didn’t Goblin Slayer said he had to protect “the girls?” Isn’t even his idea of masculinity demeaning? Depends on who he was talking about. From the context, I think he meant “the girls who don’t have their own combat capabilities.” Ushikai had no idea how to fight; that’s not what she had trained for. So, he knew he had to protect her. But notice how he treated other women who were adventurers. He didn’t show the slightest hesitation in accepting Yousei’s offer to help. Same thing with Majo the Witch. Or the Amazon or Paladin. What Goblin Slayer meant was that he had to protect those who could not protect themselves — by standing beside those who could defend themselves.

    Gender was not an issue in either side of that equation.

    Personally, I’d like to replace the phrase “toxic masculinity” with the more accurate phrase “morally reprehensible behavior.”

    It’s very hard for me to properly talk about this. Tying up morality with gender is problematic, but on the background of a partriarchal structure you can’t really treat men and women the same either, because that’d be ignoring lived difference and that different people grow up with different attitudes towards both gender and morality. The term “toxic masculinity” is problematic as well, as it has two different meanings: one being the defence of male domination through toxic means, and the other being a structural ailment that forces men that don’t align with the status quo into a role they don’t want without providing an alternative.

    It’s difficult to explain. Imagine a husband who’s a messy eater (crumbs everywhere except on the plate, etc.), and a wife who complains but always cleans up. That’s a division of labour that works if both get sufficient satisfaction out of what they do. Women get together and relief their frustration at messy men who just don’t get it; men getting together complaining to each other about nagging wives – and a stable system. Now, this system forces men to go out and work. In traditional societies, the trade of the father would often be the trade of the son, but sometimes, if you’re no good at it, you’d have to make your own way, with the clergy or the military being prominent carreer paths. With the advent of technology and big cities finding your own path becomes more and more of a necessity: the narrative is that you chose what you do, and you’re responsible for your future. This is a momentous change, more relevant in big cities than in the country, but the mythology of a “carreer” is something you have to sell to young men.

    Now the system I outlined above? Your dad’s a working class hero, and your mom’s the angel of the house, and who you are supposed to aspire to depends on your gender. See how this is inherently fragile as a system? Both men and women might find it troublesome to live a life within those constraints, and if they don’t question the system they often feel insufficient – they see themselves as the cause of the problem, not the system. Those of a rebellious nature see the system at fault, but not themselves. This latter is the origin of the first meaning of “toxic masculinity”: a hierarchy-driven, violent system forces men to become violent or suffer (from humiliation to torment).

    Now, there’s the second, more modern view, though: it doesn’t make sense to blame the person, and it doesn’t make sense to blame the structure. Instead, a system has inherent tensions, and the people who articulate them are the ones who suffer. “Toxic Masculinity”, here, is a structural issue, too. It’s not so different from blaming the system, but you can’t fight the system head on, the way you can, when you think that certain masculin behaviours concerned with power are toxic. Here, the water is poisened at the spring, and who well you deal with it depends on how resistent you are. All masculinity is toxic when it causes tensions. The problem? There’s no clear alternative, since we’ve all internalised those structures.

    What does this have to do with Goblin Slayer? Well, under the header of the picture of Cowgirl, you write “This is not the look Ushikai would give a male exhibiting toxic masculinity.” Yeah, under the first meaning of “toxic masculinity” you’re half right (feminism has often adapted Marxist or Frudian terminology; some feminists might place that expression under the header of “indentification with the aggressor”, which is a psychoanalytic term). However, under the second the second meaning things get a whole lot more complicated. Under some angles it might be useful to say, for example, “This is the sort of face that motivates toxic masculinity.” What about Cowgirl’s motivation, here? She mentions two reasons for not running: (a) he’s going to fight, probably to the death, and she doesn’t want to leave him, and (b) the farm’s her livelihood, and without it she has nothing.

    The latter is true, and to defend what’s yours even if it’s hopeless is a valid approach. The former? In a sense the behaviour fits preconceived gender notions – you love your man, stick with him inspire him. There’s a give and take, here, that’s not toxic a priori, but will become so – as a system – if the interactions disadvantage people systematically. Here it gets complicated, and Goblin Slayer hasn’t shown enough interest in realism for me to think this through. The more promising line of enquiry is metafictional: how does the show portray the situation, and what is it interested in.

    First, the show downplays angle B in favour of angle A: We don’t know any of the cows’ names, for example. We don’t know much about the relationship between Cowgirl and her uncle (am I remembering this right?). Most of the time when we see them talk it’s about Goblin Slayer. When we see her, she’s waiting for Goblin Slayer. We get fetish shots of her in overalls (a hard working woman, such a catch), and without them. And she’s (understandibly) scared of goblins.

    If it’s about protecting the weak, then how about the uncle? Doesn’t Goblin Slayer want to protect him as well? Or is he, because he’s a man, expected to fend for himself? He’s a non issue in the show; only there to caution Cowgirl against Goblin Slayer. A foil to her devotion – and the romantic subtext says he may be speaking sense, but in your heart you know she’s right to listen to what her heart tells her.

    The de-emphasis of her uncle is one of many examples that makes me think that Goblin Slayer as the show that it is (independently of authorial intentions of any kind) concerns itself mainly with a rather conventional gender relations system: it’s romantic when the guy geeks out over killing goblins, and the childhood friend holds out for him and is always there. The romance would lessen, were he a guy.

    It’s the same with Lancer (sorry for the Fate terminology, but it oh so fits). “I can’t give you my life because someone will cry for me,” is a very manly thing to say. The show’s a bit tongue in cheek about it: Goblin Slayer delivers the line without understanding its implication, but he’s literally the only one who doesn’t. He’s being treated like a slow learner and this moment felt like “he’s getting it.” The outsider slowly integrates.

    If Goblin Slayer’s worried about Cowgirl and goblins, for example, why did he never teach her self-defense against goblins? Due to her job, I imagine she’s stronger than some city beaurocrat men. And Goblin Slayer style is to be prepared for eventualities. Teach her about goblins, so she knows how to keep them at bay, how to best run away, etc. It’s ideal for bonding moments, too: he gets to geek out, and she gets to be with him and learn stuff that’s actually useful. She might be doing unusual stuff to her farm (if uncle allows it), and that makes her peers make fun of her in the same way people make fun of Goblin Slayer, but when the goblins come they’re prepared better than others. Even this can still be read as patronising if you fail to take into account that she knows more about farming than Goblin Slayer does.

    Given Goblin Slayers natural pragmatic curiousity, it wouldn’t be surprising if he adapted much of the farming knowledge he learned to killing goblins. Imagine what fun could be had with one of GS’s party addressing her as sensei (because he keeps saying he larned this or that from her), and she’s confused about that. It’s mutual: his knowledge of goblins keeps the farm safe, and her knowledge of farming is a major component of his arsenal.

    And while this might actually be the case in-world, the meta narrative makes nothing of this – opting for the tried and true narrative of girl-the-motivator, whether it’s a dead big sister, or a fragile and adoring childhood friend. “Toxic masculinity” (much as I dislike the term) is woven into the very narritive, what with the girls in GS’s party getting to express more fear and pain than the men, and what with the extra level of gendered threat I’ve talked about ad nauseam in the early stages of the show. Cowgirl’s show of courage changes nothing for me (and is part of the expectations towards a true Yamato Nadeshiko).

    (I tried to simplify as much as possible, but I’ve got a degree in sociology, and its hard to keep the geekery to a minimum. There’s been a joke around when I was studying: “Two sociologists, four opinions, one undecided.” It’s true, I swear. [I think I’m the undecided one, but I have multiple opinions on that.])

    1. “Tying up morality with gender is problematic, ”

      I absolutely agree with that! That’s why later on, I say “I suspect it [ femininity ] means the same thing as masculinity. I’m inclined to simply replace both with “humanity…”

      I tried to limit the scope of “toxic masculinity” to the kinds of behavior the current inhabitant of the oval office has shown; it’s tied to what David Brin calls the phases of the American Civil War: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/09/phases-of-american-civil-war.html

      Yeah, it’s a bit of a broad brush, but I tend to see things in thematic relationships like that.

      I intended my Thoughts to be political with some sociological influences; and, as you pointed out, it lacked sociological precision when viewed as a sociological statement. Since my focus was more political, I was comfortable with that.

      “Well, under the header of the picture of Cowgirl, you write “This is not the look Ushikai would give a male exhibiting toxic masculinity.” Yeah, under the first meaning of “toxic masculinity” you’re half right (feminism has often adapted Marxist or Frudian terminology; some feminists might place that expression under the header of “indentification with the aggressor”, which is a psychoanalytic term).”

      Here, my point was more psychological, based on my experience. Ushikai, in my estimation, would only show that expression to someone she trusted completely (at least, she would only _honestly_ share that expression…). Independent of the larger discussion of gender norms, a male exhibiting toxic behavior would have treated her differently — demanded to have her as a prize, for example. Goblin Slayer didn’t take that route, and that was something I liked about this episode.

      “In a sense the behaviour fits preconceived gender notions – you love your man, stick with him inspire him.”

      Which explains exactly why I didn’t try to tackle the larger issue of gender norms. “Toxic masculinity” (which is a vague term, as you’ve pointed out; I honestly prefer “morally reprehensible behavior”) was interesting to me in that Goblin Slayer’s actions appeared to be the anti-thesis. Compared, again, to a political norm (at least in some circles). I agree that the world depicted by Goblin Slayer has a lot of stereotypical roles and attitudes; not as much as I might have expected before the show started, but I agree they’re there.

      ““Toxic masculinity” (much as I dislike the term) is woven into the very narritive, what with the girls in GS’s party getting to express more fear and pain than the men, and what with the extra level of gendered threat I’ve talked about ad nauseam in the early stages of the show.”

      Since I intentionally didn’t address gender norms/expectations, I can say that I’ve seen those same things. I was most interested in trying to demonstrate how I saw Goblin Slayer’s attitude as showing a real concern; a real humanity that showed in spite of his difficulties in expressing his emotions. In some ways, it’s his lack of emotionality acuity that allowed him to act independently of cultural or societal gender expectations.

      The trouble with writing posts like this is that I’m trying to balance presenting a single idea in a single context with the larger narrative context, which is itself portrayed using tropes, concepts, and language that is tied to a specific culture in a specific time. It’s almost easier to have a theological discussion based on the Summa Theologica; at least there, you’re dealing with a specific context that is fixed. It’s even more complicated in that we have multiple waring cultural factions that each has their own vocabulary. One such tribe in the United States would see “toxic masculinity” as either a badge of honor or a God-given right. Communication is increasingly difficult!

      So I really appreciate you taking the time to lay out your observations in a way that a non-sociological major can digest!

      1. The Brin article is interesting, but requires a more indepth reading to be able to address it fully. It’s difficult for me to follow, because it draws a throughline that’s no doubt there to some extent, but I’m not sure that’s all there is to it. What, for example, do we do with libertarian strands, who are against a “nanny state”? It’s freakin’ difficult, especially for a foreigner like me.

        It’s true that Goblin Slayer is acting out of real concern, and so you could say he’s not exhibiting “toxic masculinity”. That’s politically a risk, though: animefeminist don’t use the term like that (Google search), and understanding the term in its bad-male-behaviour term is going to cause misunderstandings at best, and helps people dismiss what sites like animefeminist say as none-problems.

        You say you deliberately didn’t address gender expectations, but to avoid doing so you had to modulate out of the gender split by going masculinity/femininity –> humanity route. It would have been easier not to use the term at all, so what’s your motivation here? My idea isn’t to accuse you of anything. It’s just that bringing up a term and then neutralising half of it is a rhetorical strategy that might not come across as intended, if you see what I mean. Especially not to feminists who have seen people attempt to discredit them with similar strategies. I know you better than that, but a drive-by reader won’t.

        1. The problem with making any point in any context is that as a writer, I have to draw the line somewhere. To use an extreme example, I can’t begin every post with “At 10 to the minus 43rd seconds after the Big Bang, physics as we know it came into being…”

          Since my perspective differs substantially from that of most modern folks, it’s hard for me to know where exactly to draw that line.

          “You say you deliberately didn’t address gender expectations, but to avoid doing so you had to modulate out of the gender split by going masculinity/femininity –> humanity route. It would have been easier not to use the term at all, so what’s your motivation here?”

          My goal was to show my math. I was following a line of thought. From my reading of history, the term “femininity” was often used to mean a gender opposite from “masculinity.” So, I wanted to demonstrate that I didn’t hold that position. I think the overlap between the two terms is substantial, so I wondered if replacing both with “humanity” would be a more clear statement of moral expectations of behavior.

          However, I backed off making a definitive statement, because I recognize I’m not qualified to do so. My sense of integrity demanded I explore that line of thought, though, or else I felt like I was being dishonest with the reader.

          “It’s just that bringing up a term and then neutralising half of it is a rhetorical strategy that might not come across as intended, if you see what I mean. Especially not to feminists who have seen people attempt to discredit them with similar strategies. ”

          My intent was not to neutralize it but to demonstrate its moral equality. I’ve actually written a post about my perspective of people who try to discredit feminism or other movements dealing with justice:

          https://www.crowsworldofanime.com/posts/second-anniversary-celebration-no-cruelty-in-our-space/

          Again, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line in terms of what to include in an individual post. Exhaustively exploring all of the logical possibilities (or the logical foundations) would require a lot more space than I want to dedicate.

          “I know you better than that, but a drive-by reader won’t.”

          I appreciate that. I often wonder if it’s reasonable for me to try to communicate my ideas at all. As this exchange shows, my perspective is almost too different. On the other hand, I can’t claim my perspective is invalid; I’m not sure what an invalid perspective would even look like. The best I can do is be as honest and logical as I can.

          Maybe instead of showing my math, I should just have observed that I found Goblin Slayer’s approach to protecting his friends was a good thing. But that doesn’t seem to quite capture the spirit, and I really do think Goblin Slayer’s actions are a stark contrast to what’s going on in the White House right now…

          1. That’s a great post you link there, and I like your medical comparison. When it comes to communication, online words are pretty much all we have, and if we don’t use them we might as well be invisible.

            Gender expressed in terms of maths alone is difficult: We have variables, X is a person with the attribute x(n). If the dimensional variable is gender, there are two dimension, so you dimensionalise the variable as 2. X(1) is about the distinction between male and female, and X(2) is between the distinction of masculine and feminine. They’re two different distinctions and treated differently, and what confuses people the most is if they meet a feminine trans man; i.e. assigned female at birth, identifies as male, but exhibits many of the traits most people associate with femininity. A lot of people are thrown by that possibility, and even within the trans community a trans girl might get heat for not being feminine enough (happened to someone I know online).

            The chivalry in Goblin Slayer seems traditonally gendered to me, which is why the show doesn’t care much about Cowgirl’s uncle. How you read the subtext is a different matter.

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