Goblin Slayer Volume 3 Light Novel Review: It’s A Date, And Goblins

The Harvest Festival is on its way and all the female adventurers and friends suddenly have one thing on their mind. Too bad Goblin Slayer only ever has one thing on his mind – killing goblins.

Previous Reviews

Review:

Of the three volumes I’ve read so far, this one is probably the weakest. And that’s because instead of feeling like we were on some epic adventure (albeit to fight goblins), this one genuinely felt like we were reading a harem based light novel with a wishy-washy protagonist, girls who have no purpose outside of their pursuit of him, and ultimately a conflict that felt like it was thrown in at the end for the sake of having a final fight. And while none of that makes this a terrible read, it certainly wasn’t as compelling as previous entries.

However, the positive would be that Goblin Slayer is given more time to become a bit more humanised in this volume. He’s still the enigma and still has complete tunnel vision for goblin killing, but his interactions with the rest of the cast help to paint a broader picture of his overall personality when removed from blowing up goblin nests. Priestess also comes out of this volume looking reasonably good with her being able to showcase how far she’s grown since the opening of volume 1 where she was the scared little girl in need of rescue.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, whether it is Guild Girl, Female Knight, Cow Girl, High Elf Archer or Witch, they all just come off looking pretty vapid and silly as they scurry about trying to attract this or that guy’s interest at the festival. Then again, it isn’t as though Dwarf Shaman or Lizard Priest come off any better. While they aren’t trying to attract a partner they seem to spend almost two thirds of the book doing nothing but taking part in various eating and drinking activities.

And that’s more or less the whole problem. Even though Goblin Slayer is preparing for something from the beginning, it is easily dismissed as his usual eccentric paranoia and doesn’t really count as foreshadowing. The disgruntled adventurer is an obvious flag early on, but it doesn’t amount to very much. So by the time things start happening and the much needed goblins arrive (needed because how can he be Goblin Slayer if there are no goblins), the reader is more or less suffering from festival fatigue and it is almost a relief to see the town plunged into danger.

The danger itself though never feels all that real. Unlike in the previous volumes where the Goblins attacked either a farm that was pretty remote or were underground, here they attack a town. There’s very little reason why our plucky adventurers seem to be fighting without back-up given how many adventurers are in the town (and I don’t care how drunk they claim they might be after the festival), and yet the book insists on having the core group take on much larger numbers by themselves. While it is an excellent showcase of their abilities, it kind of pushes plausibility and after a fairly dull set-up it isn’t really much of a payoff.

So I left this volume with mixed feelings because there are some great character moments here for Goblin Slayer and Priestess and the final fight is actually kind of exciting even if it makes little sense in context, but there’s just too much down time here and too many female characters being too cliche female character from a light novel. I’m hoping the next volume picks back up because if this is an ongoing trend with this series I may very well let this one go and that would be a shame. It has been a lot of fun up until this point.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Goblin Slayer Volume 2 Light Novel Review: It’s Always Goblins

Goblin Slayer has quite the reputation now and in this volume he’s answering a quest request from the Sword Maiden herself, a Gold-ranked adventurer who apparently fought a Demon Lord.

My review of Volume 1 can be found here.

Review:

While this second volume doesn’t quite have the drawing power of the first, it is a very decent follow up. There is an understanding that while the protagonist is cool and all, he can’t carry the story alone, and so a lot of energy has been put into the support cast. And even while many of these characters do come off a little too one-note at times, they are all quite interesting notes and the interactions between them are always kind of fun.

The reason this novel works so well is that the readers have a soft spot for this cast. We’ve watched them come together and fight off a horde of goblins with a lot of risk and very little reward. We like these characters already and we don’t want them to die. So when the story plunges them headlong into danger there’s an instant hook to make us keep reading. Because even though I know there are plenty of novels to come and therefore it is very unlikely that the main cast are going to die here, abandoning the story when they were still stranded in a sewer never really crossed my mind as a viable option.

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If I had to complain about any character in this particular volume, it would be the Sword Maiden. I’m not really sure what they were going for. At times she seems super seductive, at others she’s the fragile and damaged adventurer, and others still she just does not seem like she’s a real character. And given she’s the catalyst for the adventure in this volume that’s probably the book’s weakest link.

However, once the quest is accepted and the characters are on their way through the tunnels and facing some fairly hairy situations, using arrows, swords, slings, magic, and whatever else is handy to survive the next encounter, the story moves along beautifully. There’s some fairly tense moments in the darkness and as the characters do come under heavy fire and several of them do sustain some fairly heavy injuries considering they are the main party – a feat the book only gets away with because there’s magic around so ultimately they manage to get the cast back on their feet before the final act.

Basically, if you enjoyed the first story, and you are up for another adventure fighting off a horde of goblins who may have learned a couple of new tricks, then this story will work for you. The writing style remains much the same and is quite enjoyable, the characters are still pretty fun, and the fight sequences manage to be exciting without getting too hectic. I had a lot of fun with this second volume and I’ll be reviewing volume 3 very soon.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Goblin Slayer Volume 1 Light Novel Review: A True Specialist

Overview:

In a world where the gods grew bored of playing games and so created men and demons and dwarves and elves and goblins in order to play an even better game, adventurers know that they might die on a quest. Priestess knows this as she joins her first party and they venture out to hunt some goblins, but the reality is something else again. The whole party are wiped out save for the Priestess who is saved by a man known only as Goblin Slayer.

Review:

Now this was a great read from start to finish. Admittedly, the prologue about the gods and rolling the dice had me worried I was in for another fantasy world based on game mechanics (not that I dislike those but I really am growing a little weary of them), but then the story got started for real and I pretty much devoured this book. It is a great adventure story with plenty of action but it doesn’t hesitate to plunge the reader into the truly yucky parts of adventuring (and that includes covering your armour in goblin blood to avoid detection – ugh).

A few minor criticisms to get out of the way and then I will get back to raving about why I had so much fun reading this one.

Firstly, the names. None of the characters have them. They are Warrior, Goblin Slayer, Guild Girl, Lizard Priest, etc, etc. Admittedly, you don’t get confused as each character is distinct enough in personality and role, and the majority of the time you are following Goblin Slayer and Priestess, but really names are not that difficult.

Secondly, midway along in the book there’s some huge world ending threat that gets mentioned and is dealt with almost entirely off-screen so to speak. We get a few updates of bits and pieces about it, but because Goblin Slayer only cares about slaying goblins, he has no interest in that aspect of what is going on and so there’s this whole grand adventure that was probably pretty cool that we will never see. As much as  I enjoyed Goblin Slayer’s adventures, I kind of wanted to know more about the demons and the what-not that were causing havoc elsewhere.

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However, outside of that, Goblin Slayer is a great read. The tone of the narration worked really well for me as it kind of had a knowing and tongue in cheek approach to sending new adventurers off, most likely to their deaths. The way the goblins are described with a mix of both fear and disdain works perfectly in the narrative. Even Goblin Slayer is built up enough even as his faults are paraded around. It was just immense fun the way the story was delivered and how the characters were set up.

I also really enjoyed the battles within the various goblin nests. Each one had a similar feel and yet became distinct as they moved from caves, to old fortresses to an ancient ruin before the final battle sequence at the farm. Each of these environments changed the approach to battle and made each fight feel really fresh and unique. Plus, Goblin Slayer is not above dirty tactics as he is certainly more about success than looking good, which lends itself to more imaginative fight sequences then you might otherwise find.

Priestess was a character I was worried about early on being a little bit pathetic. However, other than inexperience, she’s actually a pretty decent party member and she grows in leaps and bounds once she is taken under Goblin Slayer’s wing. By the end of the story she is also acting as a voice of reason, reigning him in from some of his more extreme acts that push him to the brink of collapse.

Magic is nicely integrated into the story with some real power, but real limitations. You never feel like magic is just going to save the day, but it does add some useful twists at times and again just makes the fights feel that little bit fresher. The sheer toll it takes on the characters, even someone like Priestess that essentially has no other protection save the few spells she’s able to cast in a day, really adds a sense of danger to each of the sequences.

To sum up, this story was really entertaining. Okay, those who really don’t like blood or the thought of prisoners being raped and mistreated should probably avoid (the goblins are pretty nasty to those unfortunate enough not to die when they lose), but otherwise if you like fantasy adventure stories this one is pretty entertaining.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Series Review

Overview:

Haruhiro and other strangers wake up in a strange place with no memory of how they got there (and a whole bunch of other missing memories). They soon learn they need to earn money to survive in this new world and form a party to work together to kill goblins and other things that go bump in the forest or wherever else, however Haruhiro is in a party formed from those left over after the stronger individuals formed a group. Now this mismatched team will take on roles and try to survive in this new world.

Review: (Absolutely spoilers ahead so if you are concerned, pass now.)

A lot of people have compared this anime to Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, and other anime that follow the stuck in a video game world idea. The problem with that comparison is that while it is entirely possible Grimgar takes place in a virtual world, that is never confirmed or denied. The characters therefore do not act as if they are in a game (one with deadly consequences or otherwise). They are in a dangerous fantasy world and one where they didn’t naturally gain superhuman powers so that they could declare themselves the saviour of it. They are at the bottom of the ladder and having to fight every day just to be able to eat or buy new underwear. As such, Grimgar needs to be considered in the context of what it is rather than what it isn’t.

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It is a fantasy. That much is clear from the pseudo medieval setting and the classes the characters take on (thief, rogue, hunter, priest, dark knight and paladin). However, we have no prophecy of ancient and unspeakable evil, really don’t have an overall antagonist for our group to try to defeat or even that the government are at war with. All we have is that the non-human creatures of this world don’t like the humans much (I can’t imagine why that might be) and that new recruits have to go and deal with these creatures. Recruits earn money from their kills by collecting certain bits and pieces of them.

Having a fantasy with no central quest is an interesting prospect in and of itself. It might leave you wondering what the point is. And as our characters simple struggle to survive and work as a team I know many viewers did start wondering if there was a point.

Oddly enough, I found this approach refreshing. While I don’t actually like any of the characters in Grimgar (more on that later), they each represent a relatable character and you can see their strengths and weaknesses and how they work or don’t work together. The lack of driving plot allowed this anime to really let these characters experience the world. They weren’t rushing past the reflection on what this life was like and how they were getting on with someone else, or whether they made the right decisions. The audience get to see, mostly through Haruhiro, the way they are genuinely coping with being trapped somewhere with no memories of where you were before or how you got there, and having to find their own direction.

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And they do. Small goals at first. Being able to buy meat. Affording a change of clothes. Hunting goblins in the ruins. Mapping the ruins. Defeating the goblins who killed one of the party members. Working with a new party member. Visiting the mines and surviving. As they achieve each goal they look to the next step and start building a life for themselves. They experience a number of set-backs on their way to each of these goals and the danger of the world is always front and centre. These characters are not the protagonists in a shonen anime. Just screaming louder does not make them stronger. They are scared and they are learning their skills from the ground up and they make mistakes and those mistakes can have fatal consequences.

I liked the portrayal of the goblins as well. While our party of would be heroes are finding and killing them, we see that the goblins are equally scared of dying and just as frantic to live. This message about morality and the work of soldiers and killing for survival might be a little heavy (they really don’t do subtle well in this anime) but as a recurring theme and an idea that very much matches the subdued tone of the story it is quite affective. While in every battle you want the main characters to survive you also don’t really want to see the enemies killed. It creates a nice sense of inner conflict while watching.

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Onto our characters. Haruhiro is fine as the one we mostly follow. A little withdrawn and shy, doubtful of his every choice, he originally is happy to follow Manato’s lead. Unfortunately, with Manato’s death, Moguzo’s almost non-presence despite his size, Ranta being Ranta, and the girls being burdened with writing that was definitely skewed toward far more ‘traditional’ female roles so never even had a chance to be considered, Haruhiro was forced into a leadership role which he genuinely is not prepared to take on. This is great for his development as a character, unfortunately, Haruhiro is just not dynamic enough as a character to really fill the space.

The female characters, while each are interesting in their way, regularly get sidelines by the writing and the plot. They fill support roles and get to express the emotional melt-downs that should come with some of the circumstances. They also get used for fan-service which just seems out of place givin the rather serious tone for most of the series. Occasionally they get to be fiery or assertive but only in small doses. That was probably why Mary’s character was such a breath of fresh air even while she was a serious pain in the neck. She didn’t blindly follow along to other’s suggestions and openly challenged the authority of some of the boys. Alas, after Mary’s healing moment (where she finally got past some of her baggage) she became another fairly faded female with no real distinction.

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I should probably mention the art. It’s very washed out at times and there are some interesting effects with light and weather. It’s kind of beautiful to look at and kind of strange at the same time. The music is also pretty heart-felt and dramatic but ultimately forgettable.

All and all, Grimgar is an emotional and dramatic anime that moves slowly but steadily forward. The characters grow and develop in a logical and reasonable manner in response to the challenges they face. Death is dealt with in a very real manner and in a way that feels distinct from so many other anime.

Probably my biggest complaint for the series is that it utterly and completely does not finish. Yeah, we get a boss fight of sorts but we still know nothing about the how and the why they are in this world and there is still a long way for our characters to go.

I really do recommend watching this anime. Admittedly, it isn’t for everyone and the slow pace and lack of plot direction may turn some away, but there is a real beauty to the story telling and character progression that just sucked me right in.

What did you think of this anime?