Goblin Slayer Series Review

He’s Not Trying To Save The World – He Just Wants To Slay Some Goblins

If you were on any kind of social media during the last months of 2018 then you probably caught some of the Goblin Slayer rape/infant killing controversy after episode one aired. Fortunately, after the storm died down and more thoughtful posts and commentary started coming out, most people seemed to agree that largely the problem could have been solved by the various streaming services providing sensible classification or warnings prior to the show airing and only a few extremists were still calling for the entire show to be trashed and calling those who enjoyed it degenerates.

Wow, I love it when people make a judgement over your entire existence based on your preference of fictional stories. That said, I don’t want this review to turn into a debate about censorship and I kind of covered my thoughts on this whole thing in a feature about triggers back when episode one first aired so I’m just going to get on with reviewing the anime now.

Still, the need for a warning label on this anime does exist because it does have content that some people will find distressing. I’d strongly recommend not watching it if you know that you don’t like shows where female characters are subjected to sexual assault or if buckets of blood flying about the screen in fight sequences is going to make you feel queasy.

The problem with that though is that while these things are in Goblin Slayer, it isn’t really what the show is about. Quite a few reviews I’ve read have criticised Goblin Slayer for not being as dark as Berserk or for being toothless. While Goblin Slayer does explore some of the darker aspects of adventuring and the less noble side of killing creatures most other consider merely pests rather than facing off against demon kings, the story is essentially about the two main characters: Goblin Slayer and Priestess.

In the first episode we meet the Priestess as she joins up to become an adventurer, gets recruited into a party of rookies and more or less lead to her death by the overconfidence and cockiness of youth and general perceptions about the weakness of goblins. It’s a solid opening encounter that sets the tone for a world where adventurers can and do die particularly early in their careers and goblins might be individually weak but in a dark cavern with numbers on their side if you aren’t prepared you are in for a world of hurt. It’s also pretty confronting in that the fates of these nameless rookies are pretty tragic. Fortunately we haven’t spent enough time with them to feel we know them, but basic empathy for humans and knowing none of these characters were actually bad people, just inexperienced, makes the whole encounter leaving you with a slightly sick feeling in your stomach, which is more or less what it intended.

Goblin Slayer Episode 1

Fortunately, Priestess is rescued by Goblin Slayer and the two then form a partnership of sorts. The story follows the two as they learn from one another, the Priestess learning how to use her miracles to best effect for a party and about the tricks goblins use and how to beat them, and Goblin Slayer learning slowly how to interact with others and to trust others even if just a little bit.

Goblin Slayer Episode 9 Goblin Slayer and Sword Maiden

What this means is the story seems to sway back and forth between life and death encounters in dark dungeons and slower moments where the two go about their days in the guild and town preparing equipment, eating and drinking with others, and generally living their lives. It is this two toned approach that seemed to annoy some viewers who stuck around after episode one. I think they might have expected the violence just to keep going and not let up, but the point of the story isn’t to be violent. Violence happens in the world being constructed but it isn’t all there is to life. That is what Goblin Slayer is needing to learn and his removal of his helmet in the guild in the final episode is a good sign that he is finally starting to realise he doesn’t need to be the armed Goblin Slayer 24 hours a day.

That might seem like a small step but it is some massive character progress for him and it builds on dozens of small exchanges peppered throughout the series.

Priestess is no slouch either really stepping up in the final fight to both immobilise the final boss and to heal Goblin Slayer. She uses his plan and her own decisions to get the outcome she decides is best.

However, in case it seems like I just keep heaping praise on this series, I do have to point out the biggest problem with it. The series works best if you’ve read the source (either the manga or the light novels will do).

And that’s a problem.

Goblin Slayer Episode 5

An anime adaptation should stand alone. It should show the story in anime form for fans of the source who want more of the characters, but should also be accessible and make sense on its own.

Goblin Slayer fails in that regard in that a lot of the decisions and ideas are kind of hinted at in the anime but don’t make sense without the additional knowledge the source gives you.

One example that stands clear from reading episode reviews was when High Elf Archer asked Goblin Slayer not to use fire and a whole bunch of other things on the goblins under water town. And he agreed. That was all there was to the exchange in the anime.

From reading the books there was a lot more behind both her request and his acceptance. Namely the whole town being above the sewers and potential collateral damage. Now it makes sense why she’s being fairly specific with her limitations (other than she doesn’t want to get set on fire or poisoned) and why he actually listens and agrees. More importantly, it makes sense that in the next episode, when he is about to set off an explosion he checks first that they have travelled beyond the borders of the town before he puts his plan into action.

Now, the sequence makes enough sense in the anime in that you aren’t completely unable to follow it, but it also feels like you are missing something. That isn’t how a story should make you feel and this was only one scene out of many that had anime only viewers tilting their heads and wondering just what was behind a decision.

So while I will recommend this anime, it is an average anime. It isn’t great or amazing. There are definitely issues with how this has been adapted from its source.

Still, I thought it looked great, I enjoyed the characters, loved the sound design, and all and all had great fun following along with these characters and adventures. While it does get dark, there’s also plenty to balance it and from a narrative point of view it makes sense that those moments are as dark as they are.

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How Even The Best Laid Plans Can Be Derailed by Idiots

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode Review Title Image

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 12 Review

With the dryad making her request of Rimuru and the kijin being pretty onboard with the plan of taking out the orc lord, it seems it is fairly inevitable that we’ll get a battle between Rimuru’s group and the orc army. Still, allies are nice and while Rimuru doesn’t want to deal with the idiot Gabiru, he does send someone to talk to the chief of the Lizardmen and they hammer out an alliance of sorts. All looks to be going well in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, until Gabiru decides (or rather is very easily manipulated) into stuffing everything up.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 12 Souei

Characters like Gabiru really annoy me but at the same time they aren’t actually badly written characters. They really do reflect those people you meet in life who think they are all that and can do no wrong. Those people who charge into things believing it will work out because ‘how could it not’ but generally speaking then blame others for their failures or have a whole bag of excuses as to why something wasn’t their fault. 

Just look at Gabiru’s explanation as to why he lost to Gobta.

I might have worked with a few people just like Gabiru. They are more annoying in real life.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 12 Gabiru

And while Gabiru eats a lot of screen time in the second half, this isn’t actually a problem because it is doing exactly what it needs to do. It is escalating the situation. Rimuru already had to deal with the orc army and the orc lord. He thought he had an alliance of Lizardmen waiting for his arrival, and now the lizards are under new leadership, stirring up the orc army and actually providing food for them (gross) and there’s almost no chance of them being able to join up. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the situation tense, Slime doesn’t take itself seriously enough to actually have tension, it is certainly at least building up this threat as at least something that might vaguely threaten if not Rimuru then perhaps those that follow him.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 12 Rimuru

I am definitely enjoying Slime more at the moment than I was and unlike other shows this season that started reasonably well but have kind of gone nowhere or downhill (looking at you Index and SAO), this one seems to keep building on its world, characters and ideas and gets more interesting with time.

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The Worst Way To Learn the Skill of Diplomacy

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 11 Review

Rimuru might be a slime but this isekai story is pretty determined to ensure we hit every cliche and trope along the way which kind of takes away some of the impact of having a slime as a protagonist. Still, it isn’t as though cliches are bad, it is just this kind of self-awareness walks a fine line between slightly amusing and smugly obnoxious and Rimuru sitting at the table bemoaning the fact that he was about to be fed cliche terrible food (purple and all) really didn’t hit the mark. Though, as much as I will roll my eyes at that scene, the rest of the episode was pretty pleasantly entertaining.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 11 Rimuru

We get to spend a bit of time seeing how the ogres have integrated with the goblin village and the roles they are taking up. While this does lead us into a number  fairly generic encounters but again, these characters are pleasant enough that you can kind of just go along with them. Seeing Rimuru trapped in the forge because he couldn’t find a good moment to take his leave as the Dwarf and the Ogre discuss techniques was pretty entertaining, and the other dwarves learning about silk was fine.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 11 Lizardman

However, it isn’t until the Lizardmen finally show up in the village that things seem to move forward again. That usual issue I have with the pacing of the show where nothing happens for ages in terms of plot and then we suddenly leap forward.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 11 Gobta
When rewards don’t work, threaten them with bad food.

But, it is worth the wait. Gabiru, the Lizardman Prince or whatever, is an insufferable narcissist, made worse by his group of cronies and hangers-on who encourage his worst personality traits. He’s only been around two episodes and yet I was utterly delighted when Gobta knocked him senseless. Gabiru is at the village essentially asking for help, and instead of asking declares that they can all have the honour of serving the lizards, and then proceeds to belittle the direwolves for following a slime. Not exactly the way one goes about asking for a favour.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 11 Dryad

That actually seemed like enough for the episode, given the pace of most episodes, and yet Slime wasn’t finished just yet, as right before the end we introduce a Dryad who also asks Rimuru to fight the orcs. Given she’s a pretty girl I’m guessing he’s going to say yes.

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THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME PUNIPUNI RIMURU-SAMA
THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME PUNIPUNI RIMURU-SAMA

Watch the Slime Playing With Powers and Defeating Ogres

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode Review Title Image

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9 Review

Rimuru had something of a touching moment at the start of this episode where we saw him looking eye to eye with the mask Shizu left. For a character that existed for only a couple of episodes, she’s left an impact on both the Rimuru and the audience and her presence is palpable throughout the episode as Rimuru’s human form does mimic hers in a lot of ways and he’s also acquired her powers. 

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9 Rimuru

Still, despite doing a decent job on the passing of a character last week and beginning with remembering her we quickly turn to some comedy that will either have you smiling or groaning depending as Rimuru plays with the body double skill and first ageing and then playing with the sex of his human form. Fortunately this is a brief moment of comedy before we get on with more important things (though still kind of cool if you think about future possibilities it has to be able to change the appearance of your clone).

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9 Rimuru in human form

I enjoyed Rimuru returning to the cave where Veldora was to play with his new powers. It kind of gave it a sense of importance and also reminded the audience about Veldora (who at this stage is pretty easy to forget). But, this episode did want to move things along and so we have a party of hunting goblins being attacked by ogres. However, things aren’t as they seem as the ogres are only attacking because their village was attacked.

Going to be honest, this one is a pretty transparent as to where this is going.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9 Ogres

By the end of the episode Rimuru in his own weird way has won them over and they all go for a feast. Which is probably a sound way to end anything really. Still, like many things in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime it all felt a little too unearned. Largely though, this remains a pretty fun viewing experience and it has built nicely upon its foundations even if at times it feels a little shallow.

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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.

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.

Goblin Slayer Vol3b

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.

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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.

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.

Goblin Slayer Vol2b

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.

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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.

GoblinSlayer1b

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.

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GOBLIN SLAYER
GOBLIN SLAYER