I was desensitized to fictional gore at a relatively early age because of my exposure to horror films. However, I never truly considered how graphically bloody a cartoon could be. That changed recently when I decided to watch a popular but controversial anime.
Goblin Slayer spoils the focus of the story right in the title – the main character slays goblins. However, this anime is disturbing for quite a few reasons, but is ultimately about much more than it initially seems. Although it was extremely unsettling, I found myself enjoying the show, the main character, and was happy with the first season’s conclusion. This month, beware of spoilers and goblins, anime-niacs.
Goblin Slayer begins with a young Priestess who joins a group of rookie adventurers as they traverse a cave. The situation unfolds innocently until a group of goblins catch the party off-guard. Although the goblins are relatively small, they are ruthless, and this scene is not only graphically violent, but it includes a short segment where one of the monsters actually rapes a young wizard. However, the titular hero arrives, swiftly kills the nest of goblins, and saves Priestess.
The first episode of Goblin Slayer was purposely intense and disturbing in order to show the viewer that goblins are depraved and murderous savages. The hero, known primarily throughout the series as Goblin Slayer, explains that goblins live to pillage and destroy villages. Since these monsters were immediately shown to be so disgustingly evil, it was easy to actively cheer for a hero who destroys goblins. After his introduction, a brief origin of Goblin Slayer reveals more about the character (even though we already know his favorite hobby).
The armored young man lives on the outskirts of a small village and has dedicated his entire life to slaying goblins. When he was a child, goblins attacked his home, and although he successfully avoided danger by hiding in a closet, he watched his older sister’s rape and murder. This tragedy formed his motivation and cemented his hatred of the monsters.
Early in the anime, a small party of adventurers are introduced at the local adventurer’s guild. Here, Goblin Slayer meets High Elf Archer, Dwarf Shaman, and Lizard Priest, because no character in this show is given a real, traditional name (to be fair, Lizard Priest sounds much cooler than “Mark”). They ask for his help, so Goblin Slayer, permanently accompanied by Priestess, joins them on a quest to defeat a nest of goblins. Of course, the battles aren’t always against hordes of small goblins – there are powerful shamans and large ogres who all work under the direction of the Goblin Lord. Apparently, however, Goblin Lord isn’t the primary threat in this world. Heroes have ventured to find and defeat the Demon King, but Goblin Slayer wants nothing more than to slay goblins (imagine if his parents picked this name and he became an accountant instead – awkward). The man has dedicated his life to learning how these monsters think, act, and regularly successfully predicts their behavior and attacks. However strong he is, and he certainly is, he is much more interesting than the show explicitly illustrates.
Goblin Slayer is a man of very few words. Priestess engages with him more than anyone else in the show, but most of his responses are extremely curt and not much more than the acknowledgment that she, or anyone else, has said something to him. He only really speaks at length when they are discussing, hunting, or actually fighting, goblins. He has no interest in romance or receives any enjoyment outside of murdering these monsters (even though all the women love this guy). In fact, his full face is never revealed to the viewer – he almost never takes off his armor, even at his house or the guild, where battles are not imminent.
Clearly Goblin Slayer was traumatized as a child and, although his maturation was never shown, he certainly grew into an adult who is completely emotionally numb. He doesn’t show much interest in those around him or build relationships. The armor that Goblin Slayer constantly wears is a metaphor for how the man exists in relation to the world. Armor keeps anyone from getting to know him, see him, and it hides all of the pain he has experienced but never expressed. To Goblin Slayer, this keeps him protected so he may never again feel the pain he did when his sister was tragically killed. Because of this, Goblin Slayer’s actions in the final two episodes were completely captivating.
The rest of the local adventurer’s do not care about goblins, they are more concerned with the Demon King and his stronger minions. However, Goblin Slayer realizes that a large nest of goblins is planning to attack the village and asks everyone at the guild for help. Although the adventurers initially laugh at him, Goblin Slayer does not relent until Spearman agrees to assist, then others in the guild slowly begin to agree as well. Goblin Slayer showed his capacity to ask for help, and that was ultimately the only way he was able to defeat the giant horde. By reaching out to others for support, the man was able to vanquish something that had troubled him his entire life, much like real people need help in order to manage their troubles and emotions (you may call me Dr. Jonathan: Anime Psychologist).
Goblin Slayer was a surprisingly enjoyable show but quite an uncomfortable one. I’m interested to see what else this series has to offer considering the season ended with “Goblin Slayer will return” on the screen (“in Avengers: Endgame” would have been a dope reveal). I would certainly recommend Goblin Slayer to fans of RPGs and adventure games and anime, but this show is not for the squeamish. Goblin Slayer is an anime for adults, and definitely not for all adults.