One of the most hyped titles of the last year (it actually aired from October to December 2018), “Goblin Slayer” is based on dark fantasy light novel that first became a manga and then an anime. The main “selling point” of the title was that it was supposed to bring gore, and, in general, exploitation aesthetics to the RPG-style, medieval anime. Let us see if it succeeded.
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In a world that could well be part of an RPG game, a human hero has recently defeated the armies of evil. However, the demons are still lurking around, and particularly goblins, who burn, pillage and rape wherever they. Various guilds give rewards to adventurers for exterminating demons, but no one seems to care about goblins, the lowest rank of the creatures, with the exception of one, the titular character. Goblin Slayer bares a deep grudge towards goblins and he has dedicated his life in pursuing and killing them, even for the minor fees offered by the guilds, neglecting the bigger, more richly rewarded missions. His dedication could be easily described as obsession, with him constantly wearing armor, to the point that no one has ever seen his face. Despite his tactics, he has managed to ascend the ladders of the adventurers ranking, and is currently categorized as silver, the third best ranking.
As the story begins, he lives in a country house, with a girl and her father, paying rent but also making sure the area stays safe. When a group of porcelain adventurers (the lowest rank) gets in trouble in a mission against goblins, Slayer appears to save the day, ending up with a new friend, a girl priest. Soon after, he reluctantly joins a group of adventurers consisting of High Elf Archer, Dwarf Shaman and Lizard Priest (yes, their names are also their capacities) and a new chapter in his life begins.
The first episode of the series remains true to the hype, as the slaying of the goblins (including babies, in a series of actions that is justified though) and the actions of the creatures, which include killing teenagers in essence and raping and torturing girls definitely points towards exploitation. This tactic however, gets more and more dull, as the story introduces elements of harem, comedy, and a general lightheartedness which derives from High Elf Archer forcing Goblin Slayer not to use poison or fire to kill the goblins, for reasons not very logical, both from the giver and also from the recipient, since no explanation for him agreeing to this limitations exists. On the other hand, these limitations force the protagonist to use a number of intelligent tactics to win against his opponents, taking advantage of all the abilities his comrades have, which actually makes the fights much more interesting, particularly when combined with the permeating gore, which mostly derives and is received by Goblin Slayer.
The story also includes sex (a threesome even) but the deed is actually implied than depicted and the sensualism part just appears through some minor fan service moments.
In general, I think that Ozaki and the crew started on a path that seemed a bit excessively exploitative and decided to tone down the whole thing, although the “cute” (and simplistic, in video-game style) character creation and the overall vivid colors would make a great antithesis with the violence. This trait makes the anime lose its path after some episodes, as the creators are obviously confused about what path they wanted to follow, ending up with a rather uneven result. The last few episodes compensate largely for this, but at the same time, they make the middle of the series, with the exception of a few episodes, looking like a collection of fillers.
The combination of a very intriguing character (the faceless hero concept is great), exploitation aesthetic and RPG game base makes “Goblin Slayer” a rather interesting watch, for fans of action/fantasy. However, the taste the series leaves at the end is one of slight disappointment, since the title could have been so much more if its creators were sure about what they wanted to do. The search for a new “Berserk” continues…