Repeat after me: just because a show is eminently violent does not mean it is the best of all time. Now don’t get me wrong, GOBLIN SLAYER is a fine show with a unique concept. Unlike a lot of other fantasy anime that capitalize on a complex world of many moving parts, GOBLIN SLAYER is simple. Hell, the characters don’t even have proper names and their backgrounds are decently diverse. Even while we never see the homeland of elves and dwarves, for example, the show brings us up to speed on inter-species relations via dialogue. All the while, we get to see Goblin Slayer, well, slaying goblins. That’s all the show professes itself to be and that’s where it shines.

The main cast of GOBLIN SLAYER
What a squad | Image: Crunchyroll

But these are all reasons why the show is decent. It’s watchable. That means I don’t mind sitting down and seeing it all the way through in an evening. It means that I was excited to do so after the first episode. But like any anime, GOBLIN SLAYER is not without its flaws.

While the characters themselves are fine, the anime doesn’t really have much of an arc to buy into. Perhaps this was intentional and wasn’t much of an issue early on. However, when later episodes try to raise the stakes by upping the danger, things start to get bland. On top of that, the anime is graphic in ways that don’t have a lot of merit. Showcasing the brutality of goblins and the ways they need to be killed is fine. Shock value is useful, sure, but at times GOBLIN SLAYER crosses the line from purposeful into gratuitous. All of this is bookended by some fan service and CGI that, while not deal breaking, is a bit annoying.

Sexual Content Without Purpose

Let’s be real for a moment. If not for a few trace serious elements, GOBLIN SLAYER would be tragically similar to many other harem series. Characters like Priestess and High Elf started off as interesting in and of themselves. Priestess had the potential from episode one to grow from the tragedy of her first adventure into a strong adventurer. High Elf entered as a 2000-year-old badass archer capable of taking out scores of enemies with a single quiver’s worth of arrows.

But by the series end, they (and most women in the series) are just lusting after the main character. This isn’t unique to GOBLIN SLAYER, true, but that doesn’t make it less annoying. By the series’ midway point, GOBLIN SLAYER progressed from having a cast of potentially strong characters to having a cast of women trying to sleep with Goblin Slayer and then a few people to round out the edges. It’s no coincidence that the only spell that could possibly save a main character’s life just happens to require sleeping with a virgin.

Every part of this is entirely unnecessary | Image: Crunchyroll

Is there room for sexuality and romance in a show? Absolutely. I would have no problem with any of the ostensible “romance” in the show if it had substance. Instead, we have High Elf Archer completely abandoning her goal of killing demons like a passing fancy. Priestess never grows as an individual and instead just becomes a sexualized plot device. Sword Maiden becomes the centerpiece of a 5-minute scene that eroticizes rape. All unneeded additions to an otherwise fine series.

My God, the CGI

CGI is annoying in general for anime. When used properly, though, it can be justified. For example, when trying to incorporate massive monsters or battlefields in a scene. Most anime with large enemies will use CGI to skip the hassle of drawing something so enormous. Its use in GOBLIN SLAYER is particularly annoying because of how jarring it is when employed for simple things, like a character walking around. This circles back to the fan service of the show too. While Cow Girl is chill and all, there is no reason that more effort should go into her swinging her chest over a windowsill than the main character’s movements.

[videopress eg4Zft2n]

Partial CGI is and always will be irritating when coupled with rare moments of strong, crisp visuals. While any still image of the anime looks fine, the choppy CGI movement kills the action. The slight benefit of the doubt I’ll give to GOBLIN SLAYER is how the CGI is woven into the series. People tend to comment on the strange way Goblin Slayer moves. And while it’s unclear whether that is exogenous to the CGI, it still makes it more bearable. Plus, the CGI itself isn’t 100% terrible, but I would rather have less impressive animation over excessive CGI. Even so, CGI is CGI. We can’t hate on GOBLIN SLAYER’s CGI too much, but a less than awful bad thing is still a bad thing.

Characters Stuck in the Shallow End

This is where I have the most mixed feelings. On the one hand, the simplicity of the show and its characters makes for a cool concept. If the anime were only a few episodes long, that would’ve worked well. But eventually, the same things over and over become bland. I found it difficult to become invested in any character besides Goblin Slayer and even his character wasn’t spectacular. His traveling party felt more like convenient comedic NPCs than characters.

Like with High Elf Archer and Sword Maiden, Dwarf Shaman and Lizard Priest never materialize as a refreshing presence on screen. Lizard Priest more or less just eats cheese. Cool parts of his character, like the shaman-esque summoning of bone warriors, are never explored. And Dwarf Shaman lacks any sort of backstory whatsoever.

Sword Priestess speaking about her fears in GOBLIN SLAYER
Yeah, we get it. | Image: Crunchyroll

For one character, being underwritten is fine. But when compiling it all into a whole cast, things tire fast. What makes things frustrating is that this cast had enormous potential. Other world-building elements, like the recurring fable of Gods and dice, are scarcely mentioned. I found myself constantly waiting for something more from each character. However, the only character that even marginally fulfilled that desire, in rare moments of development, was Goblin Slayer.

Some Saving Grace

What kept me coming back to GOBLIN SLAYER was the concept of it. It’s the same reason why I expected a lot more from it in terms of quality. The anime was extremely unique in its depiction of how strong the weakest monsters can be. By situating a fantastical enemy within the real dimensions of struggling, weak humans, it found a niche. Usually, anime just let the overpowered protagonist slaughter, weak enemies, like goblins, as training fodder. Making a character whose entire fighting persona was built around killing goblins was super cool. Even more, Goblin Slayer’s resolve toward doing such a facially insignificant but truly important job felt admirable. Like others in the show, I began to respect the hell out of him over time.

Goblin Slayer in GOBLIN SLAYER talking about ice cream.
Little things, like inventing ice cream for his friends, gave me hope for his character | Image: Crunchyroll

While Goblin Slayer isn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, he’s better than the others. Yet his motivations grow tired when we see them over and over again. Goblin Slayer protects women from being captured and assaulted by goblins constantly. This is fine once or twice, but it gets old. Like with much of the story, a season half of GOBLIN SLAYER’s length might have been better. Basically, the portrayal of this unique character felt like a gift in too large a box.

Coupled with better-supporting characters and more focused development, GOBLIN SLAYER could have vastly improved. This might have been a simple change like scrapping the recap episode to expand on Goblin Slayer’s childhood. Those are the kinds of little shifts that go a long way.

Cool Concept, Meh Anime

GOBLIN SLAYER is yet another example of a very likable, yet not super great show. Does that mean it isn’t worth watching? Probably not. It isn’t like some other shows this year (cough, BORUTO) that are painful to even witness. But, I wouldn’t say it needs to be super high on your “must watch” queue. In a day and age where edgy violence is just innately liked by a lot of people though, this kind of anime is sure to get a lot of attention. But, again, just because it’s violent or bloody doesn’t mean it’s all that great.

I don’t regret watching GOBLIN SLAYER. It was a nice anime to burn through in a night. But the latter half felt like a drag. By the end, the show felt more like an obligatory finish. Nevertheless, it’s decent. However, it’s nowhere near as good as its ratings might suggest. It’s certainly not as great as its fans insist it is.

Other anime can easily learn from the example GOBLIN SLAYER set. Simplicity can be great. That greatness, however, is largely contingent on the simplicity being executed well. What GOBLIN SLAYER turned out to be was a strong, simple concept with less than great execution.

Featured image from Crunchyroll.

3 Comments

  1. kin jung un

    February 18, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    you said that goblin slayer had a unique concept, but it’s honestly no different from all the other isekai type of shows out there. just like all the other isekai type of shows this is just the same this in the same way with some type of twist to it wich in this case is goblins. and if you a show feels like a drag to finish, then I would not call that show descent I’d call it boring and mediocre. because a descent show shouldn’t make you wish for it to end already

    Reply

    • kin jung un

      February 18, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      this= thing*

      Reply

    • khawaja Zain

      February 20, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      Your whole point is wrong because… guess what.. its not an isekai. Its Dark Fantasy/adventure.

      Reply

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