I hated this first episode. So far as it nails exactly what it wants to be and what it wants to be is shit – popular shit. I have the sinking suspicion that this will be the big seasonal hit which I will find insufferable, at least as so long as SAO 3 doesn’t overshadow it too badly. Speaking of I have to ask is anyone still hype for SAO 3? I don’t even want to watch it to bash it, I tried that with SAO 2 and it was not worth it. I’m genuinely curious as to how much pull SAO 3 will have, 6 years after the first season made it’s explosively popular debut and after years of SAO bashing being popular all over the anime community. Setting that aside though I think Goblin Slayer is ultimately aiming to be a fire and forget sort of hit, something that makes a ton of noise during the season it airs and which everyone stops talking about within a year – Erased comes to mind.
As to how Goblin Slayer will manage this it’s fairly simple. Obviously the titular Goblin Slayer is going for a Doom vibe, while the setting is a generic game-based fantasy world and just to spice things up there will be Akame ga Kill levels of edge there to grab the people who want their shows to be dark and bloody. And it sucks.
To begin with we follow a 15 year old girl signing on as an adventurer and- stop right there criminal scum, why is this fantasy setting MMO-based? This is not a tale of characters from the real world being drawn into an MMO it’s a straight fantasy setting. So why does it have all the hallmarks of generic MMO? I would hazard a guess that the series as written (because duh it’s that way because of the writer) was intended to catch onto the fantasy MMO craze which SAO ignited in the first place, which is why it has basic bitch game material all over the place. Besides the fact that this market is now thoroughly saturated it more or less points to the writer being a total uncreative hack, which the rest of the episode then confirms.
Aside from the cynical and general half-assed feel of a fantasy setting which just has game mechanics for no reason I find the fact this setting incorporates game mechanics at all to be genuinely frustrating. What happened to the magic in fantasy? You don’t need any of this gamey shit like levels, adventurer’s guilds and quest hubs, in fact putting those things in actively ruins the setting. When it came to writing fantasy Tolkien, a mildly successful fantasy author, explained a concept he called the second world. This was a make-believe world that the author constructed and the intent was to create a world you draw readers into, a world which ignored SOME of the limitations of our own, where you could tell a story where characters do unrealistic things without breaking the audience’s suspension of disbelief. In order to keep the suspension of disbelief intact the author would have to construct a world which was internally consistent and where the events of the story did not break the rules of world as laid out by the author. If the author was unable to do this, Tolkien described that as the art (in crafting the story and setting) failing, and by extension the author in question failing. The gamey bullshit is, to me, a giant fucking red flag that the art is failing.
Nothing in Goblin Slayer feels organic. Beyond being generic the setting has nothing of intrigue, it doesn’t even make much sense and the way the characters interact with it makes no sense either. Main girl can read and write, which would realistically mean she’s a tiny and elite minority of people in her medieval-ish society. Not exactly the kind of person who can go adventuring willy-nilly as she would therefore either be rich or belong to a religious order or both. Given how she doesn’t buy gear before going on her first quest for I now I’ll assume she’s not rich and she has no business going adventuring as she would be a valuable resource to her order, hence why they invested the time to teach her. You’d think she’d be appointed to someone’s retinue or something where she can heal people free from danger. But no, she’s out adventuring with a party of noobs who happen to need a healer before they go crush a nest of goblins which raided a town.
And stop again. That was awfully convenient. Before our new adventurer even has time to look at the quest board she’s dragged into a quest, a goblin hunt. Which as the episode will detail is a great deal more dangerous than it would seem – if everyone involved sucks and it just so happens all of these people do because they fight and behave as though they were noobs in a game not novices in a real world, more on that later. Adventurer guild lady looks concerned and tepidly suggests they should wait for a more experienced group to handle this but she doesn’t press the issue when the overconfident noobs ignore her sudden shift in attitude. And this brings to one of the worst problems in the show. Goblin Slayer has to manage a careful balance of goblins being weak, tiny monsters while also being genuinely dangerous packs of monsters and it falls apart instantly if you drop the conceit of the gamey world.
When the noob party enters the goblin cave and fall for a basic trap because none of them can see the branching path for some reason, I saw it before the Goblin Slayer explained what happened so I guess I’m more observant than people in the moment but ok. Because of the ambush the sorceress loses her cool and manages to kill 1 measely goblin before being taken down by a bunch of them. The most hilarious bit about this is that the goblins are genuinely the size of small children and while the sorceress is no bodybuilder she should be able to physically overpower at least 2 or 3 of the bastards before they stab her with a poison knife, but she can’t for some reason. Main girls swings her own staff ineffectually and while her total inexperience makes this more reasonable the fact is both her and sorceress should be able to do plenty of damage because of just how small the goblins are. Sword Noob rushes in and kills bunch before he swings his sword overhead like a scrub and it hits the cave roof, knocking his sword out of the way and he dies. Meanwhile main girl casts heal on her poisoned sorceress and this has no effect. Not sure why because even if this follows MMO rules you’d think the heal would close the wound even if it doesn’t affect the poison but ok guess that’s a minor detail. Monk girl steps up to the plate and kills a few more before a hobgoblin appears from nowhere and manhandles her because he’s actually big enough for that and she gets raped by a bunch of goblins as main girl runs away carrying the dying sorceress. Then the Goblin Slayer shows up and pwns all the goblins, even clubbing little goblin children to death and there’s a post fight exposition scene where the main girl explains that what happened to her party was actually a common experience and- fuck me this is so lazy and hamfisted.
Everything that happens in episode 1 pre-Goblin Slayer is there to establish the idea that the tragic loss of half the noob party and the goblin rape-induced breakdown of the third member is a common affair, and it does this by hitting all the notes of the common story it explains post battle. Are you shitting me? How redundant is that? Hey let’s have the main character experience the common experience firsthand so we can show it’s common and then tell everyone it’s common. If it’s common knowledge then why the fuck didn’t the adventurer’s guild lady say “No y’all noobs ain’t ready for that shit goblin nests are worse than you think?” Is there no need to preserve budding adventurers? I mean obviously the point is so the first episode can be dark, edgy and bloody to attract a target demographic but in universe it makes no sense for this to have transpired as it does. Episode 1 is handled that way not because it’s an organic story development but to give the intended audience what they want and make the characters do what the writer wanted. This is called contrivance, an artificial development in a story which does not arise naturally from the setting or characters.
No one in all of episode 1 displays any logic whatsoever until main girl buys some horrible looking chainmail. Adventurer guild lady, who would be in a position to know, doesn’t warn the noobs adequately about how dangerous goblin nests are. None of the noobs show any skill with their weapons or abilities. Which incidentally is why the gamey bullshit is needed I think, because the writer doesn’t know how to write characters that would logically fit into a bonafide fantasy world. For example the Goblin Slayer himself remarks that Sword Noob’s sword was too long and that’s why he died – and not 2 minutes later he successfully uses a spear which is twice as long as the sword he was describing as too long. This a sign of the author a, not thinking very well and b, not understanding real fighting at all. What the Goblin Slayer shows is that weapon length was not the problem, how it was used was the problem. Sword Noob uses wild slashes throughout the fight and the one that gets him killed is an overhead strike. No one who actually knew a damn thing about fighting would use an overhead strike, in a cave, against tiny opponents. You could use nothing but a low guard, controlled cuts and thrusts and you could wipe all of them out without a scratch because you have 5 times their reach and 10 times their muscle mass. And the only reason Sword Noob fights this way is because he behaves like a video game noob, anyone who could afford a sword in a realistic fantasy world would either have the training to use it, or have fought in a battle at some point to get the money to buy it.
Moreover I have to ask, where are the goblins getting their weapons exactly? Nothing they built was made out of anything but wood and bone save for their weapons. And their weapons are scaled to them, they’re using tiny goblin daggers and axes, not daggers and axes they scavenged from the dead because those would look significantly larger on them. Am I seriously to believe that goblins have the capacity to make steel but not the ability to make anything else that stone age savages couldn’t build? Because that’s retarded. Setting aside the weapon issue how are goblins so well known for raiding towns and carting off women, who they then rape? The fuckers are tiny – an adult woman has to weigh like ten of them, how are they taking them – oh I see because you could force them at weapon point. That’s why goblins have weapons. But why the rape I mean we didn’t see any female goblins and I could extrapolate from this (and certain doujins) that maybe they need to rape women to breed. Despite the fact goblins should have literal baby dicks. I’m just kidding, it’s obviously done to make the show darker and edgier.
And this is the nail in the coffin of Goblin Slayer. Everything in it seems to be there to achieve a desired effect or story development no matter how stupid it appears on it’s own. Like when the Goblin Slayer impales the shaman with his spear. It would be like a human being nailed by a fucking ballista – instant death – if we’re being realistic, but no it survives the gut busting blow because it’s a higher leveled goblin. Goblin Slayer has no interest in a well crafted, realistic fantasy world. That alone would not be a death blow to the series but the fact the story itself is filled with artificial characters who behave as the script demands rather than how people in said position would naturally behave, consigns this one to the fire. It’s trash and I can only hope the people who put this soulless product out there to sell know that.
I fully understand if any of you I find this show fun to watch. I did write a defense of Akame ga Kill once upon a time and I too love my trashy popcorn flicks from time to time. But if you came here for a well crafted story, with a living world, intriguing characters and a gripping narrative – boy have you come to the wrong place. See you in the next one.
PS the “Computer Generated” in the title is in reference to the fact the world is gamey and I didn’t mention it above because it would have ruined my flow. So it stuck it here to be extra uncreative and hamfisted – can’t have the audience not understand absolutely everything right?