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"I slay Goblins."
- – Goblin Slayer
Goblin Slayer is a manga based on a light novel of the same name. The series is, like Dungeon Meshi, relatively new but it has quickly gained popularity among neckbeards for its creative use of a very generic fantasy setting, though others will tell you it is nothing more than a discount version of Berserk. The story is mostly a gorefest that aims to show you the most efficient ways of killing as many goblins as possible, whether it be through stabbing, maiming, poison, fire, or creative use of utility spells.
The series has gained notoriety for its explicit rape scenes, causing some anons to label it as spanking material for a certain kind of people. Although, most fans will also be quick to point out that these scenes feature women that look more like victims of spousal abuse rather than sexy vixens getting their comeuppance. Others have pointed out in response that the rape scenes do showcase the rape victims in ways which are very close to a rape doujin with some mentioning that the light novel doesn't go into detail on the rape, unlike the manga devoting many pages showing the rape victims and their exposed genitals.
To say it's controversial and debated on /tg/ is an understatement and ironically, it's not even for the rape. The setting has some confusing worldbuilding with many calling it contradictory or outright nonsensical. Describing the complaints /tg/ has with the state of the world, the behavior of the characters and the many criticisms for the in-universe justifications (many which /tg/ found unsatisfactory) for everything can take up a page on its own and has taken up FUCKLOADS of threads.
The series now also has an official anime. And, the voice of Goblin Slayer in the English Dub? Doom Slayer (specifically, his mocap actor, for those of you who just went "He had a voice actor?!"). As is only proper. Also, it has an abridged series that is arguably better than canon with some very impressive voice acting.
The main series opens with a group of fresh-faced murderhobos going on their first quest, which like any other opening quest, is about killing goblins that have been pestering the locals. This simple quest promptly ends with a near TPK after the rookies underestimate the dangers of a goblin lair. Just before one of the final survivors, Priestess, is taken out she's saved by the protagonist Goblin Slayer. Another survivor is mercy-killed by Goblin Slayer at her request because the Goblins stabbed her with a poison knife and were about to rape her. The final one ends up PTSD'd hard (read catatonic) due to rape so she is sent to a temple along with the rescued girls.
From there the manga chronicles Priestess's evolution as an adventurer and Goblin Slayer's realization that there may be more to life than murderfucking goblins.
At some point the author decided that naming characters was too hard and as such no character has a name, but is instead referred to by their title, class, race, or some combination thereof. It's probably because the protagonist doesn't really care for their names and only remembers them by their titles. Although, this remains speculation.
- Goblin Slayer is what you would get if you combined Batman, Doomguy, and Bear Grylls into a ball of vengeful fury. It is quickly revealed that he is the only survivor of a goblin raid on his village when he was a kid, seeing the carnage was enough to change him into a killing machine hellbent on purging dirty midget greenskins to the point of crushing Goblin babies with a club. Mostly, it’s because his older sister hid him, so that he saw what the goblins did to her while powerless to help and getting doused in her blood and... other fluids. Moreover, it's implied he was autistic, which makes his experience even more traumatic. The best moments of the series (according to those who aren't just here for the rape) comes from seeing the many ingenious tools he's made to dispose of the goblins, such as using a gate scroll as a high-pressure water jet cutter or dousing a big goblin with gas and rolling it like a fat molotov cocktail. Though some of /tg/ is confused by how he's even aware of half the physics behind such a feat, given his fantasy setting. The light novel handwaves it by saying he heard a story about a mage scholar who made a portal to an ancient ruin he found on a map, and was crushed into a pancake by a wall of water when it turned out to be submerged, and he wanted to weaponize the phenomenon. In fairness to the author, Goblin Slayer interviewing civilians whose technology or gossip intrigues his autism is a consistent aspect of his character, and he later admits he had no idea water could actually cut under enough pressure at the time. He is also somehow able to project himself into dreams: when Sword Maiden (more on her below) told him of her nightmares of that time he simply told her to call upon him in said nightmares and he'd come. And it FUCKING worked.
- Priestess is a 15 year old newbie adventurer that is saved by Goblin Slayer after her first quest goes south with her being saved almost moments away from being the latest sex toy for the goblins that overpowered the rest of the party she was with. Her design and abilities are not unlike that of a cleric, as most of her miracles are support based. Magic is governed by a number of daily uses like Dark Souls or 3rd Edition. She has a heart of gold, but is generally naïve when it comes to the horrors of the world.
- Childhood Friend or Cow Girl is the childhood friend of Goblin Slayer and also technically survived the goblin raid on the village by virtue of being out of town. She now lives on a farm with her uncle and rents a room for Goblin Slayer. This being a manga means that she is a love interest, she has huge knockers in reference to a common Japanese joke about girls with big breasts.
- High Elf Archer is an Elven ranger that joins the party a few chapters in. Even though she is a High Elf her description is closer to a standard Wood Elf. Even though she's 2000 years old, she is easily the most childish of the party.
- Dwarf Shaman is a Dwarven druid that throws rocks at people and lugs around tons of booze. He is a 107 years old and has a fatherly attitude which he mostly hides by teasing the High Elf Archer.
- Lizard Priest is a Lizardman that wears a native headdress and summons skeletal minions. He speaks very politely and tends to break up the verbal abuse between the Dwarf and the High Elf. A cool bro overall who worships dinosaurs, just like his kin in another setting. Also loves dairy foods, especially cheese ("sweet nectar!").
- Guild Girl is a pen-pusher that takes requests from peasants, writes up quests notices, and hands out rewards when the tasks have been completed. She is another love interest.
- Sword Maiden is a gold level former adventurer living in Fortress City and an archbishop for the (unspecified) Supreme God. She's also smoking hot, looking like a grown up and EXTRA THICC version of Priestess, while her robes of office are quite revealing. Her staff of office is shaped in the form of a sword and scale and her familiar is a giant albino Alligator. While compassionate she's also got some childish traits, such as wanting to go to a festival rather than do her priestly duties and bottling up problems rather than talking about them. Powers include a healing spell that requires the presence of a virgin and aural vision. Often wears a blindfold because she's visually impaired and her body's covered in faint scars. All of her problems stem from Goblins because she's a former Goblin captive who was blinded, tortured (hence the scars) and deflowered via rape by them, which also left her with PTSD and a crippling goblinphobia. She is yet another love interest and the most open about her feelings for Goblin Slayer (but loves him as an idea rather than a person).
- The Goblins are almost a character unto themselves as they're present in nearly every chapter released so far. What makes them interesting is that the author has spun what is most often considered a weak low-level threat into crazy Viet Congs on crack, rather apt as the goblins are known for covering their weapons in a mix of shit and piss (essentially making them the goblin equivalent of Tucker's Kobolds). Generally, the goblins pose a great exercise for any longtime DM that wishes to go against tropes or surprise veteran players. Some of their notable tactics include: Totems to distract from their hidden ambush tunnels (again, like Viet Cong), using seemingly live corpses as traps, hiding in old wells, using wolves as guard dogs and mounts, and using kidnapped women as literal meat shields by tying them to boards and hiding behind them. Of course, it's highly advised not to go too far with making them a deadly threat if you wish to keep them feasibly a weak and low-level threat. Many readers are confused why these goblins still remain underestimated despite what we've seen and many finding the justifications given to be very weak. Another key feature is they're all male and reproduce with females of other races; consent is out of the question because Goblins don't care about it and they're such sadistic xenophobes (to the point Goblin babies often kill their mothers when they grow up) and unhygienic so no one in their right mind would consent to them. Oh, and for added weirdness, it's implied that the story Goblin Slayer's sister told him of goblins coming from the green moon that orbits their world might actually be true; at one point, Goblin Slayer and his team find a mirror-portal that, when looked through, reveals goblins working machines made from human bones in a field of endless green sand underneath a black sky...
- Truth and Illusion are the two cosmic forces that control the setting, by serving as twin gods for its inhabitants. Truth is a lucky, cocky asshole who loves grimdark settings, encourages adventurers to party-kill one another over loot, and is a lazy shit that designs dungeons by just pouring a tons of high-CR monsters and traps into a maze and calling it a day, oh, and he also seems to be a fucking /d/M considering most of the aforementioned monsters are on to rape and man-eating. Illusion is a sweet girl who works hard to come up with well-designed challenges for the world's inhabitants. She's the kind of person who could roll a 0 on a D20. Because effort takes time, it seems to be Truth's fault that the story falls into a poorly-written excuse for a plot about "the demon lord's coming back". Therefore, Illusion tends to have less influence on the world, which is why their world actually doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it. Hopefully that doesn't turn into the expected kind of fallback. Together, they gamble with the fates of men, using what are heavily implied to be 5E rules. Goblin Slayer intrigues both of them, delighting Illusion with his creativity, and irritating Truth with his single-minded quest, by circumventing fate with his preparations, and therefore their manipulations. At the end of the day, neither of them will argue with the dice, though.
"How will I kill them next time?"
- – Goblin Slayer
Year One is the prequel side-story to Goblin Slayer and is mostly about filling in the gaps of what has so far only been implied or glossed over in the main series. The title and premise is a reference to the Batman series of the same name.
Year One is divisive due to it filling out gaps which some anons believe only added to the mystery of the main character, while others are just happy to have more Goblin Slayer. However, it is undeniable that Year One caters to the /d/eviants that like monster-on-woman action as it doesn't take more than nine pages for three women to be gang-raped in an explicit three-in-a-row fashion.
As stated above, this manga is undoubtedly a very, very controversial topic thanks in due part to the inconsistent setting. It’s a setting with two opposing sets of gods, which is presented as a game much like D&D, and this makes many inconsistencies within the manga/LN. Many threads have been taken up by arguments around this.
Regarding the Setting
One common criticism is the unrecognized threat of the goblins. Year One shows that goblin invasions have destroyed entire villages, and that this is something that has been going on for years - yet, despite that, goblins are still thought of as the lowest of threats by pretty much everybody who isn't the Goblin Slayer. There is an abundance of evidence against them being such low threats, with the adventurer's guild reporting that it is standard procedure for them to have to send multiple teams of new adventurers to wipe out one goblin lair, because many of the teams sent in to cleanse goblin lairs will end up being wiped out by the goblins. In no small part because they somehow think that the goblins are not serious threats. Making things worse, the manga is explicit that there are plenty of stories in-universe about adventurers being massacred, raped and traumatized by goblins... and yet still the prevailing attitude towards goblins is "eh, they're no biggie".
Now, the idea that goblin-hunting could be high-risk and low-reward is not contradictory in and of itself, and to the series credit, the prevailing rationale given for why adventurers move on from goblin-hunting as quickly as they can is explicitly the fact that the job is nasty and pays pathetically. But what is contradictory is the fact that goblins in this world are so dangerous, and yet nobody gives them any credit for the realistically dangerous foes that they are.
This stems into a related criticism; the lackluster official policy towards dealing with goblins. In a "realistic" setting, which Goblin Slayer is ostensibly trying to be, an adventurer's guild would:
- Drum it into rookie heads that goblins are not to be underestimated (in case all the horror stories didn't already do that).
- Train rookie adventures so they will be able to go into goblin caves and not be wiped out. (In fairness, it is implied that adventurer's guild do train low-level adventurers, but this amounts to a single "blink and you'll miss it" scene.)
- Forbid female adventurers going on goblin-hunting missions, because goblins reproduce exclusively by raping female humans or demihumans.
- Have goblin-slaying experts who lead nest-purging missions and train rookies in how to successfully cleanse them. (Goblin Slayer is such an expert, but he shows no interest in passing on his skills to anyone not in his party, and he's regarded as a weirdo by other adventurers.)
- Hire bloodthirsty sellswords with few moral qualms to encourage low cost, high return solutions. Even if the women end up as sloppy seconds for the sellswords, it is better than goblins having their way with women.
Or, if that's far too much work, just make it so that people who don't know which end of the sword to hold can't go on goblin quests to deliver weapons and women right to their dens. Absolutely none of this happens in-universe.
Also relating to the criticism of goblins being an "unrecognized threat" is the idea that they would be unrecognized in the first place. If goblins routinely wipe out entire villages, swelling into hordes that breed exponentially as they conquer more villages, then a realistic reaction would be to encourage goblin-hunting, with Guild-given sizable payoffs for each nest wiped out and bounties on goblin corpses. Instead, the rewards for goblin hunting amount to the tiny handfuls of jink that villages can scrape together, which means they are callously left to their own devices. About the only realistic way to justify this level of callous indifference would be if demihuman cities are so numerous and/or expansive that they can always afford to lose a village here or there... and canon gives no indication that this is the case at all.
Supposedly, the light novels make it clear that normally goblin lairs are actually wiped out really quickly and rarely get to full-scale village threatening levels, and it's only in recent years, with the monstrous races swelling in power as a whole that people are being distracted from the usual anti-goblin clearing, giving goblins a chance to build up their numbers unopposed that they don't normally get. It still doesn't adequately explain the lack of respect for goblin slaying when their threat levels have been allowed to reached such a critical mass, or how reports of goblins reaching critical mass and wiping out villages seem to have either never been made, or are forgotten by everyone for no reason.
The other major criticism relating to the setting is the sheer tonal dissonance. Goblin Slayer treats the goblins with a grim, gritty, realistic motif: the goblins use simple but brutally effective pragmatic tactics like poisoned weaponry, ambush, traps, targeted shots, etcetera. And yet the rest of the world is full of standard JRPG traits, most prominently the abundance of Fantasy Armor. It just makes no sense; if goblins, reputedly the weakest enemy type, will exploit all of the realistic downfalls of things like fanciful "showy" armor or running around without a helmet, then why do such things exist? Why aren't they an even bigger problem when facing off against more powerful monsters? Scenes like a high-level, confirmed "dragon killer" barbarian being taken down in one stab by a cunning goblin only make it worse, because they seem to directly imply that the world normally runs off of light-hearted(ish) Heroic Fantasy tropes, then inexplicably switches to Dark Low Fantasy whenever somebody is fighting a goblin.
Even with the explanation that this series is literally taking place in a world that two gods are "playing with", and that the major divine conflict is the clash between the two arguing over which way the world should be presented, this tonal dissonance just doesn't make any sense. The setting is clearly aiming for what TVTropes calls a "Deconstruction" of your standard Heroic Fantasy anime, but it does so in such a clumsy, hamfisted manner it completely ruins its own argument. It only gets worse the more you look into it - for example, the aforementioned barbarian is briefly shown with a Character Sheet based on Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition... and yet, RAW, a character like that is better off naked if no magical armor is around, because their skin is tougher than steel and they have Hit points up the wazoo. It makes the goblin victories come off as being forced for the sheer sake of grimdark, and is directly cited as a reason behind the common perception that the story is "tryhard" and "edgy", which turns off many readers/viewers.
Regarding the Slayer
The last of the big criticisms is directed not at the setting, but at Goblin Slayer himself. Namely, his tactics, which many have called out as presenting the illusion of pragmatism, instead of actually being pragmatic. The primary sub-criticism of this argument? Goblin Slayer's gear. To sum things up, Goblin Slayer deliberately uses the cheapest, nastiest, most low-quality gear he can, because he fully anticipates ultimately dying in battle and he wants to make sure the goblins will not profit from it when they loot his corpse afterwards. Except the obvious problem here is that having bad equipment makes his death and looting more likely, whereas good equipment would make that less likely. In a nutshell, the argument is that he's preparing so hard for events occurring after his death that he's unthinkingly increasing the odds of being killed.
There's also the sub-argument of just how much of a threat Goblin Slayer being looted really is. As a human, any armor he has would need to be forcibly resized, which would make it pretty much worse-off (if not useless) to goblins anyway. Weapons are slightly more salvageable, it's true, but not only is one goblin with a magic sword still one goblin, the fact is that goblins are established in the setting's canon to be absolutely terrible at taking care of their shit. Not only do they not maintain the arms and armor they use, but they deliberately abuse them, because they're full of envy over how demihumans can make this cool stuff and they can't, so an enchanted sword or spear would quickly wind up useless. Furthermore, goblins hate each other only slightly less than they hate non-goblins, and exist in a constant state of infighting and thievery over each other's stuff, because "seething, hateful envy" is pretty much their default state of mind. So, a goblin who gets his hands on, say, a +2 flaming sword will actually spend most of his time killing other goblins with it to keep it from being stolen - and will ultimately be murdered by another goblin who wants his sweet sword for himself. And then that goblin will need to kill other goblins to hold onto it, until he's ultimately murdered for it, and then the cycle starts over. So, if anything, having an enchanted weapon looted will probably result in more goblin deaths than if his cheap shitty longsword was looted. The only mitigating factor is that the Goblin with the magic sword MIGHT be able to survive long enough to grow big and become a Goblin Lord who rallies and organizes others (which happens once in the show with a Goblin Lord who gets a magic axe), but that's a major long shot and still causes more dead Goblins on the way.
The above doesn't even begin on the multi-thread long debates on the setting, the feasibility of organisations like the adventure guild, the "believability" of some of the tactics that Goblin Slayer uses, etcetera. This all can take many pages to explain, but the Fantasy Doomguy on steroids makes it at least readable. It can also be seen as "humorous" if viewed as a dark comedy where a goblin killing autist goes out and kills goblins.
As a final note on the series, the settings of both Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Age of Sigmar have a problem akin to the Goblins, except instead of Goblins here we have Beastmen and the Fimir (the later who literally can only reproduce through kidnapping females from other species, although we are not sure if they still exist in AoS or are finally gone for good), grimdark indeed.