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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. However, as a light novel, it is also filled with references to other fantasy stories and settings, from Berserk to The Lord of the Rings.
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 like victims of spousal abuse rather than sexy vixens getting their "comeuppance". To say it's controversial and debated on /tg/ is an understatement and it's not even about the rape. The setting has some confusing worldbuilding with many calling it contradictory or outright nonsensical. Describing the complaints some have with the state of the world, the behavior of the characters and the many criticisms for the in-universe justifications (which many fa/tg/uys found unsatisfactory) would take up as much space as a years worth of Local Lord threads.
The series now also has an official anime. And, the voice of Goblin Slayer in the English Dub is 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. Pretty much everything else is available in licensed or fan-translated releases.
As is standard for a popular Japanese fantasy light novel, it has its own tabletop RPG. It seems to be a simple d6 system with 5 races and 8 classes to replicate the races and jobs seen in the series, but beyond that no further details are known.
The story is basically a D&D campaign, complete with stats, classes, Vancian Casting and everything that comes with it. The world is literally a tabletop game for the Gods, with them making characters and rolling dice to see how all of it goes. This plays into religion, with the God's Dice being a common motif. No matter how prepared or skilled you are, one bad roll is all it takes for everything to go to hell.
People who become adventurers join the guild and register by filling up character sheets copied line-for-line from D&D, going on adventures on things as simple as slaying rats all the way to fighting off dragons, but the God's dice control all... Except for one guy called Goblin Slayer. Due to his autistic preparations and unyielding determination, he alone has the power to derail their campaign plot. Essentially, imagine if you created Old Man Henderson but he came alive and no matter how hard you try to kill him, he'll end up screwing over your plot in the end, which happens to make things better for the other PCs you create.
The main story opens with a group of fresh-faced murderhobos going on their first quest, which like many other first quests, is about killing goblins that have been pestering local villagers. 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 poisoned knife being too far gone to be saved as to end her suffering. The final one ends up PTSD'd hard (read catatonic) due to rape so she is sent to a temple along with some rescued girls.
From there the series chronicles Priestess's evolution as an adventurer and Goblin Slayer's realization that there may be more to life than murderfucking goblins.
Main "Prayer" Characters
With the world being a campaign, most of the main cast are essentially PCs made by the Gods. 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.
- Goblin Slayer is what you would get if you combined Batman, Doomguy, and Bear Grylls into a ball of vengeful fury. He's a "Silver-ranked" adventurer, considered one of the most-experienced and skillful adventurers in the world, and he's devoted all of that to killing goblins. However, he's so specialized towards Goblins that normal encounters with some other enemies challenge him more than other, weaker adventurers, though his wits and tactics allow him to get by. It is quickly revealed that he is the only survivor of a goblin raid on his village when he was a kid and seeing the carnage unfold 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. 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. Some on /tg/ wonder how he's even aware of half the physics behind these tactics, given the fantasy setting of the story, but it's generally handwaved as rumors or fairytales Goblin Slayer heard at some point and decided to try. 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. As it turns out, what's special about him is that the god's dice don't affect him as much due to his paranoid preparations, essentially making him Old Man Henderson in the form of an autistic anti-goblin ball of rage, constantly derailing the God's plans for a Grimdark adventure. A favorite of the Gods even though they can't control him at all.
- Priestess is a
1517-year old rookie adventurer that is saved by Goblin Slayer after her first quest goes south and she is saved moments from becoming the latest sex toy for the goblins that overpowered the rest of her party. Her appearance and abilities are those 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, though she grows up fast following Goblin Slayer. Eventually develops to being able to form tactics of her own, and can even use maces and slings, albeit rather badly.
- 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, becoming an orphan. She now lives on a farm with her uncle and rents a room for Goblin Slayer. This being a manga that means she's a love interest. She has huge breasts for obvious reasons. Though she never (purposefully) joins Goblin Slayer on his adventures, she always makes sure he has a meal and home to come back to at the end of a long, hard, goblin-slaying day. Goblin Slayer has put a ring on it multiple times, though whether he understands the import of that action in his current state is unclear. Ironically, Year One and the Side Stories show she's mentally not much better than Goblin Slayer: She spent years being traumatized by losing her family and she had no friends other than him until his main party came in, and even then they're more his friends than hers. That's right, Goblin Slayer is more social than she is.
- High Elf Archer is a Silver-ranked Elven ranger that recruits Goblin Slayer and Priestess in the second volume. Despite being called a High Elf, most fa/tg/uys will recognize her as a Wood Elf. Even though she's two thousand years old, she is easily the most childish of the party, always looking forward to the next new thing and generally being bright and sprightly. After teaming up with Goblin Slayer once to protect her woodland realm from a goblin army, she decides he is a sad excuse for an adventurer and resolves to take him on real adventures (read: majestic ruins, buried treasure, mysterious non-goblin monsters) until he stops being so obsessed with goblins. As elves are functionally immortal and notoriously long-lived, she regards his potential lifespan of 80 years as being much too brief to worry about and has accepted that she'll probably be with him for the rest of his life. Treats Priestess as a precious younger sister. Later stories reveal that she's actually royalty within her kingdom, and one volume is dedicated towards coming home for her sister's wedding that is, of course, somewhat hindered by goblin problems.
- Dwarf Shaman is a Silver-ranked Dwarven Spirit Shaman that throws rocks at people and lugs around tons of booze, which is the catalyst for many of his spells. He is a 107 years old and has a fatherly attitude, which he mostly hides by teasing the High Elf Archer. Originally recruited by the alliance of Order, i.e. non-Evil races, to help protect High Elf Archer's homeland in a classic example of putting aside various grudges and coming together to defeat a coming tide of evil. The party's resident gourmand and sometimes chef, and is also not helpless at melee.
- Lizard Priest is a Silver-ranked Lizardman monk that wears Native American clothing and summons skeleton minions. He speaks very politely and tends to break up the verbal sparring between Dwarf Shaman and High Elf Archer. A cool bro overall who worships dinosaurs, just like his kin in another setting. Also loves dairy foods, especially cheese ("Sweet nectar!"). His goal is to win prowess and renown in battle, like all lizardmen of the setting, and ascend to the rank of a divine naga. As lizardmen are long-lived and great believers in winning worth through battle, he is generally the party's strategist and second-line meatshield, working closely with Goblin Slayer to protect their backline-heavy party.
- 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 of Goblin Slayer and competes with Cow Girl for more than five years as the one with the most day-to-day interactions with him. The fact that their relationship doesn't progress much until Goblin Slayer rescues Priestess may be a sign of how things went. Largely responsible for taking care of Goblin Slayer on the adventuring front in much the same way Cow Girl takes care of him on the homefront, particularly in getting him to be more considerate of other adventurers and getting him recognized by her superiors in the Guild. Comes from a lesser noble family in the kingdom's capital; as a daughter, she didn't have much hope of a career or independent life without going into the Guild, which is one of the few respectable jobs for a young, educated and literate woman.
Side "Prayer" Characters
Characters who aren't part of the main cast but do play a fairly recurring role. Several of them are references to other anime and manga, a development gag based on the author using placeholder images when coming up with the characters and deciding not to change much in the end. This makes the tabletop campaign aesthetic even more believable, because weaboos too lazy to draw their own characters would definitely crop a jpeg of their favorite character they found off Google Search for their tokens.
- Spear Man: Based on Lancer from Fate/Stay Night, he's cocky, but skilled. Has a small one-sided rivalry with Goblin Slayer, but mostly respects him. Has the hots for Guild Girl despite her torch for Goblin Slayer, but doesn't realize Witch's crush on him.
- Witch: A powerful caster that talks like a stoner, supposedly so she doesn't accidentally cast anything. Has gigantic boobs that somehow don't crush her back. Has a crush on Spear Man that he is sadly oblivious to due to going after Guild Girl.
- Heavy Warrior: Based on Guts from Berserk, a Silver adventurer who wields a great sword and leads his own party, making sure to look after them. Is secretly indebted to Goblin Slayer because he saved his home town from Goblins.
- Female Knight: A member of Heavy Warrior's party and a Silver just like him. Has a crush on Heavy Warrior, and is so bad at romance that she needs dating advice from the mentally-challenged Goblin Slayer. Year One reveals that she used to be a Paladin that could cast miracles but probably due to breaking oaths dealing with drinking or greed, she's lost her powers by the time of the main story and is basically just a glorified Fighter.
- Sword Maiden was formerly a Gold-ranked adventurer (someone with skills at or exceeding Silver-ranked but takes on quests on a national/international level rather than local) and is the archbishop of the Supreme God of law. She's also smoking hot, looking like a grown up and EXTRA THICC version of Priestess. Her staff of office takes the form of a sword and scales and her sacred familiar is a giant albino alligator. As part of the Second Hero's party, she defeated the last Demon Lord during the events of Daikatana and Year One. Both just and compassionate, she also has a childish side, such as wishing to see Goblin Slayer at a festival rather than attending to her priestly duties and bottling up her problems rather than talking about them. As one of the greatest priests in the world, she possesses miracles that far exceed those of Priestess, including the ability to bring back a man from the brink of death with her prayers and the presence of a virgin. As befits her role, she wears a blindfold; however, it's not out of devotion to justice, but to hide her blinded eyes. Long before the story, she was taken by goblins and tortured by them in every way, leaving her with deep mental scars and crippling goblinphobia. Her only solace is the knowledge that Goblin Slayer is out there, killing even the goblins in her nightmares. Just as passionate for him as the other love interests, if not more so, something her friends recognize and approve of.
- The Chosen Heroine: The actual "protagonist" of the tabletop campaign, chosen by the Gods and clothed in Plot Armor harder than mithril as she rolls nat 20s for everything (except for getting big boobs. While our main cast is faffing about with mid-tier sidequests, she and her party are doing important things like saving the world and easily roflstomping far bigger things than the MCs can handle. Unlike other stories where the hero is a jerk for the "underdog" main character to put down, she's perky and affable, acting nice to everyone and considering her victories to be a combined effort between herself and everyone around her. Ironically though, she wasn't supposed to be this way. Year One reveals that, in a show of absolute creative sterility, the Gods decided that another one of their PCs would have a dark backstory and grow up traumatized by goblin rape with her village destroyed, but then Goblin Slayer strode in and saved the village, transforming her story from PTSD-induced Grimdark fantasy into laughably easy Noblebright power fantasy (compared to everyone else, at least. It's still Nobledark for the rest of the poor plebs of the world). This continues even into the present: Sometimes, when Goblin Slayer's party finishes off their own battles, somewhere else her own party's boss inadvertently gets negatively affected, allowing her and her friends to curbstomp it and save the day once again.
- Wizard Boy: An annoying little shit who thinks he's way better than that, he wants to kill goblins, and ONLY goblins. Unlike Goblin Slayer, he has none of the training, tactics, skills or mindsets to survive a single quest, and he ends up forcibly tagging along with the main party after insulting Priestess. It's revealed that he has a murderboner for goblins because sister died to them in her first quest. Sound familiar? He's essentially a tool for developing our two main protagonists, showing just how much they've changed in their time together (Formerly lonesome GS scoffs at the idea of questing alone, Priestess shows how much she's learned from him in keeping her cool and completing quests). Said sister was the mage Priestess partied up with in the beginning, but they end up keeping him in the dark about knowing her. He ends up moving on from his revenge quest and thinks hot shit of becoming "Dragon Slayer"... And winds up as an errand boy for the Chosen Heroine. His appearance is based on the far kinder and more competent Negi from Negima.
- Burglar: A rhea (no DEFINITELY not that one, these guys) so ugly as sin he looks like a goblin himself. He rescued Goblin Slayer when he was a kid and put him through the fine art of an abusive childhood training regimen, spouting off about how Grimdark the world is and how our main man would never be the chosen hero, molding him into the cold machine he is now. Makes a pretty overt reference to a far more famous Hobbit ("What have I got in my pocket?").
"Non-Prayer" Characters and Other Beings
- Goblins are almost a character unto themselves, being a recurring threat with recognizable character despite the "leaders" being killed off in every arc. 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, 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. All goblins are males and reproduce with females of any other race, and may eventually grow up into stronger, smarter goblins if they live long enough. In addition, they are all sadistic xenophobes that look upon all other lifeforms, including the forces of Chaos (evil) as being lower and more pathetic than themselves while also resenting them for having wealth, knowledge, health, and the other fruits of civilization while they have nothing but shitty holes in the ground and the castoffs of what they can steal. This drives them to raid, rape, torture and consume all others whenever they have the chance, which is as often as a goblin can sneak attack anyone. They also hate each other, with the small gobs looking at their fellows with treachery, mistrust and envy, and the bigger ones treating their underlings like trash. Essentially, they're Skaven without Warp tech. It's implied that the fable of goblins coming from
Morrsliebthe barren green moon which orbits their world is true in some sense, though in a D&D setting where planeswalking is possible nothing is certain. Later stories deal with the possibility that their kind is evolving, with select members of the species trying to learn and uplift the rest of their race via stealing from other races and worshipping dark gods.
- Truth and Illusion are two of the cosmic forces that control the setting. Truth is a 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. As long as adventurers die gruesomely, whether to goblins or dragons, he's happy. Illusion is a sweet girl who works hard to come up with well-designed challenges for the world's inhabitants but loves tossing her own on DMPCs into the setting to try and act out her railroaded plot. Strongly suspected of being the "player" behind the current legendary Hero going around the world defeating the forces of Chaos, and thus the source of all her nat-20s. Goblin Slayer intrigues both of them: delighting Illusion with his creativity, and irritating Truth with his single-minded quest and circumventing fate with his preparations. At the end of the day, though, neither of them will argue with the dice. Less emphasized in the anime and manga.
- Order and Chaos: The great cosmic divide in the setting, also characterized as "Prayer Characters" and "Non-Prayer Characters." Generally, Order means Lawful Good and Chaos means Chaotic Evil though there are degrees and individual differences to various characters and factions. All gods are on one or the other side, and rather than destroy the world by battling it out between them with their full force, they create and control, through dice rolls, the people living within their world and the challenges they face. Most stories featuring the main cast are, at some distant level, part of plots manipulated by distant and powerful forces of Chaos, of which goblins are the sacrificial chaff to accomplish their plot. Occasionally, glimpses of the far greater battles of the likes fought by Sword Maiden are shown, but the emphasis is on the battles faced by Goblin Slayer and his comrades on the periphery of these threats.
The Four-Cornered World
- The Kingdom: The place the story takes place. A kingdom largely inhabited by humans, with scatterings of padfoots (beastmen, the sexy kind), rheas (halflings), Deep Ones (don't call them fish-people), centaurs, and mermaids. Bordered by the forests of the elves, the jungles of the lizardmen, and the mountains of the dwarves to the east, and by hostile barbarians and other kingdoms in the north and south.
- The Western Frontier: The place where Goblin Slayer and his comrades operate. A desolate region of ancient ruins, hardscrabble pioneer villages, and foreboding forests. Mankind once inhabited this region in large numbers, but various calamities drove them away. The advent of the Demon Lord of the Dungeon of the Dead and resulting wars and chaos unleashed meant that many people fled to the Western Frontier to try and start new lives, resulting in them coming into conflict with goblins and other monsters that had taken over the region.
- The Frontier Town: The largest settlement on the Western Frontier. Location of the Adventurer's Guild and Guild of Rogues. Goblin Slayer lives on a farm just outside its walls. Despite being the largest town, it is still considered a rough-and-tumble frontier settlement, with extensive ruins converted into slums in its outer districts. There's an extensive undercity made out of ruins and sewers beneath the town, largely inhabited by giant rats and cockroaches that are barely kept in check by a constant stream of novice adventurers.
- The Water Town: A major trading town built atop ancient ruins at the junction of several major rivers. Has an extensive sewer and canal system as a result, and is home to the chief temple to the Supreme God. Sword Maiden lives here and keeps the sewers untroubled with her sacred alligator.
- The Capital: Capital of the Kingdom and largest, most-ancient city of mankind in the area. Said to have been founded thousands of years ago and built largely of white stone and marble. Home to Chaos-touched nobles, demented starspawn worshippers, and others of nefarious ilk who raise hell for the King and his court.
- The Dungeon of the Dead: An ancient dungeon infamous for having been the fortress of an undeath-spreading demon lord which threatened mankind. After being conquered by Sword Maiden's party, the dungeon was largely abandoned for a decade until goblins stole into it and made it their own. Cleared by Goblin Slayer's party.
- The Fortress City: A city built at the mouth of the Dungeon of the Dead, to supply and support adventurers coming to challenge the demon lord. Over time, as adventurers became more interested in looting the dungeon than defeating the demon lord, it turned into a booming adventurer town catering to their basest needs and desires. After the dungeon was conquered, it was largely abandoned until goblins took it over as their own town. Depopulated by Goblin Slayer's party.
"How will I kill them next time?"
- – Goblin Slayer
Year One is a prequel to Goblin Slayer and is mostly about filling in the gaps between when Goblin Slayer's village was destroyed and the beginning of the main story. 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. Much of the story thus far details the first encounters and interactions between Goblin Slayer and the many recurring characters who appear in the main story, as well his growth and development from a PTSD-suffering novice to, presumably, his Silver-rank self.
Two light novels have thus far been released, with a third scheduled to be published in 2021. The manga adaptation has outpaced the light novels and features stories that haven't yet been published.
Daikatana - The Singing Death
Another prequel, detailing Sword Maiden's adventure to slay the Demon Lord of the Dungeon of the Dead. Overlaps with Year One to a small extent, as the party was nearing the final battle when Goblin Slayer first registered as an adventurer. Notable for featuring a young, still-growing Sword Maiden trying to overcome her PTSD by joining adventurers on a great quest, a bugman monk, and a largely voiceless samurai MC that's explicitly the reader's self-insert. Has two manga adaptations, due to issues causing the series to be rebooted with a new artist.
Low-budget and unspectacular after the shock and awe poured into the first episode. Also has a 1-hour long OVA adapting volume 5 of the main story.
As stated above, this manga has garnered controversy thanks due in part to its inconsistent setting. It’s a setting with two opposing sets of gods playing a D&D-like game with the entire world, of which the characters and people in it are distantly aware. Many arguments have been had over whether the worldbuilding is simple and spartan or simply lazy, and particularly over whether it is a realistic fantasy world. As always with Japanese fantasy settings, the usual skub about Adventurers Guilds are frequently brought up.
A common criticism is that goblins are a threat disregarded by most political powerholders in the regions in which the story is set. Despite constantly raiding and destroying villages, killing adventuring parties, and being a constant boogeyman to women everywhere, they continue to be seen as unimportant and low-priority. When multiple parties of adventurers are forced to go after a goblin nest, people complain that this proves the deadliness of goblins and how they should be treated as a far greater danger, particularly in the frontier region in which Goblin Slayer operates.
Another common criticism leveled at the setting is that it is tonally dissonant. Goblin Slayer applies a grim, gritty motif to goblins and all encounters with them: goblins use simple but brutal and effective tactics like poisoned weapons, ambushes, traps, etc. However, the rest of the world is filled with standard JRPG tropes, including common use of Fantasy Armor. As such, when a dragon-killing barbarian is slain by a single cunning goblin, there are complaints that the world is flipping between Heroic Fantasy and Grimdark Low Fantasy only when goblins are involved, written solely to be edgy and "dark".
Finally, one of the major criticisms regards Goblin Slayer and his tactics, which are presented in story as being the result of pragmatic strategizing. In particular, some criticize his choice to use low-end gear to limit the fallout of his death should it be looted by goblins, instead of simply wearing much better gear to both kill more goblins faster and make getting killed by goblins less likely. Others believe his tactics are ridiculously fantastical, or simply tryhard attempts at seeming intelligent.
For reasonable counter-arguments, please visit /a/.