By Kumo Kagyu and Noboru Kannatuki. Released in Japan by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Goblin Slayer is filled to the brim with rape, rape threats, forced impregnation, and murder. Every single woman in the book is a target, and while we never see any explicit scenes, we see the aftermath. Combining that with the quite fanservicey artwork, emphasizing boobs and butts, and I feel confident in saying that this series’ entire audience is men, and I can probably narrow it down to young single men in their teens and early twenties. If this sort of thing bothers you, don’t even try purchasing this series. That said, I did actually manage to finish this book, and it is not without some merit, so let’s delve into it.
The series takes place in generic fantasy world X, and I’m not even being sarcastic this time. It’s so generic that no one in the book has a name. Goblin Slayer is the eponymous hero, but the girl on the cover is simply named Priestess, and we also have Guild Girl, Cow Girl, Knight, etcetera. The adventurers in this book take on fantastical creatures in order to protect the land, but also more importantly for money – these adventurers are not interested in the small, minor tasks. Tasks like goblin slaying, for example. Goblins are small and somewhat weak, so no one cares about them. But in groups they’re vicious, and many young adventurer teams have gone out to kill some goblins only to find themselves murdered (men) or raped, bred, then murdered (women). Priestess is the sole survivor of one of those newbie groups, having been saved by Goblin Slayer. Now she assists him in taking out more goblins, as they keep multiplying, and are no longer just the weak mi nor enemies everyone thinks.
The ‘titles instead of names’ thing is meant to be an aesthetic, and I get it, but it also serves to make everything that much more impersonal. I certainly hope they actually do have names and we just never learn them through narrative conceit, otherwise it would make finding your vocation quite easy, I imagine. (I also wish “Cow Girl” had been translated to “Farm Girl”, which would also be accurate and would be a bit less “lol look at her udders”.) That said, as the book goes on, and particularly once Goblin Slayer and Priestess team up with a party of an elf, a dwarf, and a lizardman (who sadly do not walk into a bar, thus ruining the joke potential), we do end up getting more involved in the storyline, and the fights, while excessively violent, are quite well written. There’s a terrific sequence at the end where Goblin Slayer asks the adventurers to help him protect Cowl Girl’s farm from a Goblin raid, and all the seemingly uncaring and selfish warriors gradually all agree because, well, they like Goblin Slayer and he’s asking nicely (and also offering a small reward). It’s a nice scene that shows we can all get along and work together after all.
All of these nice fights and good scenes can’t quite make me recommend the book, though. I think the modern fan term “edgelord” was invented for characters like Goblin Slayer, and the world he lives in is just as “edgy” in a teenage fanfic writer way. Basically, this series is too impersonal and there’s way too much raping. It makes an effort, but I don’t believe I’ll be reading more.