Feb 12, 2019
Mixed Feelings
Preliminary (53/? chp)
I said in my previous MAL review of this series (which will have been deleted by yours truly by now) that Goblin Slayer had a strong idea for a premise, but that same premise would lead it into a repetitive and boring slog. Well, six volumes into the series, and it's already hit that point!

Story- What Story?!/10

In case you haven't heard of the anime that set the anime community ablaze last fall, let me tell you about the light novel that inspired it. Goblin Slayer takes a unique approach to fantasy in not being about chosen ones who go on grand quests, saving elf maidens, and throwing fine jewelry into volcanoes while fighting dragons and giant eyeballs, but by being about some everyday villagers- such as the titular Goblin Slayer himself- and focusing on the ongoing threat of the weakest monsters in the fantasy world, goblins.

However, goblins aren't quite that weak. They are ferocious little critters who have organized clans and hideouts filled with traps. When they find a helpless victim, well, you know the rest. Unlike the anime adaptation which turns a situation that's meant to be terrifying into a B-movie grade torture hentai, the light novels at have the right prose to get the intended point across (if only the author actually succeeded at that in the other areas of the story). But if you are as hyper-sensitive as the community was during the anime's broadcast, then I advise you leave this light novel now.

So, this is a cool premise. But it's its own worst enemy. With goblins as the sole antagonists, the characters will be fighting the same foe over and over again. Sure, there are plenty of methods and scenarios to use, but once they are all exhausted, the series will become quite repetitive. Even the actual writing feels the need to remind you at least twelve times per volume that Goblin Slayer is so great for being the only adventurerer who isn't braindead or that Elf Archer has a flat chest. Even the legitimately disturbing portrayal of the goblins gets old. But at least with the tenacity of the goblins and the constant sense of death and murder, it at least has that nice Game of Thrones-style dark fantasy realism (realistic fantasy, what an oxymoron)! Except the problem is that it somehow fails miserably at BEING a dark fantasy!

Characters- 2/10

Let me preface by saying that all the characters don't have names. Their names are as uninspired as the characters themselves. The titular character, Goblin Slayer, is the only remotely enjoyable character. He's a man who has gotten over his very generic traumatic past and dedicates his life to fighting goblins. He's smart, resourceful, and prepared. Too bad everyone else bogs him down.

You'd think that giving the spotlight to those village NPCs that the "chosen hero" always ignores would showcase how all of those NPCs are people too. People with families, hopes, dreams... just as much so as the hero. However, in execution, we instead have insufferably boring character interactions and dialogue that showcase the reason WHY the village NPCs were always ignored in other fantasies. Octopath Traveler must've taken notes from this light novel!

The author of Goblin Slayer seemed to think "eh, just throw them into a tavern" and they'd automatically have compelling character development with little to no effort. Something like that WOULD work in, say- Konosuba, but here it's just substanceless banter and harem tropes. Yes, there are harem tropes in a CYNICAL fantasy series.

That's what ultimately ruins Goblin Slayer for me; the fact that I don't even know what the heck it wants to do with itself! The dark fantasy aspects and the harem aspects clash terribly with each other. Although it tries to be "cynical" and be all like "Oh, nobody has plot armor IRL hurp derp derp!", the fantasy harem tropes and the general way the character arcs are presented end up trying to make these unremarkable characters special. And when they're special, they don the plot armor. Also, these characters never seem to have PTSD, even after watching their friends get brtually murdered in front of them. So much for realism and cynicism! Are the clashing tropes meant to illustrate how our cozy everyday lives can come to a screeching halt? Well, maybe for the boring side characters and designated goblin punching bags, but the fact that Goblin Slayer and his circle of friends very clearly wear plot armor makes this point pretty much moot in their case.

And with that, Goblin Slayer BECOMES what it was trying NOT to be, except it's an inferior form of that because those "lighter" fantasies at least had the appeal of grand quests and fighting big bads. But in Goblin Slayer, we just have living in the same village and fighting the same enemies and having the same conversations FOREVER. It's not fun.

Maybe if it employed a "parts-based" structure like Jojo, then maybe it would've been better. We could have the main characters legit die, and then it goes over to another village with a new cast of characters who have their own goblin issues. The series sort of tries to do that by having filler arcs that focus on side characters, but the fact that there are "main characters" and "side characters" in a story that's "supposed" to be entirely side characters only proves my point on how the series' themes clash with each other. In the end, it's still about Badass Mr. Perfect and which girl he'll end up with!

Art- 7/10

It's better than the rock bottom budget anime, at least.

Overall- 5/10

Goblin Slayer is a light novel that's at odds with itself. Is it cynical? No, because there's too many fantasy harem tropes. Is it a harem? No, because it's too cynical. What is Goblin Slayer trying to be? There's even some implications that the world itself is a living Dungeons and Dragons campaign, but if it weren't for the constant intermission chapters to remind me, I would've forgotten (plus this "campaign" has the most creatively brain-dead DM ever). The symbolism doesn't really change anything about the story itself, and feels like the most shallow pandering since Ready Player One. Maybe that's what Goblin Slayer is trying to be: pandering. Who knows?

Anyways, the only grounds that I can recommend this light novel in any capacity on is if you just unconditionally like dark fantasies and fantasy in general with no other stipulations attached. I, however, will be dropping this series here. I hope that if you pick this up, you will find something enjoyable about it that I didn't.
Reviewer’s Rating: 5
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