Goblin Slayer: between fantasy and violence, what made the anime a success?

We have to admit it: when it came out in 2018 Goblin Slayer we didn’t have a lot of expectations and we wouldn’t have imagined that it could win a good chunk of fantasy anime fans. Yet, the White Fox series, an adaptation of Kagyu Kumo’s light novel, has convinced audiences since its debut on Japanese television stations and on VVVVID in Italy. On the occasion of the recent announcement of Goblin Slayer Season 2, we tried to understand what were the reasons for the success of this franchise: an amalgam of violence, role-playing, and Tolkien.

The strongest

As we mentioned in our Goblin Slayer review, the series doesn’t boast a very elaborate storyline, as it lacks any twists or situations that can drag the viewer to the end credits.

In fact, the premises are very simple and the narration is almost episodic, as there is no common thread that connects the various events, at least for now. Before trying to find out what are the factors that led Goblin Slayer to obtain a fair notoriety worldwide, let’s review the events: a young woman has recently become Priestess and is ready to help explorers on a mission; for this she joined the guild of adventurers, but being a beginner she can only accept quests that are not too complicated. Excited to finally become an adventurer, the Priestess agrees to join other explorers of her own rank on a goblin extermination mission. Anyone who has seen the series surely knows that the main enemies are the green-skinned creatures who often attack inexperienced adventurers who underestimate them, because they consider them weak and often enter their lairs with unsuitable equipment; in reality goblins are stupid, but not fools. At the exact moment in which the group enters the lair of the goblins falls into their trap: in a few moments they are killed and the only survivor is the Priestess who tries to escape. Fortunately, someone else accepted the request to clean up the nest: Goblin Slayer. He without too much difficulty saves the young woman.

As its title suggests, Goblin Slayer is a goblin exterminator who does not underestimate them at all, because he knows that they are treacherous, they ambush and if they are in a group they are more dangerous than a handful of bandits: they not only kill, but kidnap prey to abuse or torture them, and finally feed on their flesh.

The hero considers goblins more dangerous than any other monster, as they are able to adapt, to take advantage of their mistakes and improve themselves by studying their opponents. To avoid them being too overwhelming a threat, the adventurer wants to eliminate them all. After being rescued, the Priestess decides to join Goblin Slayer on her mission.

As the adventure continues, the knight and the cleric are also added aHigh Elf, a Nano, it’s a Lizard Man, who must stop a demon lord who has risen to conquer the world: this event has made the goblins even more aggressive.

If the script is certainly not the reason why Goblin Slayer has managed to achieve success, we must look at other factors, the first of which is presented to us right away, violence. Let’s be clear: Goblin Slayer is certainly not the bloodiest work in circulation, just think of titles like Ken the warrior, Berserk, Elfen Lied e Blood-C which are a real riot of blood and guts.

The one present in Goblin Slayer, in fact, is a brutality that is limited to showing only amputations with copious spurts of blood, but which never becomes too excessive. As a counterpoint, we can consider the series of the White Fox studio very raw, with situations with a strong impact, even emotional, which make us understand how heinous goblins can be, including sexual abuse, torture, and ferocious ambushes. In this context, the nude scenes only a few times take on the connotations of fanservice, being used to render the production even more straightforward. All of these factors make it Goblin Slayer a dark fantasy set in a dark and cruel world.

Drums in the abyss

Putting aside a violence that is never too gratuitous, there remain the other two factors that for us have decreed the success of Goblin Slayer: the context in which the events take place and the protagonist. If we dwell on the fantasy titles released in recent years, we would notice how most are isekai set in a fantasy world or video game.

Goblin Slayer, on the other hand, is a pure fantasy, influenced by both tabletop and virtual RPGs, and classic novels of the genre; this is reflected above all in the development of the entire universe.

The worldbuilding of Goblin Slayer turns out to be at times very simple and not very thorough, so much so as not to boast one lore interesting, but it is nevertheless fascinating because as the whole universe is delineated questions arise that entice you to discover more and more details. Drawing inspiration from a board game, the world was born with a roll of the dice: to decide who would rule, the gods threw the dice for a long time, and only when they got tired did they create creatures and give them a world to live in. Like Kagyu Kumo he said himself, his main intent was to create an imagery that resembled tabletop RPGs: for this reason the characters do not have a name, but are simply identified with the role they play, as if they were controlled by an external “player” . In the same way, there are elements that evoke role-playing video games, which do not appear to be out of place, since they almost completely take a back seat; like the guild of adventurers divided into various ranks, the best equipment that allows you to perform in battle, the number of spells that can be used by spellcasters, and the experience obtained after each battle that allows you to level up; this latter factor, however, is never properly investigated, so much so that there is no way to fully understand how it works and how it influences the growth of the various explorers.

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It is also evident the strong influence from Western fantasy works, as it is possible to notice since the introductory phases, when a typically medieval setting is presented to us. In this imagery, there are also pleasant citations to Tolkien’s best-known works.

Unfortunately, at least in the first season, the tributes to the Tolkien imaginary are less than those present in the light novel and in the manga: for example, the origin of Orcbolg, which remembers both the ogre Bolg, than the sword Orcrist, whose blade shines in the vicinity of enemies.

Nevertheless, the presence of references to Tolkien’s universe however, he manages to capture the attention of fans of the genre: in addition to the evident rivalry between Elves and Dwarves that gradually smooths out, during a flashback in which a young Goblin Slayer is shown training to become a goblin exterminator, the mentor he submits some riddles to which he must answer quickly in order not to die, the last of which is: “What do I have in my pocket?“.

This is a clear giveaway to the enigma that Bilbo poses to Gollum during their meeting in The Hobbit. In addition, an episode is called Roundtrip, like the original subtitle of The Hobbit, or the book written by Bilbo himself. As we said, the last factor that could have led to the notoriety of Goblin Slayer is the protagonist.

Although the supporting actors turn out to be underdeveloped, with the exception of the Priestess who is witnessing a slow growth as a result of all that lives, Goblin Slayer is the true focus of the entire work. From the first apparition she makes her character clear: the enchantress is trying to escape from the lair, but she is reached by the goblins, ready to rape her, torture her, and feed on her flesh. Footsteps echo in the galleries. A menacing Goblin Slayer appears, with the typical red globe that can be glimpsed through the visor of his helmet, a clear sign of the anger that pervades him, ready to exterminate the goblins and save a girl in danger; while a rock soundtrack rises that gives even more emphasis to the arrival of the hero and the ensuing carnage. This alone is enough to understand that the protagonist is a real tough guy, who proves to be impassive in front of every circumstance, even killing a dying person. In addition, right from the start he proves to be cunning, so much so that he has an ideal equipment to face enemies in their lairs (a short sword that does not hit the low vault and a leather armor, light and resistant) and always has the situation underneath. control, with a well-conceived plan for each circumstance.

On the other hand, in some situations it shows a more childish side that does not fit well with its surly character, especially when it speaks only and exclusively of goblins, even if most of the time it is the basis of some funny exchanges with others. members of the company. Surely, part of the appreciation of the character of Goblin Slayer lies in the charm of the mystery that surrounds him: during the episodes there is no way to see who is hiding under the helmet, except for a few sequences that show only the lower part of the face and a body covered with scars.

Based on this it is understood that he is a young knight who has already faced numerous battles. However, he is not a character that is not developed at all, as we are gradually given details about his past, so as to understand how what he had to endure led him to be the man he is now: when he was still a child. , the goblins besieged his village and raped and killed his sister, while he watched the scene hidden under the floor.

This experience led him to develop a deep hatred towards goblins, prompting him to study their habits to eliminate them all, and led him to be unsociable towards other adventurers, except for the girl on the farm. With the information we have available we do not exclude that he does not want to create bonds with someone, so as not to suffer if he dies or to prevent the goblins from discovering his secrets if they were to kidnap a person dear to him.

However, when he meets the Priestess and the other companions, Goblin Slayer begins to change, establishing a relationship with other people and appearing less cold and detached, but without giving up his dark and not very sociable side.

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