A young girl sets out for adventure with a rag-tag group of heroes, and winds up going through a horrific experience in a nearby goblin hideout. Coming to her rescue is the solemn and mysterious Goblin Slayer, whom she attaches herself to after he saves her life. As a title that’s known for its violence, fans of the show have been looking forward to the premiere as the return of a true dark fantasy series. Well, after watching the first episode I can assure you that it is one of the most brutal shows that I’ve seen in recent memory (hello Devilman: Crybaby). Seriously – you think you know what you’re getting into, but you really don’t. The shock value ultimately is a blood-drenched, double edged sword…balanced out with fantastic animation and a compelling, if unlikely, duo.
In addition to spoilers, please note that we also want to issue a trigger warning for sexual violence.
A 15-year old Priestess (which is literally her name in the series by the way: “Onna Shinkan”) makes her way into the village to submit her paperwork for adventuring. After studying at the temple and learning a couple of divine spells, she’s ready to experience the world firsthand. Shortly after getting her rank, porcelain for the newbies, she’s propositioned by a trio of other adventurers: a fighter, a mage, and a monk.
The fighter is preparing to set out after a small group of goblins that had stolen some livestock and girls from a nearby village. An easy task, right? They’re tiny little creatures…easy enough to kill.
Reluctantly, the Priestess agrees to tag along and the make their way to the nearby cave to investigate. After delving deeper into the caves, the naïve adventurers are ambushed by a horde of goblins. Priestess and the Mage are further back, and while the Mage gets a single good firebolt off to dispatch one of them, she’s quickly swarmed and stabbed with a poison dagger as the Priestess looks on helplessly.
Fighter and Monk arrive shortly afterwards, the Fighter swinging his sword recklessly and taking out a handful of goblins in the process.
Eventually, while swinging down at one of the goblins, the Fighter’s sword catches a hanging rock and causes him to be disarmed. In that moment, the goblins overwhelm him, stabbing him to death and seemingly cutting off his arm as he howls and screams in pain.
The Monk orders the Priestess to heal the Mage, but her magicks don’t appear to be doing anything. Finally, she instructs them to run as she knocks out another set of the smaller goblins, only to have her attack be blocked by a much larger Hobgoblin. He slams her into the walls twice, rendering her immobile, and the smaller goblins swarm her… but not to kill her. In one of the most disturbing scenes of the opening episode, they tear off her clothes and begin violating her. (To clarify – the act is not seen on screen)
Horrified, Priestess attempts to retreat with the Mage, but takes an arrow to the shoulder as she limps her way out of the cave. When all hope seems lost, a mysterious figure with a glowing red eye emerges from the darkened hallway beyond. He kills the goblins that were preparing to attack the Priestess, and informs her that her friend has been poisoned. Too far gone, the Goblin Slayer puts her out of her misery.
What follows is an extended bloodbath as Goblin Slayer instructs Priestess on what to do as they coordinate an attack on the hideout. Resolving herself, despite the horrors she’d already seen, Priestess follows his instructions closely and they ultimately emerge from the cave and rescue the girls, though their fates are very similar to that of the Monk, and they are rightly traumatized.
The episode concludes with Priestess meeting up with Goblin Slayer again in the adventurers tavern as he invites her to join him once again.
Two words: holy. crap.
Whether you love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that Goblin Slayer accomplished something pretty special with the opening episode: it’s certainly one of the most impactful debut episodes I can recall in an anime series. Ever.
The opening minutes don’t take much time to go through the niceties of introductions. In fact – nobody has a name. Quite possibly as a comment on the fleeting nature of their lives, there’s no time to dilly-dally, or sit around a pub table and go through their backstories. No time to raise any sort of death flags; because in the world of Goblin Slayer they are constantly flying at full mast.
After I finished watching the first episode, I went back and took note of the time that they entered the cave: 3:42. Just under 4 minutes from the opening scenes to when they’re walking through the darkened hallways of the goblin cave. The cave scene ends at approximately 20:24. In a feat of time-altering wizardry, Goblin Slayer manages to make the 16 and a half minute cave sequence feel like it goes on forever. Typically, that would be a bad thing: but the impact of this is actually impressive. You are eager to get out of the cave. You’re uncomfortable. You likely feel the same anxiety and fear that our heroes do as they’re unceremoniously butchered. It’s fascinating – and extremely well done.
There are many reasons to feel uncomfortable as the horrifying mishap in the caves progresses, but the most impactful is certainly the Monk’s fate after being incapacitated by the goblins. Some would argue that this is gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous, and that even Berserk, one of the pillars of the dark fantasy genre, didn’t lean on sexual violence like that until the series was more established. Then again, a major part of Guts’ backstory is his physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his former master…anyways, I digress.
The point is, Goblin Slayer features a premiere that is uniquely disturbing in its content, and as a viewer you may wonder why it’s in such a hurry to make such a bold visual statement. Others may welcome the intensity with open arms.
Visually, it’s a gorgeous depiction of a standard fantasy world. We get a brief glimpse of the town where the Priestess is operating out of, nestled among rolling green hills. While the bulk of the episode is depicted in the darkness of the goblin cavern, the character designs and movements during the action sequences spoke volumes. Early animation budgets and execution are always impressive, so I’m cautiously optimistic about the quality of the animation in the weeks to come. However, if it can maintain even 80-90% of the quality depicted in this episode, there will be a lot of happy fans.
Overall, Goblin Slayer has arguably been the most highly anticipated show of this season, and after today’s episode I don’t think the hype is going to die down at all.
In the words of Django’s Calvin Candie: “…you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.”
Goblin Slayer - Episode 1 (Review)
- Stellar animation - this is what Berserk should have looked like
- The brutal nature of the opening episode makes the episode feel long - you want to get out of the cave...badly.
- The 16 and a half minute cave scene is brilliantly-executed pacing
- If you're not ready for this episode, it feels like a gut punch
- The physical (and sexual) violence can be seen as gratuitous for an opening episode
- No proper character introduction or growth: episode largely focuses on survival