「ある冒険者の結末」 (Aru Boukensha no Ketsumatsu)
“The Fate of an Adventurer”
You know I could probably give a good spiel on Goblin Slayer’s finale, about the (unsurprising) results of one goblin raid ending rather ignominiously, the happy celebration culminating in some well-timed banter and self-reflection, or even the grand face unveiling ending, well, as you might as well expect. It might be worth digging into these tidbits in these final moments, but truthfully, I think the results speak for themselves. Over the past twelve weeks we saw the story of a nameless man on a mission which few shall remember (let alone go down in the history books), but one which for those involved will forever be respected. Goblin Slayer came and conquered, and if one teaser is any indication, he isn’t finished yet. Who ever said the anime gods don’t listen from time to time?
When Goblin Slayer’s adaptation was announced it provoked quite a few reactions. It was dark, it was gritty, and as readers of the source material knew, it was one story certain to induce strong and varied opinions. Yet the results in practice largely went in the direction opposite what many were expecting. Was the show grimdark fantasy? Yes. Did it overly indulge in its bloody aesthetic? Far from it. This was one show which arguably threaded the dark fantasy needle perfectly.
The thing which Goblin Slayer nailed best (at least for me) was its D&D-esque trappings. The show, barring the continuity of its cast and their past experiences, functioned like a set of quasi-independent quests/adventures, each capable (mostly) of being viewed in isolation from the rest. Much like the actual tabletop game, Goblin Slayer (the Dungeon Master) effectively gave its players—i.e. the cast—a situation and observed how they’d muddle through it. Would the quest be flawless, would someone get hurt? Or would matters end in the most tragic of ways? You don’t know until the die is cast (as the show literally alluded to with the talk of gods tossing dice), and Goblin Slayer definitely succeeded in keeping to this variety of suspense. Thanks to a willingness to let its characters be hurt and pushed within inches of death, the show could play around with scenarios to keep things refreshing and unique. Mines of Moria references, sewer romps, the featuring of quintessential magic creatures? All were on the table, and we never really knew how each encounter would end. Well, most of the time.
What really helped the most in this regard though were Goblin Slayer’s characters. While true the main cast played to the usual fantasy tropes, they did so in a manner—i.e. banter and teasing—which remained entertaining from start to finish. It honestly felt just like an actual D&D party as time went by, which wasn’t hurt either by the ability of Goblin Slayer’s cast to show growth and development. Our titular greenskin slaying badass for example successfully emerged from his shell as time went by, not transforming into some selfless, heroic extrovert of course, but becoming a guy who learned from his experiences and the importance friends have in your moments of need. It was the right sort of development for the material in question, and development which wasn’t hurt by the subtlety used in showcasing it. Grandiose speeches and open air moments of understanding? Who needs that when a quiet moment and a bit of peace is all you need to get the message across.
Of course looking at all of this ignores the elephant in the room: goblins. While Goblin Slayer did a quite tasteful job of showing the evils of its nemesis compared to its source material, there’s no denying this part of the show will remain divisive; anything featuring rape and torture as its main mode of operation is always going to be problematic, no matter the treatment. Did the goblins need to be so severe in function to get the point across about their undesirability? Was their method of reproduction really necessary for the sake of highlighting the differences between them and everyone else? It’s a question you could debate for hours with everyone having a different answer for, and one which will ultimately determine the amount of satisfaction you get from this series. If you can look past the shock to see the story underneath though, I’d say the results are certainly worth the price of admission.
While Goblin Slayer may not be the greatest fantasy to ever walk the Earth, it is a series deserving of a good bit of praise. Dark fantasies have gotten a bad rap of late with either simplistic, cliché writing or terrible adaptations (*cough* Berserk) highlighting the worst in an otherwise good series. Thanks to White Fox and crew however Goblin Slayer has shown the potential of these types of stories, that with good focus and attention to detail their purpose (and all the entertainment they bring) can shine right through. It may take some time before we see something similar (whether Goblin Slayer’s sequel or different series) grace the anime world again, but Goblin Slayer is proof you can have your grimdark fantasy and enjoy it too.