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Goblin Slayer: Season One Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Review

October 30, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Goblin Slayer
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Goblin Slayer: Season One Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Review  

After I first discovered Kumo Kagyu’s Goblin Slayer through the ongoing manga series in around 2016 or so, I was immediately blown away and taken in by it. Not only was it an unapologetic dark fantasy story, it featured a story and characters that captured my imagination and found indelible. I’ve been a longtime manga reader and anime viewer. I’ve dabbled with light novels a little bit, but this was the story that really drove me to start reading the original light novels as well. With such a strong premise, scenario and characters, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before an anime series would be produced. It finally debuted with a 12-episode first season in October 2018, and now the show is available on Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of Funimation.

The Series: Goblin Slayer is set in a fantasy world heavily inspired by familiar medieval fantasy tropes and conventions, literature, video game RPGs and especially tabletop RPGs. This is not a happy-go-lucky, friendly, shiny world where high jinks ensue. It’s a world where one wrong move or mistake means certain death. That stage is aptly set by the controversial first episode.

The first episode caused certain outrage among a vocal minority on social media for the story’s depictions of sexual violence. This is hardly the first anime series to have such depictions, which was no more explicit or as graphic as others. Yet, it still had people in the community undeservedly yelling foul. This is partially due to outlets such as the streaming distributor Crunchyroll and My Anime List mis-rating the series as PG-13 and likely not giving it the proper cautionary content warning that was added later. The usual suspects likely still would’ve complained, but those mistakes were not the fault of the show and its producers.

Not to mention the fact that Goblin Slayer had already existed as a manga and light novel series for multiple years already before its anime debut. All that content and material was already there. For whatever reason, it wasn’t until the anime series was created that people suddenly started caring. No one has an obligation to like or watch material with this subject matter, which is admittedly difficult subject matter. However, I will argue that was depicted in the show was blatantly mis-characterized by certain critics. One even described the scene in question as “well and truly repugnant” and “rape porn feels restrained by comparison.” Another stated, “the rape wasn’t even good.”

So yes, Goblin Slayer is a dark fantasy show where the main villains are fantasy-realm style goblins. They are characterized as vicious, vile, nasty and cruel creatures. They abduct women and use them for breeding purposes to increase their numbers and build their nests. Certain viewers having a problem with that is not a problem, but at the end of the day, there is no rules about this subject matter when it comes to storytelling. No author or creator should be barred from using certain subject matter when telling a story, even if it makes viewers or audiences uncomfortable. It just appeared that a lot of the criticism was directed at the subject matter’s inclusion at all. Regardless of the few vocal critics, Goblin Slayer still the most popular show of the 2018 fall season.

The window into the story and the world of Goblin Slayer is a young priestess. After coming of age, she seeks to become an adventurer in the nearby Frontier Town. Due to her healing abilities, she’s soon asked to join a group of ragtag rookies who are ready to take the adventuring world by storm. Their first quest is to rescue some kidnapped girls from a group of goblins. In this world, much like tabletop RPGs, the goblins are seen as the lowest level mob creatures.

Soon what started as an easy, run-of-the-mill adventurer’s quest goes horrendously wrong. Goblins might be weak. As Goblin Slayer would say, “they might not be smart, but they’re not complete fools either.” They make up their lack of strength in their numbers, and their lack of smarts is made up for their infinite cruelty and ability to inflict pain. Priestess is soon rescued by a lone Silver-ranked adventurer, the eponymous Goblin Slayer. This particular adventurer has made it his sole mission in life to kill and slay goblins.

Ultimately, Priestess decides to form an unlikely partnership adventuring with the Goblin Slayer. Goblin Slayer is ostracized by his adventurer peers for continuing to only hunt goblins. In this world, low-level adventurers would start with rats in the sewers or goblins and then move on to higher-level quests or monsters, just like in RPGs. However, due to a deeply personal trauma he suffered in his past, Goblin Slayer is obsessed with his personal mission to hunt goblins. Underneath his opaque mask and suit of armor, there is a deeply emotional, broken and traumatized individual. However, as Goblin Slayer interacts with Priestess and their new friends they form an adventuring party with, Goblin Slayer gradually starts to become a better, slightly more well-rounded individual.

While I wouldn’t call Goblin Slayer a complete deconstructionist take on the fantasy genre, it adds a clever amount of realism to very familiar tabletop role-playing games scenarios. In a video game or tabletop RPG, you roll the dice or you defeat the low level monsters, or you lose a life and start over again. Goblin Slayer takes familiar gaming tropes or conventions and takes them to a logical, realistic conclusion. Kagyu’s world-building for the series is brilliant. Gaming devices and ideas are built within the world and are part of how everything works. Character classes and specializations are part of the narrative. Spell slots and magic abilities are part of the narrative. Upgrades and ranking up are part of the narrative. All of it comes through in a very natural, organic way.

The characters to this show are incredibly charming or fascinating. There is something weirdly, oddly cute about Goblin Slayer. It seems even Kōsuke Kurose was aware of this with the omake strips in the manga series, where he’s made tiny and cute. Maybe it’s the way he drinks tea through his mask or his social awkwardness, which is a great source of humor for the show.

Of course, my favorite character is none other than the High Elf Archer. If you’re confused about the names for the show, creator Kumo Kagyu opted not to give the characters actual “names.” Instead they are named after their class and job description. Goblin Slayer is only known as Goblin Slayer. The Priestess is Priestess, etc. It’s a bit harder to follow at times when reading the light novels as opposed to the manga. In the show, due to the visual reference, it’s not hard to keep track of who is who.

In terms of adaptation, the first season of Goblin Slayer does a fairly good job of covering the first two volumes of the light novel series. For the manga series, it’s about the first 29 chapters or so. Some events are switched around for the sake of narrative development. A major sequence from LN Vol. 1 is moved to after the climax of LN Vol. 2. Honestly, for the sake of an anime series, the change works. However, while watching the series, the shifting of events starting at about Episode 5 was a bit of a shock.

In terms of content, the show did not cut a whole hell of a lot. As a huge fan of the manga and light novel series, I was surprised by how much made did end up making it in here. Certain scenes and snippets are cut out. Many of the interlude chapters from the light novel aren’t adapted for animation. In comparison to another light novel series I’m a fan of, Arifureta, the anime series was not butchered and cut up nearly as much for Goblin Slayer.

Some have noted that the backstories for Priestess’ rookie adventurer party were cut. I did miss those scenes, but they were more or less cut for the sake of time. Those scenes aren’t really there to flesh out those characters. They really serve and underscore the purpose of just how dark and dangerous this world is. This is a world where idealistic dreams will be crushed with a simple roll of the dice. That’s another interesting element for Goblin Slayer, which I won’t spoil for new viewers.

Just know if you are a fan of dark fantasy and enjoy classic fantasy RPGs, stories, Dungeons and Dragons, DOOM and Dark Souls, this is like the an anime series that was tailor made for you. Now, where are the goblins?

Blu-ray Info: This is the Limited Edition Season 1 boxset that includes a few more physical goodies than the standard Season 1 Blu-ray release. The standard Blu-ray clamshell case is also packaged in a thicker, rigid art box showing some of Goblin Slayer in all his blood-spattered goodness. Along with the Blu-ray set, the Limited Edition is also packed with an art book titled “The Adventurer’s Booklet” and six unique art cards that are packaged together in a separate envelope. The Adventurer’s Booklet is the main reason fans will want the Limited Edition set. It provides a nice overall look at the series, including additional character bios, concept art, character model sheets, background sketches and more. The art cards and box are good additions for fans who like to get their material signed by actors or creators at conventions.

Video Info: Now, in terms of animation production, Goblin Slayer is not the best. Critics have already noted the show’s use of CG for the use of Goblin Slayer in various sequences while he’s moving, since the character is constantly wearing that elaborate, iconic suit of armor. Now, I think the artwork and character designs and models are good for the most part. Obviously, Kōsuke Kurose’s artwork for the manga is fantastic and did some really amazing work adapting Kagyu’s light novels.

With the anime series, it appears the animators took more cues from the original designs and artwork for the light novels, which were illustrated by Noboru Kannatsuki. Here and there, there are some noticeable visual cues taken from the manga, specifically the famous “You get used to it” moment. Now, that the show’s on Blu-ray, the anime and visual presentation does come across better. The streaming versions for the show looked darker and muddier. The color contrast and animation do look brighter and crisper here on Blu-ray.

On first viewing, I didn’t locate anything clearly noticeable in the way of edits or changes in the content for the Blu-ray edition, other than the transfer looks brighter, less hazy and more vibrant. So, while the animation production I would give around a grade B, I would give the Blu-ray transfer a grade A or A- at worst.

Audio Info: I think where the animation is slightly lacking in Goblin Slayer, composer Kenichiro Suehiro more than makes up for with his god-tier music for the show. The real start of the series is the main Goblin Slayer theme that has this weird, yet oddly appropriate, mix of heavy metal and a chanting chorus that’s insanely awesome. Mili’s opening song, “Rightfully” is quite beautiful, along with two other songs she recorded for the show, “Though Our Paths May Diverge” and “Within.” The music for the show is epic and the audio and sound quality are great for the Blu-ray transfer.

I watched the show both subbed and dubbed, and I think the English voice cast did a remarkably solid job. I usually listen to the English dub if its available for an anime series, since I view it as another way to experience and enjoy a story I’m fond of. I quite liked Brad Hawkins’ take on Goblin Slayer. Reading the manga and the light novels, I never got the sense that Goblin Slayer was an emotionless robot. With Goblin Slayer, Hawkins imbues that sense of rage, but it’s very focused and directed, along with Goblin Slayer struggling to socialize with his comrades. Hayden Daviau does a great job as the innocent, young Priestess. Considering this is one of her first major roles, she did an outstanding job. Mallorie Rodak is wonderful as High Elf Archer. I also enjoyed Josh Bangle as Lizard Priest and Barry Yandell as Dwarf Shaman. All the VA talent sounded aptly cast for such an interesting cadre of adventurer characters.

Special Features: Besides the physical extras, there isn’t a ton of extra features for the Blu-ray release. That’s usually the case for most anime releases in the US. However, there are a few neat extras that fans of the dub might appreciate. So, the limited edition set is already packed with the art booklet and the art cards.

On Blu-ray Disc 2 there is audio commentary with the English cast and crew, including Brad Hawkins and Hayden Daviau, for Episode 12. And there’s also a 20-minute featurette with the English cast and crew talking about their characters for the show, their inspirations, and tabletop gaming. The commentary and video extras are welcome additions. Additionally, there are Textless Opening and Endings available. That said, I would’ve liked maybe at least one other commentary track and a few more things that could’ve really rounded out this set. The real star of the Limited Edition set is the physical art booklet.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Overall, Season 1 of Goblin Slayer was a great start into the series. It's only 12 episodes, but the producers, I would assume thanks to Kumo Kagyu's supervision, didn't bite off more than they could chew. They wisely chose to focus on adapting only the first two light novels in the series rather than three or four in only about 12 episodes, which would've been a mistake. As a result, it's a tightly paced meat and potatoes first season. The cuts that were made for the most part were not major, and some of the darker elements that should not have been cut were still adapted for the sake of the series. I would recommend the Limited Edition set to fans of the series and collectors, especially ones who like to get their material signed at conventions. If not, there's still the standard Blu-ray set available that includes the entire first season and the video extras. As of now, I anxiously look forward to the upcoming movie, Goblin Slayer: Goblin's Crown, which will hopefully give way to a still unconfirmed and unannounced Season 2.