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Goblin Slayer Backlash Explained: Why It's The Most Controversial Anime This Season

Goblin Slayer stands as the most polarizing of this season’s simulcast anime offerings. From the first episode, the show has generated contentious opinions about the direction, framing, and use of loaded subject matter (Warning: The following will include discussion of sexual assault). The uproar around the graphic nature of White Fox’s adaptation of Kumo Kagyu’s light novel series caught Crunchyroll by surprise. The streaming service rapidly issued an apology and put a content warning on the first episode and all subsequent episodes of the show. What exactly drew so much attention to this seemingly traditional fantasy anime?

Goblin Slayer began as a series of light novels (although the core of the story may originate from fanfiction boards) published online by author Kumo Kagyu beginning in early 2016. Since then, eight such novels have been released in Japan, five of which have official English translations. The series proved to be so popular that Kagyu penned a spin-off prequel titled Goblin Slayer: Year One. A second spin-off novel received a serialized release consisting of nine chapters across issues of Gangan GA online. Kosuke Kurose has been adapting the light novels into manga form since mid-2016. An effort by Kento Eida to adapt Year One began this past September.

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That brings us to the anime adaptation that launched at the beginning of October. With a crisp style and an eye-catching title, Goblin Slayer brought in many viewers looking for a new action series. Though Goblin Slayer had gained popularity in Japan, many in the west had never heard of the dark fantasy saga.

Goblin Slayer's Shocking First Episode Explained

And Goblin Slayer is certainly dark, despite a visual style that can at times appear indistinguishable from a more lighthearted shonen series like That Time I Was Reincarnated as a SlimeGoblin Slayer tells the story of a man who made it his life’s mission to destroy all goblins. It’s a brutal show where the careless and the innocent have their bodies ripped apart on screen. Monsters go well beyond what a typical viewer might expect with their heinous attacks.

The series strives to put the viewer in the headspace of its protagonist, the titular Goblin Slayer. The first few episodes outline his hatred of the goblins and the detachment he feels from those around him. None of the characters even have names; the audience merely knows their titles or roles.

To get the viewers into the mindset of abhorring goblins, Goblin Slayer builds a fantasy world based on the idea that there’s a race of monsters out there waiting to rape anyone they come across. And that's not hyperbole; in the fiction of Goblin Slayer, that’s exactly how goblins reproduce. That brutality, very candidly shown on screen, caused an uproar.

The first episode of Goblin Slayer focuses on a 15-year-old priestess joining her first adventuring party, a group of three similarly inexperienced, but spirited youngsters - a collection of personalities that a typical shonen might spend an entire season exploring. By the 6 minute mark, things go horribly awry. Members of the group suffer horrific stab wounds, and die to swarming goblins with clubs and arrows and knives. Then comes the scene of goblins ripping the clothing off one of the party members before they begin to rape her.

It’s not quite pornographic, but the audience sees and hears the motions. The scene nearly repeats itself with the priestess and her last remaining companion, until the Goblin Slayer makes his first appearance, interrupting the deed. The armored adventurer kills the goblins only to inform the surviving priestess that her wounded companion can't be saved from the poison slowly pumping through her veins. Our protagonist then mercy kills her as she begs for death. The rest of the episode consists of the duo traveling through the cavern system; they discover the severed limbs of her companions, rescue a number of rape victims, and finally Goblin Slayer bashes a handful of goblin children to death.

Page 2: Goblin Slayer's Backlash (& Its Defenses)

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