Goblin Slayer’s just like… kinda sad and boring, I guess?

[content warning: discussion of sexual assault in the context of fiction]

Ah, the visual metaphor I needed! The horse is rape, the cart is the first episode, and the desolate world is everything else. Behold the smallness of Goblin Slayer!

[It’s 2am and I can’t sleep because I already slept, all day, on a stultifying migraine. Let’s turn on the blue-light filter and see what comes from this moment of madness.]

I hate having opinions. Of course, that doesn’t to stop me from actually having them… for example, I enjoy irony because it helps me close the paradoxical loop that “hating having opinions” is itself an opinion. Oh, but that loop’s still a problem. Maybe I should revise…

No, I don’t hate opinions so much as I do thinking about them. You have to justify them, and then consider their rebuttals, and sometimes even rebut their opponents in turn. That’s hard work. Sure, maybe you don’t have to do any of that. You could just content yourself with fluttery feelings: “I like this, not that.” But that approach always seems dangerous to me. What if you need to revise an opinion, like I just did? Or what if you hurt someone’s feelings? Or worst of all, what if you reveal your ignorance, if you’re just wrong?

I think Emil Cioran gets it about right in The Trouble with Being Born:

To have opinions is inevitable, is natural; to have convictions is less so. Each time I meet someone who has convictions, I wonder what intellectual vice, what flaw has caused him to acquire such a thing. However legitimate this question, my habit of raising it spoils the pleasure of conversation for me, gives me a bad conscience, makes me hateful in my own eyes.

I have opinions; yes, it’s only natural. But except for the most serious issues, I never feel secure enough in them to approach a considered conviction. It’s not just my own waftiness either: if I fear the flaws in all of my own opinions, I distrust everyone else’s as well. How can anyone have such surety to upgrade a mere opinion to a conviction? Like Cioran says, the question becomes awkward in conversation: I can hardly criticize someone’s convictions if I can’t counter with my own, beyond the ironic one that I can barely have any to begin with. “Bad conscience” indeed…

I suppose it’s good then that I don’t have any strong opinions on Goblin Slayer. When the series first aired for the Fall 2018 anime season, it exploded into the most polarizing piece of televised fiction I’ve ever encountered. After the rape scene in episode 1, most of the people who would have disliked it bombed the series with negative first impressions before dropping it like a live grenade. That uproar left some severe survivorship bias in its wake: the complete reviews that followed offered little but glowing praise. Given the severity of the polarization surrounding the first episode and the series’ own singular focus on killing goblins, neither this world nor Goblin Slayer’s left much room for ambiguity.

But as someone with little tolerance for certainty, I never understood the hype. Goblin Slayer has little positive or negative to recommend it, even when compared to other works in its stale video-game-inspired fantasy genre. To summarize my ambivalent experience: Goblin Slayer‘s just like… kinda of sad and boring, I guess?

How can I put an even greater damper that opinion…

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Is Goblin Slayer realistic? I dunno, who are you?

Why do they bleed? =(

First, a short story, which I promise will have relevance to my discussion of Goblin Slayer by the end of the post.

One of my friends works as a curator on a memorial submarine, a decommissioned WW2-era ship since converted into a museum. One day, he offered me a private tour. He was patient with me as I slipped a little on the deck and struggled to orient myself into the hatch and climb down the narrow ladder. But when I walked through my first round doorway, legs first and swinging my arms over and behind my head like a limbo, he laughed at me. He explained that that only happened in the movies. Normal sailors would just walk through the holes like any normal person. I’m sure I looked stupid, but how should I have known the truth before he corrected me? My only point of reference was the movies, and as such the action felt real as I swung through the door.

However, the submarine example has a well-documented historical truth behind it. How should we approach the issue of realism in fiction, which has no set truth to appeal to? I especially wonder what to do with titles that receive significant praise for their apparent “realism,” like this anime season’s standout series, Goblin Slayer. Can we call it realistic? I dunno. It depends. Who are you?

Continue reading “Is Goblin Slayer realistic? I dunno, who are you?”