Goblin Slayer: The Problem Solver

I've just clicked what's good about Goblin Slayer: it scratches the problem-solving itch.

It looks a little like trash. Standard anime, with modern computing techniques for some nice 3D sequences. A fantasy world where the hero kills goblins, along with his companions: Elf, Dwarf, Lizard-Man, and Underage-Priestess. It opens with an extremely distasteful scene of goblin-rape, which feels like the author hitting you over the head with the central premise: 'goblins bad'.

Despite all this, I enjoyed the series, due to the problem-solving perspective.

The problem-solving element begins as subversion. Most fantasy games have players who impartially sit back and think about how to optimize their kill-score, in order to gain XP. They have their characters buy gunpowder, roll boulders into a dungeon's entrance to kill enemies, and otherwise refuse to play fair. They exist to kill. Yet on the other side of the fence, fantasy characters in books might pray to their goddess to destroy the platoon of soldiers in front of them, but never ask 'could I do that again? And if so, how many times?'. If we switched from fantasy-books to RPGs at this point, the Games Master might say 'no, that was a special service from the goddess, due to the great need, and overwhelming danger', but a clever player won't stop there.

'What counts as "great need" to the goddess?', they might ask, then 'what if I...end up in danger again?'.

The Goblin Slayer exhibits the same way of thinking. When he finds out Priestess can cast a Holy Light spell, he asks her to cast it in the darkness in order to blind his opponents. Then when she learns to cast Protection (which summons a magical barrier) three times, he has her use it to trap someone by casting three barriers around them, forming a triangle. He violates the narrative of the spells, because he doesn't act like a creature with a narrative - he acts like a player in a game.

The problem-solving element ends by subverting the gaming side of the fantasy genre. His insistence on behaving rationally at all times looks like madness to most people. He never removes his helmet (because goblins might attack), so even his companions don't know what he looks like. He never drinks with anyone (it would only dull his reflexes), or spends any time to make his armour shine (shiny armour gives no bonuses). He speaks only when he needs to, and he only needs to speak when gathering information about goblins (whom he then slays). When companions ask him what he thinks about, he says 'goblins'. The joke almost feels funnier every time you hear it, but only because we can see how ridiculous this optimized goblin-killing machine seems when standing next to anyone with an ounce of sanity.

I look forward to the next season, and I hope it gives us the same focus on clever solutions, without falling back on sloppy storytelling to get the audience invested.