The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One
What's It About?The sole survivor of a brutal goblin attack upon a country village, a young boy vows to fight back against the hideous beasts that rape and murder wherever they go. However, he is quickly outclassed, saved only by a mysterious figure's timely arrival. Raised by this unyielding master, the boy grows up and becomes an adventurer who will only take on low-level quests to purge the world of goblins. Even the chance encounter with a childhood friend, a girl who's always had a crush on him, does little to stir his heart. The Goblin Slayer exists only for one purpose, and he will let nothing stand in his way.
Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One volume 1 (12/11/18) is a prequel manga based on the Goblin Slayer light novel prequel series revealing the origin of the titular character of the main series. The manga is based on the original story by Kumo Kagyu with original character designs by Shingo Adachi and Noboru Kannatuki, featuring art by Kento Sakaeda. It will be available in paperback from Yen Press for $13.00 and is digitally serialized chapter by chapter, also available in a single-volume format for $6.99 on Comixology. A 12-episode anime series based on the original light novel series is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Is It Worth Reading?
This Goblin Slayer prequel opens on acts of extreme violence followed by the gang rape of multiple women drawn in a salacious manner—so it's clear immediately what any reader is getting into. Brutality is a hallmark of the entire volume, and the concept of brutality makes more of an impact than the titular character himself, who remains nameless and faceless throughout these first five chapters. Even his childhood friend, a naïve and innocent farm girl, has no name, though she does exhibit more of a personality than the slayer, though even she is rather one-note. Anonymity seems to be a theme as well, as the face of a fourth rape victim in the volume is also never shown. No one and nothing matters except the goblins' horrid actions and the slayer's vow to put an end to them, one vicious slay at a time.
The trappings of violence aside, the remainder of the story is too simple. Boy experiences horror and goes on quests to become an avenger of his hometown. There's nothing more to it this early on, and though there's something to be said about a simple, straightforward plot that doesn't confuse, there has to be more than that to keep the reader's attention. Unfortunately, just as new characters—with faces and personalities to boot—appear, the first volume is at an end.
Sakaeda draws both grotesque goblins and generic manga-style characters with skill, with fanservice (even beyond the scenes of rape) front and center whenever a young woman appears. (Apparently, modern bras and panties are worn in this medieval-like setting.) The art during battles is hyper-focused on the blow-by-blow, punctuated by screentones, and the rest of the time, the world feels tangible because of the detailed backgrounds. However, the art can only take the manga so far when the story leaves a lot to be desired.
Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One volume 1 has a built-in audience of people who've already enjoyed the original series and the anime adaptation. An origin story usually makes for an interesting prequel hook. However, the Goblin Slayer is so stoic and emotionless, he doesn't do much to entice new readers to stick around. Uncompromising and lecherous, this manga isn't for everyone, but it does exhibit well-drawn art and the promise of developing into a more layered story in time.
Speaking as someone who likes the original light novels in this series, the manga adaptations of Goblin Slayer share a particular problem that makes them distinctly less enjoyable: a ramped-up depiction of sexual violence. While that is certainly implied in the text, if not outright stated, author Kumo Kagyu never describes it, much less in any detail. Rather than robbing the scenes of any impact, this instead allows readers to think about it for themselves. Manga is, of course, a much more visual medium by definition, but Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One's adaptation still goes overboard in its graphic violence, both sexual and not, making the book an uncomfortable read.
The story itself is interesting for franchise fans – it gives us the backstory of Goblin Slayer himself, and how he went from scared orphan to goblin-killing machine. We also get more of an idea of what kind of relationship he has with childhood friend Cow Girl, or rather, what he means to her: he's the last link she has to her past in their village, and as the sole survivors, she needs that connection with him. These elements are also present in the novel version (released by Yen Press' YenOn imprint), however, and without some of the details the manga feels the need to add in. Among those is the opening scenes of the story where The Boy witnesses the goblin attack on his village, including his sister's gang rape. While we don't see that in particular detail (and it isn't really mentioned in the book the The Boy saw it, either), there are several other much more graphic scenes in this opening, and one other later in the book. There's an uncomfortable sense that they are intended to be fanservice as well, which makes the gratuitous nudity of Cow Girl, who is thirteen, much less uncomfortable. So there's that, at least.
Rape scenes aside, the book is also very violent, and the goblins are quite repugnant to look at. That's very much on purpose, as this is an inescapably brutal story, and in that regard, the gore and graphic nature of the art does work. But the rest of it feels in very poor taste, particularly when compared to the source material. The novel is very much the more nuanced and less gratuitous way to learn about Goblin Slayer's past.
Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One focuses on the story of two unnamed characters who live in a world where goblins have ravaged their home town. While the girl was sent to live with her uncle right before the goblin attack, the boy is forced to see his older sister assaulted and killed. Five years later, their two paths cross and they are reunited.
Year One is best described as unappetizing. The goblins are disgusting, and are shown sexually assaulting human women. Not to mention how gross the goblins look. The women are drawn to have their assets showing, even if they're just trying to pick up a piece of paper work, and they're constantly seen as objects to the audience. The art style, besides all its horniness, is also overly detailed to the point where it's hard to figure out what you are looking at.
As a story, I felt like I was reading the manga equivalent of the “And I missed. So I fired again. And I missed. And then I missed again,” joke! Traumatic event and then death! Traumatic event and then death! Especially in the first two chapters! Eventually it becomes more of a redemption story but for a while it really held no depth as a story besides man pain.
Goblin Slayer seems to be the anime on everybody's lips these days and yet, Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One fell flat with a unoriginal plot, hard to decipher art, and disappointing characters. Maybe their A Team isn't on the project because this is just a side story, but damn, I wasn't expecting the D Team.
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