by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Goblin Slayer ?
The previous episode featured Riddles in the Dark, and this one is straight-up titled ‘There and Back Again’. As that Hobbit-homaging title implies, this episode provides the climax and denouement for the goblin-slaying party's adventures in Water Town. It picks up immediately after their vanquishing of the Beholder, as they're beset by the horde of the goblins they were expecting to find, stitching these two parts of the adventure together nicely. There's a clear idea of this fight being a ‘rematch’ of the previous one, with the Goblin Champion putting in a repeat performance and other characters like the Elf remarking on the Slayer's prior near-defeat. As a fight on its own, it's quite solid, striking that same balance from the previous episode of sound strategies mixed with showy battle techniques. Some might find the Lizard Priest summoning his Dragontooth Warrior familiar in every battle repetitive, but I like it as an effective game-playing detail; lots of players end up having that one spell they reliably go to whenever a battle breaks out. And the Elf is right, the Warrior is adorable. Likewise, I can buy the Elf's action-movie multi-arrow slinging gimmick as a feature of her race and class that also makes for a cool visual flourish as the battle gets bigger and crazier.
But counter to those strong points, some of the other narrative elements of this fight don't work as well. One major problem is that there isn't a sense of a proper turnaround from the previous goblin fight. This could be chalked up to the game-playing nature of the series. The previous fight ended up going south so badly because the party just had poor luck in some of the hits their enemies got in, while this time they do better because they seem to luck into nothing catastrophic happening to them. Yes, Goblin Slayer makes use of the Goblin Champion by luring him into the goblin horde to do crowd control, and he has an effective plan that goes off without a hitch for finishing them all off, but none of those elements run counter to what went wrong previously. The Slayer is just able to dodge all the Champion's attacks this time around because the story has decided that this fight will go better than the previous one. And seeing the roof-dropping finish pay off and successfully kill every goblin in the sewer comes off as abrupt and lackluster.
This also runs into the problem of the explanation of the plan being more interesting than seeing it in action. The teleportation mirror being used to shield the team from the falling rubble is a cool idea, but they opt to simply explain that to us afterwards rather than illustrating in any interesting way. It robs the audience of what could be a satisfying moment. This might be another case where an element like this worked better in novel form, but a visual medium like anime should do much more than that.
Ironically, more explanation might have worked better for the wrap-up of this whole scheme, as Goblin Slayer reports back to Sword Maiden and confronts her with the truth behind this goblin infestation. It turns out that these goblins weren't the ones who killed the girls that initiated this whole quest line, but the Sword Maiden pinned it on them because no one would do anything about them otherwise. At least I think that's what's going on; the discussion between the Maiden and the Slayer is incredibly obtuse at times, with a lot of dialogue circling allusions to quick details from previous episodes that would seem to make more sense now. For a moment, I was under the impression that the Sword Maiden had committed the inciting murders, then blamed goblins to bring the Slayer there, but they're apparently attributed to the evil Sect involved with that Demon Lord plot in the background of this series.
The whole issue with this plot twist is that it once again brings the story's uneven treatment of the goblins' threat level into stark relief where it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. For what it's worth, I completely buy that the Sword Maiden's traumatic past at the hands of goblins would leave her with a paralyzing phobia that prevents her from doing anything about them herself. But once again, the point is made that the city's defensive resources wouldn't be considered for expending on ‘mere’ goblins, or that others would look down on the Sword Maiden for being afraid of such supposedly easy-to-defeat monsters. And yet, this series has consistently shown how unquestionably dangerous and difficult to handle goblins are at every turn. It stretches credulity once again to suggest that someone would have to be personally kidnapped and raped by goblins to actually consider them a threat, or that the Sword Maiden had to concoct this whole scenario in an effort to make people aware the creatures were even dangerous. For that matter, why did she even have to pin the murder of the girls on the goblins to persuade the Slayer? From what we know about the guy, she could have just messaged him with the word ‘goblins’ and he'd have come running. It feels like an extra extra plot twist tacked on for the sake of making the plot or the Maiden's character feel more complex, but in Goblin Slayer fashion, it's just not as interesting as the story seems to think it is.
Goblin Slayer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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