Anime is no stranger to darker subjects as many series and projects have used the medium to tell various narratives in new ways. Many of these series can be boundary pushing for how they approach these subjects, and often gain fame or infamy based on execution.
The latest focus of conversation, or controversy depending on who you ask, is the anime adaptation of Kumo Kagyu and Noboru Kannatsuki's Goblin Slayer for its violence, sexual violence, and brutal presentation.
Goblin Slayer is a series of light novels first created by Kumo Kagyu with illustrations provided by Noboru Kannatsuki back in 2016. The series tells the story of Priestess, a naive girl who has just left her congregation in order to become an adventurer. She joins with a party of rookie adventurers on their next mission to slay some goblins, only for the mission to quickly go south as her entire party is poisoned, maimed, raped, and brutalized in many ways.
The titular Goblin Slayer, a silent man who never takes off his armor, then shows up and rescues her by slaughtering all the goblins in sight. It's his goal in life to slay them all, and he won't stop until every one of them is dead. Even the goblin children, who Goblin Slayer argues aren't inherently good (and their animalistic nature has been explored further through the manga adaptation).
Produced by WHITE FOX, the anime adaptation is directed by Takaharu Ozaki (Girls' Last Tour) with Hideyuki Kurata (Made in Abyss, Read or Die) handling the series composition with scripts from Yousuke Koroda (My Hero Academia). The staff of the series has experience delivering on more bleak, hopeless worlds and Goblin Slayer is no different. It's just blunt in its violence.
This bluntness, however, has born controversy in the first episode because viewers had no idea what kind of series it would be. Simply put, each new teaser or look at the series touted it as yet another adventure anime series filling screens during the Fall 2018 season. But a slate of viewers were notably shocked by the brutal lengths the series premiere goes, as the bright colors of its character design and early minutes belie.
Even with the series censoring some of its more violent bits, it's still distressing in other ways. The series premiere prominently displays sexual violence, and it's censored for the anime, but it fills in gaps of context with different audio and visual cues. What is even more distressing is that the anime chooses to pare down the back stories of the original adventuring crew, and revels in the action of their massacre rather than the context.
Instead of violence emphasizing how costly mistakes are by cutting three hopeful lives short (which offer more of a juxtaposition to the harsh world), the massacred party feels like goblin fodder. The evil moments of this first violent display feels, well, like a display. There is some entertainment to be found in Goblin Slayer as there is an audience in anime for such a hopeless, violent series but the damage has arguably been done.
Crunchyroll has made the decision to add a content warning before each episode of Goblin Slayer, which will help warn unsuspecting viewers of its distressing content. This will hopefully alleviate a bit of the controversy surrounding the series. The second episode even improves on its presentation by filling out characters rather than reveling in violence (though there still is sexual violence), so there is a chance this controversial series will be remembered for its story rather than its notoriety.