Goblin Slayer is graphic and that’s alright, right?

*UPDATE*

CrunchyRoll recently added a viewer discretion advisory to the beginning of Goblin Slayer. As previously discussed in the post below, this is a solution that informs viewers of potentially disturbing content, but allows them to decide for themselves whether or not to continue. They could specify that the advisory is for violent and sexual content if they wanted to take it a step further, but that isn’t really necessary.
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Original Post

Just about every season, there’s at least one show that stirs up a bit of controversy for some reason or another. This time around, White Fox Studio’s Goblin Slayer is shaping up to be that point of contention. One episode in, the series follows Onna, a young priestess intent on becoming an adventurer. The RPG-esque premise and appearance is common enough, but the show’s graphic portrayal of sex and violence is causing a bit of an uproar within the anime-viewing community.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the controversy. This post contains images and subject matter that some readers may find disturbing and/or Not Safe For Work. Also, Spoiler Alert.

When we (members of a community at large) analyze something that is controversial in nature, we should first seek to understand why it’s giving rise to public disagreement and debate. We could spend hours trying to define what should and shouldn’t be considered “obscene”, but in the case of Goblin Slayer, we’ll be examining two scenes involving two particularly heinous acts: rape, and violence against children.

If we determine that content is obscene or indecent in nature, there are a couple things we should subsequently consider when deciding whether or not it is acceptable to be made accessible through mainstream media networks.

  • Does the content in question portray the indecent act(s) in a way that encourages viewers to engage in similar behavior?
  • Is the portrayal of the obscene act implicit, or explicit?

Scene I: The rape of a female adventurer

Roughly five minutes into Episode 1: The Fate of Particular Adventurers, our protagonist and her three party members wander into a situation that they’re unprepared to deal with. As a result, they suffer heavy causalities, and one character is raped by goblins in semi-graphic detail.

Goblin Slayer rape 1goblin slayer rape 2

We understand that rape is the act in question, and the controversy is caused by Goblin Slayer’s shocking depiction of it. Having established that, we can move on to the next point of consideration: Does the content in question portray rape in a way that encourages viewers to engage in similar behavior?

Personally, I don’t think it does. Nothing prior to, during, or after the assault indicates that any of the characters involved are having a good time—aside from maybe some of the goblins, which at this point in the series are not written to be sympathized with in any way.

Now, one could argue that the very notion of showing or mentioning a criminal act in the first place is inherently suggestive, and hence unsuitable for mainstream distribution. If that is the case, though, then consistent reasoning would dictate that even mentioning or showing rape, violence, theft, etc. in the local news could also be considered unacceptable.

So why isn’t there a similar uproar over news coverage? Well, let’s entertain that second factor of implicit suggestion versus explicit depiction.

Most news networks will play audio or video clips from shootouts, highway chases, natural disasters, etc. but they generally avoid showing footage of people actually being killed or injured. This is because producers understand that the general public is more tolerable of implicit violence (video of a location with audio of gunshots) than it is explicit (video of the people literally being shot inside). In fact, networks that do cover stories using graphic footage often face criticism for airing inappropriate content.

This same principle of suggestion instead graphic depiction applies to fiction. We agree that the rape in Goblin Slayer is awful in nature, and that it’s being used to stress the hopelessness of the situation our characters find themselves in. The issue for many isn’t that the assault is part of the story; it’s more so that the imagery provided is vivid. Is it entirely pointless, though?

Often times, graphic depictions of sex and violence will occur in series that are hyper-stylized like Devilman: Crybaby, Akira, Genocyber, and Violence Jack. Shows like those, however, border on being absurdist because they are so over-the-top in their presentation of the on-screen violence. What makes series like Goblin Slayer and Berserk more unsettling, is that they feel much more realistic in their depiction of horror and tragedy despite being clear works of fiction. Given the more serious style of presentation, the graphic sexual content is perceived by the viewer as more unsettling, and quite frankly, it’s supposed to be.

That uneasiness is something people can more easily ignore if the imagery is implied rather than shown. For instance, there is a scene in the same Goblin Slayer episode that shows a character we are led to believe has been raped and abused several times. This moment does not draw the same criticism because the sexual assault is suggested to have occurred, rather than visibly shown.

While the act can definitely be considered explicit, in neither case is it fetishized or glamorized.

In videogames (which the RPG-style novels, manga, and anime share inspiration with), we often take for granted the ability to pause, respawn, and restart when things get out of hand. I think what White Fox is trying to do here is give us a glimpse of characters who actually have to deal with serious consequences as a result of being unprepared and under-leveled in an unfamiliar area.

Isekai series Overlord kicks this idea around some as well.

Other examples of rape in cinema:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, 300

Scene II: The murder of children

In the later third of the Goblin Slayer pilot episode, our priestess protagonist allies herself with a warrior who slaughters some defenseless goblin children. We’ll now apply the previous method of analysis to this scene as well.

The controversy is that one of the main characters specifically states that he is going to murder the children because they are goblins. He then proceeds to do exactly that.

goblin slayer childrengoblin slayer children 2

Does the content in question portray the indecent act(s) in a way that encourages viewers to engage in similar behavior?

I do not believe that it does. In fact, the writers openly question the ethics of killing the goblin children by way of character dialog during the same scene in which the act is committed. This is probably one of the farthest things from encouraging the murder of children.

Is the portrayal of the obscene act implicit, or explicit?

In this instance, the murder of the goblin children is explicitly stated, but implicitly shown; the director opts to show blood splatters, and character reactions as opposed to the literal clubbing of the children. Other series such as Made in Abyss have more explicitly shown violence against children. Even in these cases, though, it’s not portrayed in a way that idolized or fetishize it.

Other examples of violence against minors in cinema (implicit and explicit included):
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Girl Next Door

Final Thoughts

I don’t think Goblin Slayer’s portrayal of rape, or violence against children warrants censorship or removal from mainstream media platforms; it does not encourage the behavior, nor is it explicitly sexualized enough to be considered pornography. At a glance, the series seems like an adaptation of some sort of H-Game, but I’m actually interested to see where they go from here.

The sad truth is that the heinous acts of murder and rape are common occurrences, and it doesn’t take goblins for it to be a reality. That said, I think a fair compromise would be requiring online anime mediums to provide ratings or content information like what we already see for video games, movies, and television series. I can’t speak for other platforms, but Goblin Slayer is available for streaming here in The States on VRV/CrunchyRoll. The description I read on VRV prior to watching the first episode did not provide a rating or viewer discretion advisory. Doing so would be relatively simple solution that would warn people of graphic violent/sexual/drug-related content before they unsuspectingly stumble upon it.

 

That’s my take on it. I’ll open the metaphorical floor now to anyone else with thoughts regarding this.

Should more than just those couple of criteria be considered? Are there other clear examples of abuse or assault in TV/Film that are worth noting here? Is this approach way too systematic for something as emotionally triggering as rape?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Share your thoughts, and feelings, fren.

 

If you found this post interesting, consider listening to the  Podcast Special Feature: Censorship in Anime and Games (Ft. Manaban), as there are some similar themes regarding obscenity, censorship, and sexual content in mainstream media.

 

The Weeabros don’t own any of the music or images used in this post, bro. They belong to their respective creators, licensors, and distributors. Please support the official releases.

30 thoughts on “Goblin Slayer is graphic and that’s alright, right?

  1. If they follow the manga (which is likely) rather than the light novel, only the first scenes will show how graphic this series will be. After that, it will continue on with the RPG themed show it is and also a lot of comedic scenes with our protagonist’s party.

    I’m comparing it to Akame ga Kill! in my review, and it’s because I really think that it resembles the style of showing how messed up some parts of their world is but will not totally revolve around that, unlike for example Attack on Titan, where every corner death will creep on you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      I think showing the seriousness of the world in which they live is important. The story just isn’t as engaging if we’re not worried about our characters actually getting hurt or dying.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Very nicely put and I really enjoyed your well reasoned arguments. That and I agree with you. The rape is shown to be a horrible and monstrous act, not one that should be copied. There is no encouragement by this episode that this is in any way acceptable behaviour. And given the context, the murder of children might be seen as a heinous act but could also be seen as a necessary evil and the dialogue between the characters allows the viewer to consider both perspectives.
    While a content warning wouldn’t go astray, I feel that there’s been a little bit of an over-reaction to the anime and what it actually shows and says about what it presents.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      I always appreciate your feedback, as I know it comes from a similarly critical and analytical mind haha. There’s definitely been a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. My guess is that it’ll die down within a wee or two, barring any more similar scenes. That said, I think that over-reaction is precisely why we should talk about it, and why we should try to figure out how to best handle this type of content.

      I think the most rational plan is to inform people and let them choose whether or not to continue. I don’t take issue being surprised by that kind of stuff, but I see how a rape scene could potentially upset someone who has endured, or knows someone who has endured, an awful incident like that–especially if the contents is unexpected.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. ValentinoxSenpai

    Pretty well written and interesting. I might be alone in this but I genuinely don’t see a problem with either scene (granted I know why he killed the children), I can barely graps the idea of the scene being graphic because it wasn’t exactly shown. I could probably make the argument that it was more so implied that she was getting raped. I could understand if they legitimately showed the act but all we really see is her. I wouldn’t say the show shouldn’t be taken down but a content warning coukd suffice although on one hand I’m not sure about it. I say that because I somewhat feel like what the creator wanted was for people to think that the show would be all happy go lucky and shit, then they’d realize the show is dark grim and gritty however the implementation was quite bad…like horrible. Honestly of they wouldn’t have gone straight to those kind of scenes right off the bat it might’ve been received a little better.

    As far as the backlash goes I honestly think people are just being extra and getting all up in their feelings. Like it’s only the first episode so these events could tie in with the narrative, plus the show didn’t treat it as a joke or glorify it. It only got this reaction because for many people it’s an emotional subject and taboo to put in media so they immediately hit back with an emotional response whereas people aren’t critical are like me and look at it from more of a narrative or story view or just aren’t unsettled by things considered disturbing in fictional media.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s all that extreme in the grand scheme of things, but it is somewhat “graphic” relative to other television series. I mean, do they reeaallly have to show the goblins nails digging in, or Onna peeing herself? Not really, but they do anyway to emphasize the terror of the situation at hand.

      I totally agree with you about the studio’s intent of contrasting the bright, colorful, fun-looking RPG world with the brutal reality of it. I think Made In Abyss did that very well, too. I also don’t think a “Viewer Discretion is Advised: The following contains subject matter some viewers may find disturbing” message at the beginning would ruin that in either series.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. ValentinoxSenpai

        It’s definitely more hard core than most media will ever pull off but the reactions that some people had really made it seem like they showed it in it’s entirety when it was more like showing half of a beat down in a ufc fight. Like I went in thinking “Why am I about to watch something gruesome”. It did do a good job of showing the fear but the nail digging might’ve been more yo show that some cruel creatures as well as them attempting the same on the mage. I honestly think they could’ve done a better job by taking time to show the goblins have a bit of a reputation but then again characters in the series are meant to see goblins as weak and easy.

        I haven’t seen Made in Abyss so I might have to check it out. It being ruined by that is a bit subjective, the creator might consider it ruined. I also find it somewhat ironic that you brought up the murder of children because it made me realize that the rape scene was more than likely child molestation because looking at other characters in the series the first cast seems like teens.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. WeeaBroDerek

        *Young adults* lol.

        Don’t quote me on this, but I think the legal age of consent in Japan goes as low as 14, though, so technically a 15-16 year old teen would be considered mature enough to partake in and be depicted in sexual acts.

        Also, I do think you should give Made in Abyss a try. Very good series, and the second season is rolling out early next year I think.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. ValentinoxSenpai

        Damn, it doesn’t make it any less weird though, at least they’re 16-17 so it ain’t that bad. I mean it could be the that child gangbang from Stephen King’s novel IT. I find it odd that not many people brought up the fact that the party that went in tge cave were all underage, maybe the anime community is just used to underage characters being sexualized and what not.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s a problem for anime that is presented in the US where we have an age of 18 for consent and sexual abuse at any age is front and center in politics. I can name 3 Supreme court nominees whose lives have been been turned upside down by behavior milder than is accepted in mainstream anime.

        Like

      5. negativeprimes

        If memory serves, while the national age of consent is 14, every region had raised the age to 18. So effectively it’s 18 across the entire nation.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. WeeaBroDerek

        Hmm if that’s the case, then it’d be even older than it is where I live in Michigan, which I believe is 16.

        It might be one of those things, too, though, where it’s 16 so long as both parties are under 18….maybe I should actually look this stuff up before I continue to just ramble about it haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. WeeaBroDerek

        So if I’m reading this correctly, and it’s still in place from 2011, then 16 is still the actual age of consent in MI, and this Romeo/Juliet statue may spare the defendant from the sex offender registry if they are 18 or younger, and the other person was under the age of 16. However, it would not necessarily shield them from other sexual misconduct charges.

        Interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      I still haven’t seen Perfect Blue…it’s on my list, but I’m guessing the dynamic is totally different given the type of series Goblin Slayer is billed as versus what Perfect Blue is known to be.

      Like

  4. Basically sums up my own feelings on the matter. I think the viewer discretion warning is a decent compromise for now. I still feel the controversy is overblown since this isn’t the first time a series depicted these things. When seeing the first episode I was completely baffled this caused any sort of controversy.

    I expected a dark turn since the opening sequence had the healer crying in the cave alone filled with dark colors with something in the distance walking towards her. With that being the first shot, I naturally assumed it wasn’t going to be cheery. While I’m still on the fence how the the series will turn out I am happy there’s finally a fantasy produce that isn’t a comedy, nor looks like it’s going to turn in a harem.

    Time to grab popcorn, and await to see if the backlash dies down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      It surprises me, though, that many online platforms do not provide ratings information on anime. Maybe it’s because there isn’t an official board like the ESRB or MPAA that rates content in anime specifically, but damn near every show you find on actual television has an accompanying TV-PG, TV-14, or TV-MA rating that appears briefly in the corner when the show starts. If it’s particularly graphic, a viewer discretion advisory like the one now in Goblin Slayer is shown as well.

      Similarly to what I said chatting with Karandi, I think consumers have a right to be informed about the products they’re consuming. The issue for most on this probably wasn’t even that the scenes were there. Rather, it’s that they were surprised by them because there’s no indication that the series contains that type of mature content. Not everyone is okay with being shocked like that.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. I’m hoping to watch this show once it finishes airing. Hopefully it isn’t taken down before then! Putting a warning message before the episode airs sounds like a sensible precaution. Age ratings for a streaming service are hard to enforce. To subscribe for Crunchyroll you would need a credit card, which already suggests that the account belongs to an adult or a child is using it with a parent’s consent.

    This backlash reminds me a bit of Cross Ange episode one. After watching how that series played out all that was much ado about nothing. Rape is horrible, but then again so is murder. So many viewers who rightfully condemn sexual assault weirdly will watch a show that has gory deaths because it is “cool.” The anime community getting so worked up over this issue is a bit odd, given that they are well aware of what happens in hentai.

    Good write up. Very measured commentary on the matter. It’s rare to find someone who does not go mental when writing about such issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      Thanks, I think there’s a lot of value in striving to be objective and discussing things in a more civil manner…especially given the kind of rhetoric you see online and on tv nowadays.

      I’m not sure if the ratings would even have to be “enforced” really. They’d be more like guidelines than actual rules.

      Doesn’t crunchyroll also allows users to have a free accounts, though? You just have to watch one week delayed, and with ads.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is my feeling that by the time kids are in their teens they ought to be able to be able to watch anything they want. By now, they should be pretty much immune to “bad influences” – if you’ve done your job as a parent right. Monitoring what they watch is now diagnostic of where their head is at rather than a restriction.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. WeeaBroDerek

      Thanks!
      The language seemed to tone down some after the initial debate this thing caused, but I wish people would stop and chill out for a minute before they start throwing insults at each other, y’know?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. There is nothing wrong with what was shown. People have to remember, depiction of an abhorrent act does not equal approval of said act.

    I’m very disappointed by the people claiming this show glorifies sexual assault and fetishizes it. I mean, did you actually watch it? I think that says a lot more about your own sexual desires and fetishes. There is nothing I found sexually enticing or sexy about that scene. Rape is a vile, disgusting and brutal act, and it’s depicted as such.

    Was it done for shock value? I don’t believe it was. I think it was important to establish that these goblins are vile, disgusting creatures. They are parasitic monsters. This is a world where chaotic evil exists and evil monsters exist that are irredeemable. That might be hard for people to grasp these days, but it’s true.

    Also, let’s say you have an infestation of rats and call the exterminator. Do you ask for the exterminator to spare the nest and the rats children? Maybe they are good rats? And those are just creatures trying to live and do what’s in their nature. No you don’t. You ask for the exterminator to kill em all and don’t give them a second damn thought.

    Now look, this show is not for everyone. No one has to like it. I don’t think you are wrong if you dislike what was shown. However, don’t misconstrue or lie about the content either.

    Liked by 1 person

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