If there is one thing I hate about Goblin Slayer, it would be how insensitively it handled its first episode. That might sound odd after I praised its controversial, dark fantasy themes in my review, so allow me to clarify:
I did enjoy episode 1 of Goblin Slayer, but I did so because I knew going into it that I was watching a dark fantasy series. I was alerted to the presence of shocking content, received the heads-up that this entailed gore, blood, and sexual violence, and judged that these were unlikely to bother me, so I was going to carry on and watch it anyway. When the show first hit streaming services, a whole bunch of people went into it without that information and got out of it feeling terrible. And that was partly the intent of it.
What I like about episode 1 is that it has controversial themes that it continues to build on in future episodes. It was always meant to garner some discussion and spread word of the show, but I don’t feel it was ever deliberately intended to maliciously trick people into watching it. Goblin Slayer is not some trashy internet video with a jumpscare somebody tinkered together in five minutes; it’s a passionately put-together fantasy series with multiple ongoing projects which have been running since 2016.
However, I hate that the series was allowed to air without a content warning and how descriptions of its content are deliberately vague. Anilist, MAL, and Crunchyroll all dance around the bush and fail to create suitable expectations of the show:
“I’m not saving the world. I just kill goblins.” Rumor has it that, in a certain guild in the middle of nowhere, there is an extraordinary man who has climbed all the way to the Silver rank just by killing goblins. At the same guild, a priestess who’s just become a new adventurer has formed her first party… and the man who ends up rescuing that party when they get into trouble is none other than the Goblin Slayer. -Crunchyroll
A young priestess has formed her first adventuring party, but almost immediately they find themselves in distress. It’s the Goblin Slayer who comes to their rescue–a man who’s dedicated his life to the extermination of all goblins, by any means necessary. And when rumors of his feats begin to circulate, there’s no telling who might come calling next… -Anilist
Only MAL makes quick reference to the goblins kidnapping women for breeding, but doesn’t list an age recommendation and files the show away under the generic “Fantasy” label. Anilist does tell you that the show features rape and nudity, but only if you scroll down the list of tags and select to unhide the “spoiler” tags. Crunchyroll does mention “Dark Fantasy”, but clicking that label reveals it also uses that to describe Ancient Magus’ Bride, Yuki Yuna, and Pandora Hearts, again giving a poor impression of the content of the show.
I don’t feel that rape should be banned as a storytelling theme in anime and I don’t feel it personally affects me, but I sympathize with people who do feel that way and who are affected. While I don’t want to see this type of content removed, I do want to see it clearly communicated and labeled. It’s not often that a show displays rape as visually as it’s done in Goblin Slayer, but even lesser examples of it can be extraordinarily shocking to people. Age ratings and content warnings were commonplace in the days of physical media, and I feel that it only makes sense that these make the transition to the digital age of streaming as well. Rape is not spoiler that should be hidden unless you opt-in on getting that information.
This brings me to my final point and that is the curious movement of people resisting the response to Goblin Slayer by posting edgy memes. Everybody has their own tastes and boundaries. If you can handle rape & violence in your entertainment, more power to you. I like old school OVAs like Legend of the Overfiend and Adventure Kid, so I count among those ranks as well, but I too have dropped shows that crossed lines of mine.
And yes, there are worse shows out there and you can enjoy those if you so please, but realize we share this medium with many different people with different backstories and different perspectives. Violent shows like Berserk are an outlier within our medium and the Berserk manga that I own was stored at an adult portion of the store I bought it from, came with a parental advisory sticker, and features a notice about explicit content alongside an adult-only recommendation. This is how you communicate. The platforms hosting and promoting Goblin Slayer have no such excuse.