Original Story: Kumo Kagyu
Art By: Kousuke Kurose
Character Design: Noboru Kannatuki
Translation: Kenneth Steinbach
Lettering: Bianca Pistillo
What They Say:
With Priestess’s promotion hinging on proof of her individual capabilities, Goblin Slayer’s party appoints her as its temporary leader and embarks on a goblin hunt with the red-headed Wizard Boy in tow. But an inexperienced party leader and a cocksure rookie turn out to be a bad mix, as when the goblins use a horrifically tortured adventure to lure in Wizard Boy into a trap, the stakes rise far beyond that of a failed promotion …
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
In the middle of the Guild Hall, Wizard Boy does not hesitate to announce in a loud voice for all to hear, that the leader of their party will be Priestess, but as the shy girl stutters and hesitates in accepting this important duty, Lizard Priest points out the red head’s inexperience as Goblin Slayer questions how many spells he can use in a day, and yet as Dwarf Shaman compares the spell caster’s roughness to an unpolished gem, the former commander latches onto the idea and decides it is the responsibility of his seniors to forge the boy into shape during their next adventure. However, as this spirited group inevitably decides to go on another goblin hunt, a different party finds themselves deep within dark ruins valiantly fighting the same type of foes, but as thief opens the chest and they are disappointed to find ancient currency, they push on into the next room, only to be surprised as a massive troll lumbers toward them. While the vanguard presses forward with help of their rear support, the fighters seem to be making progress against the gigantic brute, preparing to fall back once the magic user releases his finishing spell, and yet that time never comes as his head is crushed as supposedly unintelligent goblins ambush them from behind. With the group now in complete disarray and the once brave warriors finding themselves being easily beaten from both sides, all of the men have fallen in bloody heaps, leaving the warrior priest and cleric knowing what will happen to them as with all women who unwisely underestimate these subterranean foes, even as they pitifully scream into the inky darkness.
As Priestess leads the party to the frontier town of their mission, Wizard Boy is too enthusiastic in pushing forward to killing goblins, with the young girl and armored warrior knowing they must first visit the quest giver to gather more information, meeting the dwarven construction foreman in a nearby tent, and while Dwarf Shaman may want to drink fire wine this early in the day, his seasoned race brother warns they have human among them, so it would not be appropriate to start arousing while the sun is still up. Once everyone has settled in, the bearded man tells how another adventuring party had accepted this same hunt, but they never came back, leaving Goblin Slayer to assume they must have met the monsters of his namesake, but as the overseer questions if he also called Beardcutter, he continues his tale by stating they have been spotted stealing their tools, finishing they wish for all this to stop by offering as much as the merchants and brothels can as means of a reward. However, as Orcbolg is about to conclude the negotiations, it is High Elf Archer who scornfully reminds him that Priestess is in charge this time, so it is her decision as to how they should proceed, only to have his blunt response be she is except in an emergency. While she accepts his caution, the shy girl decides to ask a few questions, with the dwarves explaining while their kin do not like others pilfering their tools, they can also become infuriated if they see who took them, with one of the workers chasing the thieves to what is most likely the remains of a royal tomb, but as more details are revealed, including two of the missing party being women, the blonde cleric can mentally conclude they may be the only ones left alive, with Lizard Priest voicing aloud there is certainly nothing left of the previous explorers.
While Kagyu-sensei’s stories have always stunned readers due to the brutality of how adventurers manage to survive within this chaotic world, it is from this stirring volume where we are forced to bear witness how the actions of these people can effect those who are left behind, which is especially remorseful due to the understandable regrets Goblin Slayer has once the truth is finally revealed. When we are first introduced to Wizard Boy, it not surprising most would see him as an overly enthusiastic adventurer, someone willing to prove himself by boldly going forth in an attempt to slay as many monsters as he can with his magic, but at the same time, too inexperienced to fully think things through before rushing into danger. To watch Priestess having to deal with this problem child while attempting to manage the party is what makes this story truly strenuous, the genuine unease of second guessing herself as her friends give useful hints is refreshing, but to witness the red headed sorcerer make foolish mistakes is what makes her test so frustrating, all while knowing she has had similar stumbles in the past. And yet, the brashness of Wizard Boy ignoring helpful advice and foolishly rushing in, with the girl mentally realizing he may be the cause for their failure, can all be attributed to inexperience and a need to prove himself, even if we may later realize the truth behind his desire to fulfill an unobtainable wish. It is only then when knowing readers and Goblin Slayer painfully recall the identity of the magical girl which pains this survivor, with the current story harkening back to the first volume of the series, a failure in the eyes of this bold slayer and the reason he tries so hard now to save as many as he can.
As painful nostalgia of prior failures seeps into our understanding of how cruel this world can be, one cannot underestimate the powerful impact the explicit illustrations of mangaka Kurose-sensei has upon driving the emotional fervor of these nameless characters, for while it may be frustrating not being able to address these heroes by name, it is the striking purity of their actions which makes the series so heartfelt, even amid the graphic nature of the pages. With crisply depicted black and white images carefully controlling of how we now see these ruthless creatures, the balance of overt gore wonderfully contrasts against implied actions, all as readers’ imaginations are utilized to fill in the brutality we do not see, while at the same time, joyful interactions between adventurers cause these scenes to be almost forgotten, until they are needed again. However, it is the closing moments with Wizard Boy’s confession which makes for the most powerful sights we have seen so far, his tearful hatred for someone so close is pitiful, and yet with the temperament of these people understanding each day is a struggle to survive, we cannot but understand his scorn, even if may be pointless. It is only when Goblin Slayer finally realizes who that person was do we tearfully feel the restrained anger he holds in, the driving force of why he fights these monsters, to honor his sister and save as many as he can, and yet this singular failure at the beginning of his career hits him the hardest, dramatically displayed in powerful light and shadow as a signature helmet clatters, our hero mourning a loss and vowing to do better.
Goblin Slayer continues to haunt determined readers with striking stories and powerful images, and yet it is from this volume where we are able to understand the weight of Goblin Slayer’s actions, how he balances determination with pride, only to realize failure is powerful motivator, with victory never coming without a hefty cost. And yet as a new generation learns how to survive within this cruel world, we cannot but briefly smile as our hero teaches them how to succeed, and while his friends are always for him, one cannot but recall how he was once a lone wander, determined to kill as many goblins as possible, with revenge his only purpose. But now that he has companions who understand his strange enthusiasm for one type of prey, they can help in the long journey, even as new trials constantly test them, their hope for tomorrow rests on Goblin Slayer forging forward no matter he must do to win.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: Mature
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 18th, 2023