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Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One Vol. #09 Manga Review

7 min read
Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One is blunt in its expression of brutality as a means to survive

Experience is important … but so too is failure.

Creative Staff:

Art By: Kento Sakaeda
Original Story: Kumo Kagyu
Character Design: Shingo Adachi & Noboru Kannatuki
Translation: Kenneth Steinbach

What They Say:

Goblin Slayer and his examiner infiltrate the goblin lord’s lair and attempt to save a girl from being held hostage – but Goblin Slayer takes a nasty hit to the head in the process …!! Will the two of them be able to make it out, or will his promotion exam end in something far worse than failure?! Meanwhile, having stumbled into a legendary sunken city, Young Warrior’s party comes across a group of fearsome non-prayers carrying out a grotesque ritual. These rookies are clearly in way over their heads – but luckily for them, they’re fighting alongside someone who sees this sort of thing as a warm-up…

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

As Goblin Slayer rests beneath the shade of a tree, he is so absorbed in recalling lessons from his rhea teacher he does not realize the Guild examiner walking toward him, but as the detached woman tosses a stamina potion toward the reclining man, it is only now does he realize she was absent from the area, attempting to reject her generosity until she states he must have been tired if he did not notice her approach, thus surrendering to down the gift and appreciating its welcomed taste. While both are worried about the outcome for the neighboring village and the possibility of the goblin lord leading a raid, the rational proctor bluntly states even if they are in the middle of his promotion exam, that does not excuse his need to put off rest, for she can pause the test if she deems it necessary, but Goblin Slayer responds with equal determination that it is not necessary, with the thought never crossing his mind. With superfluous concerns now settled, the two aloof individuals continue their strategy meeting as to how to assail the nearby lair, their choices being either attack the cave by themselves with the remote possibility they can slay the leader and throw the group into disarray, or retreat and send a message to the Guild to summon more adventurers for help, with Goblin Slayer knowing this will ultimately end in failure since no one will volunteer for a rookie job and thus none arriving in time. As the silent man considers his options, he wonders if the need to go over the choices by himself might be part of the test, with the unapproachable examiner not voicing any opinions, coldly stating she sent word to headquarters about the dire situation, but did not detail their actions or any outcome which has yet come.

While Goblin Slayer wonders if the Guild examiner might be wordlessly manipulating his actions, he knows there is only one option left to them, brusquely stepping forward and flinging a small dirk at one goblin sentry, then taking care of the other with sword in his opposing hand, but as his silent partner notes his ambidextrous fighting style, she states a bow might be more efficient, only to be answered that he can use it but chooses not to, but as he attempts to charge forward, his watcher advises it would be better to pacify the other guards before going inside. Slowly taking their time advancing through the fetid cave and silencing anything he comes across, their progress is halted by a pair of solid doors barring the path, but as the calm woman takes out her chain whip to carefully open the portal from a distance, the sight they see beyond is disturbing, a group of goblins torturing one of their female prisoners, but the horrid creatures are too absorbed by this sickening pleasure to notice the addition of new observers. Not making a sound, the adventurer and proctor discuss what he should do, with this detached examiner concerned about danger for the hostage and limited fighting space against a large number of combatants, but at the same time, since they outnumber the intruders, there is a good chance any random swing from the monsters will hit one of their allies, leaving the decision as how to proceed up to the examinee. However, as a pitiful scream of pain echoes through the passageways, Goblin Slayer swiftly considers his choices, and though he thinks it might be advantageous to relate what he is about to do, it is the impetuousness of the moment that leads to a rash option of kicking the door in, startling all who hear the noise as the Guild examiner watches with astonishment, leaving her with no other alternative than to follow this foolish lead.

In Summary:

I remember reading the first light novel of Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One, and it is hard to imagine the obsessive adventurer that we have come to know so well through Kagyu-sensei’s nightmarish narrative first started as an unsure no, with the current volume of the manga magnificently illustrated Sakaeda-sensei, now endeavoring to pass his rank promotion under an equally stoic Guild examiner, the indifferent woman silently observing someone who she sees promise in, but also a foolish man who makes mistakes which could have been avoided. Yet at this book opens, the audience cannot but wonder if this is the same bold person who now is full of indecision from remembering the lessons of his rhea master since he has no confidence in himself, even as this stern proctor tries to guide him while not interfering with the test itself, questioning his choices with small guiding hints as to what he should do within her cryptic answers. Even as she states this is supposed to be an assessment of his abilities, this Guild employee does not wish any unnecessary risk taken when exploring the goblin lair, made especially clear after they witness the torture of a helpless hostage, making the rash actions of Goblin Slayer a potential moment where he might not succeed. To consider this likelihood makes readers realize this is definitively a different man, someone who still does not fully understand the responsibility he has when fighting his namesake monster, with kidnapping of local villagers or capture of defeated explorers for disturbing pleasure or sadistic reproduction always a possibility every time he meets these creatures, but it appears this time this prospect never crossed his mind, he being too busy doubting himself or wondering what is the right choice with every situation, even as the Guild examiner’s calm stare places more worries of failing this essential exam.

Yet as we consider the chilling possibility that this adventure could have been Goblin Slayer’s last, it is the haunting recollections of the Guild examiner’s past that places these events in a new light, showing her as someone who has had to face failure with painful loss, for while we never witness the outcome of the fateful journey, we recognize the bluntness of this woman could be due to not wanting anyone else to suffer the shame of surviving when her friends fell. However, as this powerful reflection shows her cold reasoning, it is the brutal contrast with the capture of our hero that reveals a new side to admire within this indomitable man, for while Sakaeda-sensei’s monotone images may mute the severity of what goblins are willing to do against the need to mercilessly cut them down, the audience cannot but be both shocked and amazed by how our protagonist never gives his captors any satisfaction during his torture. Knowing each blow he sees could be his last, it is his steely determination that proves the key to survival, with Kagyu-sensei adding a profound sense of accomplishment since Goblin Slayer knows what might come next, having witnessed it before when he was but a frightened boy in hiding, watching in horror as the same actions proved to be the end of a beloved sister who ultimately save him.

Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One is blunt in its expression of brutality as a means to survive, humanity unable to live while goblins and other monsters are a constant menace, this volume is a sobering reminder of how adventurers are always needed to defeat those escalating threats, for as they place their lives in constant risk with each attempt to save their fellow man, there is always someone who must pay the price, no matter how noble their intentions. It is this chilling story that harkens back to the suffering of those who are left behind, whether it be a stoic Guild examiner who has seen too much to be forgotten or a rash Goblin Slayer who is too foolish to recognize the wisdom of the past, it is the marvelous contrast which makes this volume so enthralling, for while we may know how the story will end, it is the imperceptible details which are initially hidden which enrich the telling. And yet as we watch with amazed astonishment as this bold woman saves our future hero, one cannot but wonder what lessons will be learned and if this will be the only failure of Goblin Slayer, or will this be the first of many more to come.

Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: Mature
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: October 03, 2023
MSRP: $13.00

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