I can’t say that I was disappointed by this OVA because frankly I wasn’t expecting much from it in the first place. Condensing an entire book of content into 60 minutes of footage is bound to result in wonky pacing. Although I haven’t read volume 5 of the novel series, which this OVA is based on, the story felt like a middle-of-the-road arc for the TV series, but compressed to the point where none of its emotional moments carried much weight.
As far as the story beats go, Goblin’s Crown doesn’t explore new territory. During a routine goblin extermination trip, the Goblin Slayer and his crew rescue a young swordswoman, who is (rather predictably at this point) a rape survivor. Although the horrible experience leaves her irrevocably changed, the Noble Fencer hasn’t lost her will to fight. She wants to reclaim the sword the goblins stole from her, and she won’t stop until she has her revenge.
The other new development in the story is the revelation that the goblins are getting smarter at a rather terrifying rate. The big goblin boss this time is able to use magic, a feat which was previously believed only to be available to the human-like races. But because this is only a 60 minute OVA, equivalent to around three TV anime episodes, he gets taken out fast, and there’s not much time spent reflecting on the implications of the goblins’ feats.
It’s a pity that the themes of this OVA are undercooked because what I liked most about the TV series is the pathos. For example, the Sword Maiden’s subplot was an earlier take on a rape survivor’s plight, and what made it interesting was how she found no salvation even after the goblins were exterminated. The Goblin Slayer lost his humanity fighting the goblins, and the entire series so far has been about him gradually expanding his worldview beyond his trauma.
The Noble Fencer’s story has strong parallels to the aforementioned characters, but her healing and redemption occurs in record time. It’s implied that she’s able to overcome the trauma because of the friendship she develops with the Priestess and High Elf Archer, but as far as this OVA goes, it’s only an implication. They never have a heart-to-heart conversation; the Priestess is just there to take the Noble Fencer’s hand when the goblins chase after them. While it’s nice to see these little hints of female camaraderie in a series that has so far focused almost exclusively on the Goblin Slayer’s relationships with other people, I really wish this aspect could have been given more time to develop because the Noble Fencer’s character arc came off as very abrupt.
I also find it concerning for the long run how this series has chosen to escalate the threat of the goblins by making them more human-like. At one point in this OVA, it’s shown that verbal communication between the goblins and other races is possible under the right circumstances. At this point, it’s impossible to think of goblins as wild animals or pests; the only thing that distinguishes them from humans is that they are all evil.
Looking back on the series so far, I’d say that the themes of Goblin Slayer have been a precarious balancing act. It presents a fantasy race of pure evil because it’s exploring how humans would cope in the face of such constant evil. Through interacting with the evil beings, human souls become tainted. Stare too long into the darkness and it starts to consume you. Goblin Slayer didn’t need a hackneyed twist like “the goblins were corrupted humans all along!” to provoke questions about humanity’s relationship with their inner beast, which I appreciated.
At the same time, this angle of portraying goblins as pure monsters can only work when their observable traits are not human-like. By giving the goblins so many human traits, the story is basically presenting a scenario where it’s completely okay to write off an entire sentient race as scum. It’s not thought-provoking and could easily be read as a justification for having a generally racist outlook on life; I wish the author could have picked a different way to escalate the threat of the goblins instead of making them rely so much on human technology and culture.
As a side effect of the goblins being so human-like in this OVA, the fights are also boring. The goblins never act in ways you don’t expect from grunt soldiers; you could substitute them for Star Wars’ Stormtroopers and you’ll get a sense for what the battles are like. Here, they man a castle, and they also can’t aim for squat. There’s one scene where the characters stand up and have a dramatic shout-y moment for minutes on end while the goblins rain arrows on them, and nobody gets hit. The story’s tension drops precipitously when the intelligence of the enemies fluctuates depending on narrative convenience.
At least this OVA still maintains its violent action as its appeal point… although the production values are about on par with the TV anime’s early episodes (which weren’t terribly impressive to begin with). There’s lots of CG blood and goblins, and the 2D animation still feels kind of stilted, which kind of kills the immediacy of the violence. Yeah, there’s decapitated flying heads and sexual violence, which the OVA makes a point of flashing back to multiple times, but the shock factor has pretty much dried up at this point, so I doubt that anyone who sat through the TV series would be particularly fazed by it. Or maybe I only had this reaction because I watched the Made in Abyss movie last week, and that was some genuinely gruesome stuff. Either way, I’ve seen worse.
I do want to compliment the music, at least, because I liked the ending theme. The song had a lot of ambiance that would have fit a story with more gravitas. The soundtrack was also appropriately dramatic, lending urgency to some of the battle sequences that was missing in the animation.
Overall, I’d say that Goblin’s Crown is a little below average by Goblin Slayer standards. The Noble Fencer’s story had potential to become an interesting foil to the Goblin Slayer and the Priestess, but the lack of breathing room in this OVA made her subplot fall flat. By cutting out the quiet moments and introspection, this OVA focuses almost entirely on the violence and action, and it’s become evident that this aspect of the anime is producing increasingly diminishing returns. I’m sure that Goblin Slayer fans may get a kick out of seeing the action on the big screen, but I don’t think the production values warranted a theatrical release. It may be worth checking it out when it gets a home video release, or better yet, just read the novels.