One thing that anime is guilty of is recycling ideas. Case in point – The Rising of the Shield Hero. This twenty-five episode series features a young adult who is transported to a fantasy world. Once there he transitions from being a complete nobody into a mighty hero, who all the girls fancy. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
Naofumi Iwatani is the protagonist of this Isekai show, which is based off Aneko Yusagi’s light novels. A neko? I had no idea that cats wrote books. Anyway, when Naofumi arrives in the kingdom of Melromarc he discovers that he is one of four youngsters who have been plucked from Japan and tasked with protecting the land from waves of hostile monsters. Each of the spirited away chaps is given a legendary weapon to help them with their mission.
As you may have determined, from the show’s title, Naofumi misses out on winning ownership of a cool sword, bow or spear. Instead he has to make do with a magical shield. The artifact protects him from harm, which is handy, but carries the massive con of barring him from wielding offensive weapons. That sucks. I can now see why no one ever wants to play a tank in RPGs. Naofumi’s lack of attack power wouldn’t be so bad, if he could recruit some party members to aid him in combat. Alas, that is not possible due to the events that occur in episode one.
Early on in the series Naofumi is falsely accused of rape by the kingdom’s princess Myne Sophia. Just like the target of a #MeToo accusation, Naofumi is vilified by the public. Ouch. Isn’t it scary how smears, which aren’t backed by any evidence, can ruin someone’s life? Due to his tarnished reputation, Naofumi is unable to hire allies via conventional means. Instead, he resorts to buying slaves. First up he purchases a sickly racoon girl named Raphtalia, who he trains in the ways of sword fighting. Later on he also snaps up a baby Filolial (pretty much this world’s version of a Chocobo) named Filo.
It appears that Naofumi is a bit of a loli magnet. Filo may resemble a giant bird, but viewers soon learn that she is capable of transforming into a cute cherub. Raphtalia develops a crush on Naofumi, which could be creepy given that she is underage. Thankfully the series avoids going down the Bunny Drop manga route, by having Naofumi treat his sidekick like an adoptive daughter. If two lolis aren’t enough to satisfy your questionable taste in love interests, Naofumi later groups up with petite royal spellcaster Melty. He saves Melty from assassins in one episode, only to have the authorities accuse him of kidnapping her moments later.
Back when the series first started airing it was funny to see some sectors of the internet get outraged by the show’s content. Apparently having the lead be accused of sexual assault is outrageous. Some sensitive types refuse to accept that such claims could ever be false. Much ado about nothing, if you ask me. I don’t think the series writer was making a political statement. She just used the plot device of “hero gets betrayed by comrade” to inject drama into the story. Other viewers condemned Shield Hero of promoting slavery. Again, I just don’t see it. Naofumi isn’t whipping Raphtalia and forcing her to do manual labour. He rescues her from life in a cage, nurses her back to health and treats her with nothing but kindness.
My rating for The Rising of the Shield Hero is three and a half stars. It’s an enjoyable series that executes the overplayed Isekai troupes of the genre better than most other anime do. Akin to Goblin Slayer, the series starts off on a serious note and proceeds to get more light hearted (and harem like) as it goes along. The story isn’t deep, but is smart enough to throw in the occasional swerve to keep things interesting. Aside from vanquishing waves of monsters, Naofumi ends up in the middle of a clergy led uprising and later crosses swords with warriors from a parallel world.
Character wise Naofumi is more mature than other fantasy leads. He grows stronger by overcoming hardship, rather than being a prodigy from the offset. Unlike the other buffon-ish heroes Naofumi strives to protect the innocent, rather than fight for riches or glory. The fact that he aids people, rather than turn his back on them, after they branded him a villain shows what a good guy he is. Someone who is not good in the slightest is Myne. I found her to be despicable to a cartoonish degree. She is rather one dimensional, but like any good heel succeeds in the role of being someone you love to hate.
In terms of Shield Hero dislikes, I can’t say that I was a fan of the show’s CGI. The computer effects weren’t terrible, but some of the action scenes would have looked better without them. On a personal note, I also don’t get why MMO mechanics are inserted into a story that takes place in a genuine fantasy world. Why do the characters level up and learn skills from a menu? Can’t they just train hard and research magic from books? Raphtalia even evolves from a cute girl into a mighty lady, akin to a Pokemon, after earning enough experience. Now I am confused. We can’t lewd ancient characters who look like prepubescent girls. Is it okay to lewd a child who evolved into an adult? I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole. Sorry Raphtalia. I don’t want the FBI knocking at my door, so I am picking Queen Mirellia as best girl.