After more than half a year, The Rising of The Shield Hero has finally closed its curtain with an open and beautiful conclusion. Some are sad, some are glad, while some just doesn’t care. It gains its thundering attention after the first episode was aired, raising some controversial issues on slavery promotion and false rape accusation in Twitter which I wasn’t aware until I looked it up. ( i’m not trained to deal with too much social interaction ) I want to clarify that the issues only serve as the backbone of the story, knowing that it’s not an comfortable issue, the story moves forward afterwards.
In all honesty, I’m actually glad that these didn’t cloud my perspective to enjoy it back then, because the next thing I know, I was hopelessly indulged in their story world.
During this long journey, Shield Hero has received its fair share amount of hates and loves, and this mostly circles around Naofumi Iwatani. He is the main character that has taken the initiative and shook the anime world of isekai genre hard with his hero journey. But he is not, by himself the center of the story.
How do you define a hero?
Ever since the isekai genre boosts, most male protagonists are often regarded the hero of the story world, which either saves the world or becomes a harem figure. As such, heroes have more than a thousand faces, but they are generally recognized by people of that world with the label, owning either powerful weapons or hidden abilities. These are the generic starter formula pack of isekai, and well, Naofumi’s path begins with a darker and twisted turns. His hero journey takes a drastic turn from a start with a promising adventure and exciting life to a miserable life of hatred and despair.
In a world blinded by unethical rulers, moral compass doesn’t work anymore, it can’t guide him a way out and, this changed him. He was belittled from the very beginning as his legendary weapon is a shield, a passive wooden plate that only serves for defensive purposes, and is incompetent in a battle with upcoming waves of monsters. He was later boycotted by adventurers for his ineffective weapon, prosecuted for a crime that he didn’t even commit, ostracized by the citizen of the Melromarc kingdom and had his credibility as a hero crushed to ground.
He has no money to survive, no one to trust and no honor to live on. He was forced to be greedy, not generous due to his limited resources; to be cautious, not reckless due to his past experiences; to be grateful, as he appreciate more on the things that he has around him. To survive, he conceded to acquiring a weak and fragile raccoon demi-human from slave mercenary. Her name is Raphtalia. And little does he know, she could change his life forever.
Shield Hero skyrocketed due to the foundation that it was built on, the adding of shock and twist to the experience that we all have had. It’s a feeling that we can resonate with Naofumi and his anger on the distasteful situation that we could comprehend from other side of the screen. You could feel his despair and hatred etching and burning inside your heart, you could taste the bitterness that he has to endure, and you will want to scream foul so badly for him and do something to release him of his painful mental torture. We want to root for him not because he’s a MC but he’s genuinely a kind guy and he doesn’t deserve that. It was a righteous indignation to feel that way because it’s a situation that we have all been through before where we couldn’t do anything to justify our action or clear our names.
What boosts Shield Hero is not the shield hero, but the depiction of the story world that draws a thin line between heroism and stupidity. There is no main antagonist to fight against, only a red-haired princess known as Myne. She is the very embodiment of corruption and evil to the core, she has no clear motives on raining her accusations, no shame in spreading lies and no mercy in conducting her disgusting actions and little tricks. But you can’t blame her, it’s her role after all – to be a bitch and she did it perfectly. She abused her position along with the foolish king and presumed themselves as the white knight that saves the day, by enforcing a lie to justify their own righteousness in front of people and the nobles of Melromarc.
To make matters worse, the annoying and dull-witted Spear ‘Hero’, the ignorant Bow ‘Hero’ and the couch potato Sword ‘Hero’ all enforced her wicked deeds with their blind trust. It was truly an atrocious sight, but it was a great scene that managed to capture the darkest truth of their and our society, presenting the most vital element that can evoke our gravest sense of injustice to the peak.
The main highlight of the story is the chemistry between Raptalia and Naofumi. Their voice actors are the amazing duo that once voiced for Sakuta and Mai from Bunny Girl Senpai that added emotions to this wicked world. They are Asami Seto and Kaito Ishikawa, which managed to bring the utmost emotional attachment to both Raphtalia and Naofumi respectively. Asami Seto in particular, has done a splendid job in portraying Raphtalia in her different stage of emotions. The merit is portrayed not in what she said, but how she said it. Imagine her saying “Naofumi-sama” in an adoring yet respectful manner, as if she is calling him to show something interesting that she discovered. Now imagine her shouting “Naofumi-sama” in a desperate and frustrated way, as she was gaggled and couldn’t do anything to help him when he was pinned down by the evil stooges. Through them, we can empathize with the characters and in turn, we share their sentiments of crying, laughing, being very furious and everything in between.
Much like Saitama to Genos, Light to Misa, Subaru to Rem, Raphtalia sees Naofumi as her hero, her shield that protects her both physically and mentally. Through her kindness, he became more compassionate, and through his rage, she learns to let go of her hatred and pent-up emotions.
Their precious interaction brings their characters to the paramount emotional and physical development, and together, they move the plot. Naofumi treats Raphtalia like a daughter even after she evolved from a loli like a Pokémon, filling the voids that her parents left. Because he knows she’s been through something horrible like him, he cared for her more like a human than a slave. He gives her not only what she needs but also, what she wants, like a children meal in the tavern. He pushes her limit, boosts her morale to overcome her inner demons so that she could become stronger facing overwhelming beasts. He trains her in order to protect him and herself, both from the enemy and to conquer her traumatic past of not being able to protect her family. He supports her with his action, not words and does what he think is going to be useful for her to protect herself in case he’s gone. He gave her the strength, and the reason to fight back, the ability to save others that she never could.
.. and together, they complete each other. Raphtalia, is the sword that cuts through Naofumi’s enemies and his emotional burden. She showed him that he is not alone in this dreaded world. She sets him free from his anguish by showing that he could always rely on her, for better or for worse, even if it’s up against the whole kingdom that conspired to execute him. She made him to be able to taste foods again after that horrible experience and even voluntarily renew her slave crest as a symbol of trust and loyalty, almost like accepting a wedding ring from him. She hugs him when he succumbs to Devil Shield, giving him a simple yet powerful hug that made all the hate festered inside him goes away with a cry.
This is a beautiful portrayal of co-dependence relationship that could diminish any threats that befall them. It is made better with Filo, which is the cute and innocent addition to the plot and extra offensive ability to his party with Melty, the loli princess with a filolial fetish that bridged Naofumi and the Queen.
However, Shield Hero is not without its pitfalls. One of the major flaw is how tedious it can be against the annoying red-haired princess with her relentless condemnation and how ridiculously stupid the other heroes and in fact, anyone who downright believes her claims are. I’m gonna be honest when I say that, there is almost no limit to their stupidity and this infuriates anyone who sees this.
Although it serve as a reinforcement to the backbone of story, but it brings an uneasiness to us who watch these events as they unfold and we can’t help but spit anger towards it, some would even drop it. With a tighter writing, it could perhaps be better depicted with a shorter stretch of such emotional torture and prompt it with more interaction with side characters or with the real antagonist. But, the whole thing does get addressed with a subtle ending that retains Naofumi’s RASCAL-LIKE characteristics and an extent to how he’s developed, which could put a smile on anyone’s face.
The art and animation, on the other hand should deserve some compliment as well. Adapted from light novel, the studio that handled this is Kinema Citrus, a studio that was never been worthy of attention as one of the powerhouse amongst anime studios but never been real horrible either. This is the same rising studio that brought Made in Abyss its thrilling moments and Barakamon its relaxing pace. The chilly depiction of countryside scenery, fast-paced action scenes with adequate fluidity to keep you following up their acts, a detailed skills tree, the merge of various crafts with magic skills and an ensemble of characters designed in medieval setting to fit their personality. They are summed up to average but enough to bring out the atmosphere of it, especially the smuggy face of the Spear ‘Hero’. Except the CGI dinosaurs and dragons which are definitely not their expertise, god, they are actually quite horrible.
The songs are real great! Especially the openings and endings are both contradicting in their tone and their pace. The OP with RISE and FAITH by MAD KIDS are both emphasized on J-Pop rhythm that keeps your hyped ranked up for the show. Second arc opening has a deeper layer of interpretation to it, with a world enveloped by a rainy grey sky that represents despair and at the end, uncovered by the Naofumi’s party all raising their hand towards the sky, as if they are deflecting all the ordeals to reach a promising future with their own efforts.
This further enforces the importance of Filo, Melty and Raptalia to Naofumi in overcoming his rage, and what they meant to him, a shield from his madness. The ED Kimi no Namae on the other hand has a soothing voice and dreamy visuals, which offers a refreshing breath to the story that has kept you on the edge of the seats.
Overall, Shield Hero plays on adventure, action and the most important of all, emotions. In analytical view, it initially presents a bit of something that expresses the characters, which was then reframed by events after events that unfolded in the story world, in a way that affects us emotionally. In other context, I just simply enjoy it for what it is, its ravishing depiction of the need of acceptance and relying on others with the comparison it made between stupidity and heroism. It doesn’t really define what a hero is, but it does leave breadcrumbs for you to discover it yourself.
The best things about it:
- Amazing chemistry between Naofumi and Raphtalia, voiced by the leading duo from Bunny Girl Senpai.
- Great characters development on Naofumi and Raphtalia, spiced with interaction with the side characters.
- Fluid action scenes, adventurous vibe blending in nicely and immersive OSTs.
- A touching depiction of “ It’s ok, you don’t have to fight alone anymore. ”
- Cute lolis and their blushes that might make you cringe. ( if you’re into it )
The worst things about it:
- CGI dragons and dinosours.
Watching Shield Hero ended up like biting into a lemon pancake, an extreme bitter and sour at first that lingered for a while to a rewarding sweetness at the end. It’s not a flavor that everyone would enjoy, but it’s certainly a taste one would never forget.
So, yes, it’s damn worth it. And with that, I thank you for reading. ( 8/10! )