The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
The Rising of The Shield Hero Season 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero Season 2 ?
Community score: 3.8
What is this?
No sooner has Naofumi settled into his role as the new ruler of Raphtalia's village, that they're beset by an attack from a horde of bat monsters! The timer for the Waves is mysteriously stalled, and a meeting with the other Cardinal Heroes and the Queen reveals the rising of a new threat: The 'Spirit Tortoise' is bringing potential ruin with it, and with the other Heroes opting out of doing anything about it, things naturally fall to Naofumi to take care of things. With new ally (and new slave) Rishia in tow, the Shield Hero's party heads for the Spirit Tortoise Kingdom in order to save the world once again.
How was the first episode?
When last we left off, Naofumi and the others were struggling with the revelation that they were involved in a battle between worlds rather than a simple monster invasion. However, all this is put to the side as a new threat arises, the Spirit Tortoise, whose arrival mysteriously puts a stop to the Waves for the time being.
When it comes down to it, this episode is really only concerned with one thing: exposition. Though we do get two quick action scenes, the thrust of the episode is about establishing the status quo for the arc—i.e., the threat of the turtle—while reminding us of important plot points from the previous season.
Luckily, this is done largely through character building. We see that Naofumi is far from the aggrieved man he was for much of the first season. Becoming the lord of Raphtalia's hometown has tied him irrevocably to the kingdom. While the other heroes still see the fantasy world as a game, to Naofumi it has become his true life filled with things he is driven to protect.
We also spend a lot of time developing Rishia, the newest member of Naofumi's party. She's a young woman in turmoil—in love with a man who has rejected her even though she is dying to be useful to him. But in her, there is potential, though Naofumi and his friends are unsure how to bring it out and what form it will ultimately take. She is an inherently tragic character but through Naofumi's party, it looks like she will be able to become the person she was meant to be. If nothing else, her earnestness makes her easy to root for.
All in all, while this is one of the weaker episodes, it does its job setting up the next arc well enough and gives us some solid character development to boot. Hopefully, things will pick up a bit next episode.
How was the first episode?
There's the possibility that kicking off a second season of The Rising of the Shield Hero could be a boon for the series. There's a clean break to all the consternation and baggage that fueled the original outing: most of the foundation built on Naofumi's persecution has cleared up. However, not content with just the one demihuman slave, he now gets to be the ruler of a whole village of demihumans. The world is still besieged by regular monster attacks, which is also now subject to hero-assassination attempts from other worlds. So of course, some new issue inevitably gets foisted into the plot for Naofumi and crew.
There's definitely the sense of a plot-necessity swerve in the development of this premiere episode. The driving force of the entire story of the first season, the Waves, quite literally gets put on pause so the Queen can impart the new issue of a 'Spirit Tortoise' that we haven't heard of before but we're assured is every bit as much a major disaster. It certainly means the episode gets going quickly; we hardly have any time for the sort of reestablishing elements with Naofumi in the demihuman village before suddenly they're beset by random bat monsters brought by the ascension of the evil Turtle Pope. But it also means that parts of the story get back to too-perfunctory Business As Usual for Shield Hero. The other Cardinal Heroes, apparently having learned nothing from the climax of the previous adventure, are still acting like callous jerks to Naofumi and friends, and shrugging off needing to actually do anything about the Spirit Tortoise under the auspices that it's not their job.
So even though Naofumi has more predisposition to help with the situation, the storytelling still oddly proceeds with that sense of begrudgement we're just supposed to expect around him in this story. It's almost unintentionally hilarious, the way both the Queen and later Fitoria act like they need to convince Naofumi to take care of the Spirit Tortoise under duress, despite him immediately agreeing to do so. I know that this sort of disagreeable tone is part-and-parcel to the darker, nihilistic angle of appeal Shield Hero is trying to present in its fantasy world, but it just comes off needlessly enforced when its main character character has no reason to act like the world's against him anymore .
That said, the slack of the struggle in Shield-land is instead picked up in this premiere by Rishia, who ends up with what could be considered the emotional core of this episode. Her persecution by her former party with the Bow Hero definitely reflects Naofumi's own story, to where you can almost hear the author going "See, I can write a woman who gets put upon and mistreated for unfair reasons too! It's equality!" Of course the major difference is that when Naofumi was at his lowest point, he was forced to buy a slave, while as Rishia finds herself struggling she is convinced to become a slave and aaaaaawwwwww Christ.
Look, I don't need to get into the weeds on this, we had half a year of slavery discourse with the first Shield Hero season. But it must be said that it comes off as downright undermining that the show ever portrayed the slave trade as this dark, seedy element its hero could turn to out of desperation, when at this point it's mostly just an odd mechanic characters can submit themselves to for in-story power-up convenience and lip service to a fetish that isn't even portrayed half as entertainingly as in other series like How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord. That is to say, Rishia agreeing to become Naofumi's slave for a time doesn't prompt aghast reactions of offense, it simply comes off as eyeroll-worthy.
Regardless, Shield Hero's second season has at least started with plenty of momentum to it, even if some of the new story elements come off like ham-fisted hard-turns. But this is a show that worked better the more it expanded its world-building anyway, so maybe figuring out what the deal with this Spirit Tortoise actually is or seeing how Rishia's development along the way plays out will be to its benefit. The fights we get in this episode featuring our heroes slaughtering their way through Countries both Bat and Donkey Kong are decent, concentrated bursts of action (there's a little bit of shaky CGI, but you know I always love seeing Filo fight in her big, puffy, bird form), and you know Kevin Penkin's score is still pulling its weight. It's the beginning of a second season that seems to be justifying its existence, with all the caveats from however you felt about the original's existence in the first place.
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