The Rising of The Shield Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 10 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
This episode serves as the set-up for the next Wave, which is shown beginning as the installment ends. Hence the minimal amount of action this time should be more than balanced out the next episode or two. It also does an effective job at pushing along some themes that the show been developing over the past few episodes. In some cases that's a positive change, but in others not so much.
In the positive sense, I like how the series is continuing to emphasize the unanticipated negative consequences of heroic actions, and I feel even more firmly that this is the series' strongest and most distinguishing aspect. This time around, the actions of one hero in overthrowing a presumed tyrant has led to a flock of struggling refugees, because the actions the rebels had to take to be able to run the kingdom ultimately didn't help out the common people. This makes the scene where Naofumi talks to Bow Guy and Sword Guy more impactful, as it allows him to impress upon them – without directly saying so – that this isn't a game where things end once the quest is cleared. Of course, that also makes his comments to Raphtalia about making choices to set up for a life after he returns to his world rather ironic. The plot about how an impostor may be collecting rewards for Bow Guy because he's not keeping a high enough profile for people to know him is also interesting, and the use of music in the confrontation scene is some of the series' best so far.
On the downside, we also get more of the same old "the government is conspiring against Naofumi" junk. Any level of personal grudge the upper echelon has against the Shield Hero doesn't matter; denying him access to things like class advancement when he has the money for them is stupidly counterproductive, especially when everyone knows another Wave is imminent. I do hope a good explanation for this is coming, though the vague suggestion that the queen may not be in control of her own free will (or at least is being coerced) could have something to do with it; this would hardly be the first time that favored pawns were manipulated for political purposes regardless of practicality, and the queen does seem to favor the Shield Hero.
Then there's Naofumi's general attitude. His adamant refusal to have anything to do with Melty—not even allowing Filo to have contact with her!—has been justified by his bad past experiences with the king, and of course he doesn't know that the queen is actually on his side, and yes, Melty does need to learn to deal with this kind of thing if she's eventually going to be Queen, but he's still just behaving like an ass. I'm not buying the attempt to pass off his reaction to the volunteer soldiers as roundabout benevolence either; his established character more strongly suggests that he was testing whether their resolve to support him was serious. Right now the series is doing just enough to balance out Naofumi's unpleasantness, but it isn't offering much breathing room if the character gets worse.
And oh yes, the slave trader is back. He's somewhat interesting as a character, as he is remarkably perceptive, surprisingly honest about supporting Naofumi solely for profit, colorful without being too outlandish, and above all, does nothing to suggest that he isn't a complete sleazebag even though his actions favor Naofumi. More importantly, the woman with the fan who's seen fighting in the opening theme finally appears at the end of the episode and looks to have her formal introduction next episode. So despite some negatives, the episode does its job well overall.
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