The Rising of The Shield Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 11 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
With this episode, the second Wave commences in full. While that remains important, an even bigger development is that all four of the Cardinal Heroes actually work together for the first time (sort of), and Naofumi schools them in the battle even though they have 20-odd levels on him and his strongest subordinates. Depending on how cynically you look at it, you could see this as an inspiring indicator that Naofumi's experiences, personal growth, and equipment have better-prepared him despite being lower in level, or else you could see it as a savage comeuppance against the kind of arrogant posers represented by the other three heroes. I'm convinced that both meanings were intended. Either way you look at it, it's gotta burn the others that Glass only takes Naofumi seriously upon arriving at the end to assume her role as a new villain. (Or is she really a good guy and just trying to get under their skin?)
The feature battle on the flying ship brings forth some other observations. The first is that Spear Guy, Sword Guy, and Bow Guy are almost astonishingly incompetent for as strong as they're supposed to be. Granted, they aren't trying hard to work together, and they may not have entirely yet gotten over their impression of this being just a game, but I can't help but feel that they're being downplayed too much just to make Naofumi look good. That isn't even necessary, because that shield has become stupidly overpowered on its own, especially now that Naofumi seems to have its rage mode under his control; Sword Guy nails it with his line, “it's basically a cheat.” That begs the question of whether or not this rage element has anything to do with the way the Shield Hero is regarded. Filo also gets sucked into the shield's rage effect, and the fact that it seems to feed off the rage of those that Naofumi has encountered also makes for an interesting twist that will hopefully be explored further.
For all of the serious content on the ship, the episode also had some lighthearted moments as well. Discovering that the granny that Naofumi cured of the dragon corpse's sickness is actually a competent martial artist was a complete surprise, and the way Filo assumes girl form to tell off Motoyasu at the end of the initial fight – and how he seemed utterly defenseless against her – was quite amusing, and I'm increasingly liking the weapons shop guy as a reliable supporting character. (And no, Naofumi, I also don't buy that you're just giving the girls trinkets for their stat enhancements.)
The other thing about the boat fight is that the series once again falls short of being able to generate the gravitas that it aims for. It's certainly not for lack of effort from the musical score, but the visuals for much of this episode are not the sharpest, the dramatic timing isn't the smoothest, and many characters just stand around doing nothing. Granted, some of the issue comes from production limitations this far into a two-cour series' run, but many other anime series have proven that there are ways to heighten dramatic tension with such constraints, and Shield Hero isn't pulling them off. The rage shield activation and the way that Naofumi's recollections of Raphtalia help him keep control aren't any more convincing than similar scenes from previous episodes.
The episode does just enough right to keep it from being the series' low point, but Shield Hero is still mostly failing to capitalize on all its potential.
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