The Rising of The Shield Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 15 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
We've seen brief bits of Raphtalia's past before, with her parents telling her how great the Shield Hero was before she lost them to the first Wave. Conspicuously absent have been any details on what happened to her between her parents' deaths and her life in the slave trader's pen. Last episode made some suggestions about what transpired, and now this episode finally gives us the full story. As expected, it isn't a pretty tale.
Somewhat surprisingly, Raphtalia was the one who helped rally her fellow villagers after the first Wave, despite having just been orphaned. This was not enough to save her best friend when things went south due to the noble taking advantage of the chaos to raid the demihuman village, but her friend's death was inevitable from her first appearance, as the obvious sacrificial lamb in this backstory. However, Raphtalia's efforts did strengthen others enough to survive until she could return. Depending on your interpretation, the positive attitude she tried to maintain may have been what allowed her to meet the Shield Hero, since it's implied that she was sold to the slave trader because she wasn't giving the noble satisfactory responses to his torture. Ironically, her friend finally got to reach the hero she wanted to marry, just not in the way she intended.
At first glance, this whole scenario is handled fairly well. The flashbacks and the unnerving search through the dungeon for survivors are timed just right and supported perfectly by the musical score, and Raphtalia coming across the skeletal remains of her friend, with the little flag still grasped in her bony figures, was a crushing moment. Subject the scenario to even the slightest degree of thought, however, and problems arise. On a scientific level, her friend's remains fully decomposing at that rate to the point where not even connective tissue remains would have taken at least three months, which isn't totally unreasonable, but leaving the body around in an otherwise actively maintained dungeon for that long does strain credibility. The whole situation doesn't give the noble any more motivation than that of a garden-variety cartoonish sadist, and the series had many opportunities to foreshadow this better and passed up on them; the scene in episode two where Raphtalia was given a meal with a little flag in it—not too different from the one she shared in the prison cell—didn't elicit any meaningful reactions from her. The noble suddenly knowing how to unseal whatever beastie is lurking in that obelisk also seems awfully convenient; you'd think such things would be carefully-guarded knowledge.
Despite some underlying problems, the show's execution was handled well enough to make for an engaging episode, but the underlying story definitely has some room for improvement.
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