The Rising of The Shield Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 22 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
With only four weeks left, the series is committing to a completely transitional episode?
As poor as the timing seems, it's also somewhat necessary. Although last episode resolved the plot's biggest issues, it did not have the time and space to move the story along to the next stage. Hence we get this episode, which is about equal parts arc epilogue and an exploration of the Cardinal Heroes' dysfunctions, some of which becomes a little surprising.
First off, this episode makes clear what became of the woman now known as Bitch and Slut – watching everyone (even the Queen, Melty, and Motoyasu) try to get used to those names is a bit amusing. She's apparently been relegated to the position of servant now, and she's still up to no good, though what purpose it would serve at this point to poison the food of the Shield Hero's party escapes me; just plain vengefulness, I guess? This episode also clarifies that Motoyasu also has Slave Contract authority over her, so apparently she's going to continue as an adventurer but presumably under the condition that he keeps her reined in. That seems dubious, but whatever. There's no indication of where the king ended up, but as long as he's out of sight that's far less relevant at this point.
The dysfunction arises when the Queen gathers the Cardinal Heroes for a discussion about their next move and cajoles them to cooperate by reminding the others how they got trounced last time because they wouldn't work together. The following discussion plays out every bit like a message board debate about the best way to level up equipment in a game, and it's downright startling that the other three get into a fight over what makes the biggest difference in this game world. As much as firmly grounding everything in a fantasy world down to game mechanics perturbs me, including the revelation of what basically amounts to a Special Event, I did like the way the episode paralleled the conflict in that room with the big row between the underlings of the four heroes in the main banquet hall; both Naofumi and Raphtalia had to sheepishly admit later that they hadn't behaved their best.
Unquestionably the strongest scene in the episode comes as they're heading for port and take a brief detour back to Raphtalia's village, where her friend's bones have been taken and properly buried. Raphtalia's scenes are good, but the more interesting turn of events is the introduction of the adventurer fellow L'Arc, who later joins Naofumi's party on the boat out to the Special Event. He's too robust to be an ordinary adventurer, and his comment about “having to win” seems meaningful. So what new angle is he going to add to the story?
Hopefully wherever the story goes with this plot will feature better animation, as the quality slipped at several points and the Queen spent a suspicious amount of time using a fan to conceal her mouth. The series has always been somewhat erratic on animation quality, but this week is a low point.
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