The Rising of The Shield Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Rising of The Shield Hero ?
This episode opens with the introduction of a royally-dressed figure, who I assume is the Queen of Melromarc. Because the kingdom's been stated to be matriarchal, that would make her the actual head of state. If that is the case, the scene raises two big questions: why is she in a heavily-industrial area during a time of crisis, and is her concern for the Shield Hero over him being unfairly treated or is there more to the situation? Her comment about being relieved that Naofumi had obtained a slave girl is also curious, as is the soldiers being musketeers in an otherwise standard medieval setting. We're due a lot of explanation, which I assume we'll get when the time comes. This scene also establishes the identity of the shadowy figure observing from the balcony way back in the first episode.
The rest of the episode is about establishing the next regular traveling companion for Naofumi, albeit in a roundabout way. I agree with Naofumi that the business with the eggs sounds an awful lot like a gacha mechanic, but at least that brings Filo into play, one of the more likable bird characters in recent memory. I appreciated her cheeky attitude almost immediately, and she was fun to watch in action during the race as well. Unfortunately the ending revelation about how Filo turns into a winged girl was spoiled by the opening theme, but learning more about how this transformation works should be interesting.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode isn't as entertaining. The tax that Myne proposes on behalf of the Spear Hero is obscenely ridiculous based on the established economic scale, which further suggests that Spear Hero is an utterly clueless dupe and makes me wonder if Myne even has much motive beyond being evil for its own sake. At least the other two heroes aren't putting up with all this and choose instead to side with Naofumi, which is a little reassuring. While I understand Raphtalia's stated reasons for having the slave tattoo put back on – she seems to see it as a sign of loyalty, devotion, and perhaps comfort – it's still a questionable story choice loaded with all kinds of poor subtext. There may be plenty of popular pop songs about being a figurative slave to love, but Raphtalia is still taking what should remain a flowery romantic metaphor too literally (and of course, Naofumi remains oblivious to her burgeoning feelings).
For all of its potentially interesting plot developments, this isn't a particularly impressive episode overall, and its artistic weak points don't help. It's still not really clear which direction the story is going, beyond the quest to build up Naofumi's posse. Still, actually seeing Naofumi smile at one point and be comfortable with someone else is a welcome change.
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