The Rising of The Shield Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
The Rising of The Shield Hero still has a ways to go in justifying the poor treatment of Naofumi in a plausible narrative sense, but this episode does at least partly explain it in a conceptual sense; without a machine to rage against, something like the manifestation of the Rage Shield wouldn't be possible.
A curse taking over and turning Naofumi into a berserker has been telegraphed since the beginning by the opening theme, and access to the Curse Shield tree was initiated back in episode 4, so the only question since then has been what circumstances would be required to trigger it. Since Naofumi's "me against the world" mentality initiated it, it makes sense that the next trigger would be this mentality finally twisting into hatred. In this case, the cause is Filo apparently getting eaten by a zombie dragon—I had trouble buying that Filo could get killed off that simply, though. She's already proven to be a strong and durable bird-girl, and her pointedly chowing down on those berries earlier smelled suspicious, but this also speaks to a broader problem with the series. Whatever else it may do right or wrong, it has a very inconsistent track record at maximizing its dramatic beats. The scene where Raphtalia calls Naofumi back from the brink should have been one of the series' strongest to date, but I couldn't muster much more than a "meh" reaction.
That being said, the visual portrayal of Naofumi subsuming to the curse was generally well-done; in fact, the episode in general look better than the previous few, whether it was the well-animated zombie dragon (though it could have stood to look a little more zombie-like), Naofumi's special effects, or Filo's movements. Even the characters seemed more consistently on-model, as if this episode received some extra attention. That the curse's effect can unwittingly transfer to others also has some intriguing aspects; if Naofumi can find a way to use that deliberately, it could be a powerful weapon. Or he could just always rely on Raphtalia to pull him back. His obvious concern for her well-being was a mark in his favor, but the way he's unwittingly toying with her heart could get annoying.
The other aspect of this episode that I liked was the continuing emphasis on the long-term consequences of the other Cardinal Heroes' actions, and especially that it's not just Spear Guy being dumped on. It also makes sense that the rotting corpse of the dragon could cause problems ranging from monsters to malaise, and such side effects of heroism rarely get attention because there's nothing heroic (or usually even interesting) about having to clean up a dragon corpse. This is a niche that the series could claim for itself if it continues to pursue that angle, and I would be pleased to see it do so. However, the title of the next episode suggests that a certain troublesome beauty is about to come back into the picture. I'm not at all convinced that's a good thing.
The Rising of The Shield Hero is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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