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The Rising of The Shield Hero
Episodes 1-2

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 1 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
Community score: 4.5

How would you rate episode 2 of
The Rising of The Shield Hero ?
Community score: 4.6

I have not yet read the source novels for this series, so I will be approaching these reviews from an anime-only perspective. In general, The Rising of The Shield Hero initially appears to be yet another standard offering from the isekai genre, with the minor initial quirk that the protagonist is but one of four heroes who have been summoned, but he has the lowest reputation of the four because his destined weapon is all defense and no offense. That alone wouldn't be enough for this story to stand out in a crowded field, so it makes an incredibly bold move with its first episode. Protagonist Naofumi is not only played for a fool by his first companion, but he's also subjected to a false rape accusation that destroys his reputation. Left with nothing in another world where the circumstances don't allow him to back out of his destiny or be sent home, he has to fend for himself while figuring out a way to build up enough strength to accomplish his mission. Since he's lacking in offensive capabilities and embittered toward people in general, he resorts to buying a slave girl – who is magically compelled to do what he orders – and trains her to be his fighter while he gradually works out the transformative capabilities of his shield.

In other words, this is a variant on the classic scenario of the hero who starts out with a steep disadvantage and the world stacked against him. While this angle is relatively common in shonen action series, it's a notable departure for isekai stories, which generally trend more towards power fantasy. That should make it one of the more intriguing non-reincarnation-based takes on the concept in a while, but in execution this was not unlike watching the story stomp through a minefield. Using a false rape accusation as a defining story element is incredibly ill-timed given what's been going on in the real world lately, which has created a lot of controversy for the series. When Naofumi reacts to all this by purchasing a child slave, the window of viewers may have shrunk even further, through as of these first two episodes, nothing too unseemly has happened in their relationship; one notable exception is the moment where Naofumi fails to consider how telling an innkeeper that his slave girl might scream a lot at night (because of nightmares) would be taken given his reputation. Overall, the story is more playing the angle that he's looking out for this girl in a “tough love” sort of way, intending to save her from despair and death. Of course, the whole “she's fortunate to have a somewhat compassionate master” angle could be enough of a problem for some viewers that further nuances can't fix.

While the false rape accusation has been the big talking point, I think the greater issue with this show's storytelling is its enormously heavy-handed approach taken to set up Naofumi's situation. Even before the rape accusation comes up, the we are beaten over the head with how much Naofumi is denigrated and disrespected for having the supposedly-crappiest of the legendary items, and the eventual accusation is just the killing blow. After that, there's a remark that this is a matriarchal society, as if to justify why no one would believe his side of things, even though this society otherwise shows no evidence of being matriarchal. This is the most egregious example of railroading a protagonist just to justify a premise that I've seen since Ganta in Deadman Wonderland.

All of this has left Naofumi struggling and embittered, leaving him with so little trust in others that he resorts to buying a slave to be a party member. This angle has some potential, as post-accusation scenes show Naofumi deciding to own his poor reputation and use it to his advantage; a bad reputation can make intimidation more effective, after all. Throughout episode two, the slow process of building up a trusting relationship with Raphtalia commences, whether Naofumi is consciously doing this or not. I can see this eventually being a major step in Naofumi's own healing process, and it's true that his attitude has softened slightly even by the end of these two episode. Still, there's a lot of character development work to be done here.

The other thing that bugs me some about this whole scenario is how willing everyone is to undersell Naofumi's potential. They seem to be entirely ignoring that a shield appearing as a set with the other legendary weapons means that they're supposed to be used in concert, with the shield being a complement to a party rather than a striker. (The old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series demonstrated this quite well.) For a world so heavily based on game mechanics, everyone seems astoundingly ignorant of the common RPG role of a “tank.” The shield is already showing vast potential with its transformative capabilities; given that heroes bearing these items have appeared before, the lack of details about each weapon's capabilities also strains credibility. But what fun would the discovery process be if the protagonist knew everything up front, right?

There are more potential talking points stemming from these first two episodes, and I haven't even gotten to the technical aspects of the series, but I'll save discussing them for future episode reviews. For now, the series looks like it's gotten over its initial problematic hump and should hopefully slide into a more agreeable story flow.

Rating: B-

The Rising of The Shield Hero is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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