Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Rising of the Shield Hero
After returning to Melromarc and the world that originally summoned him, Naofumi is ready to power back up and get the other three Heroes (and maybe the Shooting Star Heroes) to help him figure out how to defeat the next guardian beast. The only problem is that the one Shooting Star Hero on hand is totally unwilling to cooperate and the other three Heroes have all run off to who knows where. Figuring that he has to do something, Naofumi accepts the Queen's offer of a land grant and sets about rebuilding Raphtalia's native village. But like everything else in this world, that's not going to be any where near as easy as it sounds…
If Naofumi thought that defeating the Spirit Tortoise and then chasing the villains who complicated everything back to their own world would make his life as the Shield Hero any easier, he thought wrong. Granted, at this point, Naofumi never really expects anything to go right – having begun his life as the Shield Hero being ostracized and wrongfully accused of a crime, he's basically embraced the role of bad guy, or at least “worst guy among the Heroes.” The problem is that he's become the only actually effective hero, something driven home even harder when he returns from defeating Kyo in yet another world: once Ren, Itsuki, and Motoyasu awoke from their Tortoise-induced comas, all three of them ran off to who knows where, and they haven't been seen in weeks.
While we can certainly hope that this means that they're finally starting to take Naofumi's warning that this isn't a game but a bona fide world seriously, in the short term it means that they've effectively abandoned their roles as Heroes. Yes, they'll likely be summoned back when the next guardian beast appears, but they won't have been helping rebuild from the last one, won't have been raising morale among a battered people, and, most importantly, they won't have been helping to plan or train for a more concentrated attack, leaving themselves open to still more failure. If ever there was proof that these guys aren't really thinking things through, this would be it, especially since its their presumed humiliation at having failed where Naofumi later succeeded that drove them off in the first place.
Meanwhile that leaves Naofumi and his party without much they can do. Having become the sort of person who just keeps forging ahead no matter what roadblocks get dropped in his path, Naofumi decides to move on with his secret plan to make Raphtalia happy: he begins rebuilding her village. This, unfortunately, opens the door for a few story issues, although from an in-world perspective, we can understand why Naofumi is doing what he does. Simply put, he decides to buy up all of the demi-human slaves he can, preferably from Raphtalia's village, and then rather than freeing them, simply writing over their spells (contracts) so that he owns them. This also requires him to frequent slave markets and auctions while dealing with slavers, all of which can leave a bad taste in the reader's mouth. While it was much less likely to be uncomfortable for the novel's original Japanese audience, anyone reading the book in a country with a history of slavery may have a very different experience, and Naofumi's willingness to own people for “their own good” is not a premise that sits particularly well in today's political climate. (It is worth mentioning that Aneko Yusagi is clearly trying for a more Roman Empire feel, which may alleviate some of the issues for readers.) Naofumi's end goal is admirable and he is doing this with all good intentions; it just isn't a plot point that works in translation.
The other issue that arises is that the romantic subplot, specifically that between Naofumi and Raphtalia that was starting to develop in the previous novel, seems to be backsliding, with Naofumi growing ever more oblivious to her feelings. This is exacerbated by the introduction of Nadia at the end of the book, which begins to set up more of a harem dynamic that could become an annoyance (although it also could conceivably help Naofumi to get over his Bitch-informed distrust of women), so it's something that bears keeping an eye on. There is, of course, also the possibility that Naofumi is deliberately trying to see Raphtalia in a parental light, because he mentions with increasing frequency that he is determined to return to his world once this one has successfully been rendered safe. To that end he tries to reject a noble title alongside getting the land he asks the queen for, and he directly spurns her offer of Melty's hand in marriage. When Nadia is putting the moves on him later on, he again thinks that he has no intention of forming romantic or familial bonds with anyone in this world because he has no plans to stay once his work is done, so self-defense does seem like a viable reason for his apparent obliviousness.
In terms of major plot progression, this isn't the best entry into the series, but it is still an important one. Naofumi is making a name for himself that contradicts his initial impression on the people of Melromarc, and he's proving to have an edge of kindness underneath his gruff, no-nonsense attitude. The only thing standing in his way at this point is the continued inanity and poor choices of the other three Heroes – and if Naofumi has his way, that nonsense is going to end the minute he finds them.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ Illustrations are beautiful, Naofumi actions are explained well
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