Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Rising of the Shield Hero
The third wave is approaching when Naofumi discovers that maybe all of his good deeds for the people of Melromarc are paying off – he is offered help by a group of knights disgusted by the treatment he's received and grateful for his work cleaning up after the other Heroes. Not that the other Heroes are willing to hear it; the king and princess have done their dirty work well. But now as he meets the second princess, Melty, Naofumi starts to learn just why the king and first princess are against him and what exactly is going on politically. Will this new knowledge help or hurt him? And why is nothing ever easy for the Shield Hero?
Sometimes a series needs a few volumes to hit its stride. Aneko Yusagi's The Rising of the Shield Hero is clearly one of them. While volume one did a reasonable job of introducing the premise – four young men from various alternate Japans were summoned to the fantasy kingdom of Melromarc as the Legendary Heroes – and volume two built on Naofumi's heroing style, this third book in the fantasy series really expands the story by providing important information about the world and how it works.
The most important discovery is that Melromarc's political system is not as corrupt as we (and Naofumi) have assumed. It turns out that not only does Myne (AKA The Bitch, a well earned title) have a younger sister, but it is Melty who is the heir to the throne, due to what she terms Myne's “personality issues.” This immediately calls into question the king as well, since he's been playing along with Myne and joining her in persecuting the Shield Hero. Next comes the realization that things have been operating on a “when the cat's away, the mice will play” system since the Heroes were summoned...and even their summoning wasn't quite as it was supposed to be. Learning this frankly makes the books easier to handle, as it explains the aggravating unfairness that has plagued Naofumi from page one.
On this subject, the author, despite all of the explanations, does not allow Naofumi to relinquish his biases and suspicions too quickly. This is a smart move, as it would have been far easier to make him instantly “sympathetic” by letting him embrace Melty's aid and become optimistic. Naofumi's been too ill-used by the world at large to make this believable, no matter how tempting it may be to see him as loosening his grip on his tainted world view. His cynicism helps to drive the plot forward, and more importantly, it shows that he thinks abut his actions and their consequences more than the other Heroes do. Of course, he has to, as he's suffered the backlash of trusting the wrong people, but it also allows him a view of the world that sees it as real rather than as a particularly good game. One of the best scenes in this volume is when Naofumi confronts the other Heroes with the fallout from their “good deeds.” Their reactions to him really help to establish the differences between them and their philosophies, as well as their difficulties in seeing the world as one in which real people live. In their respective Japans, presumably they would understand that a corpse left out in the sun will rot, which can spread disease. Here it never crosses their minds, just a sign that they cannot quite see the truth of their situation. This sets the stage for the other Heroes, especially Ren, the Sword Hero, to develop as well, forcing them to reconsider both their ideas of the world and what they've been told about Naofumi himself. (Not that there seems to be much hope for Spear Hero Motoyasu...)
The story does still have its issues, of course. Filo, the transforming giant bird introduced in the second volume, can get annoying in her repeated antics, and it feels like attempts at using her for comedy eclipse Raphtalia, who is the more interesting, nuanced character. Melty's addition also gives the book a bit of a harem vibe, although Naofumi's observation of that and comments on it are amusing and dim that worry somewhat. More of an issue is that Motoyasu is a cardboard character who really hasn't changed at all over the course of the 1,000-odd pages of series thus far. Ren and Itsuki seem to be changing, so why leave Motoyasu as a caricature? If it's for comedic purposes, it doesn't seem to be working.
One Peace Books' quality is also showing improvement, with many fewer grammatical and typographical errors. As with the first book, they are in the latter half, but unless you're a particular stickler they don't make a huge impact, and I have seen similar issues in other, non-LN books. The fluidity of language and syntax remains impressive – there is almost none of the stilted choppiness you often find in works translated from Japanese to English and the text reads much more naturally than the average light novel.
On the whole, The Rising of the Shield Hero's third volume is where things really start to get good. Set up and cast assembly finished, the main plot is finally able to really kick in. The true “big bad” is introduced, truths about the kingdom are revealed, and Naofumi is now able to really get down to the business of being an unexpected hero. If you've made it this far, prepare to be rewarded for your efforts.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ More world-building explains a lot and makes what's already happened more palatable, beautiful art. Translation is nicely fluid.
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