The Rising of the Shield Hero – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Iwatani Naofumi, a run-of-the-mill otaku, finds a book in the library that summons him to another world. He is tasked with joining the sword, spear, and bow as one of the Four Cardinal Heroes and fighting the Waves of Catastrophe as the Shield Hero. Excited by the prospect of a grand adventure, Naofumi sets off with his party. However, merely a few days later, he is betrayed and loses all his money, dignity, and respect. Unable to trust anyone anymore, he employs a slave named Raphtalia and takes on the Waves and the world. But will he really find a way to overturn this desperate situation? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: The Rising of the Shield Hero is anime’s latest Isekai. Isekai (stories where ordinary people are transported to fantasy worlds) is perhaps one of the most overused genres in anime, manga and light novels today. Frequently the genre is plagued by overbearing tropes, bland characters and a lack of drama thanks to its focus on acting as power fantasies for its readers. However, Shield Hero offers enough quality animation, smart direction and a quick pace that helps to make the old feel new again, sprinkling the worn Isekai plot with enough naunce and twists to give it a surprisingly enjoyable, hour long first episode.
Linny: The nuances that help The Rising of the Shield Hero rise above other generic Isekai based tales come in several forms. Our main hero has to start from scratch. He faces a lot of disrespect from everyone around him. The fantasy society he finds himself in is much darker and drearier than most others found in typical Isekai, with clear discrimination towards non humans and even enabling a slave trade. There’s also the idea of multiple heroes, each coming from a different parallel version of Japan rather than all having been transported from the same dimension. All these little tweaks help to avoid the show from feeling like just another carbon copy of every other Isekai we’ve seen before.
Tom: It’s important that shows not so much reinvent the wheel, but add something new. On top of a more gritty depiction of a fantasy world, Naofumi himself is a fairly bog standard protagonist at start. In fact the show makes note of this, describing him as exceedingly every man. From there though Naofumi faces so much hardship that he undergoes dramatic change. This kind of character development is rarely seen in Isekai and stands as a real bonus to Shield Hero’s first episode. This helps to divorce Shield Hero from the typical Isekai’s power fantasy, depicting a world more flawed and upsetting that isn’t necessarily ripe for our lead to easily rise to the very top of. Naofumi is an underdog through and through.
Linny: Shield Hero does a great job with the subtle build up and hints leading to Naofumi’s fall to the bottom. It shows that the series is capable of good storytelling as it employs some small but poignant details and dialogue, which become clever red flags as the big moment they’re setting up finally occurs. This is important, especially since early on Shield Hero does a sloppy job of portraying Naofumi’s initial status as the dud of the summoned hero group. It slaps every obstacle possible onto his character, making the underdog messaging come off a bit too try hard and insultingly obvious as if worried the audience won’t get the point otherwise. Something else that’s a potential problematic point against the series is that a false accusation of sexual assault is used as the major plot point for Naofumi’s ultimate fall from grace. This is definitely something that could make the whole series unsavory depending on the viewer, given the current social climate in the west. Other than these issues, The Rising of the Shield Hero manages to escape the curse of typical Isekai thematic trappings and definitely shows promise to be one of the more engaging Isekai titles.
Tom: The Rising of a Shield Hero isn’t perfect. Like Linny said the deck feels particularly stacked against Naofumi, sometimes to the point of contrived. It’s a minor issue, as is how overplayed the villainess’ betrayal that lands Naofumi in such hot water. Since the series toys with false accusations of rape, and slavery, it’s understandable if certain audiences would prefer to give this series a pass. While Shield Hero does use false rape accusations as a central plot point, it doesn’t do so maliciously, or try to draw any grander conclusion about rape in general. This series is coming out, however, during a very sensitive time, and I’d urge anyone who feels strongly about the subject to simply skip it. That said, for everyone who is interested in an Isekai with more nuance and grey to its proceedings, Shield Hero has promise, much like Slime did, in offering an Isekai that breaks the mold just enough to feel worthwhile.