I had the chance to watch The Rising of the Shield Hero’s first episode on Crunchyroll before it properly aired. I want to share my thoughts on this fantastically designed episode and break down how I felt about these 45 minutes in greater detail.
As this is a review of the first episode, spoilers involving the first episode will be unmarked! If you wish to watch the first episode before being spoiled, do so before reading this review.
The Shield Hero:
Anyway, Rising of the Shield Hero takes place in a fantasy world that the protagonist Iwatani Naofumi was pulled into while reading a book. The premise of an ordinary Japanese man being pulled into a fictional world is quite common in Anime. The Rising of the Shield Hero even goes on mention/mock this trend in light novels across Japan. However, many aspects of this show break the mold of the ordinary.
One can see these differences almost immediately. Naofumi does not have great weapon to fight evil monsters. He is the Shield Hero meaning that while he is great at taking hits, he cannot do much damage back. This is problematic since he was summoned to help fight off waves of horrifying monsters.
Hints of Dark Fantasy:
When I saw how these hordes of monsters were described, I immediately made a connection to one of my favorite fantasy video games: Dragon Age. The swarms attacking the world at periodic times remind of the Blights. Instigated by monsters called Darkspawn, the world in that game is in peril whenever said monster attack. The ones in Rise of the Shield Hero look awfully similar to the described enemies in Dragon Age.
Given that The Rise of the Shield Hero is similar to other dark fantasy stories was yet another hint of things to come. This first episode failed to amaze me as a result. The story gets right to work on making using a shield seen as a weakness. Sadly Naofumi’s behavior right from the start convinces the people of the world that he truly is weak.
Another strong point for the series are the other legendary heroes. Naofumi was one of four summoned to protect the world from “The Waves”. As I mentioned earlier, this is comparable to the Blight in Dragon Age. The dark fantasy elements really start piling on once our hero gets his one an only companion: Malty
Meanwhile, the other three heroes, each who are showcased to be extremely arrogant individuals, gain entire groups of allies to help them become powerful warriors. The early interactions do a great job making the viewer hate all these other heroes and I imagine that Naofumi will get into conflict with them as the story continues.
The Show’s Nature Revealed:
And this is the point where the ball really gets rolling. After making some money, Naofumi starts figuring out how he will survive in this world. But Malty setting off every red flag possible that she is bad news makes her move. Stealing all of his equipment minus his shield she puts in serious peril. Then she goes the extra mile and accuses her of sexually assaulting her.
The horrible backlash of these events and how it effects Naofumi is what really sold me on the show. I made a personal connection with the protagonist over shared trauma and his transformation into a cruel and cynical man is similar to how I have dealt with problems in my past.
This plot point has set off critics all over the internet who do not like the idea of a false accusation of this variant. I could bring up what is being said, but given that such an issue deserves its own article, I will move on.
The last bit of the episode shows what such a horrific event has done to our poor protagonist. The entire kingdom he is trying to save hates his guts, he is all alone when his specialty is working in groups, and his trust in people has been completely shattered. Feeling trapped, his final actions in the episode make perfect sense to me.
Slavery (controversial, but they went there):
Approached by a very sketchy man, Naofumi makes use of the slave trade to find allies who cannot betray him. Slave curses force those that have been afflicted to be loyal to their masters even if against their will. While certainly this is a questionable method at best at finding allies, given what has happened to the Shield Hero, I do not take issue with his choice here. We will see how his knowledge of slavery affects his world view in this new realm. I imagine it will affect a lot of the plot going forward.
All in all, this show has great promise. I am extremely excited to see what happens as the story progresses. I rarely like the protagonist as much as I do in this series, and that is a fantastic sign of things to come.Tweet