What is isekai? It’s a genre in anime, manga, and other Japanese fiction that revolves around a normal person who’s either summoned to or dies and is reincarnated to another world, usually a fantasy one. Something I noticed about a lot of isekai stories is that they have a lot of potential and it can go anywhere, but a lot of times, it’s always set in a fantasy setting and the stories are either self-insert power fantasies, glorified harems, or a mixture of both. There are some isekai stories that deviates from the norm like Re:Zero and That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime, but those are usually the exceptions. This isn’t the first time I dealt with isekai as I already reviewed one in one of my early anime reviews in KonoSuba, which is basically a parody of that genre. Now for today’s subject matter, which started off as a light novel by Aneko Yusagi, which was then adapted into a manga series by Aiya Kyu and eventually, an anime adaptation earlier this year. As you can tell, I’m sometimes late to the latest craze. This is The Rising Of The Shield Hero.
So what’s the story of The Rising Of The Shield Hero? Japanese college student Naofumi Iwatani is summoned to another world alongside three other students to become Legendary Heroes, each assigned a weapon; a sword, a bow, a spear, and a shield, with Naofumi getting the shield. All four heroes must prepare to fight an invasion of monsters called the Waves. Now, the first episode of the series has generated some controversy for different reasons. So in the first episode, Naofumi is having a hard time finding party members for quests. One girl, named Myne Sophia (more on her later), eventually joins his party and the next morning, his equipment has been stolen and even worse, he’s been falsely accused of rape by Myne, who turns out to be a princess, which causes the whole kingdom to shun him. Yyyyyeah. Setting aside the unfortunate timing of this anime’s release, any story that involves rape is already in shaky territory and a lot of them handle this subject poorly. False rape accusations do happen, but they’re rare compared to actual rape cases. In this case, it adds a lot of unnecessary venom that’s going to turn off potential viewers, especially with how the townsfolk beat down on Naofumi and it’s not fun to watch. I don’t like stories where a main character is constantly shitted on relentlessly without any breaks or wins because it’s really uncomfortable watching someone get tortured, especially if they didn’t deserve it. And the anime does this a lot. It reaches Chicken Little levels of insufferable at times. Yeah, I said it. Chicken Little levels, where if these townsfolk died, I wouldn’t shed a tear for them. Granted, Naofumi is kind of an asshole who’s a few steps away from incel territory, but with how the kingdom treats him as the Shield Hero, I can get why he would have a hard time trusting anyone, something that he has to learn as the series progresses. Also, they don’t really explain why the king hates the Shield Hero so much. Maybe that’s something that’s explained later in the source material and maybe they’ll give an answer in a later season.
But this anime has some other issues. In that same first episode, Naofumi goes to a slave trader because he needs someone in his party that can fight for him. This brings him to Raphtalia, a half-racoon demi-human, and he buys her. She’s given a crest that generates intense pain anytime she doesn’t follow Naofumi’s order. I don’t know. The way they handled the whole slave thing and the fact that Raphtalia decides to keep her slave crest as a sign of her trust to Naofumi is kinda iffy for me. She lost her family to the first Wave attacks and she and her entire village were sold into slavery (because the demi-humans are an allegory for minority groups) and she keeps the slave crest? This ain’t it, chief. Now the next issue I’m going to talk about is more of a major nitpick. The third member of Naofumi’s party is Filo, a bird species called a Fiolial that can transform into a young girl with wings. A REALLY young girl with wings. Also, they’re accompanied by a young princess named Melty who’s related to the king and Myne. This anime has a lolicon thing going on and lolicons are a major no-no for me.
You know what? I might as well talk about this character right now. So Myne Sophia. I might get a little disrespectful here, so I apologize in advance for the language that’s about to be used right now. *clears throat* FUCK. THIS. BITCH. Fuck her. She might be one of the worst characters in anime history. She’s no Griffith or Shou Tucher, but she’s pretty awful. List of things she’s done: deceiving Naofumi, jacking his stuff, accusing him of rape, coercing with her father, the King, into making Naofumi’s life a living hell, pumping up the Spear Hero’s ego and getting him to butt heads with Naofumi, attempted to murder her own sister, etc. Are we sure she’s not the main villain of the series because she sure acts like one. I hate this character so much that my blood boils every time she’s on-screen. When she’s put on trial (alongside the king) for her crimes in episode 21 (which happens to be my favorite episode), it was satisfying. Instead of being executed like planned, she has to live the rest of her life with “Bitch” and “Slut” as her names. Granted, I don’t know why she’s still hanging around the Spear Hero’s party afterwards, but she at least got her comeuppance. Also, the Spear Hero is a douchebag with a punchable face.
Okay, I spent a lot of time complaining, so what do I like about this series? Well, I like how they make the Shield Hero more of a folk hero who helps the common man while the other three heroes tackle bigger quests. The funny thing is that Naofumi has to clean up the mess that they left behind after their missions. There’s an episode where he goes to a village that’s struck by a disease and the source of said disease comes from the corpse of a dragon that was slain by the Sword Hero. The episode before that, he has to deal with a monstrous plant that’s overrun another village and that was caused by the Spear Hero, who gave the village a seed that came out of a tomb. Even with his limited offensive abilities, Naofumi learns new skills that would benefit him and his party while working as a craftsman and merchant across the land. As the series progresses, he upgrades his shield to be even more powerful than it was. One last thing: the first opening song kicks a lot of ass. The second opening song is fine enough, but it’s not topping this.
And that was The Rising Of The Shield Hero. The beginning is rough to get through and it does follow a lot of tropes associated with the isekai genre, but it’s well-animated, the arc that the main character goes through from a jaded individual to a hero is an interesting one, and the action is pretty good for an isekai. Once you get past the first few episodes, it gets better. This is definitely an above-average anime that I wouldn’t call one of my favorites, but I am interested to see where it goes. Fortunately, they just announced that a second and third season are happening, so that’s good news if you’re a fan of the series. Check it out if you’re curious. All 25 episodes are available on Funimation and Crunchyroll, both subbed and dubbed. Next time, I’ll be talking about Cannon Busters.