Original Run: January 9, 2019 - June 26, 2019 Number of Episodes: 25 Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Isekai Based on the Series Created By: Yusagi Aneko
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for The Rising of the Shield Hero. Reader discretion is advised.***
Naofumi Iwatani (voiced by Kaito Ishikawa) was once an average college student. He didn’t have much passion for anything special, but his life was simple and comfortable. That then changed when he found a mysterious book which told the tale of four legendary heroes – The Spear Hero, The Bow Hero, The Sword Hero, and the Shield Hero. Upon noticing the Shield Hero’s story was blank, Naofumi was instantly summoned to a strange, fantastical world.
In this unknown place, Naofumi is told he is to be the next Shield Hero, and that he and three other adventurers must band together to save the land. Although such a task should have garnered immense admiration, Naofumi soon learns the Shield Hero, and the Shield Hero alone, does not have the love of the people.
To his horror, Naofumi is framed for a heinous crime and becomes an outcast. However, he is still expected to fulfill his duty. With no money, allies, or respect, Naofumi must rise above it all and protect a world that has already abandoned him.
The Rising of the Shield Hero was an isekai (a story where a person from our contemporary world is summoned to a fantasy, often video game-esque, setting).
Although I admit to enjoying these sorts of shows, I do recognize there is an overabundance of them, and most have a tendency to follow a very predictable pattern. Therefore, I understand if The Rising of the Shield Hero being an isekai is an immediate turn-off.
Nevertheless, allow me the chance to convince you to still give it a shot. Or, if nothing else, can I persuade you to, at least, watch the first episode?
The opening half of episode one begins as a fairly typical isekai narrative. Main character Naofumi is suddenly brought to a mystical kingdom that runs on standard RPG gameplay mechanics; for example, leveling up, experience grinding, and skill-building. Naofumi is then tasked to be one of the four legendary heroes to save the land from cataclysm. To do that, Naofumi and his fellows will need to go on many journeys and quests to become better fighters.
To give this set up its due credit:
First, there were elements unique to The Rising of the Shield Hero’s beginning that helped it stand out. For starters, one of my own personal gripes with isekai stories is how protagonists are brought to their respective worlds. In some shows – like the other outstanding 2019 isekai series, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime – the main character dies in their universe before being brought to the fantasy one. In others, the protagonists are just randomly summoned.
In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Naofumi too was randomly summoned, but with one key difference. Three other heroes were also gathered, but none of them came from the same place, time, or existence. This was neat because when your average isekai introduces the idea of a second world, it’s not that big of a stretch to imagine there is a third, fourth, or even fifth out there. Good on this show for acknowledging that.
Secondly, for the past year (as of this post’s August 2019 release) the main character of every isekai story I have watched have been incredibly overpowered. This includes the previously mentioned That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, as well as Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. Again, this is where The Rising of the Shield Hero climbed above the standard.
Yes, Naofumi and the other three heroes were given the four most legendary weapons, and yes, individually, they could have easily taken care of the average mob spawn. However, they weren’t untouchable. They could get hurt; they could lose. Thus, when it was said, “They had to grow stronger,” they HAD to grow stronger.
If you think that’s a meaningless point to highlight, I assure you, this could not have been more crucial. For you see, even though the first half of episode one had its own spins on familiar isekai tropes, it was the second half that said, “We are going to do something different.”
Unlike other isekai heroes I have encountered, Naofumi got screwed. He was instantly beaten, battered, humiliated, disgraced, and labeled an undesirable pariah. He may have wielded the legendary shield weapon, but he started his journey from the rockiest of bottoms.
The Rising of the Shield Hero was precisely what its name suggested.
Where other isekai protagonist had their immense power to fall back on, Naofumi needed to crawl through the muck to merely get to the level where people didn’t spit on him in the streets. That was not an easy task since the deck was grossly stacked against him. Not only were everyday civilians trying to con Naofumi with overpriced weapons and supplies, the very kingdom which summoned him did everything in its power to ensure he was always at a distinct disadvantage.
As a result, Naofumi had to resort to less than heroic means to support himself. He charged people for his services. He used underhanded tactics in fights. He went to shady individuals to get the items he desperately needed. Ask yourself, if you were told the fate of the world rested on your shoulders, how would you go about getting that job done with no money, no support, and everyone considers you to be scum? It’s hard to do right when wrong is literally your only option.
As was the case, Naofumi’s first actual party member was a demi-human girl named Raphtalia (voiced by Asami Seto), and Raphtalia was a slave Naofumi bought. Let that sink in.
The Rising of the Shield Hero wasn’t an action-adventure narrative that solely focused on having epic fights, insanely cool battles scenes, and pure badassery. Sure, this series may have had all those things; which reminds me:
WARNING: The Rising of the Shield Hero was not afraid to be brutal. There were some epic moments in this series, and by that, I mean a few deaths were quite graphic.
Regardless, at its heart, this was a character-focused story, and that was not just Naofumi’s doing.
Raphtalia, and then the later members of Naofumi’s party, were every bit as important to The Rising of the Shield Hero as Naofumi was. The poor girl, when introduced, was a broken, scared little child who couldn’t defend herself. Even though it was through a slave transaction, the only place Raphtalia had any chance of surviving was by Naofumi’s side. As a result, throughout this series, she too had to become someone capable of taking on a world that had already cast her aside.
How Raphtalia and Naofumi did that was what made The Rising of the Shield Hero such a great watch.
Whenever Naofumi went up against the Waves (the primary phenomenon that brought about death and destruction), those clashes were mostly straightforward. The threat was clear, and, after all, these were the events which were causing the most “problems.” But for the larger story, these instances were, by design, secondary.
The Rising of the Shield Hero’s true strength came from Naofumi and company’s activities in-between the Waves. They had the responsibility of being a hero party, but they were also living paycheck to paycheck. When the other three heroes were going on grand adventures, Naofumi was conducting his business behind the scenes. He was there on the ground seeing the pain and anguish average people were going through as direct consequences of his contemporaries’ “heroism.”
This series addictiveness – and believe me, this was amazingly addicting – was seeing Naofumi, Raphtalia, and the rest of their party become the heroes other isekai protagonists start out as.
Were there elements holding The Rising of the Shield Hero back? To that specific question, the answer is, no. This series stood firmly on its own. There was neither anything missing nor would any addition have pushed the show to the next level. This was solid.
That said, there were still a few issues.
For one, The Rising of the Sheild Hero’s animation appeared to only get worse the longer this series went on. In the beginning, everything looked fine. The colors were bright, actions were smooth, and any bad CGI visuals were hard to spot. Compare that to the ending where this series lacked the noticeable punch from before.
Now, is it possible the animation was actually consistent the whole way through and that over time, the impact of this show’s story had simply lessoned? Probably, and I can even point to where the decline started.
The Rising of the Shield Hero had a proper finale in episode twenty-one. Everything that came afterward felt like a preview to a possible second season. But considering how there were only four episodes left and it took twenty-one to get that far, how much investment can one series create in such a short amount of time? Well, to be fair, this series didn’t do a bad job of doing precisely that. Unfortunately, this was also the perfect environment to better notice the flaws in the animation.
Also, the three other heroes, Motoyasu Kitamura (The Spear Hero), Ren Amaki (The Sword Hero), and Itsuki Kawasumi (The Bow Hero) (voiced respectively by Makoto Takahashi, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, and Yoshitaka Yamaya) were frustrating characters.
Before I say anything else, I will admit there is a chance the other three heroes’ troubling personalities could have been purposeful. Their refusal to critically think and their blind trust in rumors may have had deep-rooted sources. The problem was, The Rising of the Shield Hero didn’t explore what those sources could have been. That was why when even after Naofumi had done so much to clear his name, it was annoying to have the other heroes still treat him as their inferior.
There were times when it appeared as though the show was on the verge of tackling this subject. For example, the three others disagreed on what the most essential quality a hero should have was. Sadly, this topic was mostly left to the side, and as a consequence, Motoyasu, Ren, and Itsuki never broke away from their images as complete butt-munches.
This latter problem, fortunately, can be fixed provided we see a continuation to The Rising of the Shield Hero’s story.
This was a ton of fun.
If you can ignore the overused, oversaturated stigma of isekai stories, I believe you’ll find this series to be as enjoyable as I did.
For its part, this show chose to focus on its characters’ growth and personalities. As a result, when there was action, tension, and all-around epicness, this series was wonderfully exciting, not to mention extremely hard to put down.
Also, this show ended on a note that just welcomes a follow-up.
If that never happens, though, The Rising of the Shield Hero gets a firm recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise The Rising of the Shield Hero? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.