The Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 2

The Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 2

Introduction

I know there are going to be some people who don’t understand this because I’m not a fan of TenSura, but I’m really liking Shield Hero so far. Yes, this series has its problems, some of which I think I went over in my review of the first episode, but overall I think it’s executed much better than TenSura.

So, I want to take this time to point out some of the things I like about this series overall because later on in the review I’ll be discussing some of the things I don’t like as much. These two things are the characters and the way in which the world “works.”

I like Naofumi as a character because he’s not a bad guy, but he’s been put in a position where he needs to be in order to survive. This means that while he’s not a villain like Ainz from Overlord, he’s more of an anti-hero, which is another role we don’t often see played out in this genre.

The argument could be made that Kazuma from KonoSuba is an anti-hero as well, but I’d lean more towards his anti-hero tendencies to be due to the fact that KonoSuba is a parody isekai. Naofumi, at least for now, is a true anti-hero.

And, although the newest character, Raphtalia, was only introduced within this episode, she too already has more characterization than anyone other than Rimuru in TenSura. I’m not saying she’s a perfect character yet, but I have high hopes that she’ll continue to grow and develop.

The way the wold works is the second thing I like about this series, and by that I don’t mean the MMORPG mechanics of the game, I mean how the society at large functions. If you’d like me to do a complete breakdown of the Melromarc society in a future episode review, then let me know in the comments, but for now I’ll keep it simple.

What I like about this society is that it doesn’t feel artificial like the one Rimuru creates in which everyone gets along despite their differences. Instead, this society has dark sides such as slavery, racism, class hierarchies, and everything else you’d expect to find in a real world like this.

But, that’s not to say this is a dark fantasy like Goblin Slayer. These are just some of the many sides of the society found in Shield Hero, and it’s the mixture of all these different facets that makes the world feel real.

The Slave Girl

This week’s episode picks up with Naofumi looking to buy a slave to add to his party. At first the slave trader shows him the most expensive and powerful slaves in his inventory, but Naofumi opts to purchase one of the cheapest instead, a racoon demi-human named Raphtalia.

We’re told that along with demi-humans being weak, and therefore not good for manual labor or fighting, Raphtalia is also diseased and suffers from mental illness. Even so, Naofumi believes he’ll be able to train her up to the point at which she’s useful to him, and even comments on how she’s no different from his shield, i.e., an object.

The fact that Naofumi buys a young girl as a slave, sees her as an object, forces her to fight against her will, and tells her that he’ll discard and replace her if she isn’t useful to him may make it seem like he’s a villain. But, as I mentioned earlier on, he’s not, and although he can be harsh with Raphtalia, there are times at which his compassion shows through.

In a society where torturing and starving slaves, especially demi-humans is accepted, Naofumi refuses to do either. When training and in combat, it’s fair to say that Raphtalia is his slave, but during their off-time, he treats her more like a daughter.

Raphtalia from the anime series The Rising of the Shield Hero
Raphtalia

I should also point out that Raphtalia is essentially free to leave Naofumi whenever she pleases. He’ll simply replace her. Though, leaving him would almost certainly mean either death or enslavement at the hands of a far crueler master, so she doesn’t really have much of a choice.

And, I know it’s easy for us to say that Naofumi should be disgusted by the thought of slavery, but again, it’s simply a part of the world he’s currently in and is something he needs. His relationship with Raphtalia is also mutually beneficial, even if it’s dominated by one party.

Raphtalia’s Past

In this episode we also learn about Raphtalia’s past, although it’s still unclear exactly how she came to be in the possession of the slave trader. I’m expecting that this is something we’ll learn in another flashback later on in the series since it seems like a pretty important life event.

Her enslavement also must have been fairly recent since it only occurred since the First Wave attack. During this attack, her village was overrun and destroyed, and both of her parents were killed and eaten by a cerberus monster.

Raphtalia was pushed off a cliff and into the sea by her parents who bought time for her to escape by giving up their own lives. This traumatic event fairly recent in her past is what causes her “mental illness” as the slave trader called it. Raphtalia has a phobia of blood and frequently wakes up screaming due to nightmares.

As for the disease the slave trader claimed she has, it appears it was nothing more than a common cold, which Naofumi was able to create medicine for. Of course, there’s always the possibility that she had, or has, some other diseases which simply weren’t mentioned.

Overall though, Raphtalia’s past has pros and cons when it comes to her being a good fit for Naofumi’s party. On one hand, her fear of blood and monsters is a problem because she’s going to be the primary attacker in the party. On the other, her fear of being abandoned means she’s loyal to Naofumi and will stay by his side, unlike Myne from episode 1.

The Shield Tree

And now for something I’m not entirely a fan of in this series, the skill tree, specifically the one for Naofumi’s shield. While I like that there’s actually a skill tree, and therefore theoretically a logical way layout which shows all the different shields and how they’re related to each other, it isn’t really used that way.

In the very first episode I commented on how I liked this skill tree aspect, but what I really liked was that it seemed like it was going to be used in a logical sense. Instead, what we’re seeing now is that Naofumi is unlocking shields almost at random, regardless of their placement on the skill tree.

The first shield he obtains other than his base shield was the leaf shield, and if I remember correctly, he got this by feeding his shield plant material. That much is fine, but from there the shields and how they’re unlocked becomes less and less clear.

The next shield was some sort of mushroom shield, and I’m assuming it was unlocked in a similar way to the leaf shield, that’s to say by feeding his shield fungus material. This shield also seems to increase his potion/medicine making skills. Still, although it’s not fully explained, we can make assumptions about this shield based on what we know of the leaf shield.

The third and final shield he’s unlocked thus far is the rope shield. If we’re going off how he seems to have acquired the previous two shield iterations, then we can assume he fed his shield some rope. This shield also comes with two special abilities, one being some sort of defense spell, and the other simply being that the rope from the shield can be used at range.

But, now that we’re to the point where Naofumi has a couple of shields at his disposal, I’m not so sure about the whole skill tree concept. Rather than working like a true skill tree, Naofumi is simply able to obtain any shield at any time based on what kinds of materials he puts into his shield.

This means that there’s nothing really stopping him from suddenly acquiring the exact shield he needs for a particular situation simply by putting the correct materials into his shield when needed. For example, if he’s fighting a fire enemy, he could suddenly whip out a fireproof shield, and then later on it can be explained that he unlocked it earlier by using the right materials.

Some of you may think that way of doing things is valid, but it’s just lazy writing. I’ve mentioned this in other posts before, but it’s not about what abilities a character has, it’s about how they use them. I’d much rather watch a fight in which Naofumi has to use the shields at his disposal in unique ways than one in which he has the perfect shield for the job.

Now, I’m not saying that this series is guaranteed to go with the lazy route, but the way in which the skill tree has been circumvented makes it easier for that to be the case in the future.

If you’ve read my episode reviews for TenSura, then you may recall that I feel similarly about how skills work in that series. I like that Rimuru gains skills from enemies he defeats and so there should always be precedent for them, but at the same time this allows for new skills to be introduced and then simply explained away later on.

Conclusion

I hope that throughout this post I’ve explained at least some of the reasons for why I think this is a good isekai series while TenSura is just an average one. Of course, there will be some of you who disagree with that, so I’m interested to know if any of you don’t like Shield Hero, and if so, why?

And, if you enjoyed this review or the breakdown of ideas within it, then let me know by clicking the like button ❤ down below. Not only do likes let other readers know which of my posts are the most popular, but they can also influence what kinds of content I put out.

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My review of the next episode is available here.

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