The Rising of the Shield Hero

The Rising of the Shield Hero

The Rising of the Shield Hero anime series cover art
The Rising of the Shield Hero

Overview

The Rising of the Shield Hero (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari / 盾の勇者の成り上がり) was the isekai anime of the Winter 2019 season. Sure, SAO: Alicization was continuing from the previous season, but Shield Hero was the only new isekai series that season.

Compare that with the current Summer 2019 season, which has four new isekai anime, and you’ll see why this is so surprising. Not only that, but on paper Shield Hero seemed to be a series with the potential to break through the staleness of the isekai genre.

For starters, our protagonist doesn’t start off extremely overpowered, though he does slowly get to that point. If you aren’t familiar with how this genre works, then let me just say that the protagonists of all four Summer 2019 isekai series are overpowered right from episode 1.

The Four Cardinal Heroes from the anime series The Rising of the Shield Hero
The Four Cardinal Heroes

This series also sets up Naofumi (the aforementioned protagonist) as a bad guy. The only other isekai I can think of off the top of my head that does this is Overlord. However, Shield Hero and Overlord are very different. Ainz is actually a villain in Overlord, while Naofumi is framed and then goes on to fight against a world he views as corrupt.

And, Shield Hero has a slightly different take on the isekai genre than most other entries. Yes, our protagonist comes from our own world and is transported into a fantasy world, but these aren’t the only two worlds we know of. The other three of the Four Cardinal Heroes each come from a different world as well.

Their worlds are all essentially the same as ours, but with slight differences. However, that’s not what matters here. What matters is that from the start of the series we know that there are more worlds involved, and the mystery of that is something which follows the story throughout.

Characters

While many of the characters in this series have good character designs, they’re not very complex when it comes to characterization. This is one of the three major issues I have with the series overall.

Shield Hero’s Party

Naofumi Iwatani is the Shield Hero, one of the Four Cardinal Heroes summoned into the Kingdom of Melromarc. As the Shield Hero, the only weapons he can use are shields, including his heroic shield, which like all heroic weapons, can transform into different variations.

Unfortunately for Naofumi, the people of Melromarc hate the Shield Hero and so he’s accused of various crimes and generally shunned by the country. This causes him to hate the country and world he was summoned into, setting the stage for what’s to come.

Naofumi's party from the anime series The Rising of the Shield Hero
Naofumi’s party

The first true party member Naofumi gets is Raphtalia, a tanuki demi-human he bought from a slave trader. Though he initially purchases her as a slave because nobody else will join his party, Raphtalia eventually becomes a powerful and trusted ally. Her weapon of choice is a sword.

Naofumi’s next party member is Filo, a Filolial (large bird). But Filo isn’t just any Filolial, she has the ability to take on an angel-like form, which she uses when not in combat or pulling the carriage. Filo’s weapon of choice are her talons when in her Filolial form.

The fourth and final member of Naofumi’s party is Melty Q. Melromarc, though she isn’t exactly a permanent member — I assume she’ll become one later on. While the other party members are able to use various types of magic, Melty is the only one who uses it as her primary form of combat.

Cardinal Heroes

Aside from Naofumi, there are three other Cardinal Heroes. These are the Sword, Spear, and Bow heroes. All three of them are worshiped within the Kingdom of Melromarc while the Shield Hero is not.

Ren Amaki is the Sword Hero. Of these three, he’s the most level-headed and typically the first one to side with Naofumi whenever he makes a good point with evidence to back it up. However, he also fails to understand that this is a real world with real consequences, not a video game.

Motoyasu Kitamura is the Spear Hero and minor antagonist in the series. And when I say minor, I mean really minor. In my episode reviews for this series I often compare him and his companion, Myne, to Jessie and James of Team Rocket from Pokémon. They’re more of an annoyance than a real threat.

Itsuki Kawasumi is the Bow Hero. He’s more like Ren than like Motoyasu, though he can still be stubborn and annoying at times. While he generally does what he believes is just, this is also his biggest flaw. Often the things he does to save people have unintended consequences.

“Gameplay” Issues

The other two major issues I have with this series have to do with the plot and how the mechanics of the world work. Let’s start with the plot since that’s probably the easiest for me to explain if you haven’t actually seen the anime yet.

This world is very much like a video game, specifically one all of the Cardinal Heroes played back in their old worlds. And as such, it has all the typical video game things like stats, menus, classes, levels, etc. There’s also a goal which needs to be achieved in order for this game to be “won.”

That goal is to defeat the waves of enemies which appear every so often. During each wave, portals open in the sky which monsters come through, and each successive wave is stronger than the last. I don’t think we know how many waves are, but we’re told the heroes can go home once they’re all defeated.

The problem here is that the waves are essentially a form of forced conflict. They don’t really have a good reason for existing, and they simply serve as something for our heroes to fight against. Later on they get explained a bit more, but it doesn’t solve the problem, it just shifts it.

The other issue is that the mechanics set up in this series are ignored immediately. Skill trees and webs are shown, but don’t function as intended; weapons, like Raphtalia’s mana sword, are explained, then don’t work as explained; and stats seem to be arbitrary.

Why go through all the effort of putting these things into the series and then failing to use them properly? If you’re going to show us a skill web, at least show it being used correctly. And if you’re going to explain that mana weapons can only be used against enemies with no physical form, don’t solely use them against physical enemies.

Conclusion

In the end I gave The Rising of the Shield Hero a 6/10. I enjoyed watching it while it aired, but I can’t say it was a “good” anime. Enjoyable as it was at times, it simply has too many flaws which are holding it back.

The good news though for anyone who liked this series is that I’m expecting it to receive a second season at some point. It definitely gained a lot of fans while it was airing, even if most of them seemed to only be fans due to the character designs.

If you enjoyed this review, remember to click the like button ❤ down below. Also follow me over on Twitter @DoubleSama so you don’t miss out on any future content. I also have a Discord server where you can discuss past and present anime with myself and other members of the community.

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