What I am about to write is a negative take on a very popular series. What I want to make clear is that one, these are simply my opinions, opinions I have been very open about when it comes to the Isekai genre as a whole. And two, within the confines of these words I do not wish to cause a fuss, more or less I am trying to phrase this as a general question, one of which I hope someone can answer. In 2019 a show started that caught like wildfire. It had a red panda wife, a giant chicken loli, and some poor son of a bitch who got a little too close to the princess. I am of course talking about The Rising of the Shield Hero, a story about 4 heroes who are summoned to protect the world that is not their own. The Hero of Shield, The Hero of Bow, The Hero of the Sword, and finally, the dragoon want to be motherfucker, Hero of the Spear. Oh, I should note they all knew each other before, everything should go smoothly, right?
So when it comes to Isekais I see three basic recipes. One is the comedy, the Konosuba of sorts, shows that take the tropes of Isekais, then make it a gaff. The second is the original, Saga of Tanya the Evil comes to mind, series that takes a different look as a whole. Then, finally, the recipe, encapsulate everything that is the modern Isekai, though not by default bad, Jobless I actually enjoyed a lot, but it isn’t a great start. Shield Hero sadly follows this method, brought into this new world, Naofumi Iwatani is bestowed as the Hero of Shield. What he initially thinks is a good thing, he quickly learns that the kingdom that summoned have an extreme bias against him, turning on him by the end of the first episodes.
Cut off, framed, and forced to fiend for himself, a deep hatred grows within Naofumi, he never asked to be brought here, why should he have to suffer? This starts the narrative that drives me literally insane, the false underdog. This is something that I personally detest more than the OP trope. The idea of we as the viewer should feel pity for someone because they are weak, outcasted of the world in which they exist. My issue with this isn’t the concept its self, but the falsehoods it presides. Naofumi, though drawing the short straw quickly becomes one of the most powerful forces in the show, buying him a neat new slave to groo…. Uh, train Raphtalia who quickly became a skilled swordswoman and waifu of the series.
Sadly I hated her. And I can never understand why she wanted her slave seal back, they pay to get another one, then she immediately lectures Naofumi for wasting money. You two have sworn loyalty to each other, the crest isn’t needed.
But going back on my point, Naofumi and his party are extremely strong and skilled, irrelevant how he or the world feel about it. I don’t pity him, he is literally just Captain America with magic, why would I put the mantel of underdog onto him. This brings me to the second point I never really understood about this show, it being a revenge story. Overall I dislike revenge plots, they are weak and usually pointless, but even if you look at Shield Hero as one of these stories, it quickly falls apart. Naofumi gets fucked, alright, we can all agree on that. He is mad, really, really, mad, but outside of that, he does little to anything about it. The series literally plays 20 episodes of him not doing anything that looks like he is trying to get revenge, honestly, most of the time he just wants to be left alone. Leaving the only moments where he’s on a crash course with one of the other heroes, King, or the world in general it was initiated by the other side, not Naofumi himself.
It also paints a strange narrative within the heroes themselves. Motoyasu Kitamura, the spear hero is pussy whipped by the princess, Malty Melromarc, and therefore is constantly shit to Naofumi. What I didn’t get is why the other two, Ren Amaki and Itsuki Kawasumi time and time again go out of their way to defend and help Naofumi. They side with this monarch that treats Naofumi like shit, only to call them out for it forcing them to pay their dues. They clearly are not fans of Naofumi, but they seem to have some level of understanding of the underhand tactics that are at play but seem to only care when confronted with it, really the dynamic between those three is just strange and whimsical.
I will say on that note I felt about the heroes about the same as I felt for the world, I didn’t fucking care. The reasons behind all actions that take place for most of the show I felt were both illogical and stupid. Add the fact there were never any real consequences to any of these actions it all seemed for naught. This actually brings me to my third point I never really understood about this show. For a majority of the series it shies away from gore and violence, a move I assumed it did to keep the friendlier, then I watched the pope get eating in a rather gory way, leaving me only with more questions.
Reflecting I suppose I need to clarify the consequences thing. An example, Idol Rabier was a racist noble that murder and tortured Demi-humans for fun. He raided Raphtalia camp, murder her friends, and sold her off when she wouldn’t submit. He was an ass hole who tried to commit genocide. So picture it, Raphtalia is standing over him, sword in hand, he has every right to die, but, as she lifts her hand Naofumi stops her stating if she kills him, she would be no better. This fucking moronic knight type of storytelling is cheap, boring, and paints this narrative that you can do really awful things and get away with it. Fortunately, he dies by other means but he and the Pope are really the only two that pay for their choices.
I mean Christ Malty Melromarc plots to kill her younger sister, usurp the throne for herself, she commits the worse kind of high treason, but as her head laid on the chopping block, Naofumi thinks that the world knowing her as “bitch” is more than enough to atone for her crime. She is freed, allowed to stay in Motoyasu party, and still does underhand tactics to try to get the upper hand. We whole ass are going to ignore she destroyed a forest, literally tried to murder her sister, lied about everything, and just call her a bitch and move on.
For the majority of this series I just felt like I didn’t care. I wanted to understand the hype, why it was so cherished, but to me, it just watched as this boring melodramatic sudo action full of a bunch of morons who can’t seem to think for themselves in any capacity. The rules of the world were fine I guess, it was the typical run-of-the-mill MMO but the people within it, were, lacking. I will say I never felt Naofumi was a stand-in, I never felt myself wanting to implement myself onto him, but I would hardly say he was my favorite.
Around episode 20 however, something started to change, the world became interesting, the recipe started to break. Up until this point there only interaction, I ever cared about was the battle with Glass, a badass geisha fan wielding sharp tongue woman who informs the heroes that she is indeed, their opponent. This interaction was interesting, but short-lived, then Naofumi runs into mage Therese Alexandrite and Qrow Branwen, uh I mean L’arc Berg.
Adding these elements made this series a thousand times more interesting the predicament that much more complex. Being heroes in their own right from a different, different, world Naofumi discovers that this fight is a lot larger than any of them expected, and no matter what, blood will be had. It was within episodes 20-25 that I finally found myself interested in this show, the world, and those who existed within it. All the stupid, pointless, annoying shit of Melromarc shitting on Naofumi was over and we as viewers could actually see the world that was being built. They literally could have done the first 20 episodes of this series in 8, and it would have gone a lot better.
So I guess in the end, I just want to understand what this series has done to find itself in the ranks of the highest Isekai ever. It wasn’t a total wash, I think some really fascinating concepts exist in the world, but all of that, that occurs at the end. There are a lot of times when people do something, and there is a vague back story as to why but we never get the full scope, forcing us to either dislike the choice or not care. As someone who wants to understand the full story, this type of storytelling ends up making me not care for any of the sides, sure I dislike Melromarc family for doing what they did, but how Naofumi handled it, didn’t make me like him much more.
As far as numbers, I’d be fine with giving it a 5/10. It did a lot of the same things that pissed me off about A Failed Knight but also (eventually) made a world I somewhat cared about. I know a lot of this may read as negative and loose, but I don’t mean it as such. I clown on things I like, so when I throw around these words I don’t mean them as insults, they are just genuine emotions I felt during the process. But if you find yourself reading this and like this series, lemme know what I missed, I would truly love to understand.
As always thanks for the read.