By Penny Theodorakopoulou,
As we are just a day away from the end of a quite eventful February, one might say, it really would be appropriate to dedicate a third article to the fourth season of Attack on Titan: The Final Season, since its events were war-related. But then I pondered: do I really want to write an article that talks about war? As captivating and challenging as that idea sounds, I decided to write about something completely different in regard to war and the events that take place in Ukraine; and one way for one to get their head off the current affairs is none other than entertainment. So, on my last (at least, for now) personal homage to anime, I will review a personal favorite anime — The Rising of the Shield Hero (2019-).
The Rising of the Shield Hero (盾の勇者の成り上がり, Tate no Yūsha no Nariagari) is a dark fantasy isekai light novel series, the author of which is Aneko Yusagi, and its original run lasted from 2012 to 2015, consisting of 22 volumes. However, in 2014, a manga adaptation was made, written by Aiya Kyū. Since then, it has released 20 volumes, with the latest one being published on February 22nd, 2022 — just 5 days ago! As for the anime itself, which I will be commenting on and briefly mentioning its plot, the first season includes 25 episodes, with the first episode being aired on January 9th, 2019, and the last episode being viewed on our screen on June 26th, 2019.
Before moving onto the plot of the Shield Hero, we should mention that the anime’s second season has been announced! After a few months’ worth of delay, anime fans will get the anticipated second season in April of this very year! The best news is that, shortly after the end of the first season, the director of the Shield Hero, Takao Abo, announced the release of a third season. So far, we only know that the second season will air, as mentioned, in April, and its director will be Masato Jinbo. Either way, I, too, am looking forward to both the second and the third season! But for now, let us take a look at the first season of the Shield Hero.
Naofumi Iwatani, a laid-back Japanese teen, was invited into a parallel world alongside three other young men from other worlds, to combat inter-dimensional armies of monsters known as Waves as the world’s Cardinal Heroes. When the heroes were summoned, they were each given their own legendary equipment. The Legendary Shield was given to Naofumi as the only defensive weapon, while the other heroes were given a sword, a spear, and a bow, all of which were assault weapons. Unlike the other heroes, who are fully supported by the kingdom and gain a number of powerful allies, Naofumi’s fortunes turn sour when his single companion, revealed to be the kingdom’s Princess, betrays him, steals all of his belongings, and abandons him without any help or supplies after falsely accusing him of sexual assault.
Ridiculed by the nobility and shunned by everyone — from his fellow Heroes to peasants — a now cynical Naofumi is forced to train as a hero on his own while working to make ends meet until he buys a young tanuki demi-human girl named Raphtalia, who would be “his sword”, as she mentioned to him. As both of them gained experience and enough money, Naofumi headed back to the slave trader, in order to buy an egg that hatches into a bird-like monster, turning out to be a bird-like monster who could transform into a little girl; naming her “Filo”. Once the three of them Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo, were advancing levels and growing, they now have to work together to discover the mystery of the Waves and the reason why the Waves are a threat not only to their planet but also to other worlds, as they gradually acquire the confidence and appreciation of the people by their heroic efforts.
Why is it the best isekai though?
In my point of view, the Shield Hero is considered the best isekai. But what does isekai mean? Isekai (異世界, “different world”/”otherworld”). It centers on a character or characters, who are transported to and must survive in another world, such as a fantasy realm, virtual world, another planet, future/past time, or parallel universe. Isekai is one of the most popular anime genres, with numerous recurring motifs such as an overpowering protagonist being transported to another planet and humiliating everyone in it, usually through combat. If one were to compare it to a game, the closest — and ideal — genre would be MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game).
Just like the plot of the Shield Hero, you have the main character (Naofumi), some people to accompany and help the main character clear the “game” (Raphtalia, Filo, Melty, etc.), the main antagonists (Malty, the three other Cardinal Heroes, the King, etc.), and, of course, the main villain, the reason the “game” occurred in the first place (though it is not entirely clear yet, we can say it is the one behind the Waves happening). Also, just like every MMORPG, you get the main quest, which is to fight off the Waves, and the side quests, which is to help Raphtalia’s people, for instance; and as every MMORPG enjoyer like myself knows, side quests are also important, since we see that Naofumi helping people around was the sole reason he was later adored, cherished, and respected by the people he had helped and those who first ridiculed him for being “just the Shield Hero”; for side quests may not move further with the story of the game, but they help you gain extra experience points (XP), advance levels faster, learn new combos, and bond with your companions. After all, who would want to speedrun an MMORPG?
Apart from the gaming theme the specific anime has, there are some plot twists that take place throughout the duration of the anime. However, my favorite part is Naofumi’s character development. At first, he is portrayed as a happy-go-lucky young man from Japan, who fancies anime and games. Be that as it may, the moment he was “given” the shield and thus being the Shield Hero, he was immediately inferior to the Bow, Spear, and Sword Heroes; even himself felt that he was nothing in comparison to the three Cardinal Heroes. His morale was lifted a tad, when a beautiful lady, Malty Melromarc, sided with him, only to be betrayed by her, who is the daughter of the King and favored the Spear Hero. And then, and for a good amount of episodes, we see Naofumi being a cynical and not-caring person, accused of something he never did and being treated as if he were a criminal.
But all that changed when he met Raphtalia. Even though he had purchased her as his slave in the beginning, they both ended up having a special and close bond, resulting in Naofumi having trust and faith in people. The more he was helping people, no matter his “bad reputation”, the more the people he was helping would see for themselves that he was nothing like the rumors said, but a kind-hearted person. All those interactions with different people helped Naofumi become highly respected by the country of Melromarc and loved by his closest people.
All in all, The Rising of the Shield Hero is an amazing anime and manga series, with great character development, breathtaking fights, and many more things for you to discover once you finish reading this article and go watch the first season of the Shield Hero. I definitely recommend watching the Shield Hero. And I promise you — you will not regret it!
- Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari, myanimelist.net, Available here
- The Rising of the Shield Hero, wikipedia.org, Available here
- The Rising of the Shield Hero S1: Anime Thoughts & Review, geekytravelsfandoms.com, Available here
- The Rising of the Shield Hero — Anime Review, nefariousreviews.com, Available here
- Rising of the Shield Hero: A Postmortem | Glass Reflection, youtube.com, Available for watching here