“The Four Cardinal Heroes are a group of ordinary men from modern-day Japan summoned to the kingdom of Melromarc to become its saviors. Melromarc is a country plagued by the Waves of Catastrophe that have repeatedly ravaged the land and brought disaster to its citizens for centuries. The four heroes are respectively bestowed a sword, spear, bow, and shield to vanquish these Waves. Naofumi Iwatani, an otaku, becomes cursed with the fate of being the “Shield Hero.” Armed with only a measly shield, Naofumi is belittled and ridiculed by his fellow heroes and the kingdom’s people due to his weak offensive capabilities and lackluster personality.
When the heroes are provided with resources and comrades to train with, Naofumi sets out with the only person willing to train alongside him, Malty Melromarc. He is soon betrayed by her, however, and becomes falsely accused of taking advantage of her. Naofumi then becomes heavily discriminated against and hated by the people of Melromarc for something he didn’t do. With a raging storm of hurt and mistrust in his heart, Naofumi begins his journey of strengthening himself and his reputation. Further along however, the difficulty of being on his own sets in, so Naofumi buys a demi-human slave on the verge of death named Raphtalia to accompany him on his travels.
As the Waves approach the kingdom, Naofumi and Raphtalia must fight for the survival of the kingdom and protect the people of Melromarc from their ill-fated future.” – MAL Synopsis
The Rising of the Shield Hero was one of the most hyped and popular anime from 2019. Helped by its strong first episode, it quickly caught a lot of fans’ attention. Including myself. The Isekai genre of anime is one that has existed for decades but was really exhausted in the 2010s. That’s honestly an understatement. There were so many Isekai shows coming out in the 2010s, with such widely varying quality, It’d be hard to even name a fraction. Shield Hero (I have to shorten the title it’s soo long) though, has some interesting takes on some of the prominent story beats that come with the genre. I think that’s what got me and others invested the most during the early episodes. Unfortunately, it falls flat in a lot of ways.
So the synopsis above covers the first episode which sets the tone for the whole show. I was expecting a sort of gritty, struggle-filled story for Naofumi. With him maybe trying to clear his name, or maybe it goes in another direction. What I liked is that he sees the world and the people of this Kingdom as we come to see them. Complete idiots. So he plays into the role of the villain. It was a neat choice of direction for the show to go into. The first part of the show is about him having to deal with being the so-called “Devil of the Shield” and finding his way about this world. The next part deals with a coup d’état, and after that, we get a little mini-arc that introduces some new villains’. All of that sounds great on paper, but this show suffers from a serious tone problem and writing problem. The first episode sets this dark tone, which is all but lost (save for a few instances here and there) due to how utterly stupid every character outside of Naofumi and a few others are. It’s hard to take this show seriously.
Naofumi and his party are the best part of this show. I can’t necessarily say that they are the best-written characters. But they are consistently written okay. Naofumi embraces the villain role but always still shows his true, kinder side. The fact that he is the victim in the grand scheme of things comes into play a lot. His feelings and inner monologues echoed my feelings about the scenario and the other characters almost always. I like how he was portrayed throughout the series.
Now onto his harem. Raphtalia, is a character that I liked. Her backstory was interesting, and her relationship with Naofumi was perfect. Her personal arc played well with Naofumi’s too. The whole thing with her just about aging overnight was kind of weird. But it was nothing distracting and I’m kind of glad that she was aged up quickly (to avoid some weirdness that does show up with other characters.)
Filo is a cool character. She’s pretty funny and her child-like nature (I’m pretty sure she’s still a child throughout all of this season) is cute and endearing. She’s almost like a daughter to Naofumi. Which makes it all the more weirder that she has a crush on him.
The last member of the party is Melty. She joins a little later but she’s still pretty prominent. Her relationship with Filo is cute and her character’s social standing makes for some of the best conflicts in the show. I disliked her early interactions with Naofumi. She seemed almost completely blind to the fact of the matter of how Naofumi has been framed and treated by the King and Malty. It was very annoying to watch, thankfully (at least with her) it doesn’t last that long.
Okay, now I can get to my biggest gripe with this show. Just about every other character in this show. The other heroes are complete idiots. The Bow and the Sword Hero at first seem like they would be reasonable. But no, they blindly believe everything that is told to them by the King, and Malty. Despite all the evidence, and logical sense in Naofumi’s favor in some of their conflicts. They still just blindly believe anything. I don’t who’s worse. Them or the Spear Hero. The Spear Hero is just completely antagonistic towards Naofumi from the beginning. He lets Malty completely manipulate him like a puppet. Malty and the king were easy to hate. But that was clearly the point. So to that, it works very well. Malty especially is very easy to hate. She is very proactive in trying to make Naofumi’s life as miserable as possible.
Towards the end of the show, it starts to transition into a new storyline (I’m actually kind of looking forward to season 2). With that transition, it introduces some new characters that are very intriguing to me. I hope they don’t drop the ball with them in the next season.
In terms of animation. Shield Hero has consistently okay animation. It looks nice but it’s nothing crazy. The big attacks are 9/10 times CGI. When it comes to the CGI on those attacks, it looks good. But they also use CGI for some other scenes, that genuinely look bad. The music, on the other hand, is really good. This show sports a nice medieval soundtrack. It fits the vibe of the show perfectly and sets the tone for the period the show takes place in.
So final thoughts. Shield Hero started strong with its tone and premise. But the quality of writing for everyone outside of Naofumi and his party brought the show down hard. Some characters are so over-the-top evil that I kind of liked it. But others, specifically the other three heroes, were so unbearably stupid. It actively hurt my watching experience of the show. Thankfully the last mini-arc of the season was very promising and got me interested in what’s to come in season 2. As this season stands as a whole though. It could’ve been really good, but once again another show misses the mark of its potential.
The Rising of the Shield Hero – 6/10