The Rising of the Shield Hero is a new anime based on light novels by Japanese author Aneko Yusagi. It is a science fiction fantasy that combines magic with video game-style abilities for its main characters. Since I have not read the novel series, my review will focus on the recently concluded season one of the television series dubbed in English by Funimation.
Naofumi Iwatani (Billy Kametz) is a normal Japanese college student who is taking easy before he starts his studies. He picks up a novel ‘The Rising Of The Shield Hero’ and apart from a few illustrations, he finds the book completely empty. Suddenly, a portal opens up and sucks him into the world of the Melromarc Kingdom. Along with four other students, who are told they are the Four Cardinal Heroes brought to this world to stop “waves” of evil creatures from destroying the world. Each has some sort of weapon, a bow, a spear, a sword, and Naofumi has a shield. While he entered the world through a book, the others came in through a video game of some kind and each informs him that the ‘Shield Hero’ is the worst character in the video game.
While the other three get a team pretty quickly, Naofumi not only gets rejected but gets from framed for assault on the princess of Melromarc and cast out, though the kingdom is forced to keep around to stop the wave attacks, he loses all of his prestige and is hated by the people. He buys a slave demi-human, or a human with animal abilities named Raphtalia (Erica Mendez). He treats her well and she soon starts to soften his heart. Later they add Filo (Brianna Knickerbocker), a bird that can change into a human to their party as they travel from town to town saving people as they train for the waves.
This is one of the best anime I have ever seen. A lot of anime characters like Goku or Natsu, for example, are incredibly sunny and happy-go-lucky. Naofumi is the exact opposite. Framed for a crime he did not commit, he is cynical, jaded, untrusting, and only interested in surviving so he can escape his circumstance. It goes against type and works great. Raphtalia is the opposite. During the first part of the series, she was shy, frightened, but determined, Later, she becomes confident, strong, and fiercely loyal to her master and choices to stay with him though she has had multiple opportunities to leave of her own free will. Filo is the perfect comic relief for the trio. Though she looks human, she acts more like a happy pet who gladly serves her owner. This often leads to a rivalry between her and Raphtalia that is portrayed with perfection.
Also, how the other Cardinal Heroes are put at odds with Naofumi is quite telling. They try to be almost celebrity heroes, but their exploits sometimes lead to conflicts that Naofumi and his small band have to clean up. They are arrogant and forceful and treat the realm like a video game which often put them at odds with Naofumi and it is portrayed to perfection.
I have two points of criticism. First, the series is very mistrustful of religion. Religious leaders are portrayed as power-hungry. self-righteous fanatics. There is no middle ground and it is fiercely clear in the show. Also, the world-building took a long time, making the “laws of magic” unclear. While Naofumi can see his abilities similar to a video game dashboard, making it easy for the viewer to keep up with his abilities, but it sometimes sent mixed messages about the magic of the world.
One final note, while the entire cast is well chosen by Funimation, Billy Kametz as Naofumi and Erica Mendez as Raphtalia are the top-tier actors in the show. They deliver their dialogue with each ease, especially Kametz with Naofumi’s inner dialogue, and it really sets up an awesome adventure.
For those of you who are interested, check out the promo below:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my thoughts on Batman: Hush and my review of My Hero Academia: Two Heroes. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.