Anime Monday - The Rising of The Shield Hero

Let me be frank here. I'm not really that big of a fan of the other world genre. I mean in some cases it's done really well and I'm willing to give it a chance, but a lot of the time it seems like I see the very same thing being repeated over and over again. Someone dies, they end up in some crazy place, they gain super powers, everyone tends to like them, and then... Well pretty much all of them are on going so it's really hard to say what happens next. Still they tend to follow this pattern, and often it seems like everyone just copies each other. So why did I even give Shield Hero a chance? Beats me, but I guess it's mainly because of a scrub named Derek. "Watch Shield Hero." Me: Fine.

Going into Shield Hero I didn't know what to expect. It was a Crunchyroll exclusive so that was kinda cool to see, but other than that I didn't think much of it. "Okay this guy is going to find himself in a new place, and everyone is going to love him." Yep, that's exactly how it started out. So why did I keep going? Why didn't I stop there and just move on with my life? Why not watch something else? I don't know, I guess I thought it at least deserved a chance. So I kept watching... And then things took an unexpected turn. From that moment on I was hooked -- not just to the anime, but the novels as well.

The Story of Naofumi:

The first scenes of Shield Hero introduce us to our hero -- a young man by the name of Naofumi. Naofumi isn't anything special. He's a normal guy. What else is there to say? The intro does explain a little bit about his family, but this is not the focus here. (Not by a long shot.) After going over his brief introduction, Naofumi finds himself at the local library where he uncovers a strange book. It tells the story of multiple heroes who are going to save the world, and how a cruel princess stands in their way. He's not sure why the story drew him in, but Naofumi continues reading until he discovers the rest of the pages are blank. Next thing he knows a bright light fills his vision and he's transported to another world.

Upon arriving in this "other world," Naofumi finds himself laying on the floor next to three others. Standing next to them appear to be some sorta mages who have completed a "summoning," and they all seem to be excited because of it's apparent success. It's all too much for Naofumi to take in, but things only become even weirder when he realizes a shield is stuck to his arm. Strangely enough however, it seems that he's the only one confused by all of this. When the four are asked to go see the king, the other three instantly agree, and seemingly already understand their situation fully. They are the heroes of this land, and they must now fight to protect the kingdom. From what? Well...

After arriving at the throne room, the king proceeds to explain the situation. Strange disasters are occurring across the world, and it's up to the four heroes to put a stop to them. During these events monsters rain from the sky, and villages are destroyed in a blink of an eye. It's only the four heroes that can protect everyone, and finally put an end to these "Waves of Calamity." To do so the heroes must form parties, and train themselves to become stronger. Naturally everyone agrees (as they have no choice), and are then shown back to their rooms for the night. This is the first time Naofumi gets a chance to speak with the others.

It turns out the reason the other three are okay with the world is because they don't see it as being real. In fact one of them even thinks it's a VR MMORPG that he's been playing. Apparently although they all come from Earth, they are all from different points in time as well as different dimensions. They try talking about things they thought they would have in common, but none of what they discuss matches up with the other's memories. Japan has different leaders, different faces appear on their money, etc. Naofumi is the only character with memories of our "real world" Japan, and he's also the only one who jumped in after quickly glancing through a book. Because of that he knows nothing about this world, or the fact that they are heroes, and has no idea how it's "systems" work -- something he also didn't even notice until it was pointed out.

In this world it plays out almost like a MMORPG. Built into their vision are HUDs which not only track their stats and progress, but stats of their "party members" as well. Killing monsters in the field gain them experience, and they have to buy gear and equipment if they want to protect themselves. It's everything you'd expect out of an RPG, but in this case it's integrated with "real life." So once again after having no choice but to accept his new fate, Naofumi meets with the king the next day and starts his journey. Except things don't go as planned.


After meeting back up in the throne room, the heroes are told to form parties and get ready to depart. A group of "party members" were already selected to partake in this adventure, and they get to decide who they want to go with. Unlike in most shows where the hero instantly gets a good party however, no one wants to choose Naofumi. He's left standing alone, while the other three heroes get everyone else to themselves. Of course this isn't fair so the king kindly asks some of the others to step up and go with him, but only one girl agrees to do so. Her name is Myne, and after realizing Naofumi has no idea what he's doing, she agrees to walk him through the basics -- starting with armor.

Using the money the king gave him, Naofumi buys some armor for himself and his party (of one). He finds out that he can't hold a sword or any other weapon, and is confined to only being a shield. That's fine though because Myne can fight for him, while he can stand back and act as support. After this the two head out into the field and once again Myne shows him the basics of combat. They don't stay out too long however, and before long they decide to head back to their hotel to get some rest. Here Myne offers Naofumi to drink with her, but he turns her down. Although the anime doesn't specifically say it, the novel goes on to explain how Naofumi doesn't care to drink, and that it actually does nothing for him. No matter how much he drinks he doesn't feel it's effects, and because of that he has no reason to do so. A bit saddened by this Myne tells him that it's okay, and continues to drink on her own. Afterwords Naofumi goes up to his room, takes off his armor, and goes to sleep. A nice peaceful sleep... Unlike the next morning.

Upon waking the next day, Naofumi finds himself being arrested and drug back to the king. His charges? Attempted rape. According to Myne Naofumi got drunk and forced himself on her, and that she barely managed to escape from him. That night she ran to the Spear Hero for "safety," and in return for helping her she gave him everything Naofumi owned (including his armor). Unable to defend himself Naofumi has no choice but to accept "what he had done," and finds himself being thrown out into a world that now hates his guts. Alone, with no money, no armor, and no weapon to fight with. To put it simply, he's screwed and no one will help him. He's trash who is better off killing himself. Who would help someone like that? Someone who has to of course.

Enter Raphtalia:

Realizing he can't do anything alone, Naofumi has no choice but to turn to a slave trader for help. He doesn't have much money to spend so he's unable to buy any of the giant monsters being held in cages, but as he's looking around a small cage catches his attention. Inside this cage is a little girl who appears to be half human and half tanooki. While the anime doesn't explain what it is about her that caught Naofumi's eye, the book does go into a bit more disturbing detail about this. Thanks to what happened to him Naofumi is now a broken man, and he can't help but take his anger out on someone else. Why did he choose Raphtalia? Because she's female. A weak poor girl who can't do anything for herself. She's suffering, and Naofumi can force her to be his own tool. It's a twisted way to view her, but it's one of the main reasons he agrees to buy her.

After "acquiring" Raphtalia, Naofumi puts her to work. She's scared and doesn't want to fight, doesn't like blood, and can't do much on her own, but she has to. She has to stab monsters. She has to kill. Naofumi and her both need the experience to survive, and that's the facts. If they can't level up, they'll die. So time and time again Naofumi gets the poor girl to stab monsters, and slowly they do become stronger. This is how they are going to spend their lives now. Killing, getting stronger, and then returning to town to eat and sleep. It's a sad life, but what can Naofumi do about it?

Over time things do start to change (obviously). Although Naofumi acts as if he only sees Raphtalia as a tool, the reality is that he does care about her. He buys her food she wants to make her happy, and at one point he's even willing to die for her if she can get away. He buys her toys, and does whatever he can to make her happy, but despite all of this he still struggles with the fact that she's "the same sex as that woman." Eventually though as Raphtalia grows up before his eyes he starts to see who she really is, and the two form an unbreakable bond.

Should You Watch It:

Sadly I can't go into what happens next. Everything about Raphtalia and Naofumi's relationship, and future party members is going into spoiler territory. As for if you should watch it or not? It really depends on you. If you can handle the twisted things that happen to both Naofumi and Raphtalia during their adventures, and if you want to see their struggle to succeed... Then sure, why not at least give it a try? Naofumi's powers do start to evolve as he learns more about how to use his shield, but it's not quite a typical "another world" story. He has to earn his strength, and there's always someone out there better than him. The rest of the world hates him as well, so it's not easy for him to gain the support of anyone. Raphtalia pretty much is all he has, and even she has her own reasons to actually help him. She stops being his "slave" pretty much instantly, and is truly helping because she wants to. As for the other characters they meet along the way? Well they too have their reasons for doing what they are doing. Each story is interesting with some pretty unexpected twists, and some really nice payoffs in the end. Thankfully the anime is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novels, but it does cut out some of Naofumi's darker thoughts.

So yeah, why not give it a try? It's free on Crunchyroll, and you'll know by the end of the second episode if it's for you or not. It's as simple as that. I gave it a chance, and now I'm glad I did. Thankfully the show moves at a pretty fast pace as well and covers well past the series' intro (something series adapted from novels rarely do). With two more seasons already confirmed, it's safe to say Shield Hero will be here to stay for quite some time.
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