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Anime Review: The Rise of the Shield Hero Season 1

Alternate Names: Tate no Tuusha no Nariagari
Year: 2019
Episodes: 25 (English dub version)
Genre: Isekai, Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama

I first came across The Rise of the Shield Hero by chance when Crunchyroll released the first episode. Intrigued, I started delving into the manga as I knew it would be some time before the next episode came out. Over the next day, I binge-read all of the available chapters. The plot, world-building and characterisation got me hook, line and sinker. The following contains my thoughts on the first season that was released earlier this year. I apologise for any spoilers contained within my review.

The story tells of a young man named Naofumi Iwatami whose parents have allowed him to live as a shut-in after he helps get his brother onto the straight and narrow. During a visit to a local library, he comes across a strange book pertaining to The Four Cardinal Heroes and is promptly sucked into it. Awakening from being summoned to another world with a peculiar game interface, Naofumi quickly learns that he is one of the four cardinal heroes known as the shield hero. He is soon wrongly accused of rape by the eldest princess of the realm, leading to numerous revelations about the kingdom of Melromarc. With the help of a Raccoon-girl named Raphtalia and a Filolial girl he raises from a chick, the party quickly uncover both a threat within the kingdom and some clues as to the nature of the various waves that the cardinal heroes are trying to halt.

The artwork for this series is pretty solid, with solid linework and rich colouration of both character and setting which reflects the source material. These provided necessary contrast and differentiation between people and places without feeling out of place. Whilst the artwork wasn’t to the heights of masterpieces such as Violet Evergarden, it doesn’t need to be. Instead, it focuses on telling a story about people in a screwed up situation.
The characterisation was solid, with the especially-interesting protagonist who has a heart of gold beneath that understandably hardened exterior. He has a lot of anger there, and with good reason. Being accused of something that he considers a heinous act, to begin with, also provides him with the motivation to problem-solve through issues that only somebody isolated by society would be forced to contend with. Naofumi still manages to show moments of love and kindness to the likes of Raphtalia, who shares her own traumatic past. This contrasts with the flippant personalities of the three other cardinal heroes who have much of their wants and needs delivered on a silver platter up until >spoilers<. We also see the interesting point about how appearances can be deceiving, such as the case of Princess Malty of Malromarc. To understand the character of a person, we must dig deeper.
The setting where the story predominantly takes place is an awesome one to play in. We see how the religious and political elements of Melromarc inevitably create problems for Naofumi and the demihumans in his party. His first connection to Raphtalia is through a slave trader, just as an example. The royal family is a mess, with an angsty father being manipulated by his eldest daughter whilst his wife is away on a diplomatic mission. Malty and her father are characters that most will hate a lot more than the forces attacking the world in which they reside. The religion of the kingdom has a huge part to play in the situation of Naofumi and his companions. These various elements build upon each other to make for a complex and compelling story.
The plot itself might not be unique by the standards of an Isekai fan such as myself. However, it is how these elements are brought together that makes all of the difference. Whilst being brought to the world is a big deal, it can be argued that the false accusation against Naofumi is the inciting incident that changes the protagonist in a dramatic fashion. His view of the world around him, that feeling that he is fighting for people that need his help, is tipped on its head as he realises that heroes sometimes protect those that see their salvation as trash. There are numerous other realisations as well, but this is a big one. The twists that we see throughout the first season offer lots of room for storytelling as well, which the writer/s took advantage of.

To a comparison between the manga and anime, I would say that this is a rather faithful adaptation of the manga. It follows the chapters nearly blow b blow, whilst at the same time reflecting the art style and vibe of the other aspects of the manga. Unfortunately, the status of the manga will likely create issues with the release of a second season. I suppose that I will just have to read the manga until the next season comes out.

In conclusion, I adore this series. Whilst there are numerous confronting moments throughout the series, they show us what the heroic party of Naofumi and his allies are fighting against. The probing of human nature and what it means to be a hero make for a compelling watch, as do the various twists and turns along the way. So, if this sounds like something you would enjoy, be sure to check out the first season wherever you watch anime. Happy viewing!