“Hero of the Shield”
That pre-air totally caught me off guard. In fact, I was considering leaving it till the official release. But ye old Pancakes made sure to pester me until I eventually gave in, so you can thank him for making sure this post happened. *sigh*. Let’s get started, I guess.
A long time, I read through Rising of the Shield Hero’s light novel. It was a thoroughly compelling read that emotionally gripped me from the get go – a rarity in this day and age. Sure, it plateau’d off badly after about 5-6 volumes in. However, that doesn’t change my strong and positive emotions towards the series, because it left that deep of an impression on me. This episode confirmed my feelings hadn’t changed, even after so long.
Surprisingly, my source material familiarity came under fire. You see, the beginning of the manga heavily skips over much of Episode 1 and I picked up the light novel past these events. For example, I didn’t realise that the four heroes had actually been summoned from parallel iterations of Japan, adding a new trope to the isekai genre. And the manga also skipped the evening meeting, something that helped establish what kind of people the other legendary heroes were. Generally speaking, these additions were welcome ones and I’m glad that they weren’t cut out.
Anyway, my first impressions of the anime? The top-notch world-building draws you in, combining a vibrant fantasy setting with aesthetically appealing JRPG inspirations. Admittedly, the visuals are not outstanding (though that could be down to the pre-air leak being of inferior quality). That said, I felt that the grittiness suited the premise of vengeance and saving the world from destruction. Kevin Penkin’s musical touch is highly appreciated here, as it really sets the medieval fantasy vibe, transporting you to this other worldly quest. And the voice acting from Ishikawa Kaito has been sublime so far. He’s exhibited a wide range of captivating emotions and conveyed Naofumi’s optimism and the subsequent loss of hope in such a heartfelt way. The anime does an incredible job of establishing this contrast, by having him be so positively jittery and energetic upon arrival, then angry and brooding after he’s betrayed. They really nail that haunted look of depsair in his eyes. Again, Kevin Penkin’s incredible soundtrack does well to establish the atmosphere – with upbeat tunes to start off with before the soundtrack’s tone becoming aggrieved later on. All in all, the visuals and sounds have been impeccable.
In terms of viewer engagement with the story, there are also many questions that have been left unanswered, and I imagine you all want to know. These are the plot hooks designed to keep you around. Why did the royal court seem to have a negative predisposition to the Shield Hero even before the false allegations were made against Naofumi? How can Naofumi hope to keep up with the other three heroes or even hope to fight the waves if he’s slow at gaining levels, lacking in capable companions, not to mention completely deprived of starting gold? What’s more, a weird man has appeared, and it feels odd to trust him in light of recent events, especially since he’s also a slave trader. Very dubious. But he’s offered a proposal that’s too good for Naofumi to turn down – a companion who is incapable of betrayal. Will Naofumi stoop as low as buying a slave?
Above these unanswered questions, the biggest pull would be Naofumi’s miserable situation itself. We’re aware of his innocence. We know he’s been unfairly treated, and that makes us invested in seeing him achieve vindication. I think I speak on behalf of most viewers when I say that King Melmorac and Sophia Mein are devilspawn in need of comeuppance. Who doesn’t crave for the day when Naofumi clears his name and maybe exacts vengeance upon them?
Do I recommend Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari, despite knowing everything that will come to pass? Definitely! Especially if you like isekai or revenge. Now, I know what some of might be thinking. By this point, I bet your expectations towards the isekai genre are fairly low. What’s that, I hear? [*murmur* “Not another trash isekai!” *murmur*] Well, fair enough. It does seem like a lot of isekai anime feel quite generic, with a few exceptions here and there. However, I want to emphasise that Tate no Yuusha can indeed be considered amongst those few isekai that are truly unique. Most importantly, our protagonist gets the shortest end of the stick comparative to the other heroes — he is falsely accused of committing one of the most heinous taboos and suffers a ruined reputation because of it. Most male protagonists simply forgive and forget about the transgressions that have been carried out against them, taking the moral high ground. It’s refreshing to see someone react in such a raw and human way by letting it eat away at them, like most of us would, which is heavily relatable. Since Naofumi doesn’t have any ridiculously overpowered skills, compared to the other heroes, he has to rely on his own tenacity and wits to grind out results. Seeing him work hard for his goals marks a distinctive contrast from the Gary Stu who breezes through the world. Not only does this leave a viewer more satisfied, it also feels like his progression is justified.
Potentially concerning things? I won’t deny that there’s a touch of misogyny ingrained within the series stemming from Naofumi’s hatred towards Sophia. If that kind of stuff makes you uncomfortable, then you might want to give this a pass. Nevertheless, I’d argue Naofumi’s more of a misanthrope, hating King Melmorac and the other heroes, albeit to a lesser extent compared to Sophia. So make of it what you will. You’ll invariably have your cynics out there who’ll groan and accuse this show of being this season’s Goblin Slayer, in terms of controversy. Some might claim that portraying false rape accusations like this can inadvertently harm general perceptions of legitimate accusations, and there is merit to be had with such a statement. But I’m not here to argue about right or wrong, as opposed to expressing my own opinion on why it’s less contentious. While it could be argued that Goblin Slayer’s debacle was an excessive way of demonstrating why goblins were evil creatures that needed to be purged, because killing innocent people is already sufficient, the false rape accusation is fundamental to the characterisation Naofumi undergoes. There’s no denying that it has added something substantial to the story, and there aren’t many other turn of events which could have brought Naofumi to such a low. As such, I think it’s permissible. Not to mention there’s nothing to be construed as particularly fanservicey. It’s evident that Kinema Citrus didn’t want to take away from Naofumi’s plight or make light out of such a sticky topic, and I’d applaud them for approaching things with the appropriate sensitivity, where other production teams might have included gratuitous implications.
My verdict? You will rarely ever hear me maintain that the anime lived up to the source material. This is one of those times where I will say that Kinema Citrus have actually exceeded the source material, giving Tate no Yuusha the proper premiere it deserves. Altogether, an excellent start worthy of my utmost praises, though we’ll have to wait and see whether they can continue to put out this level of quality.