OP: 「RISE」by MADKID
“The Slave Girl”
Last week, I praised Kinema Citrus and Kevin Penkin for bringing Shield Hero to life, complete with high quality visuals, atmospheric OST and incredible attention to detail. Nothing changes this week. Unlike many other series in a similar vein, we can clearly see the UI isn’t merely an afterthought meant to invoke RPG vibes. It’s extremely detailed and crisp, possessing the kind of polish you’d expect from an AAA game. The visual specs on these herbs and mined ores made me want to pick up my 3DS and bash out an JRPG in my backlog. That’s how much it tickled my RPG itch, and it wasn’t simply a feast for the eyes. Every desperate climax was also backed up by phenomenal music, while calming scenes were illuminated by tranquil scores. This is full-on immersion we’re talking about here and a beautiful dream realised I’d never hoped to have with adaptations. But let’s stop beating around the bush and address the elephant in the room. But some people might feel uncomfortable with the introduction of slavery, especially since we’re talking about child slavery of all things AND our protagonist’s actions during the episode were ethically dubious. But I’d ask people to make a consequentialist observation – that generally positive outcomes could be used to justify these questionable means. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Raphtalia – The Slave with PTSD:
Unable to fend for himself, Naofumi decides to purchase a slave because there’s almost no other viable way of growing stronger and surviving. Despite being given the choice of a significantly powerful werewolf that would make fighting the waves a breeze, he cites money as being an issue. So he buys a demi-human child who suffers from coughing fits and PTSD. Her name? Raphtalia. She’s definitely a cutie but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. We discover that she’s a survivor from the First Wave that decimated portions of the continent. Monsters destroyed her village and worst of all, they brutally murdered Raphtalia’s parents before her very eyes. It’s no wonder that she suffers from PTSD and is afflicted by survivor’s guilt. To top it all off, she was captured and made a slave, experiencing horrific treatment at the hands of her previous master. I think it’s safe to say she’s had it worse than Naofumi.
Naofumi – A Master of Questionable Means?:
After becoming Naofumi’s slave, Raphtalia’s thrown straight out of the frying pan and into the fire. He frequently uses the slave seal as a means of torturing her into compliance – namely killing monsters for him. Her free will and capacity for self-determination are entirely undermined and she’s forced to confront her traumas in ways that completely goes past her comfort zone. Also, he consistently uses emotional blackmail to get what he wants out of her – “I’ll abandon you if you don’t fight for me“. Obviously he hasn’t had a great time since entering this fantasy world. But it doesn’t mean Naofumi should project his pent up anger for everyone else towards Raphtalia. That said, Naofumi’s nowhere near the absolute worst, considering he’s not beating her up or exploiting her. Perhaps he’s become an extremely jaded adventurer, yet he remains truly kind deep down inside. He did not pick Raphtalia over the werewolf simply because she was cheaper. Rather, he saw a frightened, young girl and sought to save her from a terrible plight. Most importantly, he’s displayed real sensitivity towards her needs. e.g. feeding her nice food, concocting medicine for her illness, buying her the toy that she wanted, etc.
His actions continue to speak favourably for his behalf. When Raphtalia woke up screaming during the night, reliving the moment her parents died, his immediate reaction was to hug and reassure her. In a life or death situation, Raphtalia is forced to confront her fears. A two-headed dog appears, reminding her of the very monster that killed her parents, sending her into something of a catatonic state. At first, Naofumi seems frustrated that she cannot be of use. But he relinquishes control over her so that she could escape while he sacrifices himself to buy time. He might not admit it, but he does care about Raphtalia and these sentiments are reciprocated too. Not wanting to lose Naofumi in a similar way to her parents, Raphtalia confronts these fears of her own volition and strikes two true blows to defeat the monster.
Because of Naofumi being unconventionally weak, these kind of situations that an isekai protagonist should ordinarily plough through become high stakes. This makes for genuinely exciting fights where everything could potentially be on the line. And under life or death situations, there’s ample opportunity to further characterisation because people are truly put to the test. Raphtalia was able to overcome such an obstacle through her own self-determination, and it’s a vital cornerstone of her character development, demonstrating tenacity and bravery. Having emphatically overcome her trauma and assuming she will have no further problems killing monsters, it will be interesting to see where their adventure goes
To make it absolutely clear, I’m by no means advocating for slavery, so much as making a critical exception due to fictitious circumstances. Throughout this post, I’ve spoken frequently about how Raphtalia has benefitted and gone on to live a happier life, as a result of being Naofumi’s slave. But equally, Naofumi smiled pleasantly for the first time since that fateful night where he was betrayed. Clearly, Raphtalia’s companionship has done wonders for his emotional state, even if his problems haven’t been magically fixed. From Raphtalia’s flashback, it should be noted that the Shield Hero seemed to be held in high regard by the demi-humans. Perhaps seeking out a country of demi-humans could allow Naofumi to start off from scratch and receive better treatment? That’s merely food for thought. Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss about the episode. As always, thanks for reading my post. See you next week, and I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did!
Quick Impression of the OP/ED Themes:
OP: 6.5/10. Crisp visuals, fluid animation and excellent depictions of various characters, especially the heroes. Music had its good moments but was mostly mediocre. I’m personally not a very big fan of dubstep/rap.
ED: 8.7/10. Loved the textured artstyle, liked the gentle music, and the animated sequences conveyed a symbolic message about Naofumi and Raphtalia venturing the desert while only needing each other.
ED: 「きみの名前」 (Kimi no Namae) by 藤川千愛 (Chiai Fujikawa)