「盾の勇者の成り上がり」 (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari)
“The Rising of the Shield Hero”
This season could have very easily ended after the Execution-That-Wasn’t. However, after watching this episode, I’m relieved it didn’t. Seeing Naofumi get some form of justice felt conclusive, but maybe that was the problem. It was too conclusive, to the point where ending the season there would have felt like closing a book and then putting it away on a shelf. By bringing in new characters in the Cal Mira arc, Tate no Yuusha revitalized itself, expanding its horizons to encompass other worlds with heroes of their own. A good last episode shouldn’t just feel like an ending, it should make its audience anticipate what’s coming next, and going by the popularity of this series, I’d say it’s very likely to get another season.
The last episode brought up an issue that had been mentioned during Fitoria’s arc and then shoved to the wayside thanks to the relentless onslaught of events that happened afterwards – Why does Naofumi want to protect a world that isn’t even his? And not only that, but a world that has mistreated him, where demi-humans are enslaved and corruption runs rampant among the Church and monarchy? When faced with Glass’ determination, he questioned his own resolve, as anyone in his position would. Ultimately, that moment of weakness allowed Raphtalia to remind him that while it’s not his world he’s fighting for, it is her world and Firo’s and Melty’s. Naofumi was willing to fight for them, even kill for them if he had to, just to keep them safe. This puts him directly in opposition to Glass, L’Arc, and Therese, since they’re fighting for their loved ones, too, and for a concept that was recently introduced, it’s fascinating. None of them are really the villains here. Of course, we’ll root for Naofumi since we’ve spent the most time witnessing his struggles and watching him grow, but you could just as easily root for Glass or the others.
Once the Queen came up with a clever plan to neutralize Glass, thus making it unnecessary for Naofumi to Blood Sacrifice himself to defeat her, the other Heroes retreated, vowing to one day return to settle once and for all whose world will be spared. This will allow Naofumi the time he needs to level up and expand his party, an idea which hasn’t seemed to interest him much until this point. He’s developed into a person who can be kind to strangers and the party members of other heroes, who can reach out over and over for the greater good. And the animation reflects this character growth by sometimes portraying him as the prettiest pretty boy to ever pretty. It seems that Itsuki has tossed Leticia out of his group due to being accused of a crime she didn’t commit, meaning she’s free to join the Shield Heroe’s group. As for the heroes, Itsuki is still confident he’s the only Robin Hood in town, Ren is striving to be the very best, the best there ever was, and Motoyasu… is actually the most chill of the three. He’s even thinking of visiting Naofumi in the future, which means I can finally unabashedly say that while he may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, and can definitely stray into creepy territory at times, he’s also one of the most thoroughly entertaining characters to watch. Seems like something Naofumi said to him finally sank through his hair and into his brain, because at this rate, they might even be friends, someday.
From beginning to end, Tate no Yuusha has proven itself to a quality adaptation of its source material. This was clear from the very first episode, which didn’t shy away from the trauma being accused of sexual assault by someone you trusted would cause, and the damage it would do to your relationships with others. In one episode, thanks to one cruel act, Naofumi went from having everything his fellow heroes had to set them on their paths to having none of it, and ultimately became stronger for it. However, if you’re like me, you may have tuned into this series to see a darker hero, one motivated by vengeance and rage, which was definitely how Naofumi started out, though he was toned down when it came to his initial callousness towards Raphtalia. Losing some of his edge had the consequence of making him more like your traditional hero with trust issues, and after a while it became a relief, because without the immediate outrage caused by his expulsion, his destructive Wrath tended to feel overblown. Though the series often seemed to attempt to rectify this by playing montages of scenes where Naofumi was wronged, since those scenes rarely changed it felt more like padding the series for run time than anything. To get around that, it might have been a good idea to shorten the first season to 23 or 24 episodes, just to streamline things so that story elements like the Pope arc didn’t have to be quite so drawn out.
It’s okay for an adaptation not to follow the source material to the letter. Other mediums allow the reader to flip through the action as quickly as they desire, but with animation there’s only one way to watch, leading to some uneven pacing. Tate no Yuusha had a tendency to progress rapidly at the start, and not to its detriment. Naofumi was cast out in the first episode, followed by him buying Raphtalia, and in no time at all, her body grew into adulthood. It was a pace that suited the series much more than the episode-long flashbacks with Raphtalia’s doomed childhood friend. Actually, let me go back to Raphtalia being mentally and physically an adult for a minute. So, from fairly early on it became easy to see that she had a crush on Naofumi. The issue with their romance doesn’t come from her end, but rather from the fact that she is emotionally dependent on him to the point of falling to her knees sobbing at the thought of losing him, and he still sees her as a child. This was something I was aware was going to happen from the start, so I’m not exactly surprised. It’s just that if this was something the series was determined to do, since we cannot exist in a world where our main lead doesn’t have a love interest, it could have lightened up on those father/daughter vibes it’s been throwing all season long.
Make no mistake, though, this was a fun and engaging series and I’m forever grateful to Pancakes for allowing me to review it. Issues with pacing aside, visually the scenes were consistently dynamic, often even beautiful, and the voice acting was, for the most part, consistently well-done. Ishikawa Kaito, Seto Asami, and Sarah Emi Bridcutt all did amazing, fantastic work for their characters. I’ve already praised Kevin Penkin’s musical score, but that certainly deserves another mention because it consistently set the tone for the events on screen, whether it simply be slow sequences of Naofumi traveling with his companions or the horror of an Iron Maiden descending from an apocalyptic sky. Another strength was the side characters. While Melty became a fully developed member of the group in her own right, characters like the Grandma, the blacksmith, and even characters with less screentime like Glass, L’Arc, and Therese, tended to feel dynamic, with thoughts and feelings that didn’t always revolve around our lead.
Following Naofumi on his journey into becoming not the hero Melromarc deserves, but the one they need right now was honestly the plot thread I was most invested in, and seeing him now, so willing to outstretch a hand to others, to show mercy to his enemies and continue trying to make amends with the other heroes is why I am earnestly looking forward to the second season.