The Rising of the Shield Hero (Tate no Yusha no Nariagari) is a currently ongoing anime that started airing in January 2019. It’s an adaptation of the light novel by Aneko Yusagi, animated by Kinema Citrus studio. The series falls into the genres of action, drama, fantasy, and if you consider this a genre, Isekai, or transported to another world. (And yes, there may have been too many isekai animes released in the last 6 or 7 years, but no, that’s not why I dislike the show.)
Main character Naofumi is summoned to another world to be one of the four legendary heroes that stop the Waves of Catastrophe from destroying the world. Unfortunately for him, Naofumi is the Shield Hero, who, in constrast to the ones like the Spear Hero, is only good for defense, and is clueless about how things work. After he is set up with a false crime, and viewed as the scum of society, Naofumi must find a way to fight and become stronger without an official party to support him.
Before I get into my opinion here, let me just say I didn’t watch the entire 12-or-13-episode cour that has already aired. I only watched the first three episodes (which might as well be four because of the double-length first episode.) I don’t hate Shield Hero, nor do I discourage others from watching it. I just happen to dislike it personally. I also don’t understand it’s so popular– but that’s probably because I have weird tastes and don’t understand what normal viewers like. Anyway, I applied my 3 episode rule, and decided to drop the show because it wasn’t worth it. I’ll now present a review based on those 3 episodes.
Story and Structure: 5/10 Average
The story concept is about as average as they come. I don’t mean only the concept of a guy getting called to another world and having to be a hero. I also mean the concept of the guy who starts out really weak and has to build up his strength slowly with a lot of help. That’s just about the same as any popular shounen anime. Of course, this series isn’t a shounen, since it has mature and dark tones and themes. The themes, by the way, might have been good, if they weren’t all handled so quickly and clumsily.
I’d better give an example. Theme: Reality is harsh and the world isn’t a game. Potential: This could have been stressed throughout the series. They could have shown the protagonist struggling to accept this. How the series handled it: 1) By the end of the first episode, Naofumi is already fully accepting– too accepting– of the stark world he lives in. So much possible exploration of a motif was whittled down to just one episode. 2) Then they beat the dead horse trying to stress that same theme in episode 2 using the lovely “kill the bunny” scene. That wasn’t original or significant at all, unless you judge it by the quantity of blood shown.
The pacing of the three episodes I saw was
awful not something I’m used to in anime. The only sense of structure was to hurry, hurry, hurry, and establish a huge amount of content in only 3-4 episodes. It moves at a break-neck speed, so fast that I lost any sense of importance in a given scene. Everything is going to be covered quickly and sloppily in the next few minutes, I thought, so why should I care about trying to think anything through? If there’s even anything to think about in the first place.
The progression of the story is painfully predictable. Did anybody seriously think that the redheaded girl was actually going to treat Naofumi well? Not me. Was anyone surprised that Naofumi bought a slave since it was the only way in this cold reality to get a party member? I saw it coming. Usually, predictability doesn’t bother me because I’m interested in the characters and how they will respond, but since I’m not into the characters in Shield Hero, I can’t properly connect to the plot either.
Art and Animation: 6/10 Fine
I’ve tried to be accepting of CGI in anime, and sometimes I succeed in appreciating a series even when there’s abundant use of it. But I couldn’t succeed in the case of Tate no Yusha. What with one of the very first images, the flying bird in Naofumi’s dream, being animated with cheap and poorly disguised CGI, it turned me off at once. I can see why CGI might justifiably be used for this series for some parts, such as the coming of the Waves, when there are overwhelming numbers of monsters. However, Shield Hero also uses CGI for things that could and should have been animated with 2D. It seemed to me like CGI was in every other shot in the long first episode.
And sure, the character designs were decent, with ample detail. The lighting and shots were ok. And there were fairly good action scenes. But in 2019, those elements can be found in any anime with a good budget, and even some very low-budget productions do better. This just isn’t enough to earn a 7/10 from me. Granted, I am not an artist, nor have I any experience with animation.
Sound: 6/10 Fine
If I were being hateful, I’d insist that the auditory aspects of Shield Hero were also 5/10, Average. However, since I’m trying to be reasonable, I have to admit the sound is a pretty solid 6/10 “fine,” and that’s based only on three episodes. It probably gets much better. The opening was cool and catchy as all hell. The ending song was, meh, ok. I didn’t recognize many of the seiyuu, and haven’t cared enough to look them up, but they all seemed to be doing a satisfactory job with their roles. There was nothing special in the voice acting though, or in the instrumental OST, that left an impression on me.
Characters: 7/10 Good
She was adorable, but as a character, I didn’t connect much with Raphtalia. And, well, I simply don’t like Naofumi. That being said, just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean the characters are badly written, explored, or presented. In fact, the characters are the only reason I might consider picking up the show again some day when I have a little more time. They’re done quite well.
I can’t be the only one who initially thought, wow, Naofumi is morally depraved by the start of episode 2, plus cold and sometimes cruel throughout 2 and 3. However, I am weird and I like messed up characters with dark sides to their psychology. So you’d think I’d like Naofumi. I don’t know why I don’t. Maybe it’s one of those, “I see myself in the character unconsciously” things. Anyway, Naofumi isn’t truly villainous. He’s coldly practical and trying to save the greatest number of lives by making moral sacrifices (like owning a slave). For what it’s worth, he treats Raphtalia way better than anyone else has.
I’m sure everybody loves Raphtalia, and they should, because besides being a cute raccoon girl, she is also kick-ass in a fight (by episode 3). I couldn’t connect to her feelings of being so emotionally dependent on Naofumi in episode 2. In general, I couldn’t buy into her ultra-loyal, good-hearted character given all she’s been through. Furthermore, I understand what her motivations probably are– trying to save other kids from dying or being traumatized in the Waves–but this isn’t even touched on. We just see her serving Naofumi like a robot. Well, a raccoon robot?
Enjoyment: 4/10 Poor
Personal enjoyment has always been a key factor for me when it comes to reviewing and scoring anime, and that’s pretty much true for everyone, if they are honest with themselves. I did not enjoy watching the first three episodes of Shield Hero in the slightest. I only kept watching out of willpower and the faint hope that I would start to like the characters or the story better as it went on. To be honest, I’d say my enjoyment was 3/10, very bad, but this would just tip the scale too much, so 4 it is. I wish I could put my finger on what exactly what “missing” for me that would have made this anime more enjoyable.
Overall score: 5.6/10 Average
I expect no one will like this post, since I am, after all, dissing an anime that already ranks at 8.39 on My Anime List and “very good” on Anime News Network. Still, I wanted to get my thoughts out there. Also note: average is not the same as bad. Really bad anime is in the 4s category. There are some shows I really enjoyed watching but that I’d have to consider average as a critic. (Examples: Citrus, Selector Spread Wixoss, C: Control, Nurarihyon no Mago original version, and a few yaoi series.)
If you like isekai genre plus a little darkness, I recommend watching a bit of Shield Hero. It’s got an interesting (if not exactly likable) male main character, and very cute, earnest, and loyal main female character. It’s got nice monster fights, too. So try it. You might like the show a lot better than I did.