Isekai genre has become a standard and at least one show is included in every new season of anime. As we know, an isekai anime has a character living an average life who is then transported to another world or dimension, having to adjust in a new society in order to find a way home. Many fans find that the genre is becoming generic and stale, with nothing new being brought to the mix. Though the Isekai genre deserves credit for its range of different worlds and stories: there is the 90s classic example of The Vision Of Escaflowne, a fantasy, mecha series about highschooler Hitomi who is transported to the world of Gaia to meet a young prince and aid him in the hope to rebuild his kingdom. It’s more than what it seems; it is a well-crafted story that rides on the themes of war and love and is until now one of the most memorable Isekai anime.
Most were introduced to the genre by Sword Art Online, a successful franchise spanning three seasons, a movie, and many video games. Despite the constant bashing this series has had to endure over the years, it’s still going guys, still going. Personal feelings about the series aside, I always wondered if Sword Art Online would remain alone at the top or if there would be a title that could beat it. 2019 gave us such a series: The Rising Of The Shield Hero. At first, it seemed like the rest, but quickly made a difference and brought a fresh look to the isekai genre.
Anti Hero Protagonist
Anime like Sword Art Online are either set in a fantasy setting or inside a video game. The main protagonist enters a world which either needs saving or in which they have to adjust in order to return home. Protagonists build up newfound confidence, facing the pressure to save their world and to overcome all hurdles. These protagonists are held in high regard and glory. Their journey is hard but they come out on top. The Rising Of The Shield Hero protagonist Naofumi seems like your average anime NEET, sent to another world along with three others to be the four heroes (sword, bow, spear and shield) who will save this world from waves of monsters. It is a pretty standard introduction for an isekai but quickly Shield Hero proves that it wouldn’t conform to the standards.
While the other three other heroes are admired, the Shield Hero is held as the weakest link among the four. Naofumi is set up by the very people who summoned him to save their world, accused of rape by Myne, the kingdom’s cunning princess. This false allegation sets the anime apart from what we know as the stereotypical isekai plots. In the course of the anime, Naofumi goes from being clueless and ignorant to a badass hero who vows revenge. Using a protagonist like Naofumi as an Anti Hero gives the anime a fresh perspective. Naofumi has to work his way up in order to survive. He is not your typical isekai hero.
Naofumi is the main reason this isekai anime differs from the rest. Instead of being welcome with open arms in this society, he is rejected and unjustly ridiculed; he is made a victim and that makes him lose faith in people and becomes his driving force to press on. He is still human, however, and he desperately wants someone to believe in him. You can’t help but become attached to Naofumi’s unfair treatment that this cruel society has shown him. But instead of going completely rogue, Naofumi states he will still save this world despite everything. Despite the injustice Naofumi has faced, he holds this promise.
Well Crafted Side Characters
The Rising Shield Hero has broken the trait of the typical isekai protagonist by using an Anti Hero. Yet, a good anime is more that its protagonist. No character in Shield Hero is left unexplored, from Naofumi’s main party to all the villains. Every character is well crafted and brings their own dynamic to the story, especially those who come to believe in Naofumi. Because of them, Naofumi regained the lost faith and trust, what Naofumi secretly hoped for. Cutie racoon Raphtalia who has become a huge favorite of the series, was more than just a pretty face. Raphtalia has played an important part in evolving Naofumi’s character and influencing his actions for the better.
Naofumi bought Raphtalia as a slave, which initially puts Naofumi in a bad light. Naofumi was driven into a dark hole and only did what he had to do to survive. Even though a slave cannot disobey their master, their bond morphs into something more as they build their trust and love for one another. Naofumi wanted to feel needed again and his friends allowed him to show his compassionate side and how truly selfless he was. He was willing go very far for the good of others.
In isekai, having a male protagonist surrounded by a harem of girls is one of the usual tropes we encounter. Sure, Naofumi has Raphtalia, Filo, and Melty among his party but it never turns into a harem situation. All these girls are very strong – willed, resilient females, who have their own battles to fight. Raphtalia and Filo have had their cute moments seeking attention and fawning over Naofumi but not in a condescending way. It’s harmless fun and nothing more.
Naofumi’s enemies are also well crafted. The kingdom of Melormarc, its people, the king, and the first antagonist, Princess Myne. They are all truly detestable people, especially Myne; bad to the bone, and that makes them the perfect riveting baddies.The emotional attachment you feel toward Naofumi’s suffering, the unfairness of what these people and society have thrown at him truly make you come to hate these evil people. I feel like it’s been so long since we’ve had such dislikable bunch of villains to hate.
Defining Its Rise Up
The Rising Of The Shield Hero is an isekai series that has brought fresh new ideas into the mix and gave us a compelling anti hero protagonist. Naofumi struggles and then rises up to those who wrongfully treated him. The action is fascinating, the scenes entertaining and the cast of strong crafted charactes aren’t your one-dimensional stockpile. They are characters who are given equal focus to Naofumi and have strong connections to the plot. This series is delivering something new for over-tired fans of the typical isekai and is a great first isekai anime to watch for new fans. The Rising Of The Shield Hero has made its mark and took its place as one of the best isekai anime to date.
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