The Rising of the Shield Hero (vol. 1)

The last time I’ve read a light novel series was with Reki Kawahara‘s best-selling series Sword Art Online, and that was back in the early 2010s. And then, 2015 came and saw Aneko Yusagi‘s new light novel series The Rising of the Shield Hero 1 flashed on my “new releases” section of my Amazon Kindle. 2

In the beginning, as each volume was released, I only managed to read the first four volumes. Little did I know then that I just finished one arc and that more arcs were about to come from that time. I lost touch right after that because of my sudden interest in video games and MMOs 3 and trying to get myself serious and commit to code training.

And then, some four years later, the anime series premiered last month 4 both in Japan and globally through Crunchyroll. I found out about it because my current bias J-Pop boy group MADKID was chosen to have their 3rd single RISE as the anime’s opening theme. 5 Just as I thought that I’ve completely abandoned immersing myself to video games and just fiction stories in general, the past suddenly caught up to me.

The series is about your typical anime/manga/video games otaku college student named Naofumi Iwatani, who was magically transported to a completely medieval-type fantasy world after opening a very old novel that was tucked in the deep shelves of his local public library. He was transported and was chosen somehow to become that world’s legendary four holy heroes: the shield hero. Unfortunately for Naofumi, it turns out that the kingdom he and four other random Japanese guys from different alternate Japans 6 were not really down for the shield hero, and have done so much injustice and discrimination against him for the fact that he’s the shield hero. Stepped upon, spat upon, Naofumi would have to move on forward to survive and succeed in the missions he and the other three heroes were tasked.

When I first read the first volume, there were some tropes or rather themes, that may end up becoming somewhat controversial to Western audiences once the story blows up if it was turned into an anime. Unfortunately, it did. First, the false accusations of rape, 7 and second, the world’s laws have slavery legal. The latter’s controversy was that Naofumi had no choice but to buy a slave (demi-humans) in order to gain a member of his party and support him with his mission. Not only that, the slave turned out to be a young female demi-human (half-animal) girl as well. So, rather than spoiling the story, I want to touch base with these two themes.

First of all, the series was published in Japan back in 2013. Based on the author’s name, many believed that the author is also female, but none of that was confirmed. Second, I always believed that all of us are equals and that women deserve to be treated as equals as men in every situation. I know that it’s horrible how men were free to harass and rape women in general and that women’s voices about these issues were not generally heard or given attention. However, we also have to keep in mind that not all women are victims. There are also women who can be manipulators and golddiggers, like the despicable Princess Malty (Myne) who backstabbed Naofumi and accused him of rape when he absolutely did nothing.

Finally, to the critics who panned this series down because of those issues and not even pay attention to the actual story, you shouldn’t even be paid to be critics if you’re going to let your own politics involved in it. Also, do your research first and dig deep in the series’ roots, like take the time to read the light novels or the companion manga first before watching the anime and do your review. I’m female and I also support the #MeToo movement, but let’s also be real. We’re talking about a fictional story here that was written several years before the #MeToo movement, plus the Japanese aren’t particularly familiar with the #MeToo movement in the first place. Lastly, Aneko Yusagi did not write the series to please the Western audience, but rather to appeal to every reader and anime/manga otaku out there who would be willing to read the story with an open mind.

About Naofumi Iwatani (Shield Hero)

So, here’s your average college student and a self-proclaimed otaku who was just minding his own business by looking for some books to read at a local library, then next thing you know it, he was summoned to another world after opening an old book in the shelf called The Records of the Four Holy Weapons.

And when he landed right in front of a royal court, along with three random other guys similar to him from different alternate Japans, he became the shield hero by default. From the book he was browsing through prior, he read about the other three heroes, however, the pages turned blank when it was the shield hero’s turn. The mystery that I came across the first time I read it became evident. Why was the shield hero section of the book in blank pages? My first initial thought was that it was blank because the chosen shield hero must do something that would make a huge difference and be forever recorded in history. On the other hand, Naofumi thought that it was just an old worn out light novel that didn’t have the elements of what a typical light novel story should have.

He even complained about the “main female lead” of the book’s story, rather than likable and cute, he described the princess as “someone who looks like a bitch.” At first, I thought that this guy doesn’t really like women that much to use a derogatory term, but as the story proceeded, he could never be more wrong with his own thoughts. His intuition and his mindset were on point once he stepped into this new world he was transported to by default.

After he was stomped upon, discriminated upon, by everyone in Melromarc including the gullible-looking king, and then falsely accused of rape by none other than the princess of Melromarc, Princess Malty (a.k.a. Myne), all the more that Naofumi fell himself into deep depression. With everything lost and with nothing and no one to turn to, he had to resort to controversial means, such as purchasing a slave (and a young girl at that) in order to become a member of his party.

But, despite being hated upon because he is the shield hero, he still continued to do deeds that would benefit the lives of others. At the same time, his hate and distrust towards others, most especially with women in general, and that mindset subsided when one person spoke out of her feelings towards him.

Moving forward, I already know how the story will turn out since I’m so ahead light novel-wise, but I’ll follow along with the anime.

About Raphtalia

Raphtalia is, clearly, the female lead of the story. She is the demi-human 8 slave that Naofumi “purchased” to become a new party member. Because she was a slave, there is a crest in which if she doesn’t follow what her master says, the seal will inflict pain on her to the point that she dies if the lack of loyalty continued.

Even though to some that Naofumi’s purchasing of a slave does sound controversial, 9 Naofumi’s intentions were far from seeing his slave as a slave. He wanted a party member, not a slave, after all. He trained her to be his sword because the shield at default embued to him would not let him touch any other weapon. All he can do was to protect, while she would be able to attack for him.

Not only did he trained her to be a sword warrior, but he also clothed her, fed her, even tended to her injuries with medicine. Even though Naofumi was completely blinded by so much hatred and distrust, Raphtalia returns the favor by being his sword and companion through his journeys. During the times Naofumi is about to break down that would succumb him to the darkest side, she would mold him back to his own self again.

I look forward to the development of their relationship, and I say this because the series itself hasn’t ended yet. But, it’s reported that there will be 25 episodes total, so I do hope the anime continues on with a new season with the new arc.

What volume am I reading now?

Currently, I’m reading volume 6 of the light novel series, so I’m very much way ahead of the anime. But, I’m still watching the anime via Crunchyroll to see how well it would stay truthful to the light novel and the manga. 10 So far, the first four episodes aired hasn’t disappointed me, although there were a few scenes here and there that were re-arranged. The first four episodes covered the entire volume 1 of the light novel.

This Wednesday’s episode will introduce a new character, Filo, which also begins the first chapter of volume 2. While I continue on reading where I am now, I’m still keeping an eye out on my previous volumes while watching the anime, so that those who may have missed or did not understand certain scenes, I’d be able to explain them in further detail.

As mentioned before, it’s reported that there are 25 episodes total. I’m going to make a guess that all 25 episodes will cover the first four volumes of the light novel. It took four episodes (and one quite long first episode too) to cover volume 1 of the light novel, so I’m making an estimate that it would take 4 or 5 episodes per one  volume. But, let’s see what happens next.

I know this isn’t exactly a review and analysis, but I don’t want to spoil anything just yet. Maybe I’ll write a better review next time.

Little Notes

  1. Japanese title: 盾の勇者の成り上がり (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari)
  2. My Kindle tablet, not the Kindle app…
  3. Online massively multiplayer RPG games…
  4. January 9th
  5. I wrote about it more on my MADKID blog/fansite, AXCEL STYLE.
  6. Alternate dimensions, in other words
  7. To which now, thanks to the #MeToo movement, a lot of the mindsets now would side with the (female) accuser at default without even listening to the other party’s (the accused) side of the issue, and this was what happened with Naofumi right in the beginning.
  8. half-human, half-animal or beast. In this case, she’s half-raccoon.
  9. Please keep in mind that this is in an old world medieval-style fantasy world, so anything happens, which includes slavery being legal.
  10. I read that this was started as a web novel in a Japanese web novel platform, similar to Fanfiction.net and Wattpad.