The current climate of all media, not just anime, is rather volatile. Not the shows themselves for the most part, but rather the discourse around them. From reviews to chat groups and that hive of scum and villainy known as twitter there is no shortage of people looking to be offended. Then there are those just looking to join either side. Be it to seem cool or appear to be a good person. So it’s hard to get an honest feel for most things anymore. That said we can’t overlook the fourth type of person in these outrage fueled arguments, those actually and honestly upset. I brought up casually to a friend of mine, well maybe friend is to strong perhaps person I know is better, that I’d check out a show he mentioned after I finish my current one. My current show, as I am sure you can guess is The Rising of the Shield Hero, a show which I am almost positive we are both having vastly different experiences with. A very fitting thing to happen seeing as such a split in opinions on the titular hero is at the core of the show. For the bulk of beginning, about 23ish episodes, the Shield Hero is demonized. Now to some people in real life this stays the case.
The main character Naofumi is a college slacker who was allowed to move back home after straightening out his younger brother who was starting to go down the wrong path. He enjoys and is grateful to be allowed to live back home with his parents. I bring this up to start to get you building your expectations for this guy. He even enjoys going to the library to get some light novels when his funds are kinda tight. Japanese light novels are basically what we call YA fiction in America. Shorter easier reads with typically more reserved tones and content. So anyway he gets straight up Pagemastered into a book at the library.
Him and 3 others from our world get pulled to a magical realm of xenophobia and oddly video game like devices without it actually being in anyway a video game. To that end I assume it’s just doing it because all the other cool animes are or were doing it. Once he arrives he has to get his bearings. Only the first of many twists is that these other three earthlings are snooty and get along but dislike him. It doesn’t stop there as he is constantly talked down to while the others are praised, he gets framed by the princess for sexual assault, and completely shunned by the kingdom he was summoned to save. Plus his magic shield prevents him from using any weapons himself.
First off I have to give props to this show for episode one stating that the world they are in looks down so heavily on even attempted sexual assult that it would merit the death penalty. It makes the fact that there are underaged half animal slave girls way less creepy. If there is one thing the show stays consistent in it’s that No means No. You would be surprised to know not all shows take that stance. Another good anime called, wait sorry I said good that is not accurate, an anime I personally enjoy called Fairy Tail has lots of inappropriate moments even starting off the series with a magic rape boat episode.
It’s a boat of magical rapists, not a boat that, nevermind. Moving on! So the main guy is mentally at his breaking point. He is a stranger in a strange land, the few times he tried to trust people they betrayed him, he didn’t ask to be there and can’t remove the shield, and no one cares enough to even tell him what is going on. When he is at his lowest and with no way to attack for himself he meets a creepy guy who sells animal demihuman slaves. Where he buys one, pretty much the cheapest one there, the only one he can afford.
Raphtalia the raccoon girl. This is where the conversation really started to diverge. I can understand why the guy would be in such a mindset. Why he would buy a slave and why he would force her to fight for him. He does treat her coldly, but never to the point of cruelty. Then he starts to become warmer and warmer to her as he eventually starts to see her like his daughter. Eventually you find out her kingdom pretty much worship the shield hero. She grew up wanting to meet him. So when he not only appears but saves her from her past owner who was letting her slowly die of a treatable disease in a cage only feeding her scraps of course she falls for him. He after a few episodes doesn’t even care she is his slave anymore and doesn’t use her magic slave spell to force her to do anything. So much so when he is accosted by the fellow heros and the king about even having a slave he just explains that ofcourse it’s wrong and he doesn’t condone of it just that’s how they met and things are different. Her crest is in fact removed, which he was certain meant she was going to leave him as well. I fear he was right to have. But she doesn’t, she stays, more so she wants a new crest.
This now forms the very core of most people bI have talked to’s dislike of the series. Now the first question is does she have to be a slave for his shield to grant him some of the experience when she kills someone, or do all party members including non slaves split experience equally? The second question is doesn’t her actions seem more in line with a religious or atleast symbolic gesture rather than slavery? This would be where I would like to discuss the various aspects of negative things in media. Not just slavery but many other terrible things that seem to widely be ignored. Or shows that put it in a bombastic and flamboyant light like the slavery and sex trafficking in say The Walking Dead? I find where and when people find issues to bring up rather interesting. So here is what I gathered from a few various people in our chat. A completely rational discussion among intellectual equals.
- The Main Character is unlikeable and rude, how can anyone justify slavery?! I also don’t like his overall bad attitude.
- The author is clearly an incel (involuntary celibate) because of his use of slavery and having a female character have her name legally changed to Bitch and Whore in one scene.
- Regardless of any justification or character growth the fact he bought a slave not to free them or better their life is bad.
So for the sake of fairness I my friend gave the show a solid chance. The themes and issues that kept popping up eventually dawned on him that he was fundamentally opposed to the show. Which I can completely agree with, I do agree on a lot of his points as he presented them. I don’t know the author, but I seem to see people using the phrase incel to describe misogynists in a blanket term. I was lead to believe incels were extreme and violent misogynists that actively attack or harass women. As such I think unless you got proof stick with misogynist. Also I have seen a few articles while looking for that slave crest pic saying the same thing. Notably one being “Imagine You Incel So Hard You Justify Slavery” or something equally stupid. Those bits out of the way here is my bullet point rebuttal.
- Why yes the Main Character is unlikeable and rude. I don’t think the author intended for him to be likable. Antihero comes to mind in this case. I believe his purchasing of Raphtalia was framed in a valid plot relevant way. Does it justify his actions morally? No, but personally yes. Plus he is chastised later for that very action by a large amount of his peers and the King personally.
- The author is unknown to me. I often separate actor and creator from the art. Unless the actions done by that person happens to be overtly and publicly known or shown to me directly. Without anything to go on I let the show speak for itself. In that scene the girl, who is a major antagonist and the first princess with a known history of bad behavior was being sentenced to death for her crimes by her mother. Which is legally justified by the laws in this world. Shield Hero actually suggested they spare her, because she begged for help for him. She was desperate and alone, like he was, and he stepped in to save her. He had seconds only to think of an alternative, and she was a bit of a bitch. Also that was foreshadowed in the first episode.
- If we disregard any justification or character growth because we personally disagree with the actions they used to take then you are fundamentally saying that most movies are offensive and that all characters should be judged based on what they did as soon as they make a single bad call or had a moment of desperation. I am not saying this in a negative light mind you if anything it’s a very classical take on literature and film. I want to say the term is committing a mortal sin? Like Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter who denied fathering Pearl and allowing the persecution of Hester. Even if he would have come clean his fate would have still been sealed from his first denial. I can understand such an outdated view and I can respect it but I don’t agree with it.
Gee don’t I sound smart when no one is around to say their side of things? That is one of the things I loathe about dealing with people online. They often will talk into a sounding wall of their supporters or completely disregard other views. Not that I can blame them as most opposition comes in the form of condescension and insults more about sounding right then being right. So let me expand a bit on what else was brought up. In the middle of our back and forth a general culture of misogynistic themes and lead characters in much more offensive and harder to defend shows was brought to my attention. These shows were all new to me. I had missed them completely. And I have to admit had I come to Shield Hero from having been exposed to these other shows I might have felt differently. Besides a person’s personal life and beliefs you also have to take their exposure into account. Our tastes and views on any art and media is painted over a stained canvas of what we know and what we expect. Sadly admitting any doubt in one’s stance online often turns out like buying lumber in a David Lynch film.
You will need a very clear and understandable answer that resonates with the person you are trying to reach. I still rather enjoy Shield Hero. I find it definitely worth your time, if only a few episodes to see how you feel about it for yourself. In this case I have to say my attempts to defend this series has shown me that I often overlook and excuse some tone deaf themes and concepts to see if they pay off. When they don’t I just forget. When they do I feel inclined to defend my take on the intended topic like it’s a Rotten Tomatoes review. I bring that up because Rotten Tomatoes has some very polarizing films with great critic scores and terrible user scores. As well as the reverse sometimes. It only goes to prove that not everyone is looking for subtext. So just because it seems good to you, maybe listen earnestly to people on the other side of your viewpoint. If so you both might just get a deeper understanding of the show you feel passionately enough to defend. Just know if things are going south and they won’t listen at all, don’t shout back just slip away.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is available on Funimation’s streaming app in the United States as of the time I am writing this. So maybe check it out, but always be most excellent to each other.