The Disappointment of the Shield Hero

I’m sure I’m not alone in remembering when the Rising of the Shield Hero anime took the world by storm a couple years ago. That was shortly after I got back into anime, and shows in the fantasy genre (isekai or otherwise) made up the bulk of what I was watching at the time. So I of course tuned in to Shield Hero, in part because of the “controversy” it was causing.

Especially when compared to a lot of other isekai anime, this one was much better, in many respects. A lot of this is due to the events of the first episode, where Naofumi learns that he’s not exactly welcome on this new world, and then finds himself an outcast. His journey through his anger at the world, his growing strength, and relationship with his party members as he clears his name, gets revenge on those who wronged him–while somewhat reluctantly protecting the world in the process–made for great entertainment.

However, that was just the first half of season 1. The second half of that season was much, much less memorable. It was still entertaining enough though, and the introduction of apparent heroes from yet another world–who felt like they needed to destroy this one Naofumi was on–added a neat little twist.

So there was enough there to keep me quite interested in seeing where things went, and, after an extended delay due to a certain beer virus, season 2 arrived.

Unfortunately, I’ve been more than a little disappointed.

To sum things up, season 2 has just been…boring, and frustrating. Boring enough that it makes me wonder why I enjoyed season 1 in the first place. And frustrating enough that I’m starting to wonder if we were all just tricked into liking season 1.

To address where I think Shield Hero has fallen off, though, we do need to go back to season 1–specifically the second half. Because while I did enjoy it, that part of the season was markedly less interesting than the first half. It’s just that after the revenge arc, and the plot of Naofumi clearing his name, things just started to feel a bit generic. But, between the fun character interactions, solid action, and some of the reveals near the end, I was still interested to see where things were going.

Fast forward a couple years, and we finally have the second season. But if the second half of season 1 was a step back in terms of the engagement of the story, this second season has fallen all the way back down the hill.

We pick up some time later (I don’t think we’re ever told how long, though it’s implied that it’s been at least a few months, and, apart from the new demi-human village being built up, really not much seems to have changed. There’s a new character, who seems to be kind of important, but she got no real introduction, and I honestly can’t even remember her name (talking about the pink haired swordswoman.)

Rishia, who we met near the end of season 1, is still a member of the party, and still very timid and not so useful. She’s not a terrible character, but she got annoying pretty quickly. We get quick reintroductions to several other characters too. So while it’s clear time has been skipped and we’re not getting much in the way of info about that, it’s not a terrible way to reintroduce us to this world and these characters.

And then the plot gets going, and the problems really begin. Remember the waves, the (alleged) main conflict? Yeah well forget that for now, it’s time for a pointless side quest. See, there’s this giant CGI turtle that’s going to cause an apocalypse. We’re going to spend the next six episodes on this.

I thought about going over the (lack of) events in these first episodes point by point, but it’s just so dull I can’t bring myself to do it. They make a plan to kill the turtle, it fails. Another plan succeeds–but it’s not really dead–and then rinse and repeat that, literally.

The status of conflicts from last season:

Myne(yeah she got her name changed to Bitch, but calling her that just sounds cringe) got her punishment, but is still walking around. She’s not trying for revenge? Same with the king.

The waves: Basically forgotten about.

Friction with the other heroes: Just a meme at this point.

The revelation that L’Arc, Therese, & Glass were heroes from another would and wanted to destroy this one: Apart from some lip service, basically dropped for now.

The giant turtle conflict, and the arc that follows it, both feel like diversionary side quests in a world where there’s no main driving plot. I hate to say it, but once the revenge/redemption arc was done, there really wasn’t much left, and the author apparently didn’t have anything interesting planned.

Now, this season’s second arc is by no means as bad as the first, and it could’ve been pretty neat–if it could make me care and didn’t come off as lazy.

Clearly, the writer realized that Naofumi had already become completely overpowered, which makes him much less interesting than he was back when he had to struggle and find clever solutions. So, in what I’m just going to call a lazy cop-out, when the gang goes to the other other world…their level gets reset back to 1, making them weak again. Obviously I understand why this decision was made, but it is still a lazy way to suddenly make the characters not overpowered again. (This is part of why I’m not a big fan of literal game mechanics in isekai series in general, because they are too often used as an easy way to write your way out of a problem in an uninteresting way.)

Even though there is a little more going on in this second arc, it still just feels like things are happening because something needs to happen. It’s just really not engaging, the attempts to build tension feel forced, and even many of the lighter character interactions feel stilted now.

At least Kizuna, the newest member of the harem–I mean party–is kinda cute, and she steals practically every scene she’s in. By the end of the season, she proves herself the only adult in the room and the only reason to keep watching.

Unfortunately, where the first arc of the season was so slow and draggy, the second felt like it was a full season’s worth of story crammed into 5 episodes. There were so many moments where the show tried to makes us feel something (such as finding Filo & Raphtalia), but since it was all so rushed the impact was lost and everything felt unearned.

Now, of course Shield Hero has the potential to right the ship if it continues beyond the already greenlit season 3. I haven’t read the manga or light novel beyond volume 1, but what I have seen from those who have is that at best it’s a very mixed bag.

Rising of the Shield Hero, like so many series before it, is likely a victim of its own initial success. I don’t get any pleasure in talking about how this series fell off, but I’m not just going to cheerlead something because I once like it. To be perfectly honest, as of the end of season 2, I’m done. Unless I hear that things have really improved, and that the show has at least somewhat returned to what it was when it first grabbed my attention. If there’s an interest, I may go into more depth on the various issues I had with this season, but for now I just wanted to get out my general thoughts, which have been stewing for some time now. I never like to bash a show I once enjoyed, but I’ve got to be honest.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other fish in the isekai sea, including my own!

Light Unto Another World is an action-packed isekai adventure in which I put my own little spin on things while still keeping the core of what makes the genre so fun in the first place. We’ve got a proactive protagonist who relies more on his wits than on magic, a fun main cast of characters who all get time to shine, and very hateable villains.

We’re currently crowdfunding volumes 6-10, but you can get all 10 volumes (in both ebook and paperback formats) through the Kickstarter!

Check out the campaign, and the animated trailer, and back Light Unto Another World today!

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