I quite enjoyed the first season of Shield Hero. I found a lot of its action scenes as well as the different game-inspired abilities very fun to watch, and the main character Naofumi had a clear arc that was believable from beginning to end. Watching someone get dragged through the mud in some of the worst (at times to the point of feeling contrived) possible ways, only for them to persevere, earn the respect of those that truly matter around them, and walk away with a more confident sense of self was enjoyable. I actually would’ve been fine not getting a second season, because while the overall looming threat was still prevalent, I didn’t really think there was a lot more that could’ve been done with our main character.
Season two begins by establishing this new status quo, which is a complete contrast to the way that season one started. Naofumi is now a well-respected Lord who has earned the admiration of the queen and is arguably the strongest of the four heroes. He still retains a little bit of his characteristic edge, but it’s definitely a lot more tempered here, which is a sign of maturity. He also doesn’t seem as quick-tempered as he did before, with only one major outburst towards the end of episode two triggered by people that didn’t seem to be looking at the bigger picture. Even then, once he cooled his head and talked to Raphtalia, he exhibits a bit more of an open-minded optimism to cooperating with others. If you enjoyed the first season or specifically Naofumi as a character, then this shift in Naofumi’s personality is probably one of the best things about these two episodes.
A large portion of these starting episodes is spent on exposition, with at least one scene in each episode revolving around a group of people sitting around and talking about a new random that is only loosely connected to the main threat of the Waves. Admittedly, the show could have done a better job at communicating visually just how much of a threat this creature poses; We are simply told about all the destruction it has caused and the stakes involved, which is apparently so intense that various nations needed to come together in order to put a stop to this threat.
Despite not being able to relate to the tension that is going on, I can still understand why the characters should care, which makes it all the more frustrating when we compare Naofumi’s actions with that of the other three heroes. I understand they’re supposed to be stubborn assholes who are still treating all of this like a game, but even from a general practicality standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why they just dismissed this issue as something that they don’ t need to deal with even though it’s made clear that most of the major cities will be destroyed if this threat isn’t stopped. I really wish these characters had more internality to them because whenever they do show up, it feels like they’re just there to make Naofumi look better. You can do that with one other hero, not three who are unified in that stubbornness despite apparently having different personalities. Without any insight into their individual thoughts and feelings, it just makes their actions come off as shortsighted, even when taking into consideration that they were looking at this more like a game.
This brings me to probably my biggest issue with season one of Shield Hero, which seemed to carry over to these two episodes. The show has a bit of a problem with exaggerating things when it really It doesn’t need to, whether it’s questionable plot points, character personalities, or even understandable narrative leaps. Not only do we see this with the three heroes and the way that the exposition was unceremoniously dumped upon our heads, but I fear that it also seeped into what I can only assume is the next emotional core of the story revolving around Risha. I like Richa; she’s a little one-note, but I like the idea of a more mature Naofumi being tasked with looking after somebody that is in a similar situation to him. The show heavily implies that she was unjustly kicked out of the Bow Hero’s party out of spite and left with nowhere else to go. Season one ended with Naofumi relating to her situation and that does carry over here rather organically.
That said, one glaring issue that doesn’t make sense to me is how she’s continued to be portrayed as overly incompetent. She seems to be rather skilled in magic, was a big help during the conflict at the end of season one, and if I was reading the game interface correctly, she is only a few levels lower than Naofumi and his party. However, the show kind of acts like she was always useless and that part of her arc is connected to overcoming that uselessness hence all the…training? If she was this useless then why would the Bow Hero even put up with her in the first place? Why did she need to be framed in order for her to be kicked out? Maybe her arc is more about overcoming her sense of inferiority rather than actually being useless, but if that’s the case, then I don’t know why the slave thing is even needed.
Yes, the slave thing – one of the most divisive aspects of this show. I’m not against slavery being used in a narrative context at all. I’m of the opinion that most real-world issues can and should (to a certain extent) be used as components of storytelling as long as they’re used well. When the show started and Naofumi used Raphtalia as a slave, I actually thought that was an interesting narrative choice. The initial act of purchasing a slave was not glorified and framed more as a horrible act of desperation on Naofumi’s part. However, it’s everything that comes after that feels either overdone and inconsistent. For instance, I simply couldn’t understand why the slave owner is still around. Season one even ended with an ominous narration from him as if he was foreshadowing major stuff that he would get Naofumi involved in. He even gets screen time specifically to turn Rishia into one of Naofumi’s slaves. Is the show framing her as underpowered so that she would feel compelled to take the slave oath in order to get the power up? That said, I will admit that I really like that little bit of self-awareness that the show displays through Raphtalia. Naofumi pointing out that she is probably one of the very few people who would willingly let herself be enslaved even though it’s not exactly necessary was not only funny, but also makes me eager to learn more about what’s going on.
Again, Rishia’s situation could have worked as an interesting parallel to Naofumi. Naofumi was so desperate to the point where he felt like he had no choice but to acquire a slave, whereas Rishia is someone who feels so useless to the point where she thinks actually being a slave will help her be more useful. However, as mentioned, the show hampers this by unnecessarily exaggerating Rishia’s incompetence. Add in the fact that it’s unclear why she would be so devoted to the Bow Hero when all we’ve seen of him is that he’s kind of a cocky asshole, and it all feels like another example of the show overdoing things for the sake of Communicating an idea that was already being set up in a more organic way. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and the show will justify its seemingly bizarre narrative choices down the line. Now that all the exposition is out of the way and we know what the big bad is and what’s at stake, hopefully we will be able to continue this emotional narrative journey sooner rather than later.
The Rising of The Shield Hero Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.