The adventure continues, and the shield hero’s power grows.
With the illustrious beginning of Shield Hero over, the show has moved on to the meat of its week-by-week, slowly progressing the larger story forward while following an episodic format about Naofumi’s shield-bearing adventures. This is a big shift from the first 6 episodes that placed a larger emphasis on survival and developing Naofumi’s plight and personality in this twisted world he’s found himself in. Now, however, things are much more about cleaning up the mess left behind the other heroes who go throughout the land ruining things with their reckless and stupid behavior.
Going from village to village, Naofumi and friends encounter a village plagued with sentient plants that have taken over the town with their monstrous vines, along with a village plagued by a disease spread by the corpse of a dead dragon. In addition, he meets a new ally in a girl named Melty, who has some more going on than first meets the eye.
This format is less intense, but more fun, and offers opportunities for Naofumi to upgrade his skills and grow from his battles. It’s an exciting experience seeing someone who was once so weak and forlorn gain so much power, even though he’s still pretty forlorn. The triumph of skill and intelligence (Such as using his plant manipulation abilities to sell fruit to a nearby vendor) over brazen cocky power (Like in the case of the spear hero) makes for an audience bond with Naofumi that encourages interest in the story. In addition, building out the party has solidified all the format all the more.
Rising of the Shield Hero has impressed me quite a bit so far with its ambitious take on the isekai genre and its focus on character building a small, but likable cast. However, this series is definitely limited by its English voice acting compared to the original Japanese. Subtitles aren’t for everyone, but the quality of acting between the two languages is night and day. Too often, the side characters of Shield Hero sound like goofy caricatures of people instead of actual people, while the main cast suffers from “Bland protagonist syndrome.” There’s nothing about Naofumi’s voice that separates him from most anime protagonist voices I’ve heard. You could replace his voice with that of a protagonist from almost any other show and it wouldn’t change anything.
Despite that, though, the story remains strong, as its core elements blend together to make a story that’s both a good adventure and a fun romp through a fantasy world. I said before that this is “Isekai done right”, and I stand by that 100%. Though there are issues with the dub and some definite trappings of the genre that put me off, they’re nowhere near as egregious as some of the other garbage isekais out there.