This week: chicken on chicken violence.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
In a strange turn, Fitoria has turned to Naofumi and given him the ultimatum that if the Cardinal Heroes will not unite, then she will kill them rather than see them let the world fall. Naofumi is surprised, but Fitoria doesn’t hesitate, taking Melty hostage and challenging Naofumi to defeat her to prove himself. Naofumi tries to fight back, but Fitoria uses her jamming magic to disable Naofumi, demonstrating that she’s quite out of his league.
Despite Fitoria’s overwhelming power, it’s Filo who steps up to the plate to take the bird queen on. Filo challenges Fitoria to a one on one match, which she accepts by putting up a magical shield to prevent their battle from interference. Filo gives it all she’s got, but Fitoria is able to repel her attacks without much difficulty. Naofumi, wanting to help his friend in any way he can, cheers her on from the sidelines, giving her encouragement and advice on how to defeat Fitoria. Still, despite all of her efforts, Filo falls to the ground in resignation at her inability to beat Fitoria. However, even though Filo loses, a memory stirs in Fitoria’s mind of seeing another hero in the past who Naofumi reminds her of, and so she ends the battle and releases Melty.
Fitoria, whose confidence in Naofumi is restored, then treats her guests to a pleasant evening and counsels Naofumi on his next steps. She asks him if he would be more willing to save the world or it’s people, explaining that if he chooses to save the people then his chances of saving the world will be diminished. Naofumi accepts this responsibility, and accept’s Filo’s request to defeat the waves with his own party, alone, so they may prove themselves in her eyes. Once again, Fitoria has flashbacks to the hero that left such an impression on her, and finds comfort in Naofumi, resting her head on his lap.
Fitoria is a curious bird and a strange character, one who hasn’t exactly earned my love in these last couple of episodes. Her stoicism and lack of defining character traits beyond being powerful leave me with a sense of overwhelming “meh” for her part in this episode. That’s not to say that the whole episode is bad, as it’s greatest strength is the endearing persistence of Filo, who demonstrates her best against the unbeatable power of Fitoria. I’m a sucker for displays of heart, so seeing that is welcome here, but it is more of a footnote to an otherwise unsatisfying episode. If Fitoria was more compelling, there would be a lot more to enjoy here, but that isn’t what we’ve got.
I’m left feeling that Fitoria’s resolve to kill Naofumi if he can’t cooperate with the other Cardinal Heroes is less about an actual plot point and more about shock value. Her reasoning doesn’t make a lot of sense and serves to hamstring the tension in the fight for her ridiculous sense of black and white when it comes to Naofumi. She isn’t a stupid character, but she’s doing stupid things. This would be far more compelling if Fitoria was merely pretending to be hostile so that she could test Naofumi’s abilities, but we really are expected to believe that she would just kill one of the world’s only hopes if he doesn’t live up to her expectations. That’s just silly, and it makes me groan.
If you aren’t entertained by the muted dialogue, (as I imagine you aren’t) then perhaps this episode’s fighting can bring you back into the story. I did enjoy Filo’s battle a good bit, even if it was simple, but it demonstrated enough character that I can safely say it’s good storytelling. However, I wish the episode upped the intensity more by having Filo suffer some real damage. I enjoyed this show quite a bit at the beginning for its realism and brutality, so keeping that going would do wonders for the tone.
Right now, it seems like Shield Hero is drifting away from the roots that separated it from other isekai. How similar Naofumi’s party looks to a harem, how quickly he seems to make people fall for him, even if it’s that weird, faux-romantic way that shows like this like to leave love interests. Shield Hero better be careful not to fall into the pitfalls that many shows like it have fallen into, otherwise it could become just another flash in the pan seasonal that no one remembers once it’s gone.