No action is without consequence.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Naofumi has sent Melty away after finding out she was of royal descent, much to the dismay of Filo and Raphtalia. Though Melty’s intentions were noble, Naofumi doesn’t trust anyone so close to the establishment, and who can blame him? His suspicious nature reveals itself once more when a group of soldiers asks to fight with him in the next wave. He agrees, but only if they buy a worthless trinket off him for 150 silver pieces.
Naofumi continues his preparations for the next wave after learning about “class upgrades”, a level cap increase that Filo and Raphtalia are eligible for. He tries to get their classes upgraded by going to the dragon hourglass, but it turns out the king has forbidden the nuns there from giving Naofumi’s team class upgrades. Naofumi isn’t about to give up, though, he heads to Beloukas, his slave trader contact, who tells him that he can get class upgrades in a different country’s dragon hourglass. In addition, he buys some new weapons for Filo and Raphtalia to fight with.
Moving on, Naofumi travels to the border of the neighboring nation of Melromarc, where he comes across refugees in need of food. They tell him that someone wielding a bow was sent to their nation to start a revolution, and they’ve had to flee the country as a result. Later, in a Melromarc tavern, Naofumi finds the bow hero and the sword hero talking over lunch. Naofumi confronts the two heroes about their actions, and how their “adventures” have resulted in death and despair for everyday people. After his confrontational lunch, Naofumi finds the soldiers he sent away once more with silver in hand. Naofumi accepts them into his party and orders them to use that money to buy some better equipment.
Chalk another one up for Rising of the Shield Hero, which, as it goes on and on, is proving its worth as more than just a novel approach to isekai. As the story goes on, the show grows; its themes become more rich and complex, its characters become more fleshed out as Naofumi and his crew rise to the occasion as the heroes this new world deserves. This episode, which initially feels more like a list of chores than anything else, is actually a deep dive into the core themes at work in this show. If there was any confusion about who Naofumi is and what his role is in this world, it’s washed away here, as he takes the moral high ground above the people who cast him out in the first episode.
Naofumi, at times, feels like less of a hero in the traditional sense, and more of a warlord or, as he puts it, a “bandit king.” This is in stark contrast to the traditional role of a hero who, as the bow and sword heroes display, go around killing and revolutionizing and questing all at the expense of the normal people. Naofumi’s wisdom and perspective to see this makes him a challenging and interesting protagonist who stands for the common folk more than for his own adventurous gain. This is a realization of the themes started in the first episode, which developed a huge divide between the lives of those with privilege and those without. In its own way, being a “chosen one” is a sort of luxury, entitling one to go around doing whatever they want for the sake of their “quest”, regardless of the real world consequences of that.
The execution is what makes everything work so well here. This is a mature show, and it requires a more subtle approach to things. The only way to do this is through proper character development and you’ll find no shortage of that here. Even side characters like Beloukas feel more and more realized as they express nuance and detail to their characters. Naofumi’s rejection of Melty is a good example of this, since it comes from his experiences being burned by the establishment of this land over and over again.
It’s deeply satisfying to see how far Naofumi has come and how much power he’s amassed through his wits and persistence. He’s a different kind of hero for a different kind of anime, one that I think it sorely needed in our current anime environment. We’ve had so many cheap, shallow fantasy-fulfillment isekais, it’s good to see one go off the beaten path to capture something a little more challenging.