The past never truly leaves us.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
This episode picks up where the last one left off. Raphtalia has Idol at swordpoint and considers the decision to take his life as payment for his many crimes against demihumans, the most horrible of which being their enslavement and torture. Raphtalia thinks back to her past with her friend Rifumi, who taught her the importance of staying positive in the wake of tragedy. She reflects on her memories and decides, ultimately, to spare Idol’s life so he may atone for his crimes. However, Idol doesn’t take have the same issues with violence. He pulls out his sword and immediately tries to kill Raphtali, but she’s able to stab him first, knocking him out of the rear window of the room into the courtyard below.
With Idol dealt with, Raphtalia continues to have flashbacks to her time in the demihuman village with her friends Rifumi and Keel. We watch as she and her village try to persevere even when their village is destroyed, but ultimately they lose everything when soldiers of Melromarc come and enslave them. From there, Raphtalia is brought to the slave trader who sells her to Naofumi, which brings us back to the present.
Raphtalia moves quickly, searching through the rest of the mansion for other demihuman prisoners, and she eventually is able to find Keel locked away in a cell. At first, Keel doesn’t recognize her, but Raphtalia begins reciting tender moments of their life together, which opens her eyes and stirs her memory. Raphtalia then asks about Rifumi, but Keel can’t answer here and simply ushers her down the hallway. Once there, Raphtalia discovers the morbid truth, that Rifumi died in that cell, terrified and isolated.
Raphtalia weeps for her lost friend, but tries her best to hold her determination close and move forward from her shattered past. She regroups with Naofumi and her friends and leaves the mansion with them, only to find that Idol isn’t dead. The portly noble is out in the courtyard, praying to a strange obelisk which Reichnott informs them is some kind of monument made to seal a terrible monster away. The obelisk glows and crumbles, allowing a giant dinosaur to be released from it’s hold. Naofumi and the others take up and arms and prepare to battle with this giant beast.
Raphtalia is the star of the show this time around, and we finally get to see a little bit more about her past before her time with Naofumi. This is a good time in the series to get into this, now that she’s become a warrior in her own right. Seeing her humble origins in this crucial moment is a good way to personalize her character once again and remind us just what it is she represents in the cruel, cruel world of Rising of the Shield Hero. The flashbacks she has are spaced well within Raphtalia’s movement through the mansion for maximum emotional effect. These scenes will no doubt pull some tears from even the most stoic of viewers, as Raphtalia’s past, while tragic, doesn’t reach the melodramatic levels that other, lesser anime tend to settle with. While I have some disagreements with the way Idol was handled in the episode, I think this is ultimately an excellent chapter in the story that both advances Raphtalia’s personal story and better illustrates just how messed up Melromarc really is.
The only major issue I have with the episode is in the first five minutes, where Raphtalia has Idol dead to rights and has an opportunity to end his life. While I can understand the story going the way it went, I think it would have been a more challenging and interesting move for the story if Raphtalia did what she had to do and killed Idol. Letting him live makes sense, but it really could have gone either way, and it would be a sign of maturity and growth for Raphtalia if she had understood the sometimes fatal nature of war, and what wielding a sword really means in regards to life. However, the more frustrating part is the unbelievably “Disney” way in which they have him fall out the window. It takes agency away from Raphtalia when Idol “dies” by his own folly, and demonstrates an immaturity in the storytelling that is out of place in a series that focuses on the harsh realities of the medieval world.
However, despite my criticisms, this is mostly a solid, emotional episode that gets into some of the darker elements of this series. I enjoy sincere, focused storytelling, and having an episode entirely about Raphtalia is a great move for the show. This is par for the course for Shield Hero, so it’s no surprise that it can keep the good episodes coming, but it’s good to be reminded when a show can pull out a little more to keep the audience invested.