Welcome to Shield Art Online, the latest popular trapped-in-a-video-game light novel adaptation. You’ve seen this show a dozen times before, but this the trashiest one so far. Not only is this dogshit a shameless loli-harem, but it is also a slavery harem, a power fantasy, and 100% incel approved.
Do people actually think The Rising of the Shield Hero is above other isekai harem fodder? Naofumi is yet again another blank slate protagonist who builds his harem by "saving" a bunch of lolis. Rather than developing any of them, the show just adds a new loli to avoid having to write compelling characters. Naofumi is a nobody otaku who stays at his home all day—with perfect hair for some reason—then he gets sent to another world in the painful 45-minute first episode. Why is he there? To save some video game fantasy world from being destroyed! Why did they choose him? Who cares! The writers didn’t! Once he arrives, he notices a shield is stuck to his arm, not cool. Naofumi finds three more boring guys who were also sent to this world to help save it. The other heroes have much cooler weapons like a spear, a bow, and a sword. Naofumi is looked down on for being so lame and getting the worst weapon. It’s kind of hilarious watching them crap on him, in a cringy way.
You’ll find out soon enough this is one of those shows where EVERYONE shits on the weak protagonist except his harem, but watch out because he’s going to become a badass! Right from the very beginning, it’s obvious Naofumi will get everything a self-insert harem protagonist deserves. Magic powers that defy logic, waifus to fight over him, and more money than he’ll ever be able to spend.
All of this sounds great for our plucky personality-less main character, but reaching the ultimate isekai protagonist status would prove to be challenging. No one wants to join the lame Shield Hero’s party. Fortunately for him, there is someone who volunteers! Malty, the princess of the kingdom that summoned the four heroes offers her help. Is it too good to be true? No! He’s getting the woman he deserves! ...Oh no. Then Malty falsely accuses him of rape and she steals all his stuff. Then she ditches him for the spear hero, a cool guy who everyone loves. Anyone with a functioning brain can see this ‘twist’ coming from a mile away. This petty conflict reveals the author's nihilistic insecurity; The fear that if a beautiful woman loves you, she must be secretly trying to manipulate you. I understand the author. All of us have experienced rejection, and this is a fantasy for disillusioned young men. Yes, I am calling the author a man. Many people seem to believe the author’s a woman, so what? For those who are new to the internet, the incel community is known for misogyny, self-loathing, violent rhetoric, and hatred toward relationships. The incel dogma was created by a woman. Since it's inception, the incel community has generated mass murderers, rapists, and dozens of suicides. Even if Shield Hero was written by a woman, it's still garbage.
Naofumi is exiled, stripped of his money, and his reputation is tarnished. This is the stage of inceldom known as the red pill: He accepts that he will be alone because society misunderstands him. No one will ever love him, and if they claim they do they are lying. Nothing is his fault, he is unable to fix his life. Like incel ideology, you can poke holes in this logic; Naofumi is a fine looking guy, I’d fuck if he wasn’t a personified plank of wood. There are plenty of ex-cons getting laid every day. A real justice system will have a fair trial in a court that practices innocent until proven guilty, not vice versa. The author bends logic so the court trial is totally unrealistic and everyone comically hates him. It’s unintentionally hilarious.
Then, Naofumi takes the black pill: If you feel abandoned by society, why not seek revenge? He vows to seek revenge on Malty in the most brutal way possible. I’m not trying to demonize the author, I am condemning the ideologies he promotes. The black pill's inevitable state is known as LDR (Lie Down and Rot), which is as evil as it sounds. The black pill is a toxic trash heap of deeply ill men worsening each other's depression and cultivating their anger towards women. They share what's called sui-fuel—images and stories to convince themselves to commit suicide. Looking at these images is like dousing a cut with hand sanitizer, not unlike watching Naofumi being punished unjustly. Incels will typically say it’s just irony, or people don’t understand. On the forums, the genuine thoughts of suicide tell a different story. There’s no other reason why the author would write a narrative as contrived as this one than to appeal to this worldview. Malty, the king, and the three heroes are the villains. They are never given motivations or character development. Malty was evil for the sake of being evil. Naofumi doesn’t question why she did what she did. He decides to get revenge, no questions asked.
There’s no subtlety, ambiguity, or nuance to this message, and it makes for a very boring anime. For most of the show, the conflict is stagnant. Naofumi solves trivial problems to grind for XP (which does not matter at all in the end), then when the conflict is addressed the execution is very underwhelming. There’s no satisfaction to be had from the revenge plot. Unless you love torture porn—complete with women suffering and ahegao faces—then you’ll be disappointed. The author grows tired of Shield Hero’s plotlines like an impatient child; he rewrites its plot, setting, and conflicts at the drop of a hat. Full of despair, Naofumi strolls down to the neighborhood slave market to pick up a new party member and potential love interest. I do not need to explain why owning another person is wrong. Half of the anime community turned a blind eye to slavery—one of the most amoral and depraved crimes. They ignored it because the girl Naofumi bought was a cute tanuki. In the context of the story, the inclusion of slavery is a pointless addition that serves nothing but degenerate fetishistic fantasies. The prominent theme of slavery in Shield Hero affirms the incel ideology known as "The Redistribution of Sex." Incels believe men should be legally assigned a woman against their will.
The second episode is aptly titled “The Slave Girl” as if it was a confession of guilt from the show’s producer. Naofumi picks up a cute raccoon girl, a battered slave. Anyone who praised Shield Hero early on couldn’t put into words why other than “cute raccoon girl” and “Naofumi reminds me of myself.” Wow, a slave owner with no personality is just so relatable. After episode five, the slave girl’s personality stopped developing altogether. Naofumi named her Raphtalia, then he trained her by using the slavery game mechanic—he shocked her whenever she refused his orders. Like any great father, he grooms her to become a killing machine. By the end of the second episode, she is suddenly a grown adult woman after a few in-game days pass. OKAY. First of all, this mechanic is never explained; no matter how many times she levels up, this is the only time it makes her age. Raphtalia has a father/daughter relationship with Naofumi, but now that she’s older she becomes a creepy sort of love interest. Cross that fetish off the author’s checklist.
Throughout the series, Raphtalia makes romantic advances towards Naofumi, but he acts too braindead to perceive anything as sexual. Their relationship never progresses, and so this show never becomes a romance (thank Christ). When she talks to Naofumi he could be replaced by a plank of wood and there would be no difference. She struts her stuff in front of him, wearing a skimpy bathing suit in the very important beach episode, to no response. With the same vacant expression, he comments on how effective the swimsuit will be in combat. Later on, Naofumi buys another slave, this one was an egg, it hatches into a huge bird named Filo. She’s also a loli, naked upon introduction. Her only purpose in the story is to fight for Naofumi in combat. She also fights for Naofumi's love against Raphtalia and the other waifus. The rest of his harem is underage girls, and Filo is under a year old (although she looks like a toddler). Could this get any more revolting?
The story goes in circles; people accuse the Shield Hero of being a rapist and owning slaves, then the cycle repeats itself over and over. First, it’s princess Malty, then it’s the King, then it’s the church, then all of the cardinal heroes accuse him. These allegations don’t ever get to Naofumi because he is more or less a passive protagonist. He is either told to do something, like stopping the waves of chaos to save the world, save helpless villagers, or circumstances push him to do something. He doesn’t grow at all from any conflict. The rest of the cast is even worse written than he is. Throughout the story, character motivations are rewritten with no build-up, which makes their previous actions seem nonsensical in retrospect. Powerful weapons, new powers, and motivations are retconned into the story to increase the stakes. The retcons are so stupid they lessen the effect of the action scenes. At the best of times, the fight choreography is average and it only gets worse. If you love janky, hideous CGI you will love the action scenes in this show. Later on, low detail CGI is used in any scene Kinema Citrus can shove it into. Guards, intimidating monsters, grand attacks, background characters are all CGI. Any grand action set piece you would expect to be well-animated is hideous CGI. The only thing the visuals have going for them is the character designs, and even those are generic and uninspired. With a drab color palette of browns and faded greens, the background art couldn’t be blander. Kinema Citrus is a promising studio with great productions like Made in Abyss, this is a new low for them.
The fantastic composer Kevin Pelkin was brought on by Kinema Citrus again. While Pelkin’s soundtrack doesn’t live up to the heights of his work on Made in Abyss, it is the best part of the show. The OST is used always to build tension in place of, you know, writing, and to that extent. However, the music consists of calming string instruments and woodwinds, fitting an atmospheric story. The music is not suited to this kind of anime. Forcing the composer to carry the weight of a crappy script just undermines his talent, Pelkin deserves better than this. Both openings were pretty terrible, sorry MADKID. I would say I liked the ending songs if I could remember them, but they were average and forgettable.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is about an incel who doesn’t care about anything but showing everyone how better he is than them. The themes are slavery apologia, misogyny, and women's rights. Nevermind scratch that last one. Everyone hates him, they misunderstand him, they underestimate him. It is his goal to prove he is far better than they thought, for them to know how great of a person he is, and to love him. Simply put, this is an incel power-fantasy. Flawed people make good characters and Naofumi is very flawed. However, his many flaws are never explored. People judge him, but they don’t criticize him. Raphtalia is groomed to respect him, she loves him before even meeting him, there is never any hint of criticism of his treatment of her. She even looks back on him abusing her with nostalgia in later episodes. His misogyny is implied, and understandable. However, it is ignored and it never adds any depth to him.
Inside and out Shield Hero is cliched, predictable, and ugly. Light novel writers churn out stories like Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari all the time. An adaptation of a generic LN is bound to make money, that's the only reason why this anime exists. Unless you are a diehard fan of wish-fulfillment isekai anime, there is nothing that makes this one worth watching. In spite of the haphazard inclusion of slavery and false rape allegations, this series is garbage. Whether you find the controversial themes offensive or inconsequential, I cannot recommend this to anyone. The archetypal characters do not have enough personality to make their monotonous journey watchable. Once the art and writing quality decline far past mediocre, it becomes unremittingly awful. If you like this anime divided from its incel rhetoric, more power to you. For me, the art and artist are inexorably tied together. The Rising of the Shield Hero is without a doubt, the worst anime I have had the misfortune of watching all year.