As far as isekai go, there is a common pattern. A person gets transported to another world. This person becomes the messiah to save the world. The character is all powerful with skills not available to the new world’s inhabitants. He knows his role and can do it well. He is revered by the inhabitants that have called upon him. He is downright righteous and heroic in his demeanor. Rinse and repeat. For the most part. Once in a while, an isekai anime comes along to break this mold. ‘The Rising of the Shield Hero’ is such an isekai. I’ll be honest. When I started watching this anime, I thought it would be more of the same. It started off following that pattern, and I was ready to drop the series. Then something changed, and I was proven wrong.
‘The Rising of the Shield Hero’ chronicles the adventures of Naofumi Iwatami as the character transported to another world. He arrives with expectations of him to save this new place from mystical wave attacks that summon monsters from another dimension. The initial pattern of isekai ends here. One of four cardinal heroes, his weapon being a shield, he arrives much maligned by the ruling king of Melromarc. Also, among the four, he knows next to zero about what his powers are. He is dumbfounded that the other three heroes (carrying spear, bow and sword) know exactly what to do to save this world. Later, he gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and the downward spiral from hero to zero intrigued me. Summoned from another world only to be humiliated and treated as an outcast? Show me more.
This was shaping up to be not the story of a messiah. This was a road to redemption story. Rags to riches. As Naofumi hits rock bottom with nowhere to go, he enlists one of his first allies, a bought slave called Raphtalia. His initial naivete and optimism have transformed to roguish street smarts and cynicism. He was in no way your shinning knight on a white horse. And really, how much esteem and power can you have with a shield? That’s not really your weapon of choice to gain prestige. Or is it?
The story progresses with Naofumi, disillusioned with this world, still doing his mandate of saving it from the mystical wave attacks, but he just wants to get it over with, and find a way home. He continuously builds his reputation back up with the locals, but he also gets brought down hard time and time again. If you’re the type who connects with the main character, his travails can feel so frustrating. It’s the constant rise and fall that gets you going. Naofumi doesn’t deserve this. He didn’t ask for this. And yet, he does what is asked being not concerned with the praise and renown. He doesn’t see himself a hero, but he is seen as one by many who see him for the grass roots hero that he is.
Aside from Raphtalia, Naofumi gets his second ally in the form of Filo, a bird-like creature that transforms into humanoid form called a Filolial. Together with Raphtalia, Filo assists Naofumi in fighting off the wave monsters, and clearing his name. It’s a difficult task considering everything that’s been denied Naofumi. Unlike the other three cardinal heroes, Nafumi had to go about his development on his own with little support.
If you’re after a different kind of anime isekai, give ‘The Rise of the Shield Hero’ a try. It just might surprise you. As far as isekai go, it’s one of the best that has come out. Catch it when you can and join in Naofumi’s adventures as the shield hero.