Warning: This post contains minor spoilers and discussion of sensitive issues.
Anime is no stranger to controversy – last season threw up Goblin Slayer and this time we have another isekai anime adapted from a light novel. Its titled ‘The Rising of the Shield Hero‘ and has caused quite a stir on social media for more than one reason.
The 47-minute pilot episode introduces us to a 20-year-old university student named Iwatani Naofumi who picks up a book about an ancient legend when he suddenly sees a bright light and ends up – you guessed it – summoned to another world.
Iwatani soon learns that he’s one of four heroes summoned to save the Kingdom of Melromarc from wave after wave of calamity, and is essentially forced to fight monsters and gain experience before the next wave.
Main Character’s Misfortune
Unfortunately, the only weapon Iwatani can use in this world is a shield – which is obviously intended for defence, and can’t do much damage to enemies. Therefore he is generally considered to be the weakest hero and nobody wants much to do with him.
Before the four heroes are due to set out on their quests, King Melromarc gives them some allies to form parties with, but allows the prospective party members to choose with hero they accompany.
To Iwatani’s shock, no one wants to join his party at first, but a red-haired girl named Myne eventually decides to help him out. This turns out to be a massive mistake as she soon betrays him by stealing all his items and falsely accusing him of rape, which is where this gets controversial.
Now, it should be noted that in the real world false accusations are much less common than some like to think, but they do still exist, and I don’t think the topic should be off-limits for fiction to explore.
The false accusation against Iwatani plays a very important role in the plot of The Rising of the Shield Hero, so I find it difficult to be mad at the show. I was fairly critical of Goblin Slayer for its tasteless handling of sexual violence, but this is a different matter entirely.
However it should be noted the false rape accusation isn’t the only controversial aspect of this show – at the end of the first episode, a businessman in the slave trade introduces himself to Iwatani, and our main character – who is now furious with the world for wronging him – actually decides to buy a young demi-human raccoon girl named Raphtalia.
That should raise alarm bells in the mind of any decent person as any kind of slave trade is obviously a moral abhorrence, and what makes it even worse is slaves in this world have spells cast on them, forcing them to obey their masters.
Iwatani definitely treats Raphtalia a whole lot better than the man at the slave market, she is grateful and it could well be argued that he rescued her, but he still gave money to a man selling off intelligent beings and uses her as a tool for fighting.
The Moral Questions
Despite all that, in the second episode Iwatani does tell Raphtalia she doesn’t have to fight if she’s too scared and is even willing to risk his life to keep the little raccoon safe, so he doesn’t seem like the most evil main character in history.
Viewers also need to think about the question of what other options did he have? He’s stuck in an unknown world where he has to fight or die, with no weapons other than a shield, and almost no one willing to form a party with him.
The Rising of the Shield Hero presents some interesting moral questions, has its fair share of controversy and seems unique for an isekai anime. I recommend watching it yourself and drawing your own conclusions as to whether or not its problematic.
Where To Watch