[Mild spoilers alert] The Rising of the Shield Hero: Season 2 finally drops on Netflix. You may have heard certain critics reviewing this series back in 2019 when it was one of the highest trending new releases due to its shocking first episode – yep, it’s not afraid to touch controversial topics. But as a fan of the series, I am looking forward to more adventures and level grinding from Shield Hero Naofumi Iwatani’s party.
Season 1 adapts the first five volumes of the light novel and introduces us to the Shield Hero and his three compatriots: the Spear Hero Motoyasu Kitamura, the Sword Hero Ren Amaki, and the Bow Hero Itsuki Kawasumi, whilst the second season carries forward from where the heroes left off. Known as the Four Cardinal Heroes, they consist of ordinary people from modern-day Japan who were summoned to save the fantasy kingdom of Melromarc. The twist? This world behaves like a video game.
The story so far
Plagued by the Wave of Catastrophe, a recurring world-ending event, the heroes must find a way to hold back the evils that spew forth into the world. Cursed with the fate of being chosen as the “shield hero” – he has no offensive capabilities and can only defend – Naofumi struggles as he is ridiculed and ostracised by his companions and the citizens for his lacklustre personality and his inability to acquire offensive abilities.
When the king provides provisions and compatriots to journey with, Naofumi begins his journey with the only person willing to join his party, Malty Melromarc. However, she betrays Naofumi and accuses him of taking advantage of her. Naofumi can only watch helplessly as everyone turns on him for something he didn’t do. With a rampaging typhoon of emotions and hurt burned into his heart, he begins his journey to strengthen himself and repair the damage done to his reputation.
Being unable to attack soon becomes a major hindrance to his progress, so he purchases a demi-human slave named Rapthalia, saving her from the verge of death at the hands of her cruel handler. Together they begin their fight for the survival of the kingdom and save the people who once scorned him from their ill-fated end.
Their meeting sparked off the controversies surrounding the show – the anime doesn’t shy away from sensitive topics like slavery and some critics believe that there is an element of misogyny as well, which only serves to divide audiences further. However, from a narrative point of view, it is perfectly in line with the dark themes of the fantasy world and is one of many talking points that remind audiences of the unfairness and cruelty of the world we actually live in.
The series is the work of Aneko Yusagi and illustrated by Seira Minami, and was originally published as a web novel on Shōsetsuka ni Narō back in 2012. Its popularity among western audiences grew steadily over the years but it truly picked up steam when its immersive dark fantasy theme, underdog tale, and cheeky Spiderman references premiered on screens in January 2019. When Itsuki drops the classic “With great power comes great responsibility” line, Naofumi snarks him with “I just didn’t know you’ve been bit by a spider.” Pop culture references are perfectly natural as the heroes are actually from our modern-day world; it actually adds to the charm.
Standing out isn’t quite the series’ strongest element and the pacing could be improved on especially when it comes to his fellow heroes switching sides, but the show’s ability to garner empathy for Naofumi and to provide audiences with someone to root for pushed the series to new heights.
What’s great about Shield Hero is that it’s difficult to get consensus from audiences about whether the series was a hit or a miss – everyone either loves or hates the series – and that in part is due to the anime’s steadfastness in tackling difficult topics and stirring up a diversity of emotions from viewers.
Season 2 revelations
The first season had a total of 25 episodes and covered volumes one to five so it looks like the 13-episode Season 2 will likely cover volumes six and seven of the light novels. In the second season, a new party member is expected to step into the spotlight: Rishia, who is a member of Itsuki’s party. After assisting Naofumi at the end of Season 1, she was framed for breaking Itsuki’s favourite accessory and kicked out of the group. Believing herself to be weak and useless, she tried to drown herself only to be saved by Filo, a member of Naofumi’s party. We’ll see more of Rishia and her past, and perhaps discover the reason for her infatuation with Iwatani.
Season 2 will also serve as a wake-up call for the heroes and audiences will be delighted to watch as the antagonizing trio get their just rewards. As of yet, none of the heroes has faced real challenges and perceives the world to be a mere video game. That’s all about to change with a powerful new foe making its appearance in Season 2 – and he will make all the heroes suffer. And with Naofumi struggling with the debuffs exacted by his cursed shield, he will need to find a way to power through and take on his toughest foe yet.
Although we do know that the world of Shield Hero is based on video game mechanics, much remains unknown. The Wave of Catastrophe is still a mystery and questions abound regarding its existence and purpose, apart from the fact that we know it is connected to another world. Much like video games, progress brings about exposition regarding the parallel world and the relationship it has with the current world where our heroes reside. Other new mechanics include the hero system, which opens up potential avenues for more story and character development.
The Rising of The Shield Hero: Season 2 is streaming on Netflix.