The first few episodes spelled out with the introduction of four main heroes – the shield, sword, spear, and bow hero. As a double length special, it made sense to draw out as much as Naofumi’s character as possible. Initially, he is portrayed as a man with a sense of honor, dignity, and in general, level headed man with an open mind. After being betrayed and falsely accused by Myne, he became a mistrustful individual with a desire for revenge. At one point, he becomes self-loathing to the point where he loses purpose in this fictional world. After meeting the demi-human Raphtalia, he begins to reevaluate himself and find his purpose. Backtracking a few steps, it shouldn’t be hard to identify what kind of person Naofumi is. There are many ways to describe him and to me, he is more of a jaded anti-hero than your noble hero. Throughout the course of the story, Naofumi begins to trusts in others especially his own party consisting of Raphtalia, Firo, and Melty. Out of this group, Raphtalia evolves the most both physically and mentally. Originally, she is portrayed as a weak child with PTSD symptoms. But after coming in contact with Naofumi, she grows into a courageous fighter who manages to overcome her personal demons.
All this seems to draw in a lot of interest and honestly, I believe the first half of this show managed to capitalize on them rather effectively. Sure, there are despicable characters like Myne or gullible types such as the spear hero, Motoyasu. However, they didn’t truly make the show unwatchable. If you put yourself into the shoes of the creator, they probably created those two characters with the intention of getting the audience to hate them. I should say that’s no understatement because the bottom line is, there’s nothing likable about either Myne or Motoyasu. If we talk about Myne, she’s easily described as the bitch in sheep’s clothing. In other words, she wears a mask to hide her true nature.
Have you ever met someone who pretended to be your friend to take advantage of you? Think of Myne. That’s what she is: a cunning, manipulative, and treacherous sociopath who uses whatever she can get her hands on for herself. Motoyasu isn’t much of a likeable person either with his ignorance and extreme gullibility. When it comes to women, he’s like a child who virtually believes what others tell him. This pretty much becomes a running gag in the show where Myne is able use him like a dog on a leash. It doesn’t help that he display borderline pedophilic tendencies towards characters such as Firo. It makes me want to puke and I don’t think anyone can find his interactions with Firo to be comfortable in any shape or form.
At some point in the show, I’m sure viewers will wonder if the other heroes will get any sort of character development. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. This season is called The Rising of the Shield Hero for a reason and most of the attention is focused on his group and party. Characters such as Raphtalia gets their development and background story because they are a central focus in the show. Others such as Ren and Itsuki are just part of the premise. Their background stories are not explored so don’t expect to get attached to them. This is another part where I believe the show suffers in terms of characterization. We don’t really understand their personalities besides what they show on the surface.
Unlike Naofumi who finds a purpose in the story, it feels like most of the main supporting cast lacks one. Even characters such as Firo or Melty becomes more and more stale overtime. I mean, how many times do we need to see an oversized chicken pronounce her intentions to eat and fight? Don’t me wrong though, I want to see the main characters to develop but outside of Naofumi and Raphtalia, the others really doesn’t set a bar. To make matters worse, it seems the show loves to inject dialogues during mid-fights to drag out content. This is especially evident in later episodes where the charaters’ dialogues are far overstretched than what they should be.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is more of a dark fantasy so having a studio like Kinema Citrus working on this feels somewhat fitting. I would have preferred Wit Studio known for their more refined resume, but Kinema Citrus manages to work its magic for the adaptation. As a dark fantasy, there’s often violence that displays the cruelty of this parallel world. Character designs are in line with what you can picture from an isekai show. It adapts straight from the light novel. As the shield hero, Naofumi’s most noticeable design is his character expressions that drastically changes.
In the beginning, he is shown smiling with joy but this shifts into a more cynical expression. On the other hand, Raphtalia’s evolution from a child to an adult fighter shows her growth. She takes on an archetype heroine look with demi-human traits such as her ears and tail. Furthermore, characters such as Firo possesses animalistic traits designed to give them a more fantasy look. And finally, I should say the world building of this show does hold value although the anime adaptation only scratches more of the surface of their world.