The Rising of the Shield Hero, Vol. 1
By Aneko Yusagi
Published by One Peace Books
Literary Merit: Poor
Level: High School
With the Winter 2019 release of the anime of the same name, teen librarians and other staff who work with teens can expect they may need to learn more about ‘The Rising of the Shield Hero.’ The story is an isekai, which is a type of story in which the protagonist (or other characters) come from another world or are transported to another world. Examples in American popular film include Alice in Wonderland, TRON, Enchanted, and Labyrinth. This particular story is about a protagonist being summoned to another world that is much like a fantasy video game.
For a very quick release history, this work began as a serial posted online, then as a light novel, then as a manga, and now it is an anime. On the anime side of things, Shield Hero appears to be one of the forerunners of the winter season as it sits in the top three shows currently airing according to MyAnimeList outside of continuing shows.
Curious about the source material, I decided to read the light novel. While the anime maintains most of the heavier themes and keeps the main character, Naofumi, a misanthrope, the light novel has a much more bitter tone to it. Naofumi is accused of some grievous crimes, which I will discuss a bit in the light spoilers section of this review, and it is understandable that he is undergoing pain and frustration at the overall situation.
Almost the entire world turns against Naofumi, a regular college student summoned from another world to serve as the Shield Hero, and so the story is about an underdog that gets kicked again and again by society. In the anime, his plight is relatable and tragic. The audience comes to love and care about Raphtalia, the blacksmith, and other characters that see Naofumi is more earnest than he lets on and is willing to do the right thing even when it brings him zero glory.
However, book Naofumi is much more spiteful and his thoughts are violent, especially toward women, which goes toward alienating many potential readers of the story. I have a feeling that, if one presses forward, the story and Naofumi will get better in the light novel, but I think I will be sticking with the anime.
I have given this work 3 out of 5 stars, but this is more to reflect the optional purchase of this book. I don’t believe it to be shoddy work, but it definitely could use some help. I do think if purchasing the light novel is possible for your budget; it is worth having for the teens who might be dying to read the source material for the anime.
– Light Spoilers for the first book and first 5-6 episodes of the show –
So here is the nitty gritty of the situation – Naofumi is falsely accused of attempted rape. In the first episode and first several chapters of the book, Naofumi is tricked by a woman into partnering up, as no other adventurers wanted to help the Shield Hero apparently, and then she has him spend a lot of money on armor, her armor and then robs him in the night. Myne, the woman in question, then accuses Naofumi of trying to rape her. This is a serious situation, and it is played that way for the most part. Treated like a scumbag, Naofumi spends the rest of the novel fending for himself. While the anime displays him as mostly hating the world that dragged him to it and Myne (rightfully so), the novel version of Naofumi is a misogynist now apparently. When he purchases Raphtalia, a slave girl, to act as his sword since he cannot attack anything himself, he frequently pictures Raphtalia as being Myne and seems to enjoy Raphtalia’s initial suffering more than I am comfortable with.
In the world of the show, Raphtalia starts as a little girl, maybe 10-12, but as they gain several levels in a week, she matures into a woman. Naofumi doesn’t notice this until a pivotal moment in the story for both the novel and anime.
In the anime, this moment is well done and leaves us with the feeling Naofumi may begin to open up to other people. In the novel, Naofumi comments on supple breasts, and it feels less like Naofumi will open up to anyone, but more so that Raphtalia’s attractiveness will save him from himself.
The message is problematic and underestimates men too much for my liking. I have not yet read the second book in this series, though I do plan to, as I hope that certain scenes from the anime that are briefly mentioned in the novel might reveal that Naofumi’s thoughts were being poisoned on purpose.
For now, I choose to believe in the anime’s version of Naofumi – someone who is bitter and angry, with just cause, but ultimately is someone who can overcome his fear of opening up to others despite the horrible first couple days he experienced in the new world.