Winter 2019 Anime

Blind To The True Enemy – ‘The Rising Of The Shield Hero’ Episode 1 Review

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So how’s this episode? So here’s the thing, people don’t like when a thing they like is criticised. They take it personally, they think “wait, the thing I like can’t be bad, because that means I’m wrong? And I’m not wrong because I like the thing!” But that’s the thing about opinions, everybody views a piece of media with a different sets of biases; emotional triggers, empathetic leanings and intellectual deconstructions. So your opinion may be wildly different from another person’s opinion, it doesn’t make you wrong nor does it make them wrong. And even if a person does voice their opinions and you don’t happen to agree with any of their points that doesn’t mean you have the right to belittle their stance because you ~think~ it’s wrong.

Oh dear, we’re in for another ‘Goblin Slayer’ situation, aren’t we? On the surface it would seem that way, but these shows are “controversial” and “problematic” and “triggering” (did I get all the buzzwords in?) in far more interesting and different ways than I’d initially expected.

Hey, I hate you all, thanks!

Strap in folks, I can tell by how hard he’s hitting the keys that this is going to be a bumpy ride! So where do we start? A brief synopsis of what happens in this 45 minute (preview) episode that Crunchyroll afforded Premium Members–feel free to skip this if you’ve already watched it. An “otaku-ish” guy named Naofumi is summoned to another world to be a hero, along with three other males, they are to be heroes of this world and are designated magical weaponry accordingly: Sword, Spear, Bow and Shield. Our protagonist is designated the Shield, something he’s none too happy about but goes along with it anyway. We later learn that each of the “heroes” while all from Japan are each from alternate versions of Japan and while each of them have played a game similar to the setting of this world–Naofumi has not, hence why he got the supposedly “dud” hero weapon. The next day at the ceremony for ‘partying up’ with other adventurers, nobody picks Naofumi because word has spread about how much of a ‘noob’ he is with regard to knowledge in this world. After some bargaining and pleading with the other heroes an attractive woman decides to join up with him and go adventuring so he can ‘level up’ his combat abilities. To cut to the chase (because this is getting long and I’m getting bored) the woman accuses him of rape, they take her side despite his protests of innocence and while normally this crime would be punishable by death he’s still designated as a hero and thus is more or less left with the shame and public humiliation of being labelled a “rapist”. He becomes an angry and bitter man as a result and then one day is approached by a strange man who as it turns out is a slave trader or beastmen and demihumans and offers him the chance to buy some. End of episode.

I can guaran-fucking-tee this girl deserves a better show than this trash.

Well okay, certainly not the most clear-cut universe with regard to morality, what’s irked your ire so much exactly? Before we get to that I want to just say, if I’m judging it strictly on the merits of the episode and not talking about anything else. I’d say it’s a 7/10 (or 70ish out of 100 if we’re using my rating scale), it’s an interesting isekai world with some unique variations on tropes but it’s also dull looking, slow-paced and predictable and despite the soundtrack having been done by Kevin Perkin who was responsible for the absolutely sublime ‘Made in Abyss’ soundtrack comes off more like a Game of Thrones-lite. So, you know, it’s just a dark isekai, nothing to rave about but still watchable.

Yeah… not that complicated, don’t upsell yourself that much.

That’s a fairly even-handed reaction… though I take it things are about to get rant-y now? So there’s a trope called ‘Self-Insert Fic’ you can read all about it here, but basically the writing in this series just feels like an angry Japanese man who’s bitter about his life deciding to take it out on the world. And my god is the last thing we need as angry men writing fiction. Like the scene where nobody decides to ‘party up’ with him for adventuring just felt like a grown man having a whine that nobody picked him for *insert generic sport* at school. And then the hot popular girl (her name’s Medea, but like I care) tricks him and was actually just using him to steal his money and humiliate him because she’s a bitch and is in on the whole plot to ruin him because she’s with the handsome blonde boy instead! You could ~literally~ take this plot and put into any generic high-school setting and this series would be the equivalent of a trashy American teen drama. I mean say what you will about the plot of ‘Goblin Slayer’–it was literally a DnD campaign made into an anime but at least it was ~vaguely original feeling~ it wasn’t this tired and predictable tripe.

No one picked you? Boo-hoo.

Okay, settle down with the insults. Get back to the point. And if it had just stopped at being generic and tropey and lame ‘angry guy gets back at the world who wronged him’ it wouldn’t be so bad but then we have to get to the ~problematic~ stuff. This fantasy world is set in a ‘Matriarchal’ society! *blows brains out*

Why’s that a bad thing? BECAUSE THIS IS NOT A MATRIARCHAL SOCIETY. I mean for fuck’s sake they have a King ruling over them. And okay, ~maybe~ this was a lie Madea told him to try and assure her plot would work and lull him into a false sense of security. But no, I think this author is doing something far more insidious with this, but the following is pure speculation so bare with me.

Oh good, false #metoo in my anime. Just what we wanted, more people doubting women who’ve been raped irl.

*dons tin-foil hat* Ready! It won’t be hard for many of this ardent show’s fans to do, but put yourself in the authors shoes, your an “otaku-ish” virgin who has been frequently scorned throughout your life, the popular kids didn’t like you, the girls especially didn’t like you. And you want to take out that rage in the only way you know how, by writing a generic isekai novel! So you’re designing the world and what’s the biggest enemy to your world–well that’d be that women have rights and stuff! So obviously the ~evil~ fantasy world that has to be rebelled against with its rulers who ignore you and townsfolk who scorn you and women who betray you, well it has to be a ‘matriarchy’ that’s the worst thing imaginable to your unpopular virginal brain, isn’t it? Yes, let’s make our protagonist a hero that fights against that thing that’s so relatable to our fellow readers, women having power and control!

Bitches? Amirite?

I was going to stop you but I thought I’d let you just get it out of your system so I didn’t have to deal with this again next episode. You done yet? You wish! We haven’t even touched on the slavery aspect of this show!

Oh ffs… Settle down, I’m not going to go to ham over it just because this anime has slavery. So do a lot of isekai anime (for some reason) but I defended it in ‘How NOT To Summon A Demon Lord’ and I pretty much brushed it off in ‘The Master of Ragnarok and the Blesser of Einherjar’ because those were two shows who were seemingly written by ~adults~. All I’ll say is this, this show is about to have a female slave join Naofumi’s ‘party’ this much is obvious–and what’s a bet that the fact that the only likeable female character on this show is going to be a character who’s a demi-human who’s blindly obedient to the protagonist out of the fear of death for breaking the master/servant curse that’s put on her. Real subtle message there, Mr. Author, that the only good woman is one who’s blindly obedient to you regardless of how you treat her.

Ugh, the way he looks at her just because she’s a woman makes my skin crawl. Your protagonist ladies and gentlemen *applause*

I mean okay, if you word it like that but I’ve been reading into this show while you’ve been frothing at the mouth like a dog with rabies and isn’t the protagonist supposed to be an “anti-hero”? An injustice is done upon the protagonist, an, up-to-the-point of his false rape accusation, “~NICE GUY~”. Except even in this supposedly ‘Matriarchal’ society, where rape is usually afforded an immediate no-questions asked death sentence our author insert protagonist is literally just left all the autonomy and freedom of men accused (and even some of whom are found guilty) of rape in this real world, this patriarchy we live in. The reasons in the show are spelled out, “oh we need him to help save the world, can’t give him a proper punishment! But, uhh, you still suck and we hate you, bye for now! Hate you! Kisses!”* (*Not an actual quote but close enough). You want to make me believe this is a matriarchal society worthy of scorn, fucking castrate the guy, he can still save the world without a dick then you’ll have me sympathising with him and the ~supposedly~ harsh world he lives in. But no of course not, can’t have all the 12 year old boys disconnecting with their “otaku-ish” protagonist can we!

Remember, this anime thinks this is a bad thing.

So you done now? Yeah, yeah… I’m done. Wow, this went on a lot longer than I expected…

Right, so, uhh… how do we wrap up this mess? I was adamant I would not write more than a tweet about this show, and now, here we are 2000+ words later and i’m left wondering if this will even make a dent in this shows rabid popularity. Of course, I don’t exactly ~care~ if people out there like this show but I feel like a lot of the things people find “compelling” or “dynamic” or “rich” about this show are things that are pedestrian and cliche at best and obnoxious and cheap at worst. And let me just say, before some high and mighty type swans in here–no I don’t think you’re a bad person if you like this show, I mean ffs its 2019 and there’s gigabytes of rape hentai out there that’s a million times more explicit and problematic than this show, I simply don’t care what gets your rocks off or what makes you happy or even what you find to be harmless entertainment. I’m not trying to take away your anime, I’m just giving my two cents. Just please don’t go through life pretending like your opinion is the only one that matters when there’s 7 billion other people on this planet whose voice and opinion is just as fucking important to be heard as yours.


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21 replies »

  1. I’m still going to give the series a chance, but let me start by saying I think you’re making some good points here.

    “tricks him and was actually just using him to steal his money and humiliate him”

    This did not make sense in the context of the world — and I think that lends more credibility to your arguments. There are four heroes that are necessary to save their world — emphasis on save the world! — and she’s willing to jeopardize that for a few silver pieces and chain mail? She’s willing to increase her risk of death at the hands of demon swarms just to embarrass the guy? As well as make the stink-eye expression at him in public? That’s completely irrational.

    “But, uhh, you still suck and we hate you, bye for now! Hate you! Kisses!”

    To be fair, it was less “kisses” and more a hearty handshake. But I can’t disagree with what you’re saying! Though that attitude did make more sense than the false accusation itself. If the world depends on these heroes, the king of the matriarchal society (?!?) would reasonably cut them some slack.

    “Ugh, the way he looks at her just because she’s a woman makes my skin crawl. ”

    I wonder if there’s any chance if his expression is just a reaction to slavery in general? That said, you’ve built a good case about the show’s attitude towards women. Heck, all four heroes are men. I’m sure Emilia from The Devil is a Part-Timer would scoff that that… Alicetelia from Re:Creators might skip the scoffing and go straight to smiting…

    The whole betrayal thing really bothered me. It just made no sense. I’ll give the show some more time to redeem itself, but I’m less hopeful the more I think about it. I just hope we’ve misinterpreted this show’s perspective and themes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was adamant (in my mind) that i’d never watch or talk or even ~think~ about this show again after I watched it. And YET I’m here half expecting to watch Episode 2 when it comes around out of some morbid curiosity…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly don’t see how it could be misinterpreted. It’s not ambiguous at all. And it’s certainly not unlike any other isekai show, which puts “ordinary guy” in a position of power, usually with slaves, and usually with some sort of arguing that he deserves the whole world. That he doesn’t have adoration (at the moment) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have power.

      Liked by 2 people

      • “I honestly don’t see how it could be misinterpreted.”

        Yeah, me either! But to quote the great Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons, “Some of us prefer our illusions to despair!”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And this is why I called, Travis Bickle goes to “isekai.” Is that it? What a bad joke… lol

    *I read the manga but it’s pretty good, maybe??? And the SJW article just makes me… Idk. Same as “Goblin Slayer” controversial.

    Like

  3. Aight, I just watched the first episode.

    Seemed to be standard Isekai fare, but with a bitter and cynical twist, that (credit where it’s due) hasn’t been done before. I’m sure there will be many..MANY….cynical point scoring tweet and think pieces on this, but I’m curious to see what they can build out of it. Not expecting a masterpiece, but we should acknowledge when a show tries to do something new with the Isekai genre, especially since everyone is lambasting it for being so samey all the time.

    Like

  4. I’m glad you wrote this, first because I enjoy your rants, and second because you took a very different approach to viewing it than I did. Won’t go into everything here, but I do like your idea of a castrated isekai protagonist!

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  5. It is interesting how you’ve taken the first episode (having read the books and knowing where it goes, I didn’t have as many issues with it though still find Naofumi’s temper tantrum when no one joins his party cringe worthy). I will admit, I find the set up of this story problematic and while bits and pieces of explanations will come in (particularly about the matriarchy), it never really justifies how stupid treating a hero like this is. That said, reading the novels I really enjoy where this story goes and despite how Naofumi got to the character point he is now at, I like how he develops from this point forward. Part of me kind of puts this beginning on par with something like Dakaichi where I didn’t like how the relationship started between the characters but I liked where it went after that point.
    The other benefit of reading the story of course is that you can just read the next part without waiting for weeks and weeks for the episodes to come out and I don’t think the delay between the reveals is really going to help this one.

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  6. I watched it before reading this but after knowing you hated it, and really I agree with almost everything you wrote. And as I was watching it, I was thinking that this is exactly what the MRA, comicsgate, gamergate goons think, that “Everyone is out to get me, and I’m not doing anything wrong” and “if you believe women, they’ll just betray you, and ruin your life”. And we’ll see how many of those guys whine and moan about the “politics” being put in this show.

    (the answer will be zero, because this isn’t ‘politics’ because they don’t disagree with it)

    I honestly didn’t watch the whole show. It wasn’t good from the beginning, and it was far too obvious that Naofumi was going to get betrayed, and I started thinking “Just get it over with” so I skipped ahead through the sham accusation and king scene. And then yeah, gotta fit the slaves in there somehow. Just shit writing.

    It’s a shame that this is the show with the big advertising budget, at least on Crunchyroll, this season.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Oddly enough, your thoughts here have actually made me a little interested in this show. I actually rather like “wish fulfilment” self-insert stories, not least because I can sort of respect someone willing to put their insecurities out on display and explore them in fiction. And I know I’ve done it in the past too, albeit a bit more privately than in a high-profile anime :3

    Okay, the way those people explore those insecurities isn’t always “healthy”, but it can be interesting to watch them try and make sense of things along the way — and we can draw some of our own conclusions about what is being shown, too.

    Much as depiction is not always endorsement, in situations where it seems obvious the author IS attempting to say something about themselves through their fiction it can still provide an intriguing, thought-provoking experience to the audience. Perhaps you’ll see something happens that makes you think “hmm, I’ve thought about that… but should I? Does that make me a bad person?” or perhaps you’ll simply have a viscerally negative reaction, like it seems you’ve had here. That can still prompt some interesting “why?” questions and some self-reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you for the most part, I’ve started playing Evenicle (finally) and while it’s a lot more lurid and pornographic, I can already tell it’s going to have a deep exploration of sexuality in a way that most media doesn’t bother to touch.

      This show is just juvenile trash with nothing better to say than “woman are evil and should know their place”.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Evenicle is great; it’s goes all-in on the exploration of polygamy and sexuality and is all the better for it. There’s even a plausible in-universe reason for why men might be afforded the opportunity to have multiple wives, but women do not have multiple husbands.

        I also find Rance really interesting for similar reasons; although Rance as a series is extremely rapey and the hero has some questionable attitudes towards women, there’s an intriguing and thought-provoking sense of context to it all. The question of “is a hero really a hero if he’s not that much better than the biggest shits of the world?” is one that I’ve enjoyed the exploration of so far, and am looking forward to seeing more of in the later games.

        It’s a delicate balancing act with this kind of subject, because even if you handle it well, as in Rance and Evenicle, you’ll still get plenty of pearl-clutchers. I’m just grateful the Kotakus and Polygons of the world haven’t gotten hold of either of those games…

        Liked by 2 people

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