I first watched The Rising of the Shield Hero when it came out in 2019. With the second season coming out sometime in 2021 (Originally set to release in October 2021, but was delayed to April 2022), I wanted to do a review for those of you who have yet to catch up on the series or are questioning whether it's something worth watching or not. And I can see why you might waver, because reviews about this series are polarizing.
Much like the characters in this show, people either love or hate The Rising of the Shield Hero; There's hardly any in-between and I personally think that this is oddly enough, an indicator that an anime's going to be good. When critics of a series review an anime a 1 or 2 and people who enjoyed the show review it a 9 or a 10, it's usually one I'll end up enjoying, if not loving. The Rising of the Shield Hero happens to be one of those series.
With that said, I've been reading up on the criticisms people have about The Rising of The Shield Hero, and for the most part, the people that don't like it think it's a pretty standard isekai. While it falls into some typical tropes, like being transported into another world and being set in a medieval fantasy, its stereotypical tendencies end there for me. I personally think The Rising of the Shield Hero is the most refreshing isekai to come out in recent years, and in a category of anime where ideas and plots can sometimes come across as stale, I found it single-handedly reinvigorated my interest in the genre.
Not that I don't like isekai in general, but The Rising of the Shield Hero gave me a feeling like I was experiencing something completely new, and that made it stand out among the rest. For starters, I really enjoy the fact that the world in The Rising of the Shield Hero feels real, which makes it feel like it is a place with real stakes and consequences. I felt this the most in the heroes' actions, which have real-world implications on the townspeople. Of course, the only one who realizes and is courteous of this fact is Naofumi. He's out fixing the other three's messes, while they're off treating this world and its people no differently than they would in a video game.
Ironically, those same fools are seen as saviors, while Naofumi is treated with malice, because he is wrongfully accused very early on of doing something terrible. This in itself makes it feel fresh, because it emotionally connects you to the plot and gives you a main character, who instead of being seen as the story's hero is seen as its devil. This flips the script for me, because from the very beginning, you feel for Naofumi and his struggles. It's rare that I find myself automatically connected to a character, because it usually takes some time for me to emotionally invest in their story. With Naofumi though, I found myself sympathizing for him and rooting for him to succeed, much like Raphtalia.
With most series I pick up, I'll watch episodes here and there, but this was one of those series I binged in a few days. Part of the reason I couldn't stop watching was to see Naofumi prove everyone wrong, but it wasn't until Raphtalia enters the season that The Rising of the Shield Hero really transforms from a good anime into an amazing one. Raphtalia has known nothing but abuse, terror, and discrimination her whole life, because she is a demi-human. In this world, demi-humans are discriminated against and sold into slavery. The Rising of the Shield Hero tackles serious issues, and while some people say it glorifies slavery, I don't agree. Those who say this probably didn't watch past the episodes when Naofumi first meets Raphtalia.
At first, he comes across as an asshole when he's first getting to know her, and while he's understandably angry from being wronged and discriminated against in this world, this doesn't give him the right to treat her this way. But, this hard exterior of his is worn down quickly by Raphtalia, who shows him that he can trust in others again, and you see just how kind-hearted Naofumi is. Watching their relationship and how it develops over the course of the season is the one of the best parts of The Rising of the Shield Hero.
At its core, The Rising of the Shield Hero is about overcoming your rage and not letting it consume you. Naofumi is cast out from society and yet he still helps them, and it's this attitude that makes him such a likable guy. Despite this, you'll see him struggle with this over the course of the first season. Raphtalia has even more valid reasons reasons to harbor hatred towards this society, and yet she still has a kind and gentle heart. These two characters, as well as others like Filo, are ones you'll love, but on the flip side, there are others you'll absolutely hate.
There's no gray area here with the characters or anyone you'll think is "just okay", because they are either lovable or utterly despicable. The Rising of the Shield Hero's characters showcase the best and the worst of humanity, so you will have strong feelings about each character in this show. A lot of the time I find myself not liking, but not hating a supporting character, which leaves me feeling like their place in the series is somewhat unneeded. But, not with The Rising of the Shield Hero. I like this, because I know where I stand with each person in the series and it allows me to focus on the ones that I truly care about.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is one of my favorite anime that released in 2019, and it has risen to the top to become my favorite isekai of all time. It's one you'll enjoy even if you aren't a fan of isekai, and if you are, I personally think it's a must-see that breathes new life into the genre.
Conclusion: Is The Rising of the Shield Hero worth watching?
Yes, it's one that fans of isekai and even those who aren't a fan of the genre should give a chance. I would say to watch the entire first season before you decide whether you enjoy it or not. If you still aren't into it by then, it's probably not for you.