It’s Humpday Husbando time, and this time around I wanted to talk about a man whose return I am very excited for: Naofumi Iwatani, the Shield Hero.
The Isekai genre — the one where a guy gets hit by a truck driven by a VTuber then sent to another world — is quite an oversaturated anime format after several years of exploration. Over time they have only been getting more and more absurd, resulting in a series where the only thing special about the main character is the fact he has a smartphone with him in this new fantasy world… Like, really? (Like, TO-tally – Ed.)
Every now and then, however, an isekai series will come along that actually does something new and unique — or which is just interesting to the point where you want to keep watching. For me this was The Rising of the Shield Hero. So, let’s talk about this man who starts off as the lowest of the low, climbs the ranks… and ultimately becomes a true man among men.
Who is Naofumi?
Naofumi Iwatani, along with four others, was summoned to Melromarc, a country in a parallel world. There was just one reason for the summoning of Naofumi and the others: they were to become this new world’s heroes. Each of these new heroes was equipped with their own legendary weapon: spear, sword, bow, and, of course, shield.
To begin with, Naofumi, the Shield Hero, was a positive and trusting person, but not necessarily the most charismatic when compared to the allies who were summoned alongside him.
This led to him having a smaller party than the other heroes, with said party consisting of a single beautiful woman named Malty S Melromarc, the princess of Melromarc. On his second day in this new land, Naofumi was betrayed by Malty, who accused him of robbing and raping her. This led to Naofumi leaving the other heroes and going his own way in order to prepare himself for the oncoming threats the four heroes would ultimately have to face.
From this point on our Shield Hero changes a lot; left penniless, framed as a rapist and hated by the people of Melromarc, Naofumi became cold, distrustful, and filled with spite towards everything. His hatred is a driving force though; it pushes him to become most worthy of his place as one of the legendary heroes.
Why we love Naofumi
Everyone loves an underdog, right? That’s exactly what Naofumi is. He is tossed aside as the rulers of Melromarc have an irrational hatred towards him, even before he is falsely accused — but this doesn’t break him. Instead, this sense of injustice becomes an inspiration for Naofumi to become increasingly more powerful.
Naofumi’s sense of hatred can go too far, however; his experiences with Malty left him with a sweeping hatred for women. This starts to change, however, when Naofumi meets the demi-human Raphtalia, one of the anime community’s favourite girls in recent years.
Originally in the form of a young girl, Raphtalia was a slave who was bought by Naofumi — but never once did he treat her as anything less than a person. In fact, their bond would only go on to deepen and develop into something incredibly strong.
As the two continue to travel and train, Raphtalia’s form suddenly changes from that of a child to a beautiful young woman. It is later explained that demi-humans’ growth and appearance of maturity are directly related to the progress of their level, which is what led to Raphtalia’s sudden change in appearance — fighting alongside Naofumi caused her to gain in power quickly, and grow physically as a result.
From this point on Raphtalia truly becomes the sword to Naofumi’s shield — but even more important is the fact that she is his emotional rock. She was a young demi-human girl caught and thrown into slavery, only to be bought by someone who treated her fairly and kindly, who made sure she was clean and eating properly — it’s not surprising that this led to Raphtalia feeling a sense of undying loyalty toward Naofumi.
Why you’ll love Naofumi
When first watching the series, I became very quickly attached to Naofumi — I must say though, it helps that almost every other character is very easy to detest — and all I wanted was to see this man succeed and prove everyone who falsely accused him and hated him wrong.
I don’t want to spoil anything with regards to those things, but all I will say is that The Rising of the Shield Hero has some moments that put a massive smile on my face.
It was inspiring to see the development of a character who was treated so badly and who fell into the pits of despair as a result — particularly how he managed to remain faithful to his purpose as the legendary Shield Hero, despite living in a world that seemingly hated him. Then to see him finally meet allies who not only treated him fairly but who loved him and remained loyal to him? Genuinely heartwarming.
I know the isekai genre is oversaturated as hell, and Lord knows there is a lot of garbage out there, but The Rising of the Shield Hero is not one of them. It presents a unique story that pits a protagonist against a country that hates him — to the point they develop a religion praising all of the heroes except for the shield. (We’ve all been there – Ed.)
The second season will be coming later this year, so if you haven’t already caught up by watching the first season on Funimation now!
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