Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Rising of the Shield Hero Watch-Through Episode 3: "Wave of Catastrophe"
(Originally Published on Jan 29, 2019)
So here we are, three episodes in. These summaries are pretty meaty, but folks seem to enjoy them, and the show's given me quite a bit to cover in these posts. For those who are new to these breakdowns, I'm covering each episode of "Rising of the Shield Hero" and explaining how western SFF writers and readers can learn from Japanese "Light Novels". If you're not a writer, and simply want my thoughts on the show, then gain, feel free to skip the last bit. Also, you can read episode summary one and two with the links.
If you want to check out the story, you can buy the novel on Amazonor watch it for free on Crunchyroll. So without further ado, let's dig into the summary! Also, spoiler warning.
The episode starts with Naofumi and Raphtaila hunting some porcupines. After the latter emerges from the brush, we see that she's inexplicably grown up, and is now looks to be about Naofumi's age. Though the show doesn't explain why, a quick online search revealed that Demi-humans grow up with experience rather than age, "peaking" at their physical prime and then aging normally. So because Naofumi's been training her, she's matured not just mentally, but physically as well.
After going to the blacksmith's, the owner makes remarks about how much Raphtalia's grown since he's last seen her. Naofumi is weirded out by this, recalling how other vendors were offering her free things due to how pretty she is, and claiming that "this country's full of weirdos.". Though it's pretty clear that she's an adult now, Naofumi still thinks of her as a child, something that clearly frustrates her. The topic is changed to armor however, and after Raphtaila sweet-talks the blacksmith, she manages to get custom armor for Naofumi and a shiny new sword for her.
After eating, Naofumi decides to look into when the next Wave hits the kingdom. Though he knows it's coming and has trained for it all this time, he's still not sure when and where it'll ultimately hit. He later learns that a great Dragon Hourglass in the city's capitol will reveal to him the days remaining. And that when the Wave ultimately hits, he'll be transported to its location. While visiting the Hourglass, Naofumi chances upon the other Cardinal Heroes, who all regard him with a mix of pity and disgust. The worst of them being the Spear hero, who openly condescends Naofumi before his eyes come across Raphtailia. He's immediately interested in her, running up to grab her hand without asking, and telling her that she's "too cute to wield a blade." Myne, who watches all this go on, isn't so much perturbed by him harassing a girl as much as said girl being a "filthy demi-human." Naofumi of course, takes issue with this, and gets in between her and the Spear Hero. The latter reacts with a smirk, asking if she "knows about what you did." Naofumi is speechless at this, and at seeing his accuser, and storms off in a fit of shame and anger, dragging Raphtalia away before they can spread the lies to the one person who cares for him. At the inn, Raphtalia expresses concern for Naofumi, but when he tells her not to worry, she decides to leave it. The next day, she approaches him, and reaffirms her loyalty to him, that he helped cure her, saved her life, and that she in turn will help to save him. It's a very touching scene, and shows how much she's grown as a character. But shortly after this, the sky darkens, and she and her are taken to the location of the Wave.
At first, Naofumi wants to join the other Heroes, but when he sees them abandon a small village (the same one where he mined the ore from Ep.2). Not wanting innocent people to die, he tells Raphtalia they need to help, and the two set off to fight the monsters. There they see a horde of undead, demon-dogs, big monster knights and....bees, for some reason. Granted, they're giant bees, but it's still kind of strange. And even with his newfound abilities, Naofumi has trouble taking them on, using his defensive capabilities to protect the townsfolk rather than attack monsters. However, his resourceful thinking allows him to take out several with environmental traps and other tricks, allowing him to bide his time until the other Heroes kill the wave's boss. Eventually, some of the villagers jump in, spurred on by Naofumi's actions, and help to fend off the monsters.
As the Wave's minions grow thicker, a hail of fireballs ends of taking out several, and Naofumi has to shield Raphtalia or she'll be killed. Upon looking up, he sees a group of knights who previously abandoned the village. They firebombed the place knowing Naofumi was here, in the hopes of possible hurting or killing him, sending Raphtalia into a rage. However, as more monsters attack, the knights are forced to fight with the Shield Hero, and eventually, the others kill the boss and clear the wave. The villagers, and even some of the knights thank Naofumi for all he's done, and the heroes are all offered rewards from the king. Raphtalia says that she's glad she prevented more kids from going through what she did, and Naofumi says she did a good job. H esees tears forming in her eyes, and pats her on the head, saying she did a good job. For now, the waves have been cleared, but things are only going to get worse from here on out.
Another solid episode!
The aging-up of Raphtailia is something I honestly thought I'd hate, but as with everything else in this show, I'm pleasantly surprised. I assumed it was going to be an excuse for "fan service," but they (thankfully) don't do that. Rather, it seems like the decision was made so she could plausibly fight against hordes of zombies and giant knights in doom-armor. I also really like how her personality's changed. She went from a scared little raccoon to a headstrong girl who argues with her so-called "master" openly and flirts with shopkeepers to get good deals. She still respects Naofumi quite a lot, but isn't afraid to sass him out if she thinks he's being reckless or wrong in any way. If it wasn't already abundantly clear that she's a "slave" in name only, the exchange at the blacksmith's shop pretty much cemented that fact.
Granted, I still find the whole concept weird (why do demi-humans "age up" with their levels when humans in this world don't?) but the story takes advantage of this for some funny and genuinely cute moments. Which really is the redeeming quality for this show. It takes a lot of LitRPG tropes and improves upon them (the fantasy world is real, just with omnipresent RPG stats) and explores concepts that should be kind of terrible in cool and interesting ways.
My favorite parts by far these are the two scenes where Naofumi basically refuses to see her as anything but a child. He acts like she hasn't grown a bit, and even tries to buy her a Medieval Times Happy Meal again despite her protestations. Grumpy Dad Naofumi is hilarious, and seeing this side of him is really fun. Interestingly, it seems even the blacksmith from the first two episodes is having second thoughts, and perhaps reconsidering the Shield Hero's innocence. He's moved past the point of openly throwing snide death threats his way, so that's at least some progress.
Despite seeing the better side of Naofumi for a bit, he's still the bastard antihero, and has some interesting moments in the show. The scene where he meets up with the other Cardinal Heroes and reverts back to his awkward, shy personality is really painful to watch. Especially because his shyness and pain comes across as him looking really freakin' guilty to the other Heroes. Also, speaking of painful to watch, literally anything the Spear Hero does, including hitting on Raphtalia. Of course, Myrne is here, and drops a lil' of the old racism, calling Raphtaila a "filthy demi-human" and asking why the Spear Hero would bother giving her any attention. So she's basically fine with this guy harassing girls (despite her initial claims), is a massive racist, a sociopathic liar, a thief, and unbearably smug about it all. At this rate, I can't even keep track of all the reasons I genuinely hope she falls in a volcano.
This episode also really cemented what I think the overarching theme of this series is. Basically, actions speak louder than words. It's a really simple theme, but practically ever aspect of this story revolves around it. Naofumi puts on a big show of being a villain, but his actions shine through in the end. Out of the four Cardinal Heroes, he's the only one who seems to treat the inhabitants of this world like actual people instead of NPCs in a video game. He "owns" a slave, but it's an ownership in name only, and his actions show he respects her as an individual and cares for her deeply. The heroes too, are only heroes in a superficial sense. Sure they fight and do protect people, but they only see everything as a game. Going back to Episode 1, even when Naofumi was accused, their reaction was less "you hurt a real person" and more "look at this sick dude messing with the NPCs".
It'll be interesting to see where they take this concept next episode, as it seems to revolve around Naofumi's conflict with the others. And I'm sure it'll in no way make me wish Spear Hero wasn't warned about the stairs.