Are you considering getting into the Rising of the Shield Hero, but in doubt due to its controversy? I was in your shoes and did the necessary research to find out. Spoiler level: minor. Some main plot points for the first 2 episodes of the Anime and the first half of Light Novel 1.
So what was the controversy all about? The controversy was mainly about the male protagonist being falsely accused of rape. Several critics saw a message in this situation where “nice guys” suffer from females in power who can do whatever they want. There was also some lesser controversy regarding the purchase of a female slave.
Do the elements critics took offence to hold any ground? This, as well as the context surrounding the controversy and the response of the show’s creators, is discussed in more detail below.
What is The Rising of the Shield Hero?
The Rising of the Shield Hero is a series spread through various mediums. It is currently best known as an Anime. It is an isekai: a genre where the protagonist is summoned, reborn or trapped in another world (often a game).
Naofumi Iwatani, the main character, is summoned together with three others in response to a threat. Together, the four heroes are to fend off the Waves of Destruction that occur on a frequent basis. These waves form cracks in the air, unleashing all sorts of demons and monsters.
So what is the controversy about?
There are 2 points that spurred controversy:
- A false rape accusation made by a female in power, towards a character the male audience can relate to
- The purchase of a female slave
Both points made the news, but the controversy mainly concerned the first point.
Is the controversy justified?
Not really. Both points are delicate subjects, but that’s no exception in animes (or TV series or movies or books for that matter). Fiction handles topics such as violence and promiscuity a lot more casual than in real life.
In addition, the series offers plenty of very likable female characters and despicable male characters down the road. The topic of slavery and its moral questionability is also debated heavily in the universe. The generalizations alluded to such as the universe being a “world that venerates women, where deceptive snakes can say whatever they want and poor guys suffer” do not hold ground.
Despite this, it’s important to see the controversy in its context. The timing is sensitive with the #MeToo situation. False rape accusations do happen, but they are not the norm. If seen as the norm, it fuels another problem: women afraid to report sexual harassment out of fear of not being believed. That is a real, sensitive issue that is very much alive.
These controversial topics are not the focus of The Rising of the Shield Hero for long. However, if you only watch the very first episodes it is an understandable misconception. Subsequent episodes received much better ratings from the majority of critics. Even so, the buzz remains. People simply love sensationalism.
Hopefully, the above points will convince you to give the series a try if its genre is something you may enjoy. However, I also hope you see why the original criticasters do not deserve to be burned at the stake.
What do the series creators have to say about the controversy?
Junichiro Tamura, the producer of the Anime, was asked about the controversy in a Reddit AMA. He seemingly wasn’t really aware of the details, initially commenting:
“In the case there were any controversy domestically, we will try to address all issues with the staff and people involved to bring our customers a better product the next time.”
After being informed of the details later, however, he made the following statement three hours later:
“We in Japan do not see these anime as controversial, so we will continue to produce more content like Shield Hero.”
While a bit shocked initially, it seems he was quick to see the situation as it is: a tempest in a teapot.
He did mention that the anime Adaptation of The Rising of the Shield Hero was made with the Western audience in mind. He also stated that viewer numbers on legal streaming sites such as Crunchyroll have a bigger effect on Anime creation every year. By continuing to watch shows like Shield Hero in a legal way, we can look forward to more similar content. They may be a bit more careful with the timing though.