[Rather than finishing my year in review, here goes a diversion.]
I too watched the first/preview episode of The Rising of the Shield Hero adaptation. It was a bit compelling but probably slightly more uncomfortable than compelling. The problem I have with it is its narrative voice. It reads(?) like someone is writing a light novel that target incels as the audience. That in itself is not terrible but seeing a show pandering to someone, no matter who, is not a great sign. It is not about the false accusation of rape, but the construction of the characters and motives surrounding it, that marks it poorly for the online lynch mob. (BTW linking Jeko because my post is basically a rebuttal of his and reading that motivated me to write this one.)
This post came to my mind primarily because, well, you can have a dramatic story about a hero who was falsely accused of rape, and not be misogynistic. He is right in that the innocent accused alone doesn’t make it per se misogynistic. So what makes Shield Hero so misogynistic thus far? Shield Hero is misogynistic because it reduces the women in the story to less than human specifically to further its emotional narrative. This is exactly what incels do as a fundamental concept to their cause. Of course, this is just based on one episode and I should overall disclaim that I don’t know what the story is like after this point besides from reading the Wiki entry. Given the quality of the story and the way the events are presented, though, I don’t expect it to be anything good. I certainly could be wrong (well, am I really wrong on SAO)?
So far in the series, things are not so offensive because, well, even the main character is hardly beyond a pile of tropes and I think even Nasu Kinoko wrote more compelling characters in the 90s than this. It is below par for the course for this genre. When you are eyeballing a pile of trash, that pile of trash is a bunch of trash, so even the bad ideas fail to be that terrible. I enjoyed Shield Hero e1’s general production quality (I guess it was technically the preview, so not the actual first episode). The baseline concept is not the worst among all the isekai light novel adaptations I’ve watched in the past couple years. I do like how the different heroes came from different versions of Japan. I even like (based on Wikipedia) how the main character grows to trust his female slaves over time, despite his trust issues with people, and despite that they had to actually utilize slavery as a key story element and not just some side dressing.
The unfortunate thing is, you can tell a story about a guy who suffers through all these common psychological issues without framing it using modern misogyny. Albeit almost as bad, but last year’s How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord similarly tacked this issue in a subplot without too much ick. (Although I was swimming in quite a bit of ick as is at the time.) I guess it is cool and hip and meme-worthy with some folks to tell a story Shield Hero tells. I am not particularly arsed by this because, ultimately, this is a work of fiction (and fantasy at that) and mature viewers (definitely not appropriate to show this kind of thing to children without parental guidance) should be able to realize what it is.
I think the story could be a lot better right off the bat by basing the main character not as a freeloader nerd laughing at bitches in his light novel. That is totally not the right way to start this story. If we want to go heavy with a fake rape accusal, Shield Hero will have to open with some heavier story elements, rather than just giving us the dumb lines he has been saying and the defensive (and borderline hypocritical) attitudes alone. I mean, maybe this indicates the author’s attitude about this particular plot element. It also doesn’t help, even before encountering the rape accusations, the main guy came across like a giant tool to begin with, and his cheerful “hey I’m in an Isekai Light Novel wink-wink-wink” attitude was the only thing that makes me want to root for him. This is also why that whole rape not-trial scene seemed really trite and a giant pander to incel thinking–as literally here’s a guy don’t own up to their tool-ness and blame others for their own failures, even if it may be a natural reaction and he might have a case for it. It’s a simple lesson in narrative storytelling–you are not suppose to be presenting facts of an internet argument to win your viewers’ sympathy. In terms of trustworthiness, our hero has very little one episode in because he has not done anything to earn any, so his plight also will ring hollow in the hearts of the viewers. Worse, it makes you think who would? Someone who was falsely accused of rape too? LOL.
Hopefully all those things I mentioned are just setup for future character development. It should be clear that despite the misogynist elements in this particular light novel turned anime, the core of the story is very, uh, staple, to use a nicer word. There is too much poor execution, so much unoriginality, enough to blunt of any strong message it wants to actually send at this point. I think it’s a lot easier, if you want to talk about misogyny regarding Shield Hero, to run a Bechdel test after the season is over. Truth is anyone who still want to discuss after sticking around probably already have their minds made up.
PS. How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord is a fun, but really bad mary sue sort of a story. It makes SAO S1 look good (aside from the fact that SAO S1 does…look quite good, but that’s not what I mean). And now we have something even more problematic. Dare I predict in another 2 years we will have even worse garbage (and I will probably still watch it….). Or, I can’t believe Death March is the best generic Isekai anime in the past year. Well it does have Suki no Skill…