The Four Cardinal Heroes

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Alexander Gray

The four Cardinal Weapons wielded by the four Cardinal Heros: the sword, spear, bow, and shield (Photo courtesy, Alexander Gray).

The Isekai genre of anime (Japanese cartoons) boils down every series to a simple plot. The protagonist is transported to or reborn into another world with, most commonly, an RPG (role-playing game) fantasy theme. With an oversaturated genre, it can be hard to find shows that are interesting and unique. Recently, however, I’ve started watching The Rising of the Shield Hero and it has become one of my top favorite anime tv shows.

There are spoilers ahead for the plot, so I recommend jumping into the show, which can be found on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and VRV streaming services. All services provide the show with English subtitles and dubbed in English.

The Rising of the Shield Hero follows Naofumi Iwotani, a college sophomore who is forcefully transported to another world along with three others, Itsuki, Ren, and Motoyasu, who are from different worlds. From there, they are informed that they must fight off the waves of catastrophe as the Four Cardinal Heroes: Itsuki the Bow Hero, Ren the Sword Hero, Motoyasu the Spear Hero, and Naofumi the Shield Hero.

Throughout the story, Naofumi is constantly beaten down by the royal family’s accusations, other heroes, and the people of Melromarc (human supremacist country), all for being the Shield Hero. The viewers are supposed to feel hatred for the people of Melromarc, the other heroes, the Three Heroes Church (a religious order that worships the Bow, Sword, and Spear Heroes), and the royal family while seeing everything Naofumi has to go through.

In regards to the royal family, I don’t think I’ve ever disliked two characters as much as Myne and the king of Melromarc. Myne is constantly in the Shield Hero’s way, pulling strings to manipulate those around her just to kick the Shield Hero down to make her and the Spear Hero look better. The king has a hatred for a previous Shield Hero, but still projects that hatred on Naofumi. This leads to twisting facts and dubbing him, “The Devil of the Shield.” Honestly, the levels of dislike felt for these characters it means the writing is done well, not to mention, it makes revenge later that much sweeter when it comes.

In contrast to the royal family and the other heroes, Naofumi and his party members are quite lovable/likeable/. The transformation of Naofumi as a character is excellently executed, showing how his personality and moral compass has changed since he first arrived. He’s changed from a hero to an antihero, he goes from ecstatic and sociable to quiet and reserved. He even resorts to threats and extortion just to get treated fairly in the beginning and goes as far as procuring a demihuman–humans who are part animal–slave to fight for him since he can only protect.

We get to see the bond of trust and respect strengthen between Naofumi and Raphtalia, the demihuman slave Naofumi bought. And it doesn’t just stop with Raphtalia. Relationships with other characters are formed like Filo, a filolial queen that Naofumi and Raphtalia raised, and Melty, the second princess of Melromarc who joins the party after an assassination attempt by the royal army. Together, all of them share a bond that is unbreakable when times get tough, giving this show a theme of friendship. Eventually from this bond of friendship, Naofumi slowly opens back up and learns to trust again.

The Rising of the Shield Hero excels in its writing, character development, and universal themes. Not only that, but this series has set a new foundation for what a great anime should look like. It’s been a blast so far and I can’t wait for season two which releases in 2021.

10/10 Amazing