The Rising of the Shield Hero, Season 2: Ep. 7-9 Impressions
*Will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk.*
Last time I wrote about The Rising of the Shield Hero, Season 2, I was extremely impressed with how the anime closed out the Spirit Tortoise arc. Episodes 4 through 6 addressed a lot of the issues I had with the first 3 episodes from better fighting animations to fleshing out Rishia's character.
Light novel readers, including me, have found the Spirit Tortoise arc to be one of the weakest arcs of the series. However, it plays an important role for setting up one of the strongest arcs of which the fandom has nicknamed it the Otherworld Arc (i.e. an isekai of an isekai). Now, the question is has studio Kinema Citrus done (part of) the arc justice?
Episode 7: A Scary Change
In the light novel, Naofumi and Rishia got separated from Raphtalia and Filo. The former two got trapped in a spatial prison called the Infinite Labyrinth whereas Filo got captured by an abusive monster tamer and Raphtalia ended up with L'Arc's party. Within the first few minutes of the 7th episode, I was utterly shocked when the anime had Raphtalia not separated from Naofumi. In fact, I was scared because this massive change from the light novel would have massive implications on the story and character development.
Nevertheless, the remainder of the episode was perfectly executed, in my opinion. When Naofumi, Rishia, and Raphtalia fought monsters to level up in response to their level reset, it felt like the old times from Season 1. I thought the anime really nailed Kizuna's, the Hunting Hero of L'Arc's world, character. She's serves as both a mirror and foil to Naofumi. Like Naofumi, she's seen as a weak hero because she cannot damage humans. However, in contrast to Naofumi's cynical demeanor, Kizuna is more cheery and optimistic. There was a pretty powerful scene when she recounted the years she was trapped in the Infinite Labyrinth and even contemplated suicide, but she never gave up.
While I was not a big fan of Raphtalia not being separated, I will admit that her moments were pretty cute. Because of the level reset, she reverted back to her child form. That said, due to her experiences over the first season and first half of the second season, she does not act like a child. It was pretty funny seeing her trying to wield her sword, but falls because it's too heavy for her size. And when Naofumi, Kizuna, Rishia, and Kizuna ate dinner together, some of the faces she made were adorable.
Lastly, I liked the banter going on between Naofumi and Kizuna. As they were originally from Japan, they understood terms only they could understand whereas Raphtalia and Rishia were confused. I laughed when Naofumi was about to call Kizuna a loli-baba and she got pissed. When the party was about to break out of the Infinite Labyrinth through a bug exploit, Naofumi used gaming terms that only Kizuna understood. I thought that was a pretty cool attention to detail.
Episode 8: Ah, so That's Why...
While the modification from Episode 7 scared me, Episode 8 made me understand why the anime went that direction. And honestly, I would argue the anime version handled Naofumi and Raphatlia's separation better than the light novel.
But before I get to that point, this episode also felt nostalgic in terms of it greatly reminded me of the old times from Season 1. Not only did Naofumi had to level up again, but he went back to being a merchant so that his party can get past the checkpoints. The scene where he put up his best auctioneer voice to sell his Soul Soothing potions to the spirit people was both entertaining and funny.
Speaking about spirit people, the episode did a fantastic job expanding on the lore of the Shield Hero universe. Just like the world Naofumi was summoned to, Kizuna's world has a variety of races, too. For instance, spirit people do not have levels and their power depends on how much life force they have. However, the Soul Soothing potion unique to Naofumi's world can instantly boost their power. It was also cool how the architecture in Kizuna's world resembles more like traditional Japan whereas Naofumi's world is more inspired from western medieval times.
However, the biggest showstopper was the twist at the end of the episode. When Naofumi's party successfully reached the Dragon Hourglass for Kizuna to activate her teleportation spell, Kyo managed to rig the system and have Raphtalia get left behind. It was as much of a shock to Naofumi as it was for me and it made their separation more painful than it was in the light novel. All of those wholesome moments over the past two episodes only for Kyo to take them away hit like a bunch of bricks. Not to mention, the moment further establishes how much of a threat Kyo is (he was completely MIA in the equivalent light novel volume).
Episode 9: The Rise of Rafu
This was yet another well-executed episode. I liked how Season 2 has depicted the dynamic between Naofumi's mental state and the Wrath Shield. In Episode 6, he could not use Blood Sacrifice on the Spirit Tortoise core because he harbored no hatred towards Ost. However, because Raphtalia was ripped away from him in the previous episode, his anger began to return to the forefront. When Kizuna introduced him to the people of Sikul, the country that summoned her, their immediate reaction was to treat him as a danger which brought back unpleasant memories from the beginning of Season 1. When Naofumi found Filo getting abused by the monster tamer, he finally cracked and summoned the Wrath Shield before Rishia stopped him from doing anything rash.
Like with Episode 8, Episode 9 was rich in new lore and it did a good job with more showing than telling. Ethnobalt is similar to Fitoria in that he's a monster that has protected his respective world for several generations and has a human form. He's also a Vassal Boat Hero which sounds silly at first, but brings some really good perks. The platform he stands on can transform into a big airship à la late-game Final Fantasy that can warp between Dragon Hourglasses of Kizuna's world.
The episode was also the debut of the shikigami, familiars that are made from the media (e.g. blood, hair, etc.) of two people. Kizuna and Glass have one in a form of a cute penguin called Chris. Shikigamis are handy in that they can detect the location of their owners hence why Naofumi made one out of his blood and Raphtalia's hair. And I have to say, Raph-chan (thumbnail) is freakin' adorable.
Lastly, the rescue and reunion with Filo was very satisfying. Not only was seeing Filo hug Naofumi a feel-good moment, but there was a great sense of catharsis when Naofumi got back at the abusive captor. What was also interesting was how Filo changed species upon entering Kizuna's world. Whereas she was a filolial (a reference to the Final Fantasy chocobo) in Naofumi's world, she became what is called a humming fairy in Kizuna's world.
As we approach the last quarter of Season 2, the anime has really knocked the last episodes out of the park. I was initially fearful of the changes made in Episode 7. However, the anime did a fantastic job making those wholesome moments more meaningful with that twist at the end of Episode 8. Naofumi and his party having to start over from level one and exploring Kizuna's world successfully captured the old early Season 1 feel though this time, he has plenty of allies. While the anime drove the story forward, it effectively did the little things right like the character interactions and expansion of lore.
As the next episode will focus on Raphtalia's POV, I am really excited to see how the anime handles her side of the story and closes out this season.
Not really a big fan of anime but the few I've seen were nice and I'm sure this one will be too so I might just consider seeing it