The Rising of the Shield Hero is a popular topic among anime fans right now. The anime had me hooked fast, so I decided to pick up the books as well. This is part of the “isekai” genre, where characters are trapped in another world. Naofumi, the titular Shield Hero, and three other individuals are sent into a fantasy world against their will. While they are not sucked into a video game, this new world works on RPG video game rules. To return home, they must fight and defeat a threat known as the Waves of Destruction.
Now there are a couple of things Rising of the Shield Hero does differently. These are all factors that make it stick out from other, similar stories. First off, the main character is not overpowered or some kind of genius savant. Just the opposite, in fact, he starts off underpowered compared to the other heroes. More than that, without spoiling anything specific, Naofumi gets emotionally destroyed early in the story. He goes from being a happy, average young man to a darker, more cutthroat personality. While at the core he is a decent person, his outlook on the world changes drastically and affects him psychologically.
At the start of the story, some of the characters are a bit bland. However, they do develop in the later books as we start to see more of their histories and motivations. Aside from Naofumi, his partner Raphtalia is really the only one with significant development in the first book alone. But like many first books in any series, there is a lot of world-building in this volume. Initial world-building is critical but does take up page space. Being told from Naofumi’s point-of-view, Rising of the Shield Hero teaches readers about this new world as Naofumi learns these things himself.
Since this story is from Naofumi’s point-of-view, there are some scenes in the anime that are more fleshed out. Details Naofumi learns of later in the books are sometimes shown when events initially happen in the books. On the flipside, the books do have details left out of the anime. In the beginning, these are little things, like more detailed explanations of how magic works. In later volumes, there is more information left out, but that is neither here nor there for this first volume. If you like “trapped-in-another-world” stories or fantasy in general, Rising of the Shield Hero is highly recommended.