Alternative title: Tate no Yūsha no Nariagari
Light Novel Adaptation by Kinema Citrus
Streaming on Crunchyroll
The isekai trash you’re familiar with, but with false rape accusations as the primary character motivation.
colons’ verdict: Don’t read the comments
Men who sexually assault women are at a historic high point of impunity and power. Many people are fighting to change this, and awareness is a good first step, but the power structures remain mostly unscathed. This week alone has seen two high-profile stories about sexual assault in Japan. In one, a magazine has been criticised for ranking universities by how easy it is to coax women into sex. In another, a member of idol group NMB48 has been forced to publicly apologise, twice, for being physically assaulted at her home. Outside of Japan, the United States recently swore an unapologetic rapist into their highest court, for life.
It is in this context that Shield Hero decides to present a story of the sheer villainy that is false rape accusation. It’s not a metaphor. It’s not subtle allusion. That is the plot here, and it’s the only plot element that differs it at all from literally every other garbage isekai show.
Shit Protag is summoned into another world with three other awful dudes, each from slightly different versions of Japan. While the other three get actual weapons, SP gets a shield. Apparently, this means that everyone in this universe, including the three other recent summonees, treats him like dirt from the outset. He is ignored when the four awful dudes are first introduced to the king, and nobody chooses to join him when first assigning party members to each of them. Eventually, someone does, but we soon learn that this is only so that she can steal all his stuff and accuse him of rape.
Despite the framing of this accusation as the worst possible circumstance, the protagonist suffers essentially no consequence for it. The three major interactions we see with townsfolk after the accusation is made public are actually made easier because of the accusations. Before the accusation, everyone was just completely dismissive of him. Now, though, a shopkeeper is intimidated, a vendor is sympathetic, and a slaver solicits him with the sale of a child cursed to obey its owner. This is, perhaps accidentally, a pretty solid reflection of an important truth about the damage caused by allegations of assault in real life: there’s usually very little of it. The men who assaulted Maho Yamaguchi have been released without charge. Louis C.K. is still getting gigs. Brett Kavanaugh is on the hecking supreme court.
I’m certain that the folks making this show will handle Shit Protag’s ownership of a child with at least equal finesse. I don’t need to know the details, and I don’t intend to find out. I won’t be watching any more of this.
I should probably acknowledge that this episode is bad even outside of its reprehensible moral message. It’s not even coherent; we’re told that this world is a ‘matriarchy’, but it’s ruled by a king, and the vast majority of powerful figures we see are men, too. There is only a single woman with a speaking role in this whole episode, and she’s the accuser.
More importantly, though, it’s over forty minutes long, and outside of the infuriating new twist we’ve already discussed, absolutely nothing interesting happens. They spend so much time introducing this fantasy isekai concept as if it’s some revolutionary idea that must be very carefully outlined and explained, and it doesn’t even do a good job of it. None of the specifics are cleared up. We don’t know if this is a video game or a dream or an actual other world. We are seemingly expected to either already know or just not care. Well, they’d be right about that.
Jel’s verdict: Dangerous
In addition to the important context that colons discussed, I’ve seen a lot of people bring up the connection between the themes of Shield Hero and the “incel” movement. I’m loathe to even use that word, if you don’t know what it is go look it up. Whether this connection is intentional or not, it’s definitely there.
The Shield Hero feels shunned and ostracized because he is supposedly the weakest hero, but it runs deeper than that. At one point it’s discovered the fantasy world they have arrived in is based on a real world video game. The three other heroes, confident so-called alpha males who act like jerks but are still popular anyway, all have experience playing the game. The Shield Hero does not, and after rumors spread about his lack of “knowledge of the game”, none of the hot lady warriors want to party up with him.
Maybe it’s a stretch, but I took this as a metaphor for being a virgin, or at least an unpopular nerd. The Shield Hero is getting left out despite being the only “nice guy” and this is everyone else’s fault. Even the small amount of kindness he does receive ends up being a lie. The most damning comparison to incel ideology happens during the pivotal accusation scene. The hero says, and I quote: “Joining me was just a ruse to destroy me right here. It was all a lie! The smiles she showed me, and her acts of kindness, were all fake!”
I’m not saying this as a joke, I am 100% serious: this sounds like something that could have been posted on social media before going to shoot up a college campus. Or a yoga studio. Or running down innocent people with a van. These stories are aimed at the demographic that is most susceptible to its message. It’s not just harmful to spread these ideas, it’s dangerous.
Perhaps one anime series or light novel is not going to make much of a difference on its own, but it does have an impact as part of broader feed of media that reinforces these concepts. I think it is irresponsible to create, distribute, and promote series’ like this. It raises a question I have been thinking about since last season’s Goblin Slayer: at what point is Crunchyroll or other distributors responsible for screening the content of the shows they license and perhaps not licensing them? I don’t have the answer to that question yet, but I think it’s time to start asking.