The Rising of The Shield Hero anime adaptation has ranked among the worst anime of last year according to a recently released list compiled by Anime News Network staff specifically due to the series’ subject matter rather than any inherent quality issues.
On January 3rd, Anime News Network published their annual “Worst of Anime” list, which is determined by a selection of site staff members. The first review featured in their compilation was from Anime News Network writer Steve Jones, who ranked The Rising of the Shield Hero as the worst anime of 2019 and labeled it a “rallying point for the worst impulses of some of the worst people” and portrayed its premise as “a glorification of misogyny and slavery.”
“If I’m calling an anime the worst of the year, it’s not sufficient that it merely be a “bad” show. It needs to be something actively, politically awful. It needs to be rallying point for the worst impulses of some of the worst people. Admittedly, these are factors that are often outside of the control of creators, and there are countless examples of genuinely good and kind media being subsumed into a pile of internet swamp scum. The Rising of The Shield Hero, however, is not one of these shows. With a premise predicated on a glorification of misogyny and slavery, it earns all the ire directed towards it. That it was animated by Kinema Citrus, who have made recent and wonderful standouts like Made in Abyss and Revue Starlight, and produced by Crunchyroll, which is the premier anime streaming service in North American, just twists the knife. This is the worst kind of nerd power fantasy to put on any pedestal besides the specific one I’m featuring here.”
As is apparent from reading Jones’ review, his consideration of the series as one of the “worst” of 2019 is less based in criticisms of the show’s production and more based on his personal feelings towards the appropriateness of the subject matter and humor as viewed through the lens of social justice theory.
Jones’ review stands out even amongst his fellow Anime News Network reporters, whose criticisms were related to various issues ranging from art styles to poor writing. On the same list, fellow Anime News Network writer Rebecca Silverman notes that Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka “got worse when it began to use sexualized torture as titillation” but also recognizes that “Schlocky sexualized violence may have a place in the entertainment landscape” instead of docking the series for having sexual content in general:
“This category came down to a tie between this show and Kemono Michi: Rise Up for me, but what made Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka the winner (or loser) is how drastically it failed its characters and subject matter. Yes, Kemono Michi: Rise Up had lots of cruel jokes of questionable taste, but it was at least attempting to be a comedy, however misguided it was. Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka, on the other hand, at first purported to be an edgy dark magical girl show looking at what happens to the girls after the battles are over, and how they might cope with having to go back into the fray. The problems began when the show completely disregarded the mental health issues it set up for Asuka, and things only got worse when it began to use sexualized torture as titillation. It devolved into a fetish-filled mess that trampled all over its initial premise, failing to treat subjects like child soldiers, combat veterans with PTSD, and the manipulation of vulnerable people’s psyches with the gravity they both deserve and need. Schlocky sexualized violence may have a place in the entertainment landscape, but this most assuredly is not it.”
Despite Jones’ declaration that The Rising of the Shield Hero “earns all the ire directed towards it,” there may be little to be found among general audiences, as the series placed 11th in Anime News Network’s own open poll which asked readers to select their top five anime series of the year.
The series’ original light novels and manga adaptations have had a collective total of 6.2 million copies printed in Japan. At last year’s Crunchyroll Expo, it was announced that the anime adaptation would be receiving a second and third season.
The series has also received three nominations in the annual Crunchyroll Annual Anime Awards, with Raphtalia being nominated for “Best Girl,” Kevin Perkin for “Best Score,” and Billy Kametz’s performance as Naofumi for “Best VA Performance (English).”
YouTuber Hero Hei commented on Steve Jones’s “review” saying, “Part of what they look at in critiquing anime is how it relates to politics. This is the exact thing we are fighting against. We want your politics out of our entertainment. We do not want to be used.”
What do you make of Jones’ review of The Rising of the Shield Hero? Have you seen the first season? What did you think about it?