Despite the odds, Naofumi has risen as an exemplary defensive hero. Why can’t Motoyasu, Ren and Itsuki keep up with him?
The Rising of the Shield Hero is an exciting isekai anime title that has since returned for a second season of more fantasy fun, and while the new season of Shield Hero boasts many colorful new characters and even a new world for Naofumi’s party to explore, not everything has changed. For example, the other three Cardinal Heroes are still struggling despite their widespread fame.
The Spear Hero Motoyasu, the Bow Hero Itsuki and the Sword Hero Ren enjoyed enthusiastic support from the Melromarc crown and the Church of the Three Heroes, but it barely mattered. Ren, Itsuki and Motoyasu are still fumbling with their roles as heroes, and Naofumi has been showing them up time and again. There are a few reasons why those three are dropping the ball so much.
Although some isekai heroes are notoriously overpowered, such as the skeletal Ainz Ooal Gown and Rimuru Tempest the slime, many other isekai heroes are starting from zero and must work hard to establish their new life and find success. Being an isekai hero is a true test of character, such as the young Myne working hard to make books or Natsuki Subaru using his wits to alter the course of history. Iwatani Naofumi himself experienced that challenge, being a defense-only Cardinal Hero who received no support from the Melromarc crown or the Church. Naofumi thrived and rapidly grew from that challenge, but that wasn’t the case with the other Cardinal Heroes.
Ren, Itsuki and Motoyasu did benefit from all the support, such as Princess Malty joining Motoyasu’s party and the mage Rishia Ivyred joining Itsuki’s own team. However, these heroes soon coasted on their success and fame, and that made them sloppy and a bit soft. While they had great offensive power, these three heroes were never truly pushed to grow and adapt. Mentally and physically, they had it too easy, and they became self-entitled and pampered.
This left them woefully unprepared for the reality of later Waves against foes such as Glass and L’Arc Berg, so Naofumi took over as a battle-hardened Cardinal Hero who had a lot to show for his efforts. In theory, if Naofumi had never been branded a criminal and ostracized, he might have ended up like the other three Cardinal Heroes. Fortunately for the story, that didn’t happen.
Another issue is that Motoyasu, Itsuki and Ren treated this isekai adventure as a video game in every sense. On one hand, this new world really did have game mechanics such as health bars, XP and leveling up, but the three heroes took this too literally, and they didn’t intuitively grasp the situation in which they found themselves. Instead, they viewed themselves as RPG characters who simply needed to defeat enemies and grind XP to find success, all in the framework of a streamlined, fun-oriented system. Unfortunately for them, the kingdom of Melromarc is not a virtual reality Final Fantasy title, and things don’t always work out neatly and positively as they do in video games. This is a real world with real consequences for one’s actions, with no video game plot armor to protect them.
Often, the three heroes fumbled with their quests by taking the most obvious option, only to cause more problems later, such as killing a dragon but having its rotting corpse sicken an entire town. By contrast, Naofumi treated this adventure as the reality it was, knowing that every action had consequences, just like in real life. This isekai adventure may have RPG elements to it, but it’s still more real life than not, and the real world is not streamlined and fun-oriented like an AAA-title video game. Thus, the three heroes wasted their potential and caused problems, thinking they could simply level up and learn new combat moves to find victory.
A real RPG would richly reward players for taking that route, but that won’t work here. The Four Cardinal Heroes must fully immerse themselves in this nuanced, living world and act intuitively, all while forgetting the conveniences of playing a game. Naofumi smartly did that while Motoyasu, Ren and Itsuki neglected to, and that created a gap between those two parties. It takes more than critical hits and a huge XP pool to take on Glass, dragons and the scheming Kyo Ethnina and stand a real chance of victory. Motoyasu, Ren and Itsuki have still failed to grasp this as of Shield Hero Season 2, which allowed Kyo to easily subdue them, and no doubt the heroes will struggle again until they finally internalize and practice the same lessons that Naofumi did.
Louis Kemner has been a fan of Japanese animation since 1997, when he discovered Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z in elementary school. Now he’s a bigger anime/manga fan than ever, and is ready to share what he knows with readers worldwide. He graduated high school in 2009 and received his Bachelor’s in creative writing from UMKC in 2013, then put his skills to work in 2019 with CBR.com. He’s always looking for a wonderful new anime to watch or manga series to read.