Shield Hero isn’t pulling any soft punches when it comes down to the digging into the dark and brutal realities of this world. This episode gave us a taste of kind of fights we are in store for in the future, and man it’s going to be a real bloody one.
And I must say, the beginning of the episode was quite hard to watch, especially when Naofumi told the seller “slaves aren’t people, training one is no different than upgrading his shield”. At that very moment, it made my stomach drop. It was very disturbing to hear. I can’t tell you how much I was thinking to myself, “Oh hell no. Dude, tell me you don’t mean it, tell me you’re doing this just for the show”, which unfortunately was not the case, and he proved it by how he didn’t even hesitate using the master’s absolute command on Raphtalia three or four times throughout the episode. It’s especially brutal to watch since if they defy the order, they will be punished by the enslavement magic. Boss (the weapon shop owner) pointed out saying it was either the country to blame or Naofumi had been corrupted. To that I say it’s both and more.
Needless to say, it made me feel very uncomfortable, and that’s exactly how it should be.
All for the sake of surviving this brutal world, Naofumi has cast aside his moral compass, and will do whatever it takes to get stronger, even if he has to bully his way through, and in this case, purchasing a slave to raise himself. This episode did a good job of conveying Naofumi sense of urgency, and how far he is willing to go to make sure he can make progress. It is only a matter of time before the next wave strikes. If he isn’t able to raise their levels enough by then, it’s game over. It’s the cruel and brutal reality they have to face. That is why neither one of them can afford wasting any time or opportunities that is presented to them to make them stronger.
But that isn’t to say Naofumi’s cold approach to this world isn’t without its advantages. Ironically, his bad reputation serves him as a shield of a sorts. Since the betrayal, Naofumi has adapted and managed to capitalize on his bad reputation. The Shield Hero people used to ridicule, is now someone people are going to think twice about picking a fight with. A good example was how he brought Raphtalia into a restaurant that said they won’t serve Demi-Humans, when he ordered food for the two of them, nobody dared to challenge him despite the other customers complaining about.
What was also good to see, was despite how roughly he handled Raphtalia in the beginning, it didn’t take Naofumi’s long to shift away from treating her as a weapon he needs to maintain, but rather a companion he is training and taking care of. I think the moment he really started to move past that bad mindset, was the night he comforted her after she woke up screaming because of the trauma of her parents’ death. I could be wrong, but I at least felt this incident brought out his softer and more humane side that was buried away after being betrayed. And for the first time since then, we actually got to see him smile by the end of the episode. Anoher instance was when he noticed she was interested in the ball the children were playing with, and even though they didn’t have a lot of money, he purchased it for her.
As for Raphtalia, someone protect this child. She’s a precious sweetheart who has been through hell and back again. First she loses her family to the wave, captured and then turned into a slave, gone through traumatic experiences from her former master. Her grim future got a bit brighter when Naofumi chose to purchase her. Although she is still enslaved, she is more hopeful because her parents used to tell her the Shield Hero was known for being good to demi-humans, and Naofumi has been treating her well by comforting her when she has her nightmares, clothing her, feeding her. It’s why she is deathly afraid of losing him.
But if there’s any hope of gradually moving away from the slave and master relationship and developing into becoming true partners, it was probably when his decision to call off the order after he initially attempted to force her to fight the monster, and instead told her to run away. When he did that, it wasn’t him trying to be a hero and help her survive. Instead he was counting on her to face her fear and fight. And regardless of his intent, it still gave Raphtalia the opportunity to make a choice. She feared losing him more than than monster, so she found her resolve to fight and together they were able to successfully slay it. Hopefully this event will transition into less situations where Naofumi feels the need to use the command, especially since Raphtalia is now more or less on the same page as he is.
In all, this was yet another strong episode, and although it was hard to watch at times, I still enjoyed it. I am very curious to see how Naofumi’s character will develop in the future, and what will become of him as time goes on. The OP indicated some crazy stuff happening, so it makes me really excited for what’s to come! (Also the song is super sick!)
Next week, their teamwork will be put to the test as it appears the next wave has finally arrived. Oof, I’m going to have to brace myself. They aren’t shy with the amount of blood spraying everywhere.
PS: Apparently Naofumi can’t taste anything in this world.