The Shield Hero is meant to endure the punishment of the world. In the double part premiere episode, college student Iwatani Naofumi is summoned to a distant world without his consent where he is forced to face not only the responsibility of saving this new world but also the betrayal and mockery of its inhabitants. He has no weapon besides his trusty shield and has no offensive capability. When party members choose which hero to accompany, no one initially wants to join Shield Hero Naofumi until the beguiling Myne joins him. She thoroughly loots him of his starting gold, leaving him with little besides his undergarments and shield. Myne then turns the Sword, Spear, and Bow Heroes against him by accusing him of rape. This is a capital offense in this explicitly matriarchal society. Because the kingdom of Melromarc needs the Shield Hero, the death penalty is avoided, but he is forced to bear the reputation of a rapist. Unable to return home, ostracized from the people of this new world, and now distrustful of the people he is supposed to protect; the Shield Hero is forced to travel alone bearing the brunt of this new world’s challenges alone aside from a slave he purchases to help level up.
The Shield Hero faces trouble not only in his new world, however. There has been some backlash from critics with whom the circumstances of the Shield Hero's arrival hit too close for comfort.
- "Making Naofumi's fall from grace the result of his partner Myne falsely accusing him of rape isn't just ethically dubious and needlessly off-putting – it's also lazy storytelling...When Myne erroneously describes this new world as “a matriarchy” (despite the ruler being, you know, a king), its proximity to the reveal of Myne's betrayal creates a link between these two elements that's impossible to ignore. The implication, intended or not, is that in a world that venerates women, deceptive snakes like Myne will say whatever they want, and poor Nice Guys like Naofumi will suffer.
Every trick in the book is employed to frame Myne as an exaggeration of the duplicitous, promiscuous harpy that uses her beauty to lure men to their doom, and Naofumi is the innocent everyman who's punished for being too trusting, thus justifying the hatred and misanthropy that follows him. It's not just a cliché, it's a fantasy of persecution that's frequently propagated by men in order to justify mistreatment and mistrust of women. It would be foolish to say that no person has ever falsely accused another of assault, but the fact is that society more often does not take allegations of assault seriously and often punishes victims for speaking up about it. The situation is so bad that the majority of victims choose not to report sexual violence, because it is assumed that they will be ignored or harassed further. This is why Rising of the Shield Hero's treatment of this subject matter deserves to be discussed. The idea that men are aggrieved victims of some matriarchal conspiracy is not only an imaginary boogeyman, it's something that has caused real harm in the world outside this work of fiction." -James Becket
- "It seems like an unbelievably bad time to start an anime series with the main character being falsely accused of sexual assault. That premise makes the show seem tone-deaf, and I imagine it'll drive away some potential viewers." -Paul Jensen
- "Rating: burn it and salt the earth"
"...Framing a show around a false rape accusation doesn't automatically make for a terrible story, but it does potentially provide an indicator of where the author is coming from. Though some authors are more transparent in their attempted social commentary than others, each choice a writer makes will carry with it some unavoidable real-world baggage. A false rape accusation isn't always the wrong choice, but it is always a weighty choice that relies heavily on context. We exist in a world where rapes are staggeringly under-reported, women are constantly shamed and attacked for acknowledging abuses against them, and false rape reports are a tiny statistical aberration, vastly overshadowed by the number of assaults that are not reported at all. Given all this, Shield Hero's premise feels like a tone deaf story choice at best, and an indicator of the author's own feelings about women at worst.
In context, Shield Hero's premiere did every conceivable thing in its power to communicate that this was the latter case. But this author isn't just angry at women—his bitter paranoia extends to basically everyone around him....
Through the course of a “trial” that feels eerily similar to several paranoid conspiratorial memes about feminists I've seen online, Naofumi finds himself villainized by everyone, crucified by all of the author's social anxieties and hangups about women at once. 'Her kindness was all fake,' Naofumi thinks to himself, articulating the resentment of a million boys angry that simple kindness did not equal sexual interest from a woman. 'We should never have summoned the shield hero,' cry the people, succinctly summing up this show's contradictory sense of martyrdom. Frankly, I agree with them. Unconvincingly developed and emotionally sterile as this world may be, it deserves a better class of hero than this." -Nick Creamer
(Ironically enough, in a list of abusers in the anime community that is floating around the internet, Justin Sevakis of ANN was recently falsely accused of sexual misconduct.)
- "As is unfortunately common, its biggest stumbling block boils down to gender relations. Myne’s betrayal of Naofumi involves her falsely accusing him of rape and planting false evidence to support her claim. There’s a strong suggestion that Kitamura, one of the other heroes who seems to attract various women, put Myne up to the task, but it’s Myne who’s framed by the narrative as being both responsible for the lie and cunning enough to fool everyone else. There’s a lot to unpack here, and none of it is good. The first and most important thing worth mentioning is that false rape accusations of this nature aren’t really a thing (think about the social consequences for women even when their accusations are extremely credible; people don’t do this kind of thing for fun). It’s as if Myne’s actions sprung fully-formed out of a misinformed, misanthropic incel fantasy; Kitamura is even depicted as some kind of an alpha male who gains women’s attractions unearned. I feel like Myne’s betrayal could have come in any number of different forms and not been half as problematic; unfortunately this choice reads to me as having been made with particular intent."
Anime Feminist even did a non-review...
- "We will not be reviewing The Rising of the Shield Hero premiere here at Anime Feminist.
I watched the episode, and it was worse than I had imagined. I have never seen a series with such a deeply held, misanthropic victim mentality.I contemplated how to approach the review. I thought about pretending to review it from an incel point-of-view, but that felt a little too close to the truth. I thought about writing with vitriol and rage, but that honestly felt pointless. Our readers know why a series hinging on a false rape accusation and slavery apologism is wrong; going into hysterics over it would only bring greater attention to it and give our detractors vindictive glee.
The rest of the AniFem team felt the same, so we decided to do something different this time. We’ll never call for censorship or removal of media, but we can choose who and what we promote.
So, rather than holler about the episode and bring more attention to a bad series (which Crunchyroll has already done plenty of, since they’ve chosen to co-produce this of all shows), we’re going to give that visibility to some organizations dedicated to helping survivors of rape and human trafficking. "
Even anime youtubers dogpile Naofumi. Expecting people to not be scumbags is lazy? Um ok, Geoff.
In the era of #MeToo and female empowerment, implying that false accusations occur is a cardinal sin even though statistics as well as several high profile cases exist to corroborate their existence. Most recently, Justice Kavanaugh had his name dragged through the mud with three women claiming that he sexually assaulted them and two of them retracting their claims. Even President Trump was the victim of unfounded accusations during the 2016 presidential election. The ridiculous "Mattress Girl" based her thesis project around carrying a mattress around her Columbia University for a year to highlight her victimhood even though her claims were quickly revealed to be false. And who can forget the Rolling Stone story that defamed an entire University of Virginia fraternity? And then there's the historic case of Emmet Till who was accused of and lynched for making advances on Carolyn Bryant who later recanted statements that he had grabbed her waist and uttered obscenities to her.
According to a 2016 study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers found that 5.2% of cases were confirmed false rape reports and also noted that the total false reporting rate would be higher if possible false accusations were included alongside confirmed accusations. Solid statistics are hard to come by in the United States however as the FBI hasn't included false accusations in their statistics since 1997. Another recent study on the motives of false claims from the Netherlands finds that most false accusations are driven by emotional gain with reasons also including but not limited to alibi, attention, revenge, sympathy, regret, relabeling, mental disturbance, and physical gain; most disturbingly, 21% of the accusers surveyed did not know why they made the false claims.
Obama-era Title IX revisions gave colleges and universities free reign to handle sexual assault cases in a disciplinary manner without bothersome things like due process or the rights of the accused getting in the way. Last year, many of those revisions were rescinded, and at the end of this month, changes to Title IX proposed by Secretary of Education Betsy Devos are set to take effect which would narrow the definitions of sexual assault and ensure due process to those accused.
Like Naofumi, victims of false accusations are often ostracized with their reputations ruined, have their livelihood as well as their lives threatened, and some even commit suicide finding life unbearable with this added stress. Just like these men, the Shield Hero must bear the punishment for crimes he didn't commit in a world that he didn't ask to be a part of.
At the time of publishing, the first three subtitled episodes of Rising of the Shield Hero are available as well as manga and the light novels the story was adapted from.