Naofumi Iwatani was a normal Japanese college student. Then, one day, he
opened a book called The Record of the Four Holy Weapons. Just like that, he was isekai’d to another world as the shield hero. The other three heroes with him were the spear hero, sword hero, and bow hero. Their task? To stop the waves of calamity that attacked the world. There’s only one problem: Naofumi can’t attack. As the shield hero, Naofumi is reliant on party members to help him fight.However, because of being the shield hero, he is belittled by adventurers, townspeople,and royalty. This only increases when he is wrongly accused of rape by Princess Malty Melromarc. Penniless, hated by everyone, and desperate, Naofumi goes to the one place he can find a loyal party member: the slave market.This is where the anime turns a bit dark. Naofumi’s bitterness and anger causes him to be cold and callous, seemingly indifferent to everyone and everything. He evensuccumbs to the temptation of the rage shield, almost turning into a demon himself. It is only because of Raphtalia, the slave he bought, that he can return to his senses. Her love and light help him become a better person. Together, they embark on new adventures to stop the waves of calamity.
Despite its dark beginnings, the anime turns into a hopeful message about howlight can overcome darkness, justice can be served, and that friendship and love are powerful. Yet, the moral answer to slavery seems ambiguous. Is slavery right or wrong? The answer the show and the Bible sends may surprise you.
In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Naofumi employs a sickly slave in order to
survive in the fantasy world he has found himself in. He admits that Raphtalia, the first slave he bought, was a tool that he could trust not to betray him. However, he does not abuse Raphtalia. Instead, he feeds her, cures her, and helps her overcome her fears to become “his sword” that fights alongside him.
When the other heroes challenge the morals of his decision to own a slave,
Naofumi lashes out in anger. After all, he had no choice but to hire a slave when no one else would help him. Yet, the spear hero won’t let him off so easily, and he cheats so that he has victory over Naofumi. Raphtalia’s slave crest, a magical emblem that keeps her loyal, is removed, and Naofumi descends into darkness. At that moment, Raphtalia shows her love and loyalty to him. Bringing him back into the light, Raphtalia even gets another slave crest.Naofumi points out it is unnecessary, but Raphtalia states, “But I wanted it, as a symbol of your faith in me.” Raphtalia isn’t the only one who subjects herself to a slave crest. As more members of the community come to realize that Naofumi is the true hero, they join his party, and eventually his city. Many of these subject themselves to a slave crest to show their loyalty and to boost their stats. Overall, the slave crest is used as a positive marker—with two exceptions.
The first is when Filo, a bird, becomes Naofumi’s pet and slave. Eventually,
because of her ties to Naofumi, she is able to transform into a human girl. A
combination of childlike innocence and animal instincts, she fights against the slave crest more than the others. Nevertheless, she is loyal to Naofumi and doesn’t question whether or not she should have the crest. However, it is unclear if Naofumi would approve of her removal of the crest. She doesn’t seem to have the free will to choose the crest or not. The only implication about this is that as a child, she has less rights than the adults around her.
Another instance of negative use of slavery is with Princess Malty. Because of
Malty’s numerous crimes, she is subjected to a slave crest to keep her from lying. This slave crest hurts her every time she withholds the truth. This does seem like a just action because of Malty’s crimes, but it is still forcing someone to take something against their will. This is ultimately where the show has ambiguous morals. It seems to state that slavery is evil on one hand, but also necessary. The contradictory nature of this answer might be confusing, but it is almost Biblical.
Let me preface this by stating that American slavery differs greatly from the
slavery portrayed in the times of the Bible. American slavery cruelly kept a man or woman subjugated to his or her master far beyond the Biblical stipulations. As it statesin Scripture:
“When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he
shall go out free, for nothing.”-Exodus 21:2 ESV
This lays out that slavery was meant to be temporary and based upon a person’s decision, often to pay off debt. With women, it was slightly different. Her freedom depended on whether the master bought her to marry himself or for his son. Since a woman’s entire existence depended on men to care for her during this time, it makes sense that the Bible would make provisions and laws for her. It even points out what
should happen if the master does not give her marriage as an option for livelihood.
“And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing,
without payment of money.”-Exodus 21:11 ESV
By these scriptures then, Raphtalia, Filo, and the other slaves should be freed
from their slave crests within six years. From the anime, it is unclear if that much time has passed, so it is uncertain whether all of the slaves under Naofumi’s control should be freed—even the cruel Malty could find freedom under these verses. Yet, Raphtalia’s decision reflects the one exception about slavery in the Bible.
“But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.” -Exodus 21:5-6 ESV
A slave forever sounds like a horrible fate, but these slaves remained loyal to
their masters for life. In the same way, Raphtalia and the others have chosen freely to submit themselves to Naofumi for his life. Their free will is ultimately what makes their slavery different from the others. Finally, there is one other tie-in about slavery in Scripture that I think connects very well to Raphtalia and Naofumi. It is from the NewTestament in Romans 6:16-19 ESV: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousnessleading to sanctification.”In this passage, Paul argues that everyone who has not followed Christ was once a slave to sin and evil. Then, when they become Christians, they shift masters. They are now no longer slaves to sin, but to God himself. Yet, this is not the cruel slavery of America. Instead, it is a slavery of willingness, similar to what was mentioned in Exodus and similar to what Raphtalia and others have submitted themselves. Seeing the loveand grace of God, Christians were drawn in by the Holy Spirit to switch owners.
In the same way, Raphtalia and the others saw the true nature of Naofumi and wished to prove their loyalty by remaining as his slaves. Thus, slavery, which typically has a bitter
and negative connotation, becomes something beautiful if done out of free will and love.
-Use of d-, a-, and b-. So far, the f word has not been used. The Lord’sname may also be taken in vain, but I can’t recall specific instances.
● Sexual Content:
-Malty wrongly accuses Naofumi of rape.
-Raphtalia, despite being years younger than Naofumi, clearly has a crush on him and wishes he would marry her.
-Filo talks about taking her master as a mate.
-Ost Horai uses sex as a weapon to stop evil and there is a small discussion around a campfireabout how to get a man to notice a woman sexually. Explicit terms are not discussed.
Naofumi states that he doesn’t like Rishia because she is essentially
using him to get into the Bow Hero’s pants.
-Atla and Sadeena both seek to seduce and marry Naofumi.
-Princess Melty also wants to marry him, but does not try any seduction techniques. Yet, in the anime at least, Naofumi has yet to return any of the women’s affections.
-The female and male characters are seen partially nude when bathing and can wear skimpy clothing.
● Violent Content:
-There are typical action and adventure sequences in which
Naofumi and others stab, fight, and kill monsters and/or demons.
-The most blood is shown in a scene where Naofumi uses the rage series to kill High Priest Biscas.There is a blood monster shown, blood spewing out of Naofumi, and a blood lake.
-There is also a dark scene in which Naofumi uses an iron maiden to
pierce someone to death. Blood is seen leaking from the prison.
● Spiritual Content:
-In the story, there is a church of three heroes. This church is
very similar to the Catholic church, with a high priest and nuns. Eventually, that
-church is overthrown and replaced with the church of four heroes, which has a similar system.
● Alcohol/Drug Content:
-Characters are seen getting drunk. Naofumi cannot get drunk because of his shield hero abilities.
The Rising of the Shield Hero isn’t your typical isekai anime. Unlike others that
are often centered around goofy humor and romantic hijinks from the harem of womenor men surrounding a protagonist, this one is refreshingly serious. With a fast-paced, Intriguing plot and characters, the anime story is compelling. That being said, it may be too much for more sensitive viewers, and it is definitely only appropriate for adults. If you’re looking for an isekai on the darker side, but with a ray of hope, then this one is for
M.H. Elrich is a Christian Fantasy author, reader, otaku, and teacher who wears too many hats. In her spare time, she watches T.V. with her husband, rides horses, and travels to places with lots of trees. Her work has been featured in two separate books: Finding God in Anime and Where Giants Fall, and her stories have won several awards at the Kern County Fair. She is currently writing and publishing the Daughters of Tamnarae series.