The Rising of The Shield Hero is still going on, apparently. I was given the pleasure of reviewing season two for this website, and I say “pleasure” with all the sarcasm I can muster. I don’t know how we went from a relatively OK series with controversial elements that divided fans to a second season that united everybody under the sun with the same opinion of “Wow, this is bad.” I will go on the record to say that season two of The Rising of The Shield Hero is probably one of the worst things I was paid to finish and acts as a textbook example of what not to do as a writer. There were character motivations that came out of nowhere, general information in the world-building fluctuated between being too wordy or not detailed enough, and some facts just felt like they were straight-up omitted to the point where I constantly felt like I missed something after blinking. Things were implied more than shown. I think I genuinely liked only one episode, but in a whole season, that’s pretty bad.
So imagine, to my surprise, when I say I walked away from the first episode of season three thinking that it genuinely had a lot of promise. This season has been in production for a while, and it shows because visually, it’s probably the best-looking the show has ever been. The directing feels subtle and engaging, the lighting feels almost cinematic, and every character has additional shading, adding more dimension to their designs. Somehow, it felt like I was watching the prelude to a Shield Hero. I also like how simple the premise is this time compared to whatever the heck was going on in season two. The exposition is delivered swiftly but in a way that is easy to digest. We know a threat is coming, so the main goal is to build our forces, and we finally have an emotional hook to bring in the other heroes.
Oh yeah, the other heroes, alongside Naofumi, were a big aspect of this show’s marketing. I initially didn’t like it because, to be honest, those three characters are complete assholes with very few redeeming qualities. However, the foreshadowing in this episode leads me to think there might be a conscious effort to write them as better characters. Not only are there glimpses of what their lives were like before they got transported to this world in a way that might explain they are incredible dickish behavior, but the queen even explains that the heroes might feel guilty and responsible for the current threat because they were useless during the last one.
Granted, there is also some foreshadowing about Bitch being out there doing something, and the opening heavily implied that if something terrible does happen to the other heroes, then she might be the cause of it again. I hope that’s not the case because it would be bizarre if the character outed for being a terrible person is allowed to manipulate more people, But maybe this is a good time for me to make sure that my expectations don’t get too high. The Rising of Shield Hero season three is slated to come out in the fall, and I’m sure some people at least hope it will return to the same level of quality as season one.
If it’s any consolation, MADKID, the band that performed openings for the show, seemed excited for what’s to come. I am referring to their contribution to the season three opening and the band’s future endeavors. After the episode aired, we got a little pre-recorded message from them about how they will perform more shows in America in the future. Good for them, as I think their songs are some of the best things about the franchise. One of the members mentioned that he wrote the lyrics for this opening to reflect the idea of Naofumi rising to the challenge. I can only hope the actual show’s quality will also meet that challenge.
Initial D is iconic for its incredibly energetic soundtrack and almost physics-defying driving. MF Ghost is a sequel to Initial D based on a manga by the same creator. At first glance, seeing the Initial D character designs drawn in updated digital animation was a bit jarring. In fact, let me say that the overall presentation of the first episode, surprisingly, wasn’t great. Aside from our main character and his prospective love interest, some of the character designs came off as unintentionally ugly. However, even his love interest had a friend that looked almost exactly like her aside from a different shade of hair color. I could forgive this if the animation staff focused more on their creative efforts where it mattered, such as in the driving segments. However, to my shock, very little driving happened in the first episode premiere.
Don’t get me wrong, driving is going on, but it’s relegated to the background or only shown in quick snippets. This first episode is more about setup and the technical aspects of what our main character, Kanata Rivington, will do in the next episode. This first episode ends with the flag girl declaring the race to start in the final frame. I imagine that episode two will be primarily races, but I was underwhelmed with this premiere. It makes me wish they showed the first two episodes instead of just the first one to grasp the production’s capabilities better.
That isn’t to say that this episode was terrible and had no merit; it just wasn’t exciting. I do like our two main characters. Kanata is generally earnest, as if he wears his heart on his sleeve. It acts as a nice contrast to the rest of the cast, who all seem to be at least a little bit deceptive about their true intentions, whether it’s a high school girl trying to get close to her crush or a fellow racer stalking one of the flag girls (Yes this is something that happens in this episode). It’s a good foundation; I can’t help but feel like I got blue balls with a promise.