The Rising of the Shield Hero Season 2 has been above-average at best throughout these past 12 episodes. Sure, this season had its downsides. But on the other hand, it’s given us solid episodes as well. But the latest episode of the hit isekai series in particular showcased the highs this series as a whole can reach even when everything leading up to it isn’t anything special.
The Naofumi-Kyo Dynamic
The start of the episode with Naofumi and Kyo describing their “otaku life” before being transported to the new world they now reside in was one of the most creative directing choices of the entire season. Throughout Season 2, we never really grasped the dynamic between the two, despite their disdain for one another when they crossed paths.
It was a wonderful opportunity to showcase that the two of them, both recluse gaming nerds from Japan, ended up choosing different paths in the new world they found themselves in. Naofumi played to relax and have fun, Kyo sought fame and power. While Season 2 had many of its downsides in establishing their dynamic, it also did a bunch of things right—one of those being the paths they chose.
Naofumi chose the path of least exposure. Kyo chose the one where he wanted the glory. And seeing these two walking down these paths and leading to the same moment that showed how different they actually are at heart, despite what the surface says, is what made episode 12 great at the core of it all. Rather than Naofumi overcoming hate and rage, he learned to embrace it while Kyo was the opposite by falling victim to it from the very beginning. This particular part of their character dynamics really displayed where the two began to differentiate.
We didn’t get to experience that much this season given that Kyo was usually in the background pulling strings rather than being in the forefront constantly confronting Naofumi, which is in odd contrast to the glory and fame that Kyo wanted. But the “two roads clashing at the end” kind of writing really collided in a major way in episode 12. Once it was over, fans really felt like a story came around full circle. Kyo wasn’t the greatest antagonist in the beginning but still managed to develop into a major threat and a key piece in Naofumi’s character development. Kyo didn’t feel like someone just to push the story ahead. Instead, he served a major purpose to other characters but in the opposite way that Naofumi did.
Ost, Kazuki, and Yomogi were originally Kyo’s clique just as Raphtalia, Filo, and Risia were Naofumi’s this season. And episode 12 was remarkable by showing that one who treats their friends like family will be the one to come out on top, rather than using them as stepping stones. And that’s where the Kyo and Naofumi dynamic truly shines.
While the writing didn’t necessarily seem to be the best for Season 2, there’s no denying the way the Kyo-Naofumi dynamic ended up becoming a well-written piece of work. Sure, you can question some execution moments even up to the very last one between the two in episode 12. But fans can’t deny that this season’s way of manifesting the dynamic between the two was admirable in a lot of ways.
Raphtalia became a fan favorite among Shield Hero fans since we were first introduced to her back in season one and episode 12 pretty much showcased everything for us to remember why we’re fans in the first place. Whether it was her protecting Naofumi or her showing us just how powerful she has become as his sword, episode 12 gave us our perfect fill of amazing Raphtalia moments that was built up to this point in the season.
Being Naofumi’s right hand, Raphtalia rightfully deserved the spotlight in a big episode like this one and she delivered just as she was built up to do. Not a single Shield Hero fan doesn’t love seeing Raphtalia go crazy in battle and we got a wonderful taste of that in episode 12. Not to mention the moment below was a thing of beauty. The low camera angle, the animations, the background symmetry, everything was perfect to give Raphtalia a hype moment.
One thing that felt like it was greatly missed throughout this season was Filo’s humor. While Naofumi and company were searching for her, there was always that “something” missing from the episodes. Well, episode 12 showed us that it was Filo’s childish humor. One of my favorite moments from the episode was her reaction when she saw Kazuki’s guards turned into chimeras by Kyo. Rather than worrying for them like everyone else from the jump, her childish “Ew… Disgusting” reaction was the perfect moment that gave the episode a hilarious Filo touch.
She didn’t have much of a role this season as she did in Season 1, but the one thing she brings to the table is humor. And while she didn’t have much screentime in episode 12 either, the staff made sure Filo had enough to remember she’s another reason why we love this series as well.
While Kizuna was absent throughout most of episode 12, it was the emotional goodbye to her at the end that truly felt like a Shield Hero goodbye. And what I mean by that is when a goodbye happens in this series between characters we’ve grown to love and root for—Kizuna being one of them—it’s always executed well no matter what. And the thing about her part in the episode that I loved the most is that despite the criticism of the season being rushed, it didn’t deter her goodbye whatsoever.
You truly felt the emotions in the goodbye and the season did a wonderful job of involving her enough to the point viewers grew attached to her as a character. If anything, I think the emotional goodbye was more impactful for the sole fact that the season was rushed because it felt like we were just beginning to get to know more about her phenomenal character. So that feeling of not wanting to see her go away made the moment much more emotional. Hopefully, we see her again sometime down the road.
Ost Hourai’s Role
Continuing the number of emotional moments in episode 12, Ost probably took the cake with arguably the most emotional moment of the entire Spring 2022 season, not just for this Shield Hero episode. Up until her death, Ost was a light during the darker time of this season with the earlier episodes. While the writing for then wasn’t the greatest, Ost continued to make each week’s new episode worth watching.
So with anime-only fans completely in the dark about Ost’s return this episode to seeing Naofumi on the verge of tears after seeing her for the first time since her death, her role in episode 12 really showed us she was a big part of this season. Not to mention, the moment of seeing Raphtalia smiling when she first saw Ost right before the episode climax, then finally crying as she said goodbye for the last time, made not just Ost’s return that much better, but the episode as well.
Beautiful Animation and Use of Soundtrack
Last but not least, one of the biggest gripes with The Rising of the Shield Hero Season 2 was its lackluster animations and composition. Well, in episode 12 we saw what could possibly be considered the best animations we’ve seen in the entire series period. With animators such as Ryan White and others at the helm for this episode, the end result was beautiful, leaving episode 12 to be the most memorable of the entire season.
In this day and age, the focus on animation and composition from the fans is a big deal when it comes to critiquing a series. And the unfortunate part of this season is that they haven’t been that great. So much so that even the most casual anime fans can point this flaw out. But episode 12 felt as if this was something special that the production staff really took to heart and wanted to give fans an incredible experience that left us with our hearts racing, eyes filled with tears, and a big enough smile that left our cheeks sore.
Having the opening theme song from this season play during the biggest moment of episode 12 just let the fans know something epic was about to happen and it exceeded expectations. So the production staff seriously deserves a round of applause for their work for this episode. Daigo Yamagishi for the amazing episode direction and storyboarding. Kota Sera and Suwa Masahiro for their wonderful animation direction. Keigo Koyanagi wrote a phenomenal script for the episode. And everyone else from season director Jinbou Masato to Yaso Shouta on the sound effects and Kevin Penkin on the music, viewers felt like you truly had everyone on their A-game for episode 12.
Shield Hero Season 2 Episode 13
Despite episode 12 feeling like a season finale, we still have one more episode left this upcoming week! Episode 13 will air on Wednesday, June 29, on Crunchyroll. With just one episode left, it looks like The Rising of the Shield Hero Season 2 will finish out the season remaining in the top 10 of our weekly polls, being one of the most loved series for the Spring 2022 season. So make sure to vote for The Rising of the Shield Hero Season 2 one last time in this week’s poll!
©2021 Aneko Yusagi / KADOKAWA / Shield Hero S2 Production Committee