World Building & a New Plot! The Rising of the Shield Hero, Season 2 Episode 8 “A Parting in the Snow” [Review]

Naofumi’s next major conflict starts to take center attention again!

A Fresh New Path for the Characters

New world, new people, which means new adventures right? Piggybacking off the last episode review, this episode takes us through a world building experience introducing new kinds of people, new items, new building relationships and of course, a new plot. Whatever you may think about the newer antagonist and Kyo, I think this episode refreshes the minds of the audience as there is a new compelling situation Naofumi must face. Filo is gone. Now, Raphtalia has been taken for Kyo’s darkest intent. How is Naofumi going to deal with this new conflict as his rage from his vengeance starts to take the center of this arc?

The People of this World

Kizuna Kazayama, one of the Four Cardinal Heroes of this world, acts as a guide to explain what this world is like and what kinds of people exist here. Therese is a part of this “Jewel” race. Demi-humans are called “Grass.” Glass is a part of the “Spirits” people. Her powers derives from the accumulation of this “Soul” energy, so having a lot of this energy makes you strong. Kizuna continues spilling the beans that “normal attacks don’t work on her” and “she has to regain her strength naturally.” Later, they would end up eating at a nearby restaurant further explaining the Soul Power(SP) potion from Naofumi’s world, which is essential to Glass’s power.

Plot

Basically, they are just trying to find a way to warp to the safest town possible. Kizuna mentions that she doesn’t have the tool to let her use her warping ability called “Return Codex.” The country they are trying to get to is Sikul, which is the country that summoned Kizuna. It’ll take about 10 days by foot or if they can get to Mikakage, the place that trapped Kizuna, they can warp there using this dragon hourglass called “Return Dragon Vein”「帰路(きろ)(りゅう)(みゃく」. That would shrink the travel time down to 3 days. Later on, we would learn that the waves would be coming in 6 days—increasing the sense of urgency.

After some discussions after a meal, Naofumi and crew decides to be sell the SP potions from their world because Kizuna’s world doesn’t have such potions in existence. While doing so, they decide to keep farming up their levels as they accumulate capital. This is just a call back to what Naofumi had to do earlier in season 1, but now he has more characters by his side and he himself has a more positive outlook.

Eventually, they run into some rumors that someone has come up with the ability to use “Return Dragon Vein.” They suspect it was Kyo Ethnina, but it turns out to be another similar Kyo-like douche named “Kazuki.”

I really want to keep the “informal-ness” of this blog to a minimum because I really do have serious takes. All season, this arc has been slapping us in the face with really lame antagonists. It’s really like “here is this basic bad guy trope that we can use as a plot device.” Please tell me there is a better bad guy down the line…

When there is no camp, you go with hunger. That seems to be the funniest character development cliche of the season. At first, they used the meal at the restaurant to explain more about the SP potion. Then, after witnessing a potentially new antagonist, the writer uses this moment for a “call to action.”

Per Naofumi & Kizuna’s statements, they explain how weak everyone is and how neither himself or Kizuna can use attacks to make a difference. That is when Raphtalia makes the effort to push forward a plan, as the dragon hourglass may not be as well guarded because of the blizzard. With the waves coming in sooner than the 10 days to make it to Sikul and having no other choice, but to use the dragon hourglass; this is the first time as the viewer, that I felt a sense of urgency, since Naofumi’s party made it to Kizuna’s world.

Of Course its a Trap

As Naofumi’s party makes it to the building to get to the dragon hourglass, they run into the enemy’s trap. The crew fends off all of this cannon fodder as the viewer wonders who’s behind this trap. Eventually, Kazuki makes his lame entrance by the dragon hourglass as the Naofumi’s party approaches. He explains that him and Kyo are more like “business partners.” Naofumi’s party proceeds to fend off his attackers with ease. You can always tell by the lack of good action sequences that everything is happening too easily for the “good guys.” That makes you question that something must be up.

Once Kizuna makes it to the dragon hourglass and activates it, she could not undue it. One major thing appeared to be wrong about this moment as Rishia, Naofumi and Kizuna glowed, signifying that they are being warped. Raphtalia was not glowing with them. Then, here comes the bookworm douche bad guy, Kyo Ethnina, explaining this was all a part of his grand plan to “wipe the smirk” off of Naofumi’s face.

Again, I am not very impressed with these antagonists, but it does do wonders for the plot. Naofumi is now going through more psychological and emotional conflict as he contemplates revenge for Ost and now for Kyo taking Raphtalia. I would deem the Raphtalia relationship as being the most important and central to the importance to Naofumi. Will he revert back to the old “Dragon Zombie” part of his arc? Or will he rely on his newer empathetic and understanding side that unlocked the “Blessed Series” with the “Spirit Tortoise Shield” arc?

How the Series Should Handle Naofumi Character Development

For the first time all season, I think many of us in the audience are thinking what WILL Naofumi do? When a show makes you speculate and use some deeper critical thinking, I think that’s such a good opportunity for a show to capitalize on what the creators want the audience to speculate about. In the previous episode, Naofumi came up with a plan so quickly that they just transitioned the scene to them making their escape from the infinite void. This is the first time Naofumi is truly at odds about what he should do. His new friend Ost died, Filo is missing and his closest companion, Raphtalia is being taken by a loud mouth four-eyed book nerd.

This is prime opportunity to make Naofumi deliberate between his anger & frustration and between his love & compassion. Even from a logical point-of-view, if someone kidnaps your companion, there’s no way that you are not going to be contemplating some type of violence and wishing that some bad things happen to the perpetrators. So, I hope Naofumi gets to go through this experience by showing the audience his contemplation; showing a crescendo of what plan he ultimately concludes to. It’s time to put the protagonist’s true character to the test and make him work for a satisfying arc conclusion.

Structure of Episode

The good thing about this episode and how they structured the last episode is that the creators used the first half of the episode to world build. This is what that is.. That is what this is.. This next thing is our goal. Once the characters hit a climatic plot point, I like to call this the “sense of urgency” moment or “oh s**t, how are they going to get out of this situation” moment. That moment was derived solely because the incoming wave of this world was coming in 6 days. Thus, having no other choice but to take a bunk plan to force their way to the dragon hourglass to warp their way to Sikul. These are the adrenaline pumping moments that speed up your heart-rate as you are feeling the anxiety of the character’s dilemma.

Toying with Our Expectations

In the last episode, there was just a situational conflict with no characters preventing Naofumi’s actions from taking place. It makes it seem boring, unrelatable and convenient. This episode takes that same approach, but adds real character conflict. You have this new douch-ey bad guy(Kazuki) that acts similar to Kyo. Instead of showing Naofumi conveniently getting away with his original escape plan, the storyteller throws a wrench in his plans by separating Raphtalia from Naofumi, Rishia and Kizuna. This creates perhaps the biggest emotional wound on Naofumi as he loses his “sword.”

The expectation from the audience is that Naofumi’s party would all eventually escape to Sikur, using the dragon hourglass. This episode introduced a potentially new antagonist, but did not specify anything further as to what can happen, creating an even bigger mystery. So once the characters go through the act of escaping, the portrayal is all within everyone’s expectation.

That “trap” laid by whomever was not made apparent yet, as Naofumi’s party just blew by all of their foes. The ease and lack of engaging action scenes makes the viewer question about the significance of this “trap.” To me, it felt like they were going to get away. At this point in the season, they’ve pretty much blew by every problem they faced. Once Kyo condescendingly antagonizes Naofumi, this potentially sets up a scenario where Naofumi could make some negative self-inflicting decisions.

Last Thoughts

When you have nothing left to explore, I think so many animes opt for the “multi-world” or “multi-universe” route because it gives you so much more flexibility to create interesting new stories. For this particular arc, the focus has completely shifted into Naofumi’s psychological & emotional conflict. What makes this situation different from season 1 is that Raphtalia was the one that picked him up from the depths of despair. Now, he doesn’t have that rock that’s been with him since the beginning. Even worse, he’s most likely going to blame himself for not being able to defend her.

How is he going to deal with his inner conflict? Revenge or take the high road? This is a great situation for the audience to be in because you are highly compelled to see what happens next. With every good protagonist, there is always a dark-side element to them. Let’s hope we get to see it in epic fashion.

Don’t Forget to Hit the Like Button & Let Me Know What You Think in the Comments!

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