Samurai 8: Chapter 1 Review

Overall Rating: 8.75/10

Plot/Story: 8.5/10

Art/Design: 9/10

Characters: 8.5/10

Action/Fights: 9/10

Synopsis

            Hachimaru (a terminally ill, homebound child on life-support) is granted an opportunity at a new life when his father is threatened by powerful cyborg samurai.

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Review Summary

Knowing that this work is from the creator of Naruto (Masashi Kishimoto), I was very excited to get a peek at the new universe he has created. There are several elements of this story that reminds of others, but Samurai is already expressing that it is its own unique narrative. The story takes place in a universe where there is an intergalactic community rather than just being on a single planet (like Star Wars). The protagonist is a deathly-ill boy (Hachimaru) who can’t even go outside (reminiscent of Everything, Everything). Hachimaru’s father does his best to keep him safe and alive, but he still treats his father as if he doesn’t care. Hachimaru desperately desires to be a samurai, which in his universe are skilled combatants with cyborg bodies granted to them from a god.

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I really enjoyed my first read through of Samurai 8. The opening was intriguing and the anticipation for what was to come had me turning each page. Honestly, I wanted to know how Kishimoto planned to take the MC from the domestic bound wreck to a sword-wielding samurai, and the journey was rewarding! I felt that the story had a sense of natural progression with each piece of the story offering character details, while at the same time offering us a bulk of information about the universe. The artwork was wonderful and the concepts for cyborg bodies were unique. I really liked how the cyborg body could open at will! The entire idea of obtaining a decked-out cyborg samurai body by being deemed worthy by a god is intriguing, to say the least! I have very high hopes for Samurai 8 and I’ll be following this manga very closely in the future! I give this chapter an 8.75/10.

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The Rising of the Shield Hero #8: Curse Shield Review

Overall Rating: 8.3/10

Plot/Story: 8/10

Animation/Design: 8/10

Characters: 8.5/10

Music: 8.5/10

Action/Fights: 8.5/10

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Synopsis

Team Naofumi, once again, ends up in a village that needs saving. The team must clean up a mess left by another Cardinal Hero and comes face-to-face with a zombie dragon! Unexpected events trigger one of Naofumi’s most powerful shields yet, the Curse Shield.

Review Conclusion

This episode is the best one yet! Since the start of the series, we have seen a stern, self-motivated Naofumi seemingly performing actions only for rewards. It was nice to see him working late night to use his crafting skill to create new items for his party members. The fact that he made them himself and even goes as far as to keep the items hidden from Filo to not ruin the surprise, showcases that the Naofumi that left on the journey is still the considerate kindhearted individual he was portrayed to be in episode one.

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The opening credits had us eager to see what Naofumi’s demon-looking form was all about and we are finally rewarded! The “Curse Shield” is accessed by rage and is incredibly powerful. So powerful, that Naofumi zones out and loses control. I have been complaining about wanting to see more action and we finally get a foe worth fighting, a Zombie Dragon! Filo’s battle skills continue to outshine the rest of Team Naofumi as she quickly jumps in and starts going toe-to-toe with the beast! She was incredible! Best combat chicken I have ever witnessed (the chicken from Family Guy may be a contender).

I am beginning to see why Naofumi was chosen as the Shield Hero. I doubt the other heroes would take the time a personally create medicines for those in need. Granted Naofumi uses it as a source of income, he still takes the time to see to his patients and distribute the medicine himself. The other Cardinal Heroes, as far as we have been shown, are seeking quests to level up combat skills. Naofumi seems to be leveling up skills that aren’t necessarily related to combat. I just hate that he is so condescending to those who need him. It is somewhat backward that he is upset because of the events in episode one but treat obviously nice people like pests. Even though he is genuinely aiding the people, he could really ease up on how he speaks to people. Show some respect, Naofumi!

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode! The battle with the dragon had me feeling that Team Naofumi really had something at stake! Filo continues to shine as a battle companion, and I am still hoping that Raphtalia’s battle skills are highlighted a bit more in the future. The Curse Shield has a really cool design and gives Naofumi more of an edgy presence that he desperately needed (let us admit Naofumi is not the most exciting of MC’s after all). I give this episode a 8.3/10.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #7: The Savior of the Heavenly Fowl Review

Overall Rating: 6.4/10

Plot/Story: 6/10

Animation/Design: 7/10

Characters: 6/10

Music: 8/10

Action/Fights: 5/10

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Synopsis:

Naofumi is quickly becoming a jack-of-all-trades. With his recent acquisition of Filo, a carriage, merchant connections, and his potion enhancing aptitude, Naofumi is finding himself to be an individual of high demand. Upon request, Team Naofumi ventures to a small village that has been overtaken by a plant-based monster and ends up changing it forever.

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Review Conclusion

Initially, I believed this would be a strong episode, but by the end of it, I was disappointed. The plant-based monster was cool, especially with its ability to infect the villagers like a parasite. I was hoping that the parasitic aspect would play more of a role. For instance, it would be cool if the monster plant was able to control infected villagers to fight for it. Or, if a member of Team Naofumi got infected by the monster and a new quest had to be conquered to save their comrade. Instead, the episode wrapped up the situation at the village quick with a simple hack from Naofumi. Too simple. Even though the kingdom officials treat Naofumi unfairly, the citizens definitely appreciate the Shield Hero’s abilities.

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The remainder of the episode focused on the relationship between Raphtalia and Filo who are competing for Naofumi’s affection. They find themselves having to rely on each while seeking out a precious gift in some nearby mountains. I understand wanting to highlight the two female leads, Raphtalia and Filo, but I felt like their mini adventure was rushed. At first, I felt it was unnecessary entirely, but after further reflection, I could see why the relationship between Raphtalia and Filo needed to be emphasized. They both have a connection with Naofumi and if they are going to be working together to protect him, some trust needed to be developed. That’s fine. I just was not impressed with how the episode led into the Raphtalia-Filo team up with the sole motivation of impressing Naofumi. It would be refreshing if they expressed a bit more individualism rather than always glorifying the Shield Hero.

Criticism aside, it was an okay episode, but nothing exciting. Honestly, there were parts of the episode that were downright awkward between the members of Team Naofumi. Is Raphtalia technically old enough to drink? Should Naofumi have such seemingly innocent, yet questionable relationship with Filo? She is technically a monster bird that hatched from an egg, I guess. This was not one of my favorite episodes thus far, but I am not losing hope in the Shield just yet. Every anime has filler, right?  I still appreciated the sense of watching a game playthrough and this is definitely a game I would play (if someone would actually take the time produce a quality RPG) and the isekai theme continues to strongly shine through. I give this episode a 6.4/10.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #6: A New Comrade

Overall Rating: 8.2/10

Plot/Story: 8.5/10

Animation/Design: 8.5/10

Characters: 8/10

Music: 8/10

Action/Fights: 8/10

Synopsis

So, there is clearly more to Filo than meets the eye. This episode opens with the eccentric slave dealer explaining that Filo is a rare member of her breed imbuing her with the ability to transform into a human form. As an audience, we knew this in part due to the opening credits, but still, knowing exactly what Filo is, is a key bit of information. Due to the nature of Filo’s abilities, Team Naofumi is now tasked with finding clothes that can adjust to her size. After inquiring of such clothing from Boss, he explains that that type of item is rare and that they should ask the dressmaker. The dressmaker informs them that she needs a magic thread to be able to produce an outfit for Filo. This magic thread can only be made by infusing the wearer’s mana into the thread using a certain magic gem. Team Naofumi begins to seek out the gem.

During their travels, they pick up a hitchhiker in desperate need of a ride to his home to deliver some potion to his mother. Upon their arrival, Naofumi puts his medicine skill to use and enhances the potion for the mother. This encounter spawns the beginnings of Naofumi’s healing and traveling services, due to which he becomes known as “Our Savior of the Heavenly Fowl”. Naofumi ends up escorting an accessory dealer who becomes the target of a bandit attack. Team Naofumi makes quick work of the incompetent thugs and the accessory dealer graciously offers Naofumi crafting knowledge as well as meaningful connections with other merchants.

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The accessory dealer also gives Naofumi the right to enter a gem mine which conveniently stores the gem necessary for Filo’s new attire. The Witch (introduced in Episode #5) accompanies Team Naofumi into the mine. Deep within the mine, we get a small, yet savory taste of action as Team Naofumi encounters a creature known as a nue. Team Naofumi, with the aid of the Witch, combats the nue and retrieve the necessary gem.

Review Conclusion

I found this episode to be pretty good. Ultimately it was just dress shopping for Filo, but at least we got some good dungeon action towards the end! The nue had an awesome design and seeing Filo go toe-to-toe with it really gave the episode the energy that it needed.

This episode was more Team Naofumi oriented, so the other Cardinal Heroes, the King, and Myne were scarcely brought up, which I liked. It was becoming a bit redundant that most of Naofumi’s issues were coming from his supposed allies. Also, I think being away from all the riff-raff allowed Naofumi some time to be a bit more like himself. Remember, in the very beginning, Naofumi came off as very polite and respectful. Being around the King (and his minions) has hardened Naofumi into a person that is very stern and direct. During this episode we see Naofumi soften just a bit, especially during times he engages with Filo.

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Raphtalia really showed up and showed out this episode, dispatching bandits as well as holding her own against the nue! Her new illusion ability was able to shine, and her fighting tactics are enhancing. Honestly, it was Raphtalia and Filo on the front lines, while Naofumi blocked a few times. Not to bash on Naofumi, but he should not let the ladies have all the fun!  I give this episode an 8.2.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #5: Filo

Overall Rating: 7.4/10

Plot/Story: 8.5/10

Animation/Design: 7.5/10

Characters: 8/10

Music: 8/10

Action/Fights: 5/10

Synopsis:

We open with a woman I am assuming to be a queen, speaking with a mysterious spy/scout about a plan the king is currently engaging in. The queen inquires about the Shield Hero specifically, learning about the Melromarc kingdom’s resistance to work with him. Currently, it isn’t clear if the woman is from a different kingdom or not.

We return to Melromarc Castle where the 4 Cardinal Heroes are receiving their rewards for withstanding the previous Wave of Catastrophe. A clear preference is shown towards Motoyasu when he is rewarded slightly more than the other heroes. Once again, Naofumi is shafted as the King refuses to offer him any for asinine reasons. Itsuki and Ren (The Bow Hero and The Sword Hero) speak up for Naofumi, acknowledging that he should be properly compensated for his efforts.

Raphtalia insists that her slave crest be reinstated despite Naofumi’s assurance that she doesn’t have to. The slave trader offers to purchase Raphtalia now that she is strong and healthy; Naofumi picks at Raphtalia by toying with the idea.

Naofumi inquires about some small eggs the slave dealer has on display. The eggs are monster eggs that either produce a filolial (a bird-like creature often used to pull carriages) or potentially a valuable dragon. Naofumi acquires a monster egg feeling that having a monster in his party would be beneficial, offering a bit of additional support to Raphtalia.

Although Naofumi did not receive a proper reward from the kingdom, news of the aid that he offered Lute village during the Wave has reached the merchants of Melromarc, several of whom had family members. The merchants, reluctantly, begin offering Naofumi certain details, assistance, and perks. We learn the Naofumi and Raphtalia both have affinities for certain magic types and that they can improve by studying certain grimoires.

Team Naofumi ventures off to stay in Lute Village for the night where the filolial “Filo” hatches. Filo quickly imprints on Naofumi viewing him as her mother. In two days, Filo grows from a palm-sized bird to the size of a rideable ostrich. She proves to be a significant addition to Team Naofumi as soon enough the Shield Hero finds himself in a race against Motoyasu for control of Lute Village.

Review Conclusion

The Rising of the Shield Hero is an “Isekai”, a subgenre of Japanese media where the protagonist is transported to an alternative world in which they are often destined to save. It is intended for The Rising of the Shield Hero to feel like a video game adventure, and I must say, they are succeeding. Initially, the show comes off a bit slow, with more context and dialogue given than actual action. But when understood through the scope of an actual game, the show begins to feel more authentic. When we play an action RPG, we don’t immediately jump into a heated battle every time we pick up the sticks. Often, there are down times where we must improve our gear, level up, grind, investigate, and socialize. Then after who knows how long, we venture off to engage in a quest we have acquired. The world that Naofumi finds himself in is unique and I find myself a bit intrigued by the details of the world revealed throughout the journey. By the time I finished the episode, I felt as if I just got in a small gaming session on a fun, familiar RPG.

MotovNaoAs far as the story goes, it is nice to see the other Cardinal Heroes speak up for Naofumi when he was unjustly declined his reward. I’m sure that Itsuki and Ren are beginning to recognize that something underhanded is occurring. This was potentially the time for Naofumi to reach out to them, possibly defend himself against the false accusations of the Kingdom. But, instead, he stubbornly storms off with Raphtalia as soon as he receives his reward. It is still unclear why Motoyasu is receiving such favoritism, other than Myne simply preferring him to the other heroes. Doubtfully, I hope that Team Motoyasu won’t continue this “I’ll get you next time, Shield Hero” complex since they need to come together and defend the world.

Overall it was a great episode, but I wouldn’t mind a tad bit more action, which is sure to come. Missing this episode would not be wise since there were several critical details of the narrative sprinkled throughout. Also, it is always fun to see the slave dealer who I predict will serve a crucial role later. I give this episode a 7.4/10.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #4: Lullaby at Dawn

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Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Plot/Story: 8/10

Animation/Design: 7.5/10

Characters: 7.5/10

Music: 7/10

Action/Fights: 7.5/10

Synopsis:

After defeating the first wave, The Cardinal Heroes are celebrated at the King’s palace for their courageous deeds. Nephtalia’s slave status is revealed to the public who, once again, condemns Naofumi.

Plot/Story:

Tensions rise amongst the Cardinal Heroes once Motoyasu (the Spear Hero) discovers that Nephtalia is Naofumi’s slave. Motoyasu exposes Naofumi at the celebration banquet and challenges him to a duel for Nephtalia’s freedom. Naofumi’s “shield only” handicap is once again made apparent as he must enter the duel with only his shield. The two Cardinal Heroes exhibit the skills they have acquired since arriving. The King and crowd rally against Naofumi as he attempts to prove that he is not to be taken lightly.

The King and Myne (the King’s daughter) have had it out for Naofumi since day one. It is still a mystery as to why, but for now, we can only speculate that it is due to his status as Shield Hero. Motoyasu appears to be operating under the orders of Myne and his true intentions seem to primarily involve womanizing and glory-chasing. The remaining Cardinal Heroes (the Sword Hero and the Bow Hero) seem indifferent as they try to determine if Naofumi is to be trusted.

Review Conclusion

This episode allowed us the opportunity to witness a battle between two of the four Cardinal Heroes. It was exciting to see more of the unique attacks that the Heroes had to offer as well as a compelling one on one fight scene. We also get to see more of the conspiracy against Naofumi unfold as this world appears to despise his presence. I felt this episode truly expressed Naofumi’s desperate position as he realizes that he will continue to be the victim of a social attack.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #3: Wave of Catastrophe

Overall Rating: 7.3/10

Plot/Story: 7.5/10

Animation/Design: 7.5/10

Characters: 7.5/10

Music: 7/10

Action/Fights: 7/10

Synopsis:

Naofumi has gained new skills and his field practice with Raphtalia is beginning to yield results. With the Wave of Catastrophe looming, Team Naofumi needs to be well equipped. The duo upgrades their gear and venture to the dragon hourglass where they encounter the other heroes before being teleported off to combat the wave.

Plot/Story:

Raphtalia is growing incredibly fast, already looking to be in her mid to late teens. She no longer exhibits her weak and timid nature as her time with Naofumi appears to have elevated her health and confidence. The young demi-human is proving to not only be an asset in the field but also when it comes to the art of the deal. She gets fantastic deals on items, which is great for Naofumi, especially since he is not particularly liked by the merchants (other than Boss).  Boss gives Team Naofumi a generous deal on customized armor for Naofumi and a new “magic metal” sword for Raphtalia.

The duo seeks out the dragon hourglass to know the exact time of the oncoming Wave. While there, they encounter the other Cardinal Heroes. The heroes question Raphtalia’s commitment to Naofumi and try to convince her to leave his party. Raphtalia expresses her appreciation for Naofumi for rescuing her, strengthening her, and giving her a reason to fight.

We get our first real taste of action when the first Wave of Catastrophe hits. Team Naofumi finds themselves whisked away to the front lines where they must protect a small, defenseless village from hordes of oncoming monsters. The king’s soldiers witness Team Naofumi’s strength, courage, and selflessness. Team Naofumi gains some respect from a few of the soldiers, while the rest remain committed to the crown.

Review Conclusion

Raphtalia’s character development is the most apparent. She is beginning to become her own person with her own purpose. She is an easily likable character that serves as a contrast to the stiff and generally unlikeable, Naofumi. The Shield Hero takes care of Raphtalia true enough, but it is not clear if this is solely due to his need for a “sword” or if he is genuinely warming up to Raphtalia. It would be nice to see Naofumi be a bit less of an asshole while maintaining a discerning mindset. The best part about this episode was seeing Team Naofumi take on the first Wave of Catastrophe. In comparison to the previous episodes, I found this one to be the most engaging.