One of the most common criticisms made against The Rising of the Shield Hero series was how the hatred against Naofumi comes off as shallow. ?The plot point was written for the sake of it,? they would say. ?All the villains are cartoonishly evil and this is just to satisfy the thirst for revenge porn.? However, Melromarc Kingdom?s desire to screw Naofumi over at every turn is not as shallow as these critics would claim. Its disdain is multifaceted and runs quite deep.
Melromarc?s Religion: The Three Heroes Church
When Naofumi went to the capital?s church to buy Raphtalia holy water, he noticed that the shield was missing from the building?s spires.
The anime drops in another hint as it panned to the symbol, where the shield was absent.
In Ep 13, it was confirmed that the kingdom?s religion is the Three Heroes Church. The Sword, Bow, and Spear and are seen as bastions of justice while the Shield is considered the Devil.
It is due to the Shield Hero?s association with Melromarc?s arch enemy that he is considered the Devil in Melromarc. In fact, Naofumi was hated before he even set foot in their world. The kingdom?s attempts to keep his life miserable were to uphold the religious narrative that the Sword, Bow, and Spear are the good guys while the Shield is the incarnate of evil.
Kingdom?s Anti-Shield Discrimination in Context
The Rape Accusation
The event that basically kicked everything off in The Rising of the Shield Hero was Myne?s false rape accusation. Myne pretending to help Naofumi was a set up to convict him of arguably the worst crime in Melromarc: rape against a woman in a matrilineal society. It was the perfect crime to paint the narrative that the Shield Hero is an irredeemable person that everyone should avoid. Meanwhile, Myne ran to Motoyasu?s side to fulfill the other half of the narrative that the Spear, Sword, and Bow heroes are the good guys. With everybody despising him, Naofumi would have a hard time leveling up and getting stronger.
Wearing the label of a rapist, Naofumi could not find anyone trustworthy enough to help him level up. Everyone in the capital hated him and those who wanted to ?join? his party did so to take advantage of his plight and desperation. With no one to trust, Naofumi bought Raphtalia as a slave because slavery in this world utilized a fail safe mechanic that guaranteed no betrayals.
While this practical move worked to the benefit of both him and Raphtalia, it also played into the kingdom?s anti-Shield narrative. Myne and the king took advantage of Motoyasu?s sense of justice and navet to drag Naofumi into a dual he could not win. Thanks to Myne?s interference during the dual, the royal family?s ploy to keep the Shield as a non-threat while boosting the other heroes? credibility (particularly the Spear) appeared to be successful. In Chapter 8 of the manga, Naofumi had a monologue which can be summarized to ?The winners get to write the history books?.
An excerpt of Naofumi?s monologue in the manga.
However, Myne and the king did not take into account Raphtalia?s personal agency as well as Ren and Itsuki?s independent nature. Raphtalia was defiant after her seal was removed and returned to Naofumi?s side under her own volition. Ren and Itsuki, while they still disliked Naofumi for his false crime, sided with him. Unlike the king, Myne, and the nobles who were raised with the religion?s ideology, the Sword and Bow grew up in alternate Japans and were not indoctrinated by the religion.
The Church?s Discrimination
While Naofumi faced less discrimination and prejudice after Ep 4 (due to his excursions away from the capital), Melromarc?s attempts to inconvenience Naofumi and his party remained. This time, much of the efforts came from the Church.
In Ep 9, when Naofumi came to the capital church to get high quality holy water to heal Raphtalia?s curse, a nun brought him low quality holy water.
In Ep 10, the Church tried to prevent Naofumi and his party from getting their class ups by charging them a hefty sum of 15 gold coins. However, when Naofumi revealed that he had enough money to pay for Raphtalia?s class up, the nun in shades was surprised that he had the funds and was willing to pay what was obviously an unreasonable fee.
At that moment, an elder nun jumped in decided to change the rules on the spot so that Naofumi and his party remained stuck with their level caps.
But Why The Church of Three Heroes, not Four?
While the ideology of the Three Heroes Church explains a lot of Melromarc?s disdain for the Shield Hero, where did it originate from? What made Melromarc hate the Shield Hero in the first place and why do they want him to remain weak? International politics.
Siltwelt is a demi-human supremacist country that discriminates against humans and their religion worships the Shield Hero. While the anime has not explicitly stated the conflict between Melromarc and Siltwelt, the anime drops various hints from Ep 12 to 16. Some hints include King Aultcray revealing his past beef with the demi-humans,
King Aultcray explaining to his daughter, Melty, why he discriminates against Naofumi.
the army putting up extra security along the Melromarc/Siltwelt border,
Naofumi explaining why he decided to flee to Siltwelt in Ep 13.
and Fitoria revealing her knowledge that the Shield Hero has always been hated by human supremacist nations.
But Why Summon the Shield Hero if He?s Hated so much?
In Ep 16, Fitoria mentioned that the four heroes were supposed to fight the waves in separate regions, including Siltwelt. What was actually supposed to happen is each country deciding which hero to summon and the heroes would defend their respective nations. Melromarc, on the other hand, had other ideas and decided to hog all four heroes for themselves. The kingdom summoned Naofumi, Ren, Itsuki, and Motoyasu simultaneously as a power move to ensure that no one can oppose Melromarc militarily and the Shield Hero would never be a threat to the country.
This basically led to an international conflict as the other countries were not pleased with Melromarc going against what was agreed upon, but what did that matter to the king? His country became a military superpower with basically three walking WMDs in possession. This gave him great leverage over the other nations as he could simply use the Sword, Spear, and Bow to suppress any international uprising. Even more importantly to him, hogging all the heroes put Siltwelt in a vulnerable position as the nation did not have a hero to protect them against the waves. This would allow Melromarc to invade Siltwelt similar to how the soldiers raided Raphtalia?s village after the first wave.
However, this plan would ultimately fail if Naofumi managed to cross the Melromarc/Siltwelt border. The kingdom?s initial attempts to keep him weak were to make sure that he would not be powerful enough to fight his way through to Siltwelt. But when the king realized that Naofumi has become more powerful than the other three heroes, it made him uneasy. The worst thing that would happen to him and Melromarc is if Naofumi successfully flees to Siltwelt and they team up to declare war. The Spear, Sword, and Bow were not all they cracked out to be, so they will not be of much help in the case of an invasion.
Was Melromarc?s frequent discrimination against Naofumi a cheap plot device to drive the story forward? The kingdom?s hatred comes off as obsessive, but that is the result of the indoctrination and ideology of the Three Heroes Church. Melromarc wanted to uphold the narrative that the Shield is evil and the Spear, Sword, and Bow are righteous.
The reason why the religion holds such an ideology is due to the Shield Hero being at odds with human-supremacist countries in the past. Demi-human supremacist Siltwelt holds the Shield in high regard and if the Shield teams up with them, it would spell trouble for Melromarc in the king?s eyes. That was why he had all four heroes summoned simultaneously. Being possession of the Spear, Sword, and Bow gave Melromarc a lot of military leverage. And because the Shield was stuck in Melromarc, the king could keep an eye on the Shield and prevent him from teaming up with the kingdom?s enemies.