Kadokawa producer Junichiro Tamura raised some Western eyebrows by suggesting that The Rising Of The Shield Hero anime (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari) did not cause any controversy in Japan. But the debate is now taking on a whole new twist after the suggestion by some anime fans that the Shield Hero story can be compared to the Vic Mignogna controversy that’s now the talk of the anime industry in the West.
The Shield Hero anime’s story is based on a light novel series by author Aneko Yusagi and illustrator Minami Seira and the very opening of the plot itself is largely defined by scenes involving false rape allegations and slavery.
Warning: The following contains major spoilers concerning the plot of The Rising Of The Shield Hero anime.
The false rape allegation scenes contained in The Rising Of The Shield Hero Episode 1 were integral for setting up the plot. Upon entering this new world, Naofumi is immediately looked down upon for simply being one of the Four Heroes summoned as the Shield Hero. No adventurer is willing to join Naofumi’s party except for the beautiful, red-haired Myne Sophia, who apparently takes pity on him.
But Myne has ulterior motives and quickly goes from happy smiles to crocodile tears as she steals Naofumi’s belongings and then frames him for attempting to rape her. Insult is piled on injury when it turns out her real name is Princess Malty Melromarc and she’s the spoiled daughter of King Aultcray Melromarc XXXII, who protects her from being caught in her misdeeds.
Malty’s actions are the root cause of Naofumi’s original personality snapping, twisting him into a dark and cynical man willing to use slaves to build his party. Naofumi’s rage at Malty’s multiple acts of cheating also awakens his shield’s Curse Series, which causes him to experience overwhelming levels of anger and hatred directed at the world and his enemies.
Now a bitter person driven by hate, Naofumi doesn’t trust anyone but slaves since he knows they are compelled to obey him by magic. Employing slaves is also inescapable at this point because Naofumi’s shield prevents him from touching a weapon so he requires others to fight offensively on his behalf.
But by resorting to slavery he meets Raphtalia, who comes to feel compassion for Naofumi after the traumatized raccoon girl is shown kindness by Naofumi. Raphtalia not only becomes his sword, but she also helps him on the road to emotional healing.
This story has caused some in the Western world to become outraged since the series depicts a matriarchal society where women hold power and use false rape allegations to take advantage of men like Naofumi. This story happens to come on the heels of the Goblin Slayer anime (see our article on Goblin Slayer Season 2), which similarly used rape as an early plot device, although once the setting was established Goblin Slayer largely became a dark fantasy/isekai story with a cynical tinge.
Because the false rape accusation and slavery are defining elements of the plot, Anime Feminist writer Caitlin Moore refused to review Episode 1.
“We will not be reviewing The Rising of the Shield Hero premiere here at Anime Feminist,” Moore wrote. “I watched the episode, and it was worse than I had imagined. I have never seen a series with such a deeply held, misanthropic victim mentality.”
Early reviews from Anime News Network also hammered the anime and its characters. For example, Naofumi is described as being “already unlikable in a casually misogynistic way” because in the anime’s first episode he sees a picture of a princess and describes her as “kind of slutty.” However, in the light novel, Naofumi makes this comment because the picture book page reveals that the princess made eyes at all the heroes and was known for sleeping around. Since the anime adaptation left out this critical description from the book it changes the way viewers might feel about Naofumi from the outset.
Overall, the ANN reviews focused on the false rape allegations as the basis for giving negative reviews. One rating was literally “burn it and salt the earth” rather than give a number.
“Making Naofumi’s fall from grace the result of his partner Myne falsely accusing him of rape isn’t just ethically dubious and needlessly off-putting – it’s also lazy storytelling,” wrote James Beckett. “Every trick in the book is employed to frame Myne as an exaggeration of the duplicitous, promiscuous harpy that uses her beauty to lure men to their doom, and Naofumi is the innocent everyman who’s punished for being too trusting, thus justifying the hatred and misanthropy that follows him. It’s not just a cliché, it’s a fantasy of persecution that’s frequently propagated by men in order to justify mistreatment and mistrust of women. It would be foolish to say that no person has ever falsely accused another of assault, but the fact is that society more often does not take allegations of assault seriously and often punishes victims for speaking up about it. The situation is so bad that the majority of victims choose not to report sexual violence, because it is assumed that they will be ignored or harassed further.”
ANN writer Nick Creamer spent a significant portion of the review taking the author to task for presumed negative motivations toward women.
“Framing a show around a false rape accusation doesn’t automatically make for a terrible story, but it does potentially provide an indicator of where the author is coming from. Though some authors are more transparent in their attempted social commentary than others, each choice a writer makes will carry with it some unavoidable real-world baggage. A false rape accusation isn’t always the wrong choice, but it is always a weighty choice that relies heavily on context. We exist in a world where rapes are staggeringly under-reported, women are constantly shamed and attacked for acknowledging abuses against them, and false rape reports are a tiny statistical aberration, vastly overshadowed by the number of assaults that are not reported at all. Given all this, Shield Hero’s premise feels like a tone deaf story choice at best, and an indicator of the author’s own feelings about women at worst,” Creamer wrote. “In context, Shield Hero’s premiere did every conceivable thing in its power to communicate that this was the latter case. But this author isn’t just angry at women—his bitter paranoia extends to basically everyone around him.”
Creamer assumes that the author must be a man based on the story’s content but that belief has not been substantiated. Japanese creators often keep their identities anonymous and their personal lives secret, but both the light novel author and the illustrator are believed by some to be women based on their pen names being feminine. For the Shield Hero manga adaptation, Yusagi also partnered with Aiya Kyu, who is also listed as a woman by many sites.
However, ANN writer Kim Morrissy wrote on her personal blog that Aneko Yusagi (which literally translates to “Older Sister Bunny”) is “not at all a common Japanese name” and because it’s written in katakana it’s likely just a pen name. Besides uncertainty at the author’s identity, Morrissy asserts that the author’s gender doesn’t matter.
“Now, regardless whether you believe that The Rising Of The Shield hero is sexist, the author’s gender has nothing to do with the content itself. Because women can be sexist (just like men can be sexist), stating that Aneko Yusagi is a woman is not a convincing rebuttal to the claim. There’s no point in bringing up the author’s gender in a discussion purely about the story itself,” Morrissy wrote. “On a similar note, the fact that the author’s gender is officially unconfirmed also means that it is also unfair to state definitively that Aneko Yusagi is a man. … [I]f you see someone make assumptions about the author’s gender and outlook based purely on conjecture around the story, like ‘This guy must hate women,’ then please remind them that they are going too far.”
Although some anime reviews have been extremely negative, the reviews by anime fans have been mostly positive, with the MyAnimeList score being higher than average. In addition, there has been a backlash against negative reviews which focus on the false rape allegations.
Bounding Into Comics claims that it “should come as no surprise that the social justice community would be up in arms over the use of a false rape allegation as a plot point in Crunchyroll’s The Rising of The Shield Hero anime” since “much of the vitriol we see against this new anime is its use of what seems to be a sacred cow to the SJW [Social Justice Warrior] movement. The use of a false rape allegation undermines what some see as a political weapon used by the modern SJW movement.”
One Angry Gamer took the controversy up a notch by stating, “Apparently major anime review websites in the West seem to be operated by people who hate anime.” The site highlighted multiple real-life cases related to the “harm of false rape allegations” and claimed it was wrong to “overlook” such incidents.
“Perhaps, it’s a perfect encapsulation of what feminism is today: an inhumane movement aimed at punishing men even when they’re innocent,” said the site. “It takes a certain level of malevolence and misanthropy to dismiss heinous acts of such a vile nature, and claiming that pointing out the damage of false rape allegations is ‘wrong’. It highlights the cruelty of Social Justice Warriors; they aren’t humane, and their fight is carried out for anything but justice.”
The Rising Of The Shield Hero anime has become popular in a time when the #MeToo movement has risen and the Brett Kavanaugh controversy still roils in American politics. The anime industry itself was also recently rocked by allegations concerning voice actor Vic Mignogna. At issue was whether Mignogna was wrong for hugging and kissing people, including underage girls, without their consent.
While the controversy initially started with a single tweet by a non-celebrity, the flames were fanned by Anime News Network and other news sites which ran special reports highlighting allegations against Mignogna. This controversy was extended when Mignogna was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by cosplayer Jessie Pridemore and then several other women including Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial (voice actress for Bulma in Dragon Ball). Eventually, Mignogna (who is best known for his role as Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist and Broly in Dragon Ball Super: Broly) was fired by both FUNimation and Rooster Teeth over the allegations.
Everyone, we wanted to give you an update on the Vic Mignogna situation. Following an investigation, Funimation recast Vic Mignogna in Morose Mononokean Season 2. Funimation will not be engaging Mignogna in future productions.
— Funimation (@FUNimation) February 11, 2019
In relation to the allegations against Mignogna, Pridemore also accused another unnamed voice actor of raping her. Todd Haberkorn (who is best known for his role as Natsu Dragneel in Fairy Tail) publicly claimed he was the voice actor accused of rape but he denies the allegations and claims they “engaged in consensual, adult intimacy: sex.”
Haberkorn also claims Pridemore solicited him regular sex after the first encounter. Additionally, he provided alleged evidence in the form of screenshots of chat logs which purportedly showed that Haberkorn and Pridemore maintained an amicable relationship after the first sexual encounter. Adam Sheehan, former Senior Marketing Manager at FUNimation, was a witness to these events and he confirmed Haberkorn’s account but he also claims “[t]his is about Todd jumping on Jessie’s very brave post about Vic when he wasn’t named in it to save his own skin.”
With Pridemore willing to go public, Marchi also said, “I stand with the victims.” She described Mignogna as grabbing her head by the hair and then whispering something “sexual in nature,” although she doesn’t “remember what he said specifically.”
Marchi claims she didn’t report the incident when it happened because “risking being blacklisted from my work and conventions simply wouldn’t have been worth it” at the time. She claims to have felt compelled to speak up “because I didn’t even think about this event until I realized other women had experienced the same thing.”
On January 21, 2019, Mignogna responded to the initial controversy by releasing a statement on Twitter. On February 10, 2019, Mignogna responded to the newer allegations by tweeting, “Please remember… there are always two sides to every story.”
Some fans of Mignogna have rallied around him, questioning whether the multiple allegations are false. In response to the #KickVic hashtag, they started a counter-hashtag #IStandWithVic. Some supporters of Mignogna even claim Rial has a financial benefit for making her allegations.
With both Shield Hero and the Mignogna controversies gaining notoriety in the same time frame, many fans supporting him have now started linking the two, comparing the allegations against the voice actor to the storyline of the anime — with some suggesting Mignogna would be able to relate to Shield Hero’s main character Naofumi and what he went through.
#IStandWithVic he’s practically the shield hero he didn’t do anything wrong
— Payton (@tokyo_weeb) February 11, 2019
That’s the unfortunate part of today’s society is that allegations are damning and there is never two sides to the story. I truly believe we should explore both sides to a story before we jump on a bandwagon of hatred and anger. It’s just like the series arise of the shield hero
— Ethan Carpenter (@EthanCarpenter0) February 11, 2019
Vic should be cast as shield hero for english dub. #IStandWithVic
— Harley (@Harley52526663) February 11, 2019
Vic Mignogna = Shield Hero? Innocent until proven guilty. Unless/Until all the “Concrete evidence“ against Vic comes out and it’s irrefutable, I’ll stand by him. #IStandWithVic
— Quinn Ranieri (@FreakyFriday24) February 13, 2019
With this recent background in mind, perhaps it’s easier to understand why some in the Western world would find it surprising that the Japanese do not see The Rising Of The Shield Hero anime as controversial. But that’s exactly what is being claimed by Kadokawa producer Junichiro Tamura.
Having worked on Bungo Stray Dogs, Chio’s School Road, and the Prisma Ilya series in the past, Tamura is responsible for launching the Shield Hero anime based on a tip from Crunchyroll. He was involved in a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything when he was asked, “Shield Hero has quite a few controversial views. How is this production dealing with the resulting response?”
“There have not been any controversies regarding the series in Japan, so it is difficult to say,” Tamura replied. “In the case there were any controversy domestically, we will try to address all issues with the staff and people involved to bring our customers a better product the next time.”
Similarly, another Reddit user asked, “Do you think studios will continue to produce quality anime product even if it might be viewed as different or controversial in the West?” Tamura responded, “We in Japan do not see these anime as controversial, so we will continue to produce more content like Shield Hero.”
In response to these answers by Tamura, the Reddit users were pleased, with some claiming “the pigs complaining about it are arrogant enough to project their issues onto the rest of the world.” Another said, “The less anime pays attention to to Western outrage culture, the better.”
“Thank you. Please ignore anyone who is claiming outrage, they are liars,” wrote a Reddit user named Revofire. “They do not speak for the anime crowd. We love this show and shows like it. Keep strong, you have our support.”
The anime streaming platform Crunchyroll is on the anime production committee for The Rising Of The Shield Hero anime. So, when Crunchyroll News reported on Tamura’s Reddit AMA some Crunchyroll users thought it notable that the report “didn’t share [Tamura’s] answer to his reaction regarding the show being a controversy in the west” with other claiming “[i]t’s quite telling that they ignored the one question that’s actually newsworthy and picked all the generic boring questions instead.”
“[Tamura] literally stated that it wasn’t even a controversy in Japan, and he also promises his fans that Japan will keep releasing shows like Shield Hero as well,” wrote dknewza6412. “Funny how the media is trying so hard to gain that revenue off of ads to get clicks to their articles by clickbaiting people into believing that they’re on the side of justice when they’re really on the side of evil.”
Another Crunchyroll user named REDubon pointed out that “[f]ocusing on western sensibilities would be a terrible business decision since that would risk alienating their core audience [in] Asia.”