The long-awaited anime adaptation is finally here! Check out our run-down of the Shield Hero premiere and special Q&A!
Finding out that you’re a mythical hero summoned from another world is probably confusing enough, but what happens when you find out your legendary weapon is… a shield?! In Rising of the Shield Hero, that’s exactly what happens to Naofumi Iwatani, who ends up summoned to a mysterious new world after examining a book he found about four legendary heroes. Naofumi has a bit of an unfortunate and unusual start to his adventure in another world, as he doesn’t seem to be a flashy, heroic figure like the other three summoned people are--instead, he finds himself without any adventuring companions, no offensive weaponry, and so many unanswered questions!
Rising of the Shield Hero is based on the popular light novel series of the same name, with 19 published volumes, and is currently published in English by One Peace Books. The upcoming anime will start in January 2019, but at Crunchyroll Expo, fans and attendees were able to take a sneak peek to see what the buzz over this isekai series was all about! Before the nearly hour long first episode premiere, there was a Q&A panel with Junichiro Tamura, the producer, and Kevin Penkin, the composer of the show’s music. Read on to see what they had to say, along with some thoughts of the premiere!
What did you feel when you first heard that you’re going to be working on The Rising of the Shield Hero?
Junichiro Tamura: Rather than getting told to be working on Shield Hero, I pitched the project after I heard how popular how popular Shield Hero is overseas, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the overseas market and trying to make stuff that you all will enjoy as well as Japan.
Kevin Penkin: I’ve been working on Shield Hero for over a year now, which is pretty crazy; it’s a pretty big project! We were just finishing up another show called Made in Abyss before, and as that show was basically coming out, the staff was like “Let’s do another one!” and I was like “Oh, okay!” (laughs) It was maybe like a week where I wasn’t doing anything, and then, all of the sudden I had to go and work again. It’s been a good ride so far! It’s super intense, but totally worth it.
Since you both have been working on this for quite awhile, any interesting moments that you can share while working on Shield Hero?
JT: The episode that we’re going to watch here, episode 1, I’ve actually been working on it for several months; it took a lot to get it perfect, so I hope you all will enjoy it!
KP: The PV for Shield Hero was released this morning, so I can talk about that without revealing any spoilers. I almost accidentally gave away a huge Abyss spoiler last month when I was in a convention in Germany; someone had to basically had to cut me off before I talked too much! (laughs) For Shield Hero, there were some interesting moments with the instrumentation, because they wanted symphonic rock, but they also wanted some Spanish Flamenco guitars at times, so trying to make that work was an interesting sort of experience, which you can totally hear on the PV. It’s very different from the previous stuff that I’ve worked on, but it’s been an interesting challenge!
Some of us may not be familiar with The Rising of the Shield Hero, could you talk about a bit more about the story before we watch the world premiere?
KP: With Shield Hero trying to explore some of the more raw emotions that the main character feels at times, exploring what it’s like to be betrayed and incorporating that into the music has been pretty interesting. Obviously, it’s an isekai, and looking into the history of isekai and how stories have unfolded within those projects, but also figuring out how this one could be different and how we could push new and provocative sort of emotions and circumstances.
JT: Unlike most of the isekai projects that have girls and are a harem, this one is different and a lot darker; the main character has to go through a lot of hardships. I would like everyone to go through these hardships and rise along with Naofumi, and it’ll be more of a cathartic experience for everyone once you get through the hard parts.
Kevin, your recent work in Made in Abyss became a huge hit! What kind of soundtrack should we anticipate from The Rising of the Shield Hero?
KP: Don’t expect the same! (everyone laughs) I’ve always been interested in creating a consistency of experience, but never a consistency of sound. While there are some personality traits as a composer that you may have, trying to get to the same emotion in a very different way, I think is really important. The reason for that is if you do the same idea twice, it becomes flat; whatever magic you may feel from something the next time you hear the same thing, it’s probably not going to give you the exact same experience. Shield Hero is a pretty big departure from the Made in Abyss music at times, but hopefully it still does its job well, and actually still gut punches you when it needs to!
Tamura-san, you previously mentioned that you’re actually the one that made this project happen! What were some of your roles and responsibilities in making The Rising of the Shield Hero happen?
JT: I pretty much everything and anything that needs to be done for the project: I gathered the staff, managed the budget, apologize if I need to! (everyone laughs) Unlike Hollywood producers, who are pretty executive, I’m in the bottom rank. I’m the first to go and act in order to get stuff done.
You mentioned you had to do a lot of talking with a lot of different staff. How’s your working relationship with the animation studio Kinema Citrus, which brought us a lot of works in the past?
JT: With the big success of Made in Abyss, I’ve been working with the head of Kinema Citrus, Muneki Ogasawara, for 10 years, and we’ve been talking about trying to do a big project together, and it finally came to fruition!
Kevin, you’ve obviously worked with Kinema Citrus for Made in Abyss. How is that gonna work with this relationship moving on to another project?
KP: Kinema Citrus are really cool people, because first off, they gave me a job, which is great, so I can pay rent and eat! (everyone laughs) They definitely took a chance with hiring me, because I come from making video game music, but anime is slightly a different beast in the sense that you’re trying to map out an entire series in your head and without a lot of precedence to really start that process. In Made in Abyss, they didn’t know what they wanted in terms of sound, and so it was up to me to find something that I felt was consistent with the series in terms of aesthetics and values. Shield Hero was the same, where they might have an idea, like symphonic rock with some Spanish guitar, but how do you make that work? How do you make that a consistent sound throughout the entire series? They’re a very trusting company, and obviously, you have to deliver and do the best work possible, but they are very kind people to work with.
As you mentioned, sometimes you’re not really sure what to make out of it, so do you often get the source material, or do you get to see some of the behind the scenes stuff before you compose the soundtracks?
KP: Reading the manga is very important at times, but I think I would have to have conversations with someone like Tamura-san and try to get to the bottom of what is the core essence about the material is a good starting point. Those core values end up shaping some of the early pieces of music to try and get to that baseline to work from, no pun intended! (everyone laughs) It’s sort of like a skill tree in a way, that once you have the foundation, you can spread out and put variations into the tracks. So yeah, conversations are really important; discussions with the director involved, so you can have some really detailed discussions. Background art is very important as well; if you look at the color aesthetics of The Rising of the Shield Hero, it’s pretty varied at times, which you can focus on that and develop ideas from the color palette. There are quite a few ways you can derive what direction you should go in, but communication is key.
Tamura-san, The Rising of the Shield Hero anime is an adaptation of the light novel series. For the readers, what should they anticipate when they watch this anime series?
JT: I can’t quite spoil where it’s going to end, but there’s quite a bit of source material to go through; this part will only go through a portion of it, as there’s a lot of drama and character development. Hopefully there’ll be a season 2!
KP: Let’s get through the first season! Let’s not jump the gun there! (everyone laughs)
Any notable anime that influenced or inspired you? What inspired you to work in the anime industry?
JT: I have been inspired by Space Cobra! Space Cobra is my favorite, even though the content may not be the same sort of series as Shield Hero.
KP: As you were answering that, I had a little revelation in my head… When I was a kid, I watched Pokémon, Digimon, Dragonball Z, and I didn’t really know what anime was at the time, because it was just on the TV at the time. But… the first anime I watched, knowing that it was an anime actually was School Days! (everyone gasps, exclaims and laughs) And I was like “Okay, this is kind of interesting!” And obviously at the end, something happens, and I won’t spoil it, but something crazy and messed up happens. I realized that the sort of whiplash that I saw there is maybe my kind of my aesthetic, where I really want to put people in a comfortable false sense of security and then whap them over the head! So yeah, that might have had a little influence influence subconsciously! Studio Ghibli is a huge influence as well, which solidified my passion for animation.
What should fans keep in mind as they watch the world premiere screening?
JT: Rather than standing up here and keep talking, I’d rather you just watch it! I’d love to see all your reactions, because unlike Japan, you’re all open pretty open about how you feel. (everyone laughs)
JT: Yeah! I actually like you all more than Japanese fans! (everyone cheers) Once it starts streaming on Crunchyroll, hopefully you’ll all come back to watch episode 2 and the rest of the series. Promise?
KP: This is about a good 12-15 months of work going into 48 minutes of film. It’s going to be very interesting to see the results of it. Have fun!
With that, the premiere of episode one began. We don’t want to spoil too much for those of you who couldn’t be there with us, but let’s just say that Shield Hero gets things going in a way that really takes isekai stories and turns them on their head! Naofumi is apparently a legendary hero summoned from another world, but his life seems to be pretty miserable in his new role, and ignoring his odd equipment, he’s treated pretty unfairly from the start. The idea of a hero who can’t use any offensive moves, magic, or weapons is certainly pretty unique, and seeing Naofumi struggle to learn how to progress with his shield and its potentially secret abilities was quite interesting. Sadly, Naofumi doesn’t fair overly well when it comes to other people in this first episode, and by the end he’s left to fend for himself, but the premiere kept us guessing on what would happen next, as Naofumi seemed to be about to have a fateful encounter with someone new.
The animation quality for this first episode looked great and really helped build an exciting, vivid world for the story to unfold in! And, as expected, the music was quite nice to help set the tone and mood of what was going on during the story, creating a serious fantasy atmosphere that blended the odd circumstances of the action on screen with the emotional moments of Naofumi’s seeming misfortunes. Following the episode, we were treated to a PV of upcoming scenes and conflicts, and it certainly left us wanting more!
Thanks again to the Kinema Circus crew, Tamura-san, and Kevin for helping kick off the premiere of Rising of the Shield Hero in a big way! It certainly left us wanting more, and it seems that Tamura-san has some big plans for the series with a Simuldub accompanying the release of the show! Make sure to tune in for more Shield Hero in January next year exclusively here on Crunchyroll, and we’ll keep you posted on any news, previews, and teasers that might drop along the way!
Are you excited for The Rising of the Shield Hero? Share your hype in the comments!