One day while visiting the library, Naofumi Iwatani picks up a book and gets sucked into a fantasy world as one of the four great heroes who’ll save that realm from great calamity. He’s the Shield Hero, but as luck would have it, that makes him the weakest of the four heroes, and he’s the least respected as well. Cast aside with nothing, Naofumi has to learn to live in and protect this world that betrays and leaves him for dead.
The First Book:
Pretty good intro to the series, if grindy when Naofumi’s looking at his stats. Stories are often at their best when the hero’s struggling, and this series has a fetish for wringing Naofumi by his neck. When the commonality is heroes sticking bullheadedly to their code of justice, it’s refreshing having the main character bring himself back onto his soles by hitting up the slave market. Not the righteous move, but given the hand he’s dealt, it is understandable why he would go the avenue he does.
The Second Book:
Unfortunately, the high of the first volume drops down quite low as the boring bits are spread across the entirety of this volume. The highlight comes early on when Naofumi gets a giant chicken to tow his wagon, and then the remainder is them piddling around with micromanaging. The climax is even over the top, masquerading a fight against a dragon as a horror game boss battle, and since this enemy more or less comes out of nowhere and changes nothing, much of this volume feels inconsequential.
The Third & Fourth Books:
The pacing picks back up with the third volume, which largely sweeps the stat inspection aside for actual plot. New allies debut, we find out why everyone is bigoted against the Shield Hero, and allegiances become less clear-cut. It’s a tidy and satisfying conclusion to the first arc, like it’s making up for the mistake that was the second volume. The fourth volume pulls a deus ex machina in order to save the party, but it makes up for the trick by making it a Godzilla chicken stomping a T. rex into the ground.
Pretty good and sometimes even great. It’s painful that you have to power through an entire volume to get to the worthwhile bits, and I could do with fewer stat updates every time Naofumi picks up a seashell, but it knows how to turn things on their heads, and Naofumi’s trek from rock bottom to recognized hero is nothing short of compelling.