Finally got around to watching The Rising of the Shield Hero, right now I just finished Episode 12. I've heard a lot about this anime before, but now that I actually sat down and watched it, it's even better than I expected. Naofumi is such an interesting character because he constantly gets discriminated against and he responds by engaging in some... questionable ethical decisions, but he's still a very kind person, and it opens up a very interesting dynamic between him and Raphtalia. Speaking of Raphtalia though, she's the main reason I like this show more than I thought I would, primarily after what happens in Episode 4.
So for those not familiar with RotSH's plot, Naofumi is the Shield Hero, one of four legendary heroes summoned to another world and the country of Melromarc to defend it against the Waves, interdimensional phenomena that summon hordes of monsters to their world to destroy everything. However, Naofumi is immediately discriminated against for being the Shield Hero, because his weapon is not useful for attacking, and so the other adventurers are unwilling to accompany him, the King refuses to support him, and his first companion (who is later revealed to be the princess) actually betrays him and falsely accuses him of a horrible crime (I won't specify due to forum rules, but you can probably guess). Despairing and bitter about how the people of Melromarc have treated him, he is convinced into buying a tanuki slave girl named Raphtalia (which is legal in Melromarc due to demihumans such as her growing strong and potentially dangerous very quickly) since slaves in Melromarc are bound by a magic slave crest and cannot betray him. Naofumi takes care of Raphtalia, feeds her, gives her proper clothing, teaches her to fight, even buys a ball for her after seeing other kids having fun with it, and by Episode 3 she's grown up (this is due to a quirk in tanukis that causes them to age by leveling up, not unlike evolution for Pokemon).
Now in Episode 4, the king, princess, and other heroes find out that Naofumi has a slave and are naturally disgusted by this, so they force Naofumi to fight in a duel against the Spear Hero and if Naofumi loses, they will take Raphtalia from him and free her. He manages to hold his own, but the princess cheats and casts a spell on him that causes him to lose. He tries to convince the King that she cheated, but he refuses to listen. Raphtalia's slave crest is forcibly removed, and she appears to walk away from Naofumi and abandon them, causing him once again to fall into despair at having everything taken away from him. But then, it's immediately shown that Naofumi was hallucinating, the other heroes and some of the court mages picked up on the foul play soon after. And Raphtalia, whose slave crest was really removed, continues to remain by Naofumi's side and admonishes the Spear Hero because she never asked or wanted to be freed, she actually enjoys being Naofumi's slave because he cares for her in a way that no one else in Melromarc has and has given her a purpose in life by having her accompany him to fight the Waves. Then she proceeds to go to Naofumi, embrace him, and pledges to remain by his side, not believing any of the things that have been said about him (then in Episode 5, she specifically asks for her slave crest to be put back on).
And the kicker in all of this is that all of this has little to do with their relationship as master and slave. In the aftermath of all of this, the other heroes are discussing the fallout of all of this and wondering if it's really okay to allow Naofumi to still keep her as his slave, to which one of them asks "Does that look like a normal master and slave?". And no, it really doesn't. All of the characteristics that make slavery so criminal and morally objectionable are absent in Naofumi and Raphtalia's relationship. He's not forcing her to do anything. He's not trying to wield power over her. He's not trying to take advantage of her. He's simply asking her to help him in his quest, and both of them act as equals and accept, comfort, and support each other.
I have to say, this episode, and that last scene in particular, speaks to me on a personal level. I mean, I'm not being accused of horrible crimes or anything as bad as what Naofumi goes through in this series, but still, I feel a sense that the world wants me to fail. But what changed things for Naofumi was that he was able to find someone who again, can accept, comfort, and support him. Unfortunately I don't have a person like this in my life and in fact this was something I didn't even know I wanted until I saw this episode. It's almost as if when I was watching that scene, as she was comforting Naofumi she turned to me and said "You see? This is how you overcome a world that's out to get you. You need to find someone like me who can love and accept you for who you are, someone who will remain at your side and tell you everything's going to be okay. No one can go at it alone in this world." I was literally in tears watching this episode because it feels like it hit so close to home.
I'm not usually one for discussions on anime waifus, but after this episode I can firmly say that Raphtalia is best waifu of all time. I find obsessing with fictional women to be pointless and out of touch with reality since they can't really love you back, but this feels different in a way because of just how personal this whole scene is. And while I can't actually physically interact with her as much as I would like to, I can at least try to find someone like her who actually can do all of the things for me that she has for Naofumi. After watching this show, it's become abundantly clear to me- I need a Raphtalia in my life.