The Eminence in Shadow is Barking Mad!

He was once a Japanese high school student, but after dying and being reincarnated in a fantasy world, he is now Cid Kagenou, a young man who takes pains to seem like an ordinary background character while he is, in fact, the almighty Lord Shadow, leader of the secret organization, Shadow Garden, which has as its goal the undermining of the Cult of Diablos which rules the world from behind the scenes, sparking a shadow war which shakes the world, all at the direction of himself, the omniscient Eminence in Shadow!

But, small detail, he thinks it’s all pretend. When it really, really isn’t.

He has no idea that he is actually leading a genuine secret organization against another genuine secret organization. He’s just going along, having whatever fun strikes his fancy, and thinks that the people around him are playing along. Of course, there are some things which he realizes are real, but he incorporates these into his fantasy as well. If that seems like a stretch, well, important detail: Cid is off his rocker. Way, way, waaaay off his rocker.

I have described Cid in conversation as a cornucopia of madness. He displays sociopathy, psychopathy, and other forms of insanity, so much that, really, rather than try to make much sense of him, it’s easier to just roll with it. He is not remotely right in the head, and he’s powerful enough that the world around him is pretty much just along for the ride, even if most of them don’t know it. So, one might as well not think too much about it and just enjoy the roller coaster!

As is fairly typical these days of isekai anime with an overpowered protagonist, there are plenty of highly attractive women around Cid who are absolutely devoted to him. One could even argue that he has two harems, one for Cid Kagenou and one for Lord Shadow, and he is completely unaware of both of them. Despite how clueless he is, I have to admire not only how Cid stands as something other than a bland cardboard cutout – which far too many harem anime have as their male lead – but also the dynamics of this dual harem. The girls are some of the best and most complete female characters I have ever seen in anime, especially in harems, not least including how they remain strong and independent characters in their own right, without ever falling into the trope of fighting over him. They have other things to do, their own lives to live and battles to fight, and they do so, which gives them room to be some of the most interesting women in anime. (And in some of the most striking outfits in anime, as well!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is one harem where it’s a devil of a thing to try and pick out a singular favorite! I mean, most of them are just so great that it’s all but impossible to actually choose!

So the cast is fantastic, even if it feels more than a little skewed in the direction of female characters. Let’s face it, strong women are highly marketable, even when the female-to-male ratio becomes nothing short of absurd.

The plot basically follows Cid as he wanders into various crises, his followers around him, and completely annihilates the villains. With his intelligence, his allies, and his dumb luck to call upon, he undoes the intricate schemes of the Cult with all the subtlety of Alexander the Great meeting the Gordian Knot. Yet within this simple formula is room for each of the characters to have a chance to shine and exist as a person instead of as an archetype. You could name almost any of the characters, and I could tell you at least a little about them, including things I like and things I dislike. It’s not perfect, but the threads of the plot are managed with some skill, and it juggles most of the characters in some sort of balanced way. There are a number of other shows I could name which fail at that, even with much longer runtimes.

am somewhat hard pressed, I will admit, to put my finger on any sort of underlying theme as of yet. There is plenty of material, including action, intrigue, wit, and some very dark humor, but what it all means still eludes me. For now. It will probably have something to do with what kinds of characters which people think themselves and others to be, vs the reality of them, but we can take our time with that.

For the moment, it suffices me to say that The Eminence in Shadow is a fun and thrilling ride through a magnificent madhouse. It has a bit of a rough start with its first episode, and we first meet the girls of Shadow Garden just in time to say goodbye and skip into the future before we really get to know them and all the rest of the cast individually, and it gets more than a little ridiculous how Cid is able to keep deluding himself even in his madness, but once it finds its footing, it comes out swinging. It doubles down on its own edgy insanity even as it makes fun of it, and the result is glorious mayhem.

Oh, and I adore the little Kagejitsu shorts, with the chibi-fied versions of the Shadow Garden girls, which lets us get to know them that much better as they make us laugh.

I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but it’s far better than it might seem at first glance. It’s not quite “great,” I would say, but it is plenty good, plenty of fun, and vastly entertaining!

(of course, one does need to mention that this isn’t exactly child friendly, either, and I’d rate it at strong PG-13)

Rating: all in all, I’d say 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: a solid B-Plus.

Further commentary shall have to wait until a second season comes along to wrap things up, which I anticipate eagerly. 🙂

She might not be part of the harem, but I really liked Beatrix!

This entry was posted in Anime and Cartoons, Tuesday Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s