First Impression: The Eminence in Shadow

What is the “Eminence in Shadow”? Desperate to embody this enigmatic idea, “background character” Kagenou trains day and night while blending in at school. But Nishino sees him—after all, Kagenou is different from all the others who praise and adore her. Kagenou looks right through her, interacting with but not really seeing the school’s most popular girl at all. She determines that he too must be hiding behind a facade. And she hates him for it. But when Nishino is kidnapped and held for ransom, her life depend on the one she abhors—and his life is about to take a turn for which all the years he’s spent training may have perfectly prepared him, though not in the way he would have expected.

Wait, wait, WAIT. I was totally confused by the opening of this series. Having read the first four volumes of the manga and never once encountered the character of Nishino, I wondered if this unexpected start was because I had read the manga instead of the light novel. Could the original work have started differently? I looked it up and no, neither written work begins this way. The anime surprises fans (and attempts to do the same with those new to the franchise) by taking a character who doesn’t appear until much later and using her story to give context for the work, with Akane’s situation serving to explain Kagenou’s motivation for what he will do in a different world. The after-credits portion clearly lays out Cid’s (his isekai name) frustration at human limitations, now surpassed through magic in his reincarnated state, and introduces the real setting for the series, as Cid runs his shadow clan and narrates a desire to broker power from behind the scenes instead of being a more typical hero or villain. I’m not convinced this was a good choice for episode one. The extreme fanservice and modern-day type tale demonstrated in the first 17 minutes might lead less-patient viewers (i.e. me if I had no history with the series) to drop the anime before getting to the real story. The humor of The Eminence in Shadow, which is my favorite part, is also neglected in episode one. While it does show up in a few small instances, like Cid’s Christian Bale Batman voice as he says embarrassing stuff like “I need more power” in broken English, I wonder if these scenes come across as intentionally funny or simply cringy. It’s the latter, I think, since episode one makes it seem as if this anime is a straight-forward action fantasy series rather than one featuring a heavily comedic tone. And when your opening episode doesn’t demonstrate what is perhaps the most unique and engaging part of your series, I would call that a fail. But as a fan of the manga, I’ll of course be tuning in again next week when I assume the show will get on track, and I hope you’ll do the same and give the series a chance, presumably seeing more of what The Eminence in Shadow is really about, not just in story but also in its DNA.

Stuff like this is supposed to make the MC appear not nearly as cool as he thinks it is, rather than making the writers seem that way.

The Eminence in Shadow can be streamed on HiDIVE.

9 thoughts on “First Impression: The Eminence in Shadow

  1. I really like the light novel series so this was my most anticipated anime of the year. I really hope it improves as the series goes on and they are able to do the source material justice. Having read up to the 3rd volume of the LN, I also didn’t know who this Nishino person was.

    1. Same. This would be a huge disappointment if the series doesn’t get on track in episode two. I thought that episode one was generally “fine,” but I expect more than fine, MUCH more, from this series.

  2. I actually quite liked episode 1 being a manga reader, it shows us how the people around him see Cid instead of showing us how Cid sees the events and having seen the pv for episode 2 it does seem that the comedic tone is returning

    1. I didn’t mind it…but I think it was a bad decision. So many people who are unfamiliar with the franchise were turned off by it. Creatively, okay…but to set up a franchise? Bad move.

  3. Hmmm, ok. I’ll give episode 2 a chance. Being new to the series, this was a really poor opening episode to me, for all the reasons you pointed out plus the fact that Kagenou is not at all a compelling character. But I do remember your review of the manga, so I’m willing to give it a shot even though the fact that his entire entourage consists of hot cat girl killers doesn’t give me much hope that this is going to transcend the Cringe Factor.

    1. I’m infamous (at least in my own mind) for abiding by the three-minute rules rather than three episodes, so my patience has already worn quite thin. I may not make it through the next episode, despite my love for the manga. It doesn’t help that there are soooo many big series out there this fall…

    2. Kagenou is not a great person, especially at the beginning of the series. He does get less awful as time goes on, but he can still be off-putting. It really helps that the series is a comedy as I would not be able to take him seriously.

      1. Haha! Ok, on second thought, I won’t bother with this one, especially since there are so many other fantastic series this season! Nothing frustrates me more than an unlikeable mc.

Leave a Reply