「魔人降臨」 (Majin Kourin)
“Advent of the Demon”
I admit I’m sad. No second season announcement? Not even the tease of an upcoming OVA? Oh Eminence in Shadow you were done dirty. Yet only getting the short end of the stick in part; when it comes to season finales, there’s certainly worse ways of closing matters off. Between letting Beatrice and Iris tag team a fight with Cid – and with Iris going crazed psycho to boot (that red hair isn’t only for show) – to getting Rose into the ranks of Shadow Garden we got it all. Hell there was even room to let Cid do what Cid does best and have the kid fully indulge in his sense of smug imagination. What else is there to say? This finale was great. Period.
It might be a while before Eminence in Shadow returns to the TV screen (because rest assured it will), but I dare say it left off the best way possible. Now onto those final impressions!
There’s no denying isekai is a mixed bag these days. When anime latches onto a genre it bloats it for all it’s worth, and as the past few years have shown for every interesting story in this genre there’s a dozen or so which quickly fade into the woodwork. It’s such an environment which makes Eminence in Shadow an interesting ride, because for all it embraces the tropes and expectations it also inverts them, letting humour and imagination run wild to make the most of (and make up for) what’s on tap. We may have seen this story numerous times before, but Eminence in Shadow proves yet again why execution is king.
What particularly sold me on Eminence in Shadow is its relative lack of care. It’s a series which knows it’s derivative so it doesn’t waste any time with serious thought or grounding its characters and setting. Cid exemplifies this: he’s overpowered as hell and is the centre of attention, but never evolves into the quintessential (and boring) harem lead of fellow isekai series. It’s all subversion on the kid’s part owing to his desire to live out his fantasy and the world quite serendipitously playing out according to impulsive whims. In effect it’s if Konosuba traded slice of life for pulpy mystery thriller, where the parody isn’t in how overly ludicrous the characters are, but in how chaotically comedic the plot gets as Cid’s imagination kicks into overdrive. There’s a lot of entertainment value in letting setups like these run wild, something Eminence in Shadow successfully leveraged for all its worth.
Of course, that isn’t to say everything was perfection here. At heart Eminence in Shadow does remain an isekai, and an isekai adaptation at that. Rushed pacing was plentiful at times, production values did slip on occasion, and there were many characters and developments which arguably could have used more screentime. Big one in this instance are the girls of Shadow Garden: outside of a few plot-critical cases a lot of the inner workings of Cid’s little empire were left to cameos and quick blurbs. Given the organization’s relative importance (and how the ED exclusively featured its members) getting some additional information would have been nice, particularly as the reach of the Cult and the nature of the fight against it came to the fore. I wouldn’t call it enough to wreck what Eminence in Shadow offered (especially given the comedy focus), but it’s something I hope the inevitable future OVAs/seasons can correct, for if only for a more well-rounded idea of just what’s going on. And, you know, more reasons to laugh at Cid’s latest escapades.
Overall, however, Eminence in Shadow is without a doubt one of the better isekais to have graced our screens of late. Between its crazy premise and fun characters it shows the true value of a letting a premise spread its wings, to not take genre conventions at face value, and – lo and behold – to actually have laidback fun with the material in hand. Although arguably a stretch to say Eminence in Shadow is one of isekai’s absolute bests, it definitely shows this genre has plenty of untapped potential remaining and I am very eager seeing what comes from both it and isekai as a whole next. Something tells me there’s plenty of pleasant surprises left to be had.