This week’s The Eminence in Shadow is an interesting one. Rather than a typical episode, it’s more like a short-form anime anthology, with each mini-episode focusing on different members of our expanded cast. Each of these teaches us more about our characters and how the events of the show so far have changed them. And while the vignettes are uniformly comedic, they each make sure to add some solid character development amongst the laughs.
In Epsilon’s mini-episode (our first proper introduction to the character), we see how she has tried to transform herself into the ideal woman using her slime suit—giving her an hourglass figure and an additional few inches in height to appeal to Cid. Moreover, we see her envy-born rivalry with the naturally curvy Beta—which shows the first significant bit of discord we’ve seen among the seven shadows (though it is so normal and harmless that the lower-rank girls of Shadow Garden ignore it completely).
Then in Alexia’s mini-episode, we learn that she is desperately trying to be true to herself and live up to no one’s expectations but her own. Even doing something as simple as buying seductive underwear is her way of pushing back against her more tsundere nature and allowing herself to be true to her inner feelings. On the other hand, Iris is forced to deal with the little sister she loves dearly pushing back hard instead of simply following along meekly. It’s a significant shift in their relationship but also a good one.
As for Rose’s mini-episode, we see that she has fallen utterly head-over-heals for Cid (due to his unbreakable will and heroic self-sacrifice). However, he thinks her poetic language and large amount of PDA are her way of seducing him into joining her religion—rather than her (royal) family. We also see that just as Gamma has used Cid’s Earthly knowledge to become rich and influential, Beta has done the same thing as an author rather than an economic savant.
Yet, even among these separate vignettes, an ongoing story serves as a setup for the next major arc of The Eminence in Shadow. The background for all these mini-episodes is that, with the school destroyed and summer break coming early, many people are heading to a fighting tournament in a nearby kingdom. Throughout the episode, we learn that said tournament also happens to be where the Hero Olivier cut off the demon Diabolos’ arm (you know, in that fairytale, that totally isn’t real). Thus, all our heroes, be they from Cid’s secret identity or Shadow Garden, have a reason to go there.
All in all, what could have easily been a dull, paint-by-numbers set-up episode is instead a tour-de-force of character-building that gives us all the information we need for the upcoming story amid non-stop laughs. Honestly, Kazuya Nakanishi and his team deserve mad props for blazing their own path creatively and delivering such an entertaining episode.
• Delta sleeps through the entire episode.
• Eta passes out in the hallway after pulling an all-nighter. No one is surprised by this, even as they cart her lifeless body to bed.
• The Cat POV bit is a great visual gag that gives us something fun to watch as Beta and Epsilon bicker.
• I love Beta and Epsilon standing outside the same window in each other’s flashbacks.
• Alexia’s vignette also shows Gamma’s intelligence by showcasing how easily she can read between the lines and understand what Alexia wants to buy.
• Cid “Spider-Maning” above his door to avoid both his sister and Rose is a great callback joke (especially as he is doing it while sleeping the second time).
• Beta is a world-famous author, and at night, she still ends up writing self-insert fanfiction. Has anything ever been more true and real?
• Beta’s books include: “I am a Dragon” (I am a Cat), “Romeo e Julietta” (Romeo and Juliet), “Asherella” (Cinderella), “Little Crimson Riding Hood” (Little Red Riding Hood), “Star It’s a Trap Wars” (Star Wars), “One Purse” (One Piece), “Dragon Bowl” (Dragon Ball), and “Kage no Jitsuryokusha” (The Eminence in Shadow). …I’m assuming the last one is her fan fic about her and Cid.
• I love how happy Cid is about Beta playing into his fantasy by writing him a note in code (even though he can’t read it).
• Cid absolutely can tell that Epsilon’s “assets” are made from slime.
• Pride is not the deadly sin that drives Epsilon, Cid. It’s envy.
• The joke in this week’s Kage-Jitsu revolves around something I never thought about. Epsilon’s bust isn’t natural, so she doesn’t need a bra. She can make them as firm or as bouncy as she wants at any given moment.
• This week’s Kage-Jitsu also gives Beta a clear win in their constant verbal sparring sessions (even if Beta doesn’t realize it).
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Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.
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