This episode is the climax to the school terrorist attack arc. It’s got suspense and action, melee brawls, and one-on-one fights. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about answering one question and one question only: does Cid care about any of the people he meets while in his secret identity?
While it’s established that Cid is self-centered to a reality-defying extent (he treats the world and even people’s lives as his playthings), you can tell that he does care about Alpha and the others of the Seven Shadows. He not only trusts them to be part of his massive game of pretend but also brings people he doesn’t know into it—and in this arc, we’ve seen how eager he is to kill any who try to usurp his game without his consent.
But in his secret identity as “background character Cid Kagenou,” he seems to view all those around him as set dressing. He is not really friends with Skel and Po and is more than willing to kill Alexia when he believes she is using the Shadow Garden name to cover for her nightly murderous rampage.
Yet with Sherry, we have an innocent—even though she has every reason not to be after the murder of her mother. She is eager to support her sickly father and help the kingdom in any way she can. And once Cid learns the truth behind Sherry’s history—that her adoptive father, Assistant Headmaster Barnett, killed her mother in a torturous manner for his own gain—he is forced to confront the simple question: does he care?
While Cid has mentioned this before in a conversation with Alexia, he truly cares about a few things. He cut away everything that most people care about—i.e., ethics, morals, family, love—and was left with only The Eminence in Shadow and the things needed to become one. This obsession—this clarity of purpose—is the core of Cid’s power and all he has achieved. And each time he allows himself to care about something else, he ever-so-slightly dilutes it.
And while Cid answers that he doesn’t know if he cares about Sherry’s tragedy-filled exploitation—and is likely telling the truth—his actions in the climax prove that he does. Cid kills Barnett in the same way as Barnett killed Sherry’s mother—making sure the dying man knows that’s precisely what he is doing. Cid doesn’t revel in his head about how badass his words are or get excited about how he’s living one of his favorite tropes. No, he simply kills the man in a bout of karmic justice. And when he realizes Sherry has witnessed the killing and has no idea her father was the bad guy, Cid takes the blame on himself rather than let her know her father never loved her at all and was only interested in exploiting her mind.
The tragedy is that, in allowing himself to care enough about her to try and spare her pain, Cid has set up his own rival—a person as driven by her revenge as he is by his need to be The Eminence in Shadow. She is more intelligent than he is and can do things with magical artifacts that he can’t even understand. Moreover, she is a perfect target to be taken in by the cult, and given all she needs to kill the man who took her family from her. After all, as they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the end, only one thing is for certain: One day, Sherry will be back, and she will be a threat unlike any other Cid has encountered.
• Anyone else initially think that Nu got smashed by a flying body (rather than simply disappearing when the camera was obstructed)?
• What will crush Sherry more in her eventual return? Finding out that Cid is Shadow, that her father killed her mother, or that her father was using her all along?
• It seems as if Rose has met shadow before…
• Gamma literally does nothing but stand in one place this episode—likely so she doesn’t faceplant and ruin everything.
• I wonder if anyone in the cult has noticed that Shadow Garden is exclusively female (except for Cid).
• It doesn’t seem like any Shadow Garden members were killed. I wonder if the same could be said for the students.
• I hope we see how Rose reacts to discovering Cid isn’t dead after all.
• It’s sad that Alpha has been forced to realize that they aren’t the good guys—they are simply the force that can take down the cult specifically because they don’t have to worry about laws or morals like heroes have to.
• This week’s Kage-Jitsu lets us in on the fact that beast kin don’t wear underwear—and it got me thinking: it’s because of the location of their tails. You’d have to either buy tail-specialized low-back underwear or deal with a bunched-up waistband rubbing against the base of your tail all day. No thanks!
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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.