The Eminence in Shadow paints a grimdark picture of a fantasy world. An ancient cult runs the world’s religious and political institutions from the background, seeking to destroy the lineage of heroes that saved the world from their dark god. But all is not lost in this 2019 isekai manga by Daisuke Aizawa, as there are those fighting against the dark: Shadow Garden, an organization of highly-skilled operatives who seek to foil the plans of evil–all in the shade of night, never to be seen or acknowledged by the common citizen.
The Hidden Lord of Night
The brain behind Shadow Garden is (the aptly named) Shadow, known in civilian life as Cid Kagenou. In pursuit of being the perfect eminence in shadow, the civilian Cid is average in all ways. But in the dark, Cid’s alter ego is a supremely talented magic swordsman who brings justice to the night, defeating bandits, cultists, and knights gone rogue.
Shadow Garden is not a one-man operation, as Cid rescues and recruits Alpha, an elf targeted by cultists. Later, Alpha recruits additional Greek alphabet-named characters to assist as part of Shadow Garden. These characters are incredibly skilled and assist Shadow against the cultists, even without his direct command.
Of note, readers never see any training scenes in the other world, even in this first volume. Cid is (seemingly) already the strongest. The only conflict is in what style the eminence chooses to execute justice that day.
A Daft Badass
Well, combat is the biggest conflict at least. Cid is actually quite a bit of a goof–he’s obsessed with the idea of being an Eminence in Shadow, but he’s not quite aware of just how powerful he is. This gap, and his obsession with perfection, even with being the perfect “mob,” had me in stitches throughout the volume. While the setting and conflict are indeed grimdark at face value, it really is more like KonoSuba than Re:Zero.
I love how Alpha, and other members of Shadow Garden, impeccably competent, buy in completely to Cid’s worldview and mission, despite him flippantly dismissing his own words as his own imagination. Cid, to the characters of this manga, is a near-omniscient and omnipotent existence. To the readers, Cid’s an extremely overpowered goof. And despite that inherent goofiness, action scenes leaning into his chuunibyou tendencies have an incredible cheesy payoff, and left me wanting more: more badass, more goof, more mob.
Pinch of Rom, mostly Com
Of course, as a manga that makes fun of the tropes inherent in many other examples of the genre, there is no lack of romantic interest in the main character. There are already two characters interested in Cid, and it’s not hard to imagine there won’t be more falling for the strong and mysterious Shadow.
However, it’s been played for laughs so far–I cried laughing at one scene where Cid fake confesses to a character in perfect mob character fashion, down to the granular angle of his bow. It’s details like that which make the comedy of this manga go far. I can’t wait for more characters to fall in love with the idea of Shadow, only for Cid to completely contradict those feelings with his own internal monologue.
Art and Extras
The art is good. I particularly enjoyed the wide variety of facial expressions–Anri Sakano knows how to draw smug. While I don’t believe the art will be why many people pick it up, I think Sakano’s style serves the story well, and never distracted me from peak comedic or chuuni moments.
The sound effects are kept in the original Japanese, with transliteration and translation below each. If two is a pattern, I believe this may be how Yen Press does this as a company.
Also to note, the first volume ebook, and likely the physical copy as well, come with a light novel bonus story at the end. A nice touch that fleshed out one of the chapters from this first volume.
As an isekai enjoyer, The Eminence in Shadow tickled me quite a bit. The subversion and lampooning of isekai tropes and expectations was fantastically funny, but despite that, the manga also manages to simultaneously play many tropes straight, moving the story forward in a higher-risk, higher-hijinks way. I’m looking forward to reading more, and plan on checking out the anime adaption coming out on the same day this review releases!
THE EMINENCE IN SHADOW IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Yen Press who provided a review copy of this title.
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An aca-fan who leans more into fan than academic, Pieman likes to read, game, and enjoy VTubers leisurely with a beer in hand. He’s also an unabashed isekai enjoyer who’s always on the lookout for the newest world. Catch his sporadic tweets, Twitch streams, and endless stream of VTuber-related likes on @Piemanmj