Content warning: Stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, fanservice, gore
What’s it about? Since childhood, Kageno Minoru has trained his body and mind in hopes of achieving the strength of the heroes he watched on TV. But he doesn’t want to be the hero or the final boss—he wants to be the terrifying mastermind that pulls strings from the shadows. And thanks to an opportune meeting with Truck-kun, he just might get his chance.
The manga this series is based on is, I’m given to understand, a comedy. Maybe not an outright gag manga, but at least a bit tongue-in-cheek about being one more addition to the foie gras of wish-fulfillment isekai, with a cold-open where Minoru beefs up to comical proportions and runs almost butt-naked into Truck-kun’s headlights because he thinks it’s a magical revelation.
The anime adaptation of The Eminence in Shadow has done away with these things, perhaps fearing that they might make the show too “interesting” or “watchable.” When the last eight minutes or so do get to that initial opening, it’s done in deadly earnest with a starchy (but not starched) Potato-kun who molds safely into the fetid, ever-degrading mold they made of Kirito ten interminable years ago.
“Only eight minutes?” you may ask. “But what did they do with the rest of the episode?”
Anime-original content, reader. Shitty, edgelordy, anime-original content. My bad, readers. Apparently this is edgelord content from later in the source material. Fun.
While Minoru is the actual protagonist of the series, most of the first episode is spent with one of his classmates, a girl named Nishino Akane. We’re told that these two both “live behind a mask,” a connection more tenuous than a slavery apologist’s grip on reality.
Minoru is going around brutalizing street toughs with a crowbar and being condescending to his classmates. Akane is a teen actress who puts on a brave face because she’s still dealing with PTSD from being kidnapped and assaulted by a stalker when she was in middle school. Don’t worry, the first glimpse of this assault survivor that the viewer gets is of her panties, followed by a shower scene.
Akane’s father is a higher-up in this or that shady group, which leads to her being kidnapped again. But wouldn’t you know it, this time as she’s being assaulted, Potato-kun crashes through the ceiling and beats two men nearly to death right in front of her. Hurray!
It’s sleazy, exploitative, and incredibly transparent. Once Minoru enters the scene, the camera loses any interest in Akane and doesn’t bother to come back around to her until the spot of ol’ ultraviolence is wrapping up. She’s an object, for the camera and the narrative, a pretty girl who starts out annoyed that Minoru doesn’t remember her despite sitting next to her and ends by realizing that this dude who constantly gets her name wrong was just busy thinking Really Deep Thoughts. Not that any of it matters, because Minoru enters Truck-kun’s sweet embrace the next day, and we’ll presumably never see Akane again.
I don’t doubt this series will pull a reasonable number of viewers. It’s got the visual touch of a key animator making his step up to the director’s chair, and Minoru has a ready-made harem of women ready to coo over his brilliance and look sexy in matching uniforms. But I don’t have much patience for wish-fulfillment isekai at the best of times, let alone ones that can only grasp their way up by pulling women underneath their boots. Throw it in the trash.