The Eminence in Shadow, Vol. 1

By Daisuke Aizawa and Touzai. Released in Japan as “Kage no Jitsuryokusha ni Naritakute!” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kristi Fernandez.

The sort of story that The Eminence in Shadow tells is one that can only be a comedy. It can’t take itself seriously, because if it does, it’s going to be the worst thing ever. Everyone has seen those fanfictions where the author says “So this is the plot of the main series, only the main character is grey, and intelligent, and badass, and gets all the girls, and…” etc. Warning you now, this is that fanfiction. Perhaps minus the intelligent part. Cid is ridiculously overpowered, his ethics are distinctly sketchy (though occasionally he can muster some rage at true cruelty), and he not only has a battle army of multiple girls in love with him, but he also gets two other girls to fall for him in this book. Fortunately, this*is* a comedy. Cid’s reaction to everything, and the over the top responses of his minions, are what make this a fun, breezy read. Such is a good thing, because there’s another warning about this book: it’s a demon lord at a magical academy book in disguise.

Oh yes, it’s a reincarnation isekai as well. We meet our hero in Japan, where he’s trying to grow stronger and stronger. His desire in life is to “control things from the shadows”, to be the sort of supervillain you see in Sailor Moon R. To that end, he does masses of ludicrous training, which ends with him smashing his head against a tree for hours and then, thoroughly concussed, wandering in front of a truck. It would be somewhat horrifying in any other context – there’s clearly something broken in him – but here it’s played as goofy. He ends up in another world as Cid, the son of a noble, but he hasn’t let go of his desires, and he’s stupidly strong and tough. He also gradually rescues a number of girls from fates worse than death, and because he only thinks in supervillain he names then Alpha, Beta, etc. After coming of age, he goes to the local magic academy, where he tries to be a “normie” – remember, the point of ruling from the shadows is that you aren’t conspicuous – but fails utterly.

As I said, after the first quarter of the book it essentially becomes a magical academy series, with Cid’s delusions of grandeur as a spice. The gimmick – which I haven’t mentioned yet, oddly enough – is that he’s made up complete garbage about a secret conspiracy to resurrect an ancient evil… and it all turns out to be true, only he is unaware of this, and assumes everyone around him is simply going along with his shtick. He meets a princess who he immediately realizes is a tsundere with a sharp tongue, because it fits her “trope”. Reality warps itself to match his fantasies, and as I said, that sounds awful but it works because he isn’t buying that for a moment. When he hears the villains have taken the school hostage, he’s over the moon that he can now go on a one-man assassination spree, but doesn’t think of it as genuine. Again, if you start to worry about his mental heath, the whole thing falls apart. It’s just a show, we should really just relax.

I’m not sure how this will hold up in the long run – titles like this get old fast – but this was a good first volume that should amuse anyone who enjoys “OP harem” series but doesn’t take them seriously.

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  1. I’m really glad this volume finally came out. I’ve read a fan translation up to the school hostage part, and I’m surprised all that takes part in just the first volume. There are a lot of misunderstandings and coincidences in this volume, and I feel these scenes straddle the line between funny and annoying. I like the premise enough that I’ll be checking out the first two volumes.

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