What They Say:
Cid doesn’t want to be a flashy hero or a dastardly villain. He wants to operate in the shadows and pull the strings of society through wit and cleverness. So, when he’s isekai’d to another world armed with magic powers (and an overactive imagination), he forms Shadow Garden, an underground organization that fights an evil cult he totally made up. But while Cid happily roleplays his favorite antihero tropes, little does he know Shadow Garden’s recruits treat his every lie as gospel, and worse yet? That “fake” cult is actually real, and they’re not happy his power fantasy just impeded their plan to gain ultimate power!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track and the English dub as they’re done up in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is pretty straightforward with what it does as it’s a dialogue-oriented show without much in the way of antics to bump it up. There are areas of placement at times because of the cast spread out across the screen when they engage with each other but it’s nice and subtle overall rather than something splashy. The show works a clean and simple approach and even the opening song is pretty simple but effective as well. There are times when the score really does ramp up and that’s handled really well with the action and sound effects to deliver some effective action, but on the whole, the balance is really quite solid. It’s a good mix that serves the material well overall and one that’s clean and problem-free which is all we really want in the end.
Originally airing in 2022, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty episodes are spread across three discs in a standard nine/nine/three format. Animated by Nexus, the show has a very appealing design about it with great colors that manage the darkness well while working with some very vivid moments, giving it an alluring kind of look that’s not soft but not too sharp either. The character animation is solid and the design work has a lot of good detail to it that they’re able to put into it thanks to the larger aesthetic at work. The encoding brings it to life wonderfully with a very clean-looking result that handles the darker segments well but also knows how to work with the color vibrancy throughout. Details hold up wonderfully and fans of the show from the streaming side will definitely enjoy having it with such a high bit-rate encoding.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard-sized Blu-ray case with the three discs where two of them are on a hinge and the third against the back interior wall. The front cover has a great visual that we’ve seen a lot of since the show was announced and while I will say that it’s definitely murky, it’s one that fits the show well and leans into the series name. The split of characters and the obvious bits of light and shadow all work well as does the logo which has a simple approach to it. The back cover has a large main image going over the whole thing but it’s covered with all sorts of other information, from more shots from the show to the way the summary of the premise block is laid out along with the tagline bit. The episode count and extras are clearly listed and the usual production information and easy-to-read technical grid round things out and all of it looks good, if a bit subdued, because of the range of colors and activity here. It’s not the usual streamlined cover. No show-related inserts are included with this release.
The menu design for this release is really nice as we get a solid static image along one side with the logo that has a decent bit of empty space but serves to draw attention to the details of the character artwork and the pieces around them. It’s similar to the cover in that it goes for the subtle approach but also blends the light and shadow in a good way. The layout gives the artwork plenty of space while the navigation is given about a bit more than a third of the screen. That has a kind of old book look to it with the weathered aspect and ornate framing of it all but it fits in very well with the light and dark elements here as well, making it east to see what’s selected and how it all operates. The menus react quickly as both the main menu and as a pop-up menu during playback.
The extras included are the clean version of the opening sequence as we always enjoy having but also some of the promos for it and the various light and dark episode previews that were released for the show each week. The set also includes the adorable shorts from the show that adds a little extra color if you like these kinds of things.
Based on the light novel series that began in 2018 from Daisuke Aizawa, The Eminence in Shadow is a twenty-episode first season that landed in the fall of 2022. It was also relatively quickly followed up by another season after that. The novel series is moving slowly at the moment with five volumes in five years but the manga is moving along at a good clip with eleven volumes so far – both of which are in English through Yen Press. Sentai picked up the anime with it streaming through HIDIVE when it came out and the show saw a dub quickly and has proven to be one of their more popular shows of the past few years. The property definitely had a strong debut as it even has an app game come out alongside this season and some additional manga to bolster things in general. It’s not something that’s massively overdone but you can see how it could grow pretty well from where it starts.
The series is one that I can imagine a lot of people looking askew at from the start because of its isekai elements in the opening episode, but like a lot of shows that’s just to provide the entry and it manages to become something more than that as it goes on. Especially by the third or fourth episode where things feel like it gets a bit more intense and real in some ways which helps to separate it from the pack. The focus is on a young man named Shadow who has been born into a noble family where he’s the one that’s not seen in a sense. While his sister is the one that’s bright and light and draws all the attention, Shadow is the one that operates in the obviously named shadows and essentially kills criminals and expands his realm of influence and those that operate around him. I can see plenty of allusions to Batman in a sense and they wouldn’t be wrong, but this is more akin to the pulp character The Shadow to me in some ways just with the whole anime/manga stylings giving it some very different trappings.
What separates Shadow from these comparisons, however, is that the character isn’t doing this kind of work out of some sense of guilt, atonement, or trying to make the world a better place. He’s doing it because he wants to have fun. He’s simply challenging himself on what he can do with his skillset and strength as well as the influence of it all but the murders are almost incidental at times. Shadow, or Kageno by his normal name, enjoys the manipulation, and the nods in the flashback early on make it clear where he’s taking his inspiration from and there are quite a few characters that can fit into this category. That he was trying to do this in the real world before his death and has now essentially doubled down in this isekai’d life is pretty on par. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel like it goes in that dark and depraved way that a few other projects in the last few years have but it also doesn’t hold back from some grim moments and show of skill and talent to make clear that he is very good at this.
His time with his sister Claire is amusing to watch since they are quite different but he knows that she’s the perfect kind of shield for a lot of things that he wants to do, the right kind of distraction. And we’ve certainly seen any number of stories over the years of the twisted children of nobles who engage in dark deeds because they can get away with it. So his testing of the limits of his skill but also society and family plays well here. What we see through Shadow is someone that has a kind of disconnect from reality that most people, we believe, do not. He’s entertaining himself with the lives around him almost as though they’re playthings and he can do what he wants. In his mind, you get the sense that the only thing that’s real is him and using all the skills he’s picked up in his past life and what he can accomplish here together results in something that’s both deranged and fascinating to watch. Just as we watch on with what Shadow does, so does Shadow in a way. It’s not saying that we’re complicit in it but there’s that kind of element that’s fun to toy with when viewing it.
The show deals with a good bit of action throughout as we get all the fighting going on and a tournament arc aspect as well. It’s decent with some areas that stand out better as they apply the budget judiciously to make it count. I can definitely appreciate that approach with it as we see how Shadow in his various forms exercises his game with everyone. And with a central mindset of trying to look and feel as cool as possible at all the right times, the still moments and the lingering gazes takes on its own kind of feeling as well. This world is Shadow’s plaything in his mind and no matter how it may eventually end for him, he wants to live as boldly as he can from within this kind of hidden structure because of the influences on his original life. That kind of intensity is fun to watch and the way other characters factor into it, especially something where he populates his world with attractive women because it adds to the coolness of his existence, simply makes so much sense.
With the show changing things up from the original work in a way that catches viewers off-guard but makes sense for the adaptation, this season does a solid job of bringing together a lot of stuff in a way that’s pretty engaging. It’s the kind of show that’s almost a bit hard to describe because so much of its intent is wrapped up in how Shadow operates in trying to be cool – right to his signature attack move that’s just over the top yet executed almost quietly. It’s easy to see why this became popular through its simulcast once you got past the first few episodes and the isekai tag of it all because it just keeps building on top of itself with the scale it wants to operate at. And the cast is fully game to do this and to just run with it like the characters. It’s refreshing to see a show and work simply embrace being a bit nuts and running with it and the tweaks and changes from the original seem to have served it well. It has all the right elements and Sentai’s release draws them together with a great encode here and a solid package. It’s easy to see why this should sell well as fans will want to have it in the best quality possible and to have it accessible at all times for binging to try and recapture that rush of the story and its key moments.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, E-Shade! Shorts, Episode & Alternative Previews, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 10th, 2023
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.