*This review contains slight spoilers past the manga*
Is there much more to say other than it is a Power fantasy that is also an Isekai where the MC has black hair and is edgy? Yes, and its the reason I think this story will evolve past a Light Novel and Manga Adaptation.
Looking at this story for the first time it was clear to see what it was going for. It's an Isekai; guy dies, gets reincarnated with his old memories, tries to become more powerful. Its the most simple rinse and repeat pattern with a lot of modern Isekai that are coming out. There is only so much a story can evolve from after this point, with the most usual path being to become the Hero and slay the Demon Lord. But within "The Eminence in Shadows" the story is already changed from the start.
Like a lot of the Manga and light novels to appear within the last few years, the Isekai aspect in this show is only relevant for the first few chapters. Where it is apparent that the MC "Cid Kagenou" is from another world, it is rarely mentioned past the first few chapters. Which is one of the glaring problems with a lot of Isekai, so i wont give it too much slack in that department. Some of the other issues are the progression at which main events happen, the one I have in mind is the meeting of Alpha, and the start of Shadow Garden. The reader is first introduced to Alpha at the end of chapter 2. By this time, Cid has gone through: Being alive in the real world, dying, reincarnation, Self taught(maybe?) magic training, the production of slime gear, and a bandit attack. ONE AND A HALF CHAPTERS. That is criminally short, this could have been stretched to at least 3-4 chapters and still be a reasonably progressed story. BUT, there is more to gripe about. Because the story is so short it is hard to fully analyze and realize some of the characters that are present in the show. I often found myself asking questions such as "How does the magic system work?" "How did he make that?" and "What is the reason?". A lot of these question could be answered by a subtle or even non-subtle description of the trait, whether it be magic, geography, using descriptive words. it felt like everything was snuffed because of the rushed story line of the novel. There has to be a line drawn at where "too fast" and "too vague" are. Sadly this web novel fails to grasp where that line is, lack of knowledge becomes confusion, and confusion leads to loss of interest. It is pretty safe to say that no writer wants people to lose interest in their stories. That being said there are a lot of strong point that are going for this story, and parts that are hard to avoid as well.
So, what was my decision in giving the story a 7? Well its not too complicated actually. The story and progression within "The Eminence of Shadows" is so simple that its okay that it skips over some of the logistics of the world. Speaking for myself, this format has been done so many times before that it all made sense, without the story having to explicitly tell me how and what things were going on. So questions like " What is the slime gear?" can be answered by common knowledge of how fantasy worlds usually work. "Pour mana into the Slime to form a sword and clothes" (This is later confirmed by epsilon). Although it would be nice to have that confirmation it wasn't necessary to the story to fill out a few chapters explaining how Magic works. I've read enough manga to figure out what mana and mana manipulation is. The farther you go within the story the more questions are answered as well, such as how the kingdom works, How Alpha and the other members of Shadow Garden met and grew up together, and why Gamma is so gosh darn cute. After reading as much as I have I look back at the first few chapters as a necessary evil, the vague properties aren't so vague anymore. While initially writing this, it was hard to rip into the beginning because i knew that all of the short descriptions and foggy answers actually helped my interest within the story. That being said, it is still a massive pain to go through it for the first time, but I can say that it does get much better.
I didn't talk much about the actual story, so i will say some small points now
-It flows extremely well, there is a clear sense of cause-effect where all the actions have innate consequences
-The main gimmick of being a hero in the shadows isn't original, but it felt as though it was fresh and new
It's a Web Novel, c'mon. You can't expect the world from a project like this, so it will not be affecting my final score. But going off of the Light novels art style, I can't say that anything stood out to me. All of the characters looked how I expected them too, with my reactions going as "wild" as "oh so she had blue hair'. I mean the style that they chose definitely suits the style of the novel and story. No complaints here! Just wasn't as face slapping as it could have been.
It's interesting to see how the characters play off of one another. In any story one of the hardest things to create is social interactions. "How does Character A interact with Character C". It is one of the things that i find interesting within a story. A lot of the characters within this novel are crafted from a mold and an archetype that relates to that mold. It's mostly a randomizer that takes a body type and a personality and adds them together
"Curvy" + "Myrmidon" = Alpha
"Flat" + "Over Bearing" = Alexia Midgar
"Athletic" + "Student Council President" = Rose Oriana
and so on. The more interesting aspect is how the characters react and interact with their environments. Characters like Cid are pretty self explanatory, he has multiple personalities that causes him to react differently. As Cid he is a timid boy who doesn't seem to understand the consequences to the actions he takes, which adds to the "mob" character he wants to become. While as Shadow, Cid is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and he knows it. The duality between Shadow and Cid plays into how certain characters react to them. The character design of Cid alone could be enough to write an entire review on. While there are other characters that have great history and interesting back stories and history. (Ill be using the first initials of characters that appear later in the story) Characters such as Bea who have some character relation that goes back farther than the story has told. With antagonists like Get who are relatable and have some sense of understanding of the protagonist. Or Yuk who brings out an entire personality of an original character that is not seen before. Its hard to tear into these "cookie cutter" characters when the actions they take are relatable, and interesting. Each character that is introduced has meaning, that relates back to the cause and effect I had talked about earlier. There are few characters that do not get any time in the light (I'm looking at you Zeta and Eta) but that only adds to the personality of the character and how their characters interact with others. It shows that they don't interact. There is nothing that I can say, obviously there is going to be more character evolution in the future, so my opinion is bound to change, but as is, I am quite interested in all the characters.
It really is an experience to read through this novel, there are some things that would be nearly impossible to explain, but the smile put on my face after the Moonlight Sonata scene was very real. But overall it is a great read and it passed the time extremely well. Managed to read through it in about a weeks time, and I couldn't wait to continue reading through it. I'm sure that it will continue on and become more and more popular as time goes on
Alright, it isn't perfect, and there are a lot of flaws within the story that could easily be buffed out with the licensed English release of the light novel in July this year. In all honesty, I could see this getting an Anime adaptation within the next year or so. With the state that the world is in now, that date may be delayed for a while. But I wouldn't leave it out of the list of shows I think could get an adaptation, that being said it may only be up until the Holy Ground Infiltration Arc, it still would be a good way to increase the popularity of this series