Real talk. As a diehard fan of the novels and manga, I wasn’t exactly pumped for this episode. In those, Cid’s fight against Iris and Beatrix is far from climatic. It’s just a small fight where Cid wins easily—it doesn’t even spill out of the fighting arena. This episode took that fight and turned it up to eleven—and, in doing so, created meaning out of a meaningless fight.
To be clear, this is a fight that has no greater purpose. It’s not some battle of good versus evil. We have no members of the cult kidnapping people or performing experiments on them. Nor do we have a secret plan thousands of years in the making that Cid and Shadow Garden must foil. When it comes down to it, the cult’s plot was already derailed last episode by Rose. Even then, all Shadow Garden did was clear the way for her. Everything that happens in this episode—all the death and destruction—has nothing to do with the villains.
If Cid has a larger reason to fight, it ends the moment Rose escapes. And as for Beatrix and Iris, sure, Cid is a wanted man, but that’s not why either of them is trying to take him down. No, when it comes to all three of them, this battle is about one thing and one thing only: pride—and holy crap, do a lot of people die because of it.
Beatrix wants to fight a strong opponent—and given the excuse to do so, she takes it. Cid is always eager for a proper fight—how else can he prove the unstoppable might of The Eminence in Shadow than by beating all those who try to stand against him? And as for Iris, she is still holding on to the scraps of her pride that say she has the strength to stand up and do the right thing regardless of any potential enemy she or her kingdom might face—that she doesn’t have to play politics like her “cowardly” father.
These three people are so caught up in their selfish desires that none even pause for a moment once the fight spills out into the city—as people die and buildings topple. Iris, of course, blames it all on Cid in the final moments of the fight—completely ignoring her part in the destruction. Cid and Beatrix don’t even seem to care. One thing is painfully evident in this fight absent of villains: there aren’t any heroes involved either.
But what’s most interesting here is that the episode’s true climax doesn’t occur between Cid, Beatrix, and Iris. It takes place in Cid’s soul. Of all the attacks Iris makes in the fight, only one hits Cid in a critical spot—but it’s not a physical attack. It’s a verbal one. She accuses Cid of trying to run away. However, “The Eminence in Shadow” character doesn’t run away—he doesn’t need to. He is all-powerful, able to win any fight. To have someone believe he is running away cannot be allowed. It spits in the face of everything Cid has done in two lifetimes. There is only one choice: to show everyone how powerful he is.
So Cid begins to cast “I am Atomic,” not on a single enemy but on the entire city. Indeed, no one will ever doubt his power if he wipes an entire kingdom off the map. Yet, at the last second, he changes the target from the city to the skies above it.
Because here’s the thing about “The Eminence in Shadow” archetype. It can’t exist in a vacuum. It needs an audience. If there is no “kid watching on TV” to be inspired as he once was, what’s the point? Iris, Beatrix, and the Midgar Kingdom are his audience. So, in the end, it’s better to risk them thinking he ran away than it is not inspiring the next Eminence in Shadow like he was. When it comes down to it, all the delusions and play-acting truly matter to Cid—a once lonely kid who found a reason for living on the other side of a TV screen.
• Good to see that the king is playing dumb rather than being an idiot. He knows that he lacks the military might (even with Iris) to stand up to the cult directly.
• Alpha can do the surround sound voice too!
• Beatrix has cured herself of the curse, it seems. I wonder if anyone else has. She also keeps a burger wrapper to remember Cid.
• Have we seen any character other than Cid have magical veins appear on their arms? Or is Beatrix the first? (Fun note: hers are white, not purple.)
• Nice cameo from Cid’s parents too.
• I guess Cid beat a dragon off-screen at some point.
• In the Japanese credits Rose is not listed as “Rose” but as “666.”
• The episode preview for this episode is narrated by Akane from episode one—hinting about what’s been happening on Earth since Cid died.
• In this week’s Kage-Jitsu, Eta teaches everyone that the easiest way to create a new food product is to add chili powder to an old one.
• Oh man, this series was everything I hoped for and more. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did and hopefully we’ll be able to will a season 2 into existence. Thanks for reading!
The Eminence in Shadow is currently streaming on
Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.
Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.