I knew that the minute this show came out I would want to talk about this character. What I didn’t expect was that, as the story went on, that I would be deeply intrigued and impressive by HOW this character came to be, how he acts, and just what he represents. Sometimes that’s the coolest thing, and getting surprised when something so stupid has a lot of heart. That’s where we find ourselves today and after the cut, let’s take a dive into the main lead of The Eminence in Shadow: Cid Kagenou!
When it comes to an Isekai power fantasy, too often your mileage may vary. Your enjoyment of the idea comes mostly from how well the show is able to present it. For something like In Another World with my Smartphone, I was able to accept Toya’s god like powers because the show puts the time in, right at the start, to explain why he has them. For something like BOFURI, we see the journey of Maple playing around in the game and discovering the ultimate power build. It is that effort that helps the viewer adjust to the idea that there is going to be no real challenge here, and that the enjoyment comes from people reacting to the power fantasy and what it does to the world.
The inability for shows to do that well can then lead to a decline in quality. While the jury is still out, I’ve had a bit of trouble getting into the second season of Misfit of Demon King Academy because Anos feels almost too overpowered. Like he has the script of the show in his hands and just leapfrogs over plots and development because he can. Such a thing can be funny when done in a comedy, for something like Misfit which takes itself fully seriously, it actually becomes a detrimental to the plot, removing key character and developmental beats that are needed in good storytelling.
Eminence meanwhile, doesn’t have this problem. Instead it makes the wise decision to make Cid both extremely powerful, and also completely stupid. While he has the power to become a literal nuclear explosion, his ability to separate fact from fantasy is deeply flawed. Everything about the cult, the powers in the darkness, the fact that all of the girls worship the ground he walks on, it’s all an act in his head. It’s his friends playing along with his fantasies, stunt actors and sets to allow him to live his dream. While they view Cid as the god-savior who promises them a new future, he sees them as nice girls who want to placate their little brother.
That juxtaposition does wonders in keeping Cid grounded to the audience, and the humor to remain fresh and funny. While his decision to kill himself by running into a truck is disturbing, the Cid we see throughout the story is just a teenage boy who is determined to live out his fantasies to the fullest. Who wants only to achieve his dream and will do everything he can to make it happen. While the humor comes from those made-up stories actually being true, there is a genuine degree of heart and relatability in what he wants to do. While I can’t speak for anyone’s else experience, I am sure that for many people who grew up during the 4kids/Toonami era and beyond always dreamed of being an anime character. I know I was, and as I went through my teens I found myself always wishing I was kind of the character that Cid Kagenou wants to be. The mysterious force in the shadows, not the main character, but the one who would show up at random moments and overwhelm enemies with my power. The puppet master controlling everything behind the scenes, moving the characters into the places they need to. All of the power, none of the responsibility.
Most of us grow up though, realize that such dreams are unattainable and are content to keep such things to the written word or a good movie night. Cid Kagenou is given the gift that many of us would yearn for, and despite (or thanks to) the over the top antics, the cringeworthy dialogue, the sheer ignorance, and that god damn costume, I won’t deny that as I watched this show thinking “yeah, I’d probably do the same damn thing.” He is the anime fan who became what we all daydreamed, and that is a level of wish-fulfillment that anyone can enjoy when it is done with as much earnestly and honesty shown here. He is the inner child in us all, and a power fantasy done right.
At least that’s what I think.