Sherry and Cid must neutralize Gaunt Knight’s Eye of Avarice, in order to save all the student captives in the auditorium.
In the thick of the plot, the episode opens up with a recap where the last episode ended. The real Shadow Garden is waiting on Shadow’s orders, Iris’s Midgar Knights are erring on the side of caution by being useless outside the barrier and Sherry just so happens to figure out how to unlock the artifact’s abilities to neutralize the barrier that is covering all of Midgar Academy.
Then, Cid and Sherry make their way to the tunnel to get under the auditorium, where all the Midgar Academy students are being held hostage.
I am a drama guy. If they did the opener after the opening credits and did the backstory of Sherry first, it might have been a better hook to start off with. Nevertheless, a simple recap of the plot and advancement of the story works well enough.
The Tragedy of Sherry Barnett
With the introduction of two new characters and the mysterious “Gaunt Knight” character, my worse fears came to fruition as the obvious link in the story all came true. Gaunt Knight is clearly Lutheran Barnett and he was the one that murdered Sherry’s mother in cold blood.
As it turns out, Sherry’s mother was an academic genius in her own right, but was shunned for her research for whatever reason. Looking for a way to cure his sickness and grow more powerful in the process, Lutheran hired Sherry’s mom to do research on the Eye of Avarice.
The Obvious Tragedy
It’s very easy to point out exactly what makes Sherry a tragic character. Her step father, Lutheran Barnett, secretly murdered her mother because she was willing to give up the one item that would help restore his health in the “Eye of Avarice,” fearing the dark powers of it. Somehow after Sherry’s mother’s death, he was able to become her step-father. Then, Sherry continued to carry on her mother’s research of the Eye of Avarice. In the end, he did all of this knowing that Sherry would be expendable at some point and the attack on Midgar Academy proves it; putting Sherry in mortal danger.
The Theme of Family Tragedy
Nine episodes in and clearly the writer for The Eminence in Shadow has an affinity for kidnapping plots. Unlike the previous couple of arcs of building relatable characters in Akane Nishino and Alexia Midgar, the story uses a major plot point in order to tell the tragic story of Sherry. Like the tragic situation Viscount Grease and his possessed demon daughter were portrayed in the earlier episodes, Sherry and Lutheran is portrayed as having a similar loving bond, but with a twist of a deep dark secret.
There’s nothing more jaw dropping and disgustingly sadistic than to unknowingly love a person that committed one of the most heinous crimes to your own flesh and blood mother. We’ve seen some dark twists in animes before like in Fate/Zero with Rin & the Priest. The Eminence in Shadow presents a strikingly similar situation with the Sherry and Lutheran dynamic.
The Shadow Garden vs Faux Shadow Garden
Sherry shows up to the auditorium and surprisingly keeps herself concealed. Gaunt Knight pulls out the Eye of Avarice and Sherry uses the artifact to force the barrier to come down. This leaves all the Midgar Academy students to regain control of their magic, however the magic that was drained was still in Gaunt Knight’s possession within the Eye of Avarice.
Rose Oriana makes a break for one of the faux Shadow Garden members and takes him down, gaining control over a sword. Many of the other students start to fight back. Rose Oriana makes another funny reference to Cid’s “romantic sacrifice” for her and none other than Shadow jumps through the ceiling for his grand entrance.
Cid’s entrance is a call back to when Minoru made his entrance through the roof in episode one to save Akane’s life.
The real Shadow Garden appears and states their classic line. While a big brawl ensues, Gaunt Knight lights the auditorium on fire, making his escape in the process.
Gaunt Knight makes his way to his room and lights a few books on fire. All of the sudden, Cid in his school uniform is sitting on the window sill to confront him.
Shadow vs Gaunt Knight
While it would have been nice to get a better animated fight between Shadow and Lutheran, it’s how Shadow is used in this scene that makes it entertaining in a different light.
There is the “cool” factor in how Cid approaches Gaunt Knight; sitting on the window sill and calling him out has every epic anime trope written all over it, where characters confront each other before a massive dual breaks out.
Anytime a character can pull a fast one and get one up over the opponent, after giving him the initial upper hand; it just builds an aura of epic “badassery” that rounds out many of Shadow’s most attractive character elements.
And of course, the way Cid gets his revenge for Sherry and his quick acceptance of being framed for “faux Shadow Garden” clarifies Cid’s moral stance and how much power he most likely possesses. Even Lutheran points out Cid’s “hubris” in being that overconfident in fighting against the world.
If you’re not a nuclear bomb, then what really are you?
When Cid killed Lutheran the same way he did to Sherry’s mother, there’s that same level of sadistically satisfying end that Cid gets on these villains. It hasn’t been purely about crazy animated fights per se, it has been about the way Cid defeats his opponents in context to what the “bad guys” ended up doing. For example, the bandits in episode 2, when Cid got revenge for the setup on those Dark Knights in the alley and killing Lutheran here for Sherry.
Setting Up Future Plots and Character Motivations
There are a lot of questions about how Cid and the Shadow Garden will handle future events. Being that their strength has pretty much been unmatched, the only way to get this story to start feeling consequential towards the main characters is to create a hectic environment in the plot that can lead to Cid losing something that he would deem to be valuable to him.
Notice how Cid only cares about certain things like power and his precious Shadow Garden organization. Building attachments to characters like Sherry and Alexia is not his ammo, so the catalyst for the next plot could come from within Shadow Garden. There are so many characters that are primed to be explored like Nu.
For what Cid brings to the story, it’s purely about the spectacle of his character. It’s all about his humorous need to be the background character, the condescending brutality inflicted on his opponents and the eye candy of the Shadow Garden. To make these elements of Cid’s story more interesting, there has to be a huge wrench in the story to break this all powerful dynamic that the Shadow Garden brings to the story. If we don’t get to see these characters struggle, it will have to be from other existing characters or from new ones that can provide an interesting inner conflict.
Other than losing anything close to what Cid finds important like the Shadow Garden and his ability to get more powerful, future plots and scenarios still seem to be the most interesting when it involves other main side characters like Alexia.
For Sherry’s character, it’s more about the tragic nature of her character, than anything else. Sure, she has a funny romantic dynamic between Alexia and Cid, but if this episode is hinting at anything, it’s about the darker elements of what we know of her situation. That lingering knowledge of how Sherry is unaware about Lutheran as Gaunt Knight and the death of her mother, just feels like a potential future plot point.
Alpha and Gamma talk over Cid’s new decision to take on the “framed bad guy” role. This confirms further that Cid’s morality to be some kind of “hero savior” isn’t within the cards and that the Shadow Garden will end up adopting the same mindset.
To make the story more interesting from the Shadow Garden’s point of view, it make a “framed” scenario for Shadow Garden; echoing my earlier sentiment that the plot needs to be more dire for the Shadow Garden or else it needs to focus back on characters like an Alexia.
Once again, The Eminence in Shadow takes an element of a previous plot to make it a more elaborate part of the story. Like when Cid was interrogated for kidnapping Alexia and being framed for it, it looks like this time the the whole Shadow Garden will be framed for the Midgar Academy terrorist attack
Looking For More
What these past few episodes lacked is the in-depth characteristics that a character like Princess Alexia has. By all means, Sherry provides a funny dynamic with Alexia because of the faux love triangle building between those two and Cid. Other than that, it leans heavily on the unfolding of the plot to make Sherry more than just an archetypal “anime kid genius.”
The combination of a very predictable plot and the fact that characters like Sherry, Lutheran, Rex, Marco and Glen had very little time to build anything of worth to the audience, it all felt like a bland ending to this “Gaunt Knight” arc. To be entirely honest, this arc just screams like another setup for something more enticing of a plot down the line. Cid accepting being framed for the Midgar Academy terrorist attack just seems like a way to get more characters introduced to pose a threat to Shadow Garden’s mission to stop the Cult of Diablos.
Needed More From These Characters
I find it kind of sad when I see characters introduced like they are going to be a big part, just to be thrown away in the trash like dried turkey on Thanksgiving. Rex felt like a character that deserved a little more screen time. To be fair, we didn’t necessarily get to see his dying end if it really happened. For an antagonist like Rex with a very unlikable antagonist personality with the moniker of the “Game of Betrayal,” it would have been more satisfying to see him actually betray or catch a few bodies before being wasted by Cid. Even Griffey Zenon was able to clock Alexia in the face before meeting his inevitable end.
An alpha female anime archetype used as a joke to make fun for Cid’s “romantic” sacrifice. In many ways, her character is literally Iris Midgar, but actually being used to make fun of typical anime tropes.
This Sherry arc was definitely more of an introductory arc for something even bigger for her down the line. One of the best parts about this anime is that do very good cliffhangers. Leaving the audience something to think about and the mystery behind her moving to Laugus to study in one of the “leading edges of science.”
Sherry’s character relied heavily more on the tragedy of her situation, rather than any self-conflict she had to endure. It’s going to be interesting to see where her character ends up because it’s very difficult to come up with anything speculative that could be that compelling for her character at this point.
All in all, Sherry and Rose’s lack of conflict makes them very bland characters up to this point aside from their comedic moments in the story. The earlier formula of creating characters with real depth and inner conflict is sorely missing.
This episode stuck with a more serious tone throughout. There were only a couple of brief moments with Rose fighting for the “death” of Cid’s loving sacrifice for her and Cid being internally uber excited about going into the tunnel that broke the episode’s serious tone.
Sometimes, when you expect something to happen and it happens, it loses its tension and impact. Without some type of misdirection, it stumped my feelings for feeling all that terrible for Sherry. From a practical story and plot standpoint, it all felt like there was more to be desired.
Most importantly, for the way the episode was done, the creators did a fantastic job creating a terrific pace for the episode, blending together the right cohesion of music and presentation of the important revelations in the story. So, however I might feel about the characters and the plot itself, their wasn’t a single boring moment within the episode. Each event and every character action kept leading to something more important happening within the story.
Overall, I have contradicting thoughts about these past few episodes. Newer characters were a let down and the Shadow Garden just showed that they were unstoppable once again. Now that the Shadow Garden has been successfully framed as bad guys, will the next plot actually prove to be a challenge for the Shadow Garden?
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