Speechless. This is by far the best episode of season 1. Iris gets her “shine” and tons of epic plot moments start to unravel. If there was one word to describe this episode, it is “shocking.”
Recap & Reaction
Opener – Iris “Mid”
The opening scene takes the opportunity to promote Iris’s perspective in the story. It flashes back to Iris sparing against her commander, taking him own with just one hit while the crowd, including Alexia cheers her on.
The opening scenes do a little speed run of Iris rising in the ranks of the Dark Knight. It all falls to an impasse as she is rejected by her father to give her “authority” to get proof about the Divine Church having Cult of Diablos ties. Her father, King Midgar, responds that “she maybe right, but everyone else has to understand that what she is doing is the right thing.” Also, that Iris is willing to “put the kingdom in danger” just so she can “prove herself right.”
Through her frustration, she is hell bent on proving her strength to her father, the kingdom and herself.
Throughout the season, many characters have had their opportunity to develop into relatable characters by showing their faults, growth and bits of their personality. From the very beginning episodes, Iris has represented a fairly simplistic character. She is the older, more talented sister, who is one of the highest ranks as a Dark Knight. However, she believes a bit too much in her own strength and doesn’t quite see the big picture of being a true leader. This has been established by virtue of a significant amount of other characters showing that they are more powerful than Iris and the mere fact that King Midgar keeps hinting to her to not make rash decisions that could put their relationship with other kingdoms and organization at jeopardy.
For certain characters, their backstories can feel rushed. For these characters like Iris, Rose and many members of the Shadow Garden, it doesn’t feel like we really need that much context to “get” their character in a compelling manner. It’s clear. Iris’s path is too much for herself to take on, but she is pushing on almost blindly, without realizing the magnitude of what she is up against.
Main Characters and a Background Character
Cid and Iris have a seat back at their luxurious viewing of the Bushin Festival. They are there to watch Claire’s match. Iris gets interested in his coffee drink and tells her how to make the bitter taste subside by adding milk and sugar. Then, Beatrix arrives, by invitation of Iris. She sits down and asks around once again about “seeing any elves.” That the elf she is looking for is her “niece.” Cid becomes internally ecstatic that he’s like a “background-background” character in this whole situation with Iris and Beatrix. Out of the blue, she mentions how “Cid will become stronger” to everyone’s disapproval. A couple of the guards start to question if Beatrix knows what she is talking about and then start to question her strength by judging her appearance.
For the third time in the past few peisodes, Beatrix has asked about the elf and reiterated by her elf “niece.” And once again, she acknowledges Cid’s potential. It seems like it’s important for the writer to drive home what her purpose is and to show her wisdom & power.
What Beatrix said about Cid and how everyone is reacting to what she said, definitely peaks his interest. Given how she “looks, her personality, her title, her strength” and just overall how “naturally” she acts can easily be misjudged by people.
In what Iris sees as “absolute confidence” in Mundane Mann, Cid is correlating a similar perspective to how Beatrix acts.
She is cool, calm and extremely comfortable within her own skin. That burger or sandwich that has had some meaning since the scene between Cid and Rose, with Cid giving Rose a sandwich; it now becomes clearer that it represents Beatrix being comfortable in her own skin. It’s that quiet confidence or “absolute confidence” as I mentioned earlier to demonstrate her comfortability.
This whole “power level” parody all started with Goldy. Now, it’s become about “absolute confidence” from the previous episode. I like the fact that Cid is pointing out how normal she is acting that that proves how powerful she really is. This is why I like this anime. Within the satire, there are meaningful wisdom for the audience to consume.
Drug Addicted King
Instantly, it transitions to Sir Perv Asshat giving King Oriana a drug to sedate and control him. Here, we learn a very important plot point about wanting “Rose to give him a key” to something. That is the reason behind why many of his men have been trying to track her down. Given the state of King Oriana, Asshat expects Rose to come play hero. Then, he points out how they obviously knew about her “Demon Possession,” leading her to become a prime candidate for the cult’s experiments.
What makes Sir Perv Asshat different from Jack Nelson from the previous arc, when they start explaining important plot related elements—Asshat is clearly in a position of strength and power as the antagonist. Jack Nelson was always in the position to be the butt of jokes or to act as fodder to showcase Shadow Garden.
As one of his last resorts if Rose doesn’t come to save her father, he will manipulate King Oriana into murdering King Midgar. In result, this will cause a war between the two nations with Perv Asshat mentioning that there are already “arrangements for the next King of Midgar” as being a “puppet leader.”
We already knew that the Cult of Diablos has infiltrated Midgar, but to have a high ranking person be installed as the next King?! Who on earth with that kind of status would that be?!
What will happen during the Mundane Mann versus Iris Midgar match? When something as obvious and significance as that fight will be, Sir Perv Asshat has plans to carry out this “murdering King Midgar” scenario. Sir Perv Asshat’s plan has the potential to interrupt the fight or it could all happen behind the scenes until Iris’s fight with Mundane is over.
Surprisingly, Perv Asshat is the frst antagonist that is actually displaying some kind of wit with some deep level of careful thought with his plans. With this plan, there are tons of moving parts with the potential for many outcomes. This is an awesome place to be in the story, as it becomes an “expect the unexpected” and “prepare to be surprised” part of the plot.
Sir Perv Asshat brings up potential foils to his plan like Mundane Mann and Shadow Garden. Utterly convinced that Mundane Mann is from the “underworld” and that Shadow Garden is helping Rose, he wonders how their reaction will hinder his “murdering King Midgar” operation.
Finally, a bad guy that doesn’t just serve the purpose of “being the bad guy.” Even though the outcome is as obvious as any of the previous arcs, none of the prior antagonists have been as impressive as Asshat. The threat of the antagonist actually getting their way and by means of outwitting any of the “good guys” in the story is very important in creating a true sense of dilemma within the story. The potential loss of Rose and Iris’s fathers are at stake here. If the audience feels any kind of connection to these characters, this would serve as a massive event for these characters. The antagonist yielding any kind of results in their favor is a massive win for the balance of the story, as everyone else before Asshat gained absolutely nothing, besides being fodder for Shadow Garden and providing doses of important story insight.
Not Surprisingly, Asshat Stinks
Fully within his own assery of thought, Sir Perv Asshat with King Oriana walk past Beatrix and Iris. Suddenly, Beatrix says, “you stink.” Asshat is shocked and calls for his men to kick out this mysterious looking elf. Iris stops Asshat to tell him that “this is her guest, Beatrix.” Asshat provides even more insight knowledge about Beatrix as she may have already “awakened the heroes’ blood.” Unexpectedly, Asshat has another potential foil to his plan.
Beatrix apologizes for her rude comment towards Asshat and King Oriana. Asshat becoming highly flustered, questioning whether or not his plan will work out. Nevertheless, he is still more confident than ever about Rose actually showing up.
Asshat watches Claire’s match, but concludes that she won’t actually pose a threat to his plan, feeling a little more comfortable.
Iris Midgar Versus Mundane Mann
It’s that time! Iris versus Mundane. Like Mundane’s opponents before him, she starts to size him up, not sensing any strength emanating from him. Although, she does realize he’s holding some kind of strength back. Still, she is confident enough that she will be able to defeat him in “one strike.”
In a complete shock, Iris’s head gets completed hacked off the second the match started. Leaving the audience frozen from what just occurred, the scene shifts to Claire running around looking for Cid and Rose in a robe member walking amongst the town. Then, the scene shifts back to Iris and she is in fact alive. Suddenly, she gets blown away with her head in tact and questions what just happened? By pure instinct, Iris realizes that her body is backing away from Mundane, even though his distance is far back. Sensing that the audience is seeing her weak and that she needs to “keep form,” she rises back up with her sword in hand. Again, the scene flashes to her getting her leg chopped off. She is bewildered by what just happened and starts to understand that Mundane actually has the range to cut her from any part of the ring.
With great anticipation of a hyped fight and nearing an arc’s climatic plot point, this fits the bill as a “holy f**k, I’m literally shocked.” How far can the presentation and theatrics take us into believing something as significant as Iris dying in the middle of a fight occurred?! Not going to lie, I thought she actually died for a moment.
That would have been completely left field if Mundane actually killed Iris. It absolutely made me question Cid for the first time about his moral and ethics. Using a scene with Claire and Rose for a brief moment, gave me enough time to process what the hell just happened with Iris. This was brilliantly done.
This scene deserved so much praise because the climatic moment within the plot is here. There’s a significant amount of information to unpack from basically 2 minutes. To show Mundane’s strength, the presentation and deliverance of his actual strength was just terrifying. The writer could have gone multiple routs in this fight, but instead used kind of like this “after-image” kind of scene to shock the audience, making the audience absolutely think something happened by using scenes that shows “what would have happened.” This was definitely out of my expectation. When everyone expects a particular outcome, the presentation and delivery matters the most. Here, the choice of what kind of emotions the writer wanted the audience to feel could have been action packed or even humorous. It looks like the perfect choice was “shock” and utter brutality. And boy, did that freaking deliver!
Jumping away from the fight, Rose arrives to the Bushin Festival, inside the building. Expecting heavy security, it appears that someone already got there before her, seeing a pool of dead cult members lying in the hallway with civilians tied up. Shadow Garden shows up tells Rose to “proceed with her mission.” Rose takes off her robe and grabs her sword out of her backpack.
What came of this scene was what Rose’s “mission” is? What is it that she is trying to prove?
Moving back and forth between the fight and Rose, Iris is constantly “hallucinating” Mundane’s attacks against her. Without a shadow of a doubt, she acknowledges this is all Mundane’s own powers. Seeing Iris’s flustered showing, the audience starts to question what in the holy mid is happening her. All of her insecurities start to bottle up. Her battle aura releases with a bright glow like she’s some kind of Super Saiyan God and she blindly attacks Mundane. In the middle of her attack, she notices his sword is missing in his hand and was actually sheathed all along. Frighteningly, she concludes that Mundane was intentionally deceiving her to show just how many light years ahead he is.
All the scenes up to this point, just shows how incredibly backed into a corner Iris was. These are the exact moments where characters reveal something unknown, except it was clear that Iris had absolutely no answers for Mundane.
Mundane blocks her attack with the backside of his hand and uses his other to choke slam Iris to the ground, unsheathing his sword and presenting it to her neck. Mundane questions Iris’s strength, “what’s wrong? We are just getting started.” Ominously, a lightning strikes in the background with a thunderous roar and the scene shows Iris’s sword completely shattered on the ground.
There’s so many layers to what is happening here from a comedic sense. Cid planned all of this out and this is his first time in Mundane’s form, to show how God-tier he is, stepping away from his intentional “background” role as Cid. Cid pretending to be the role, by actually being the role is one of my favorite aspects to his character. He’s literally Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder for me.
Rose Does the Unthinkable
It shifts to King Midgar grinning in disappointment and walking off. Asshat is in pure disbelief to witness Mundane’s “stunt” with the sword in hand and sheath maneuver. He believes that no one could have did what Mundane just did until he notices Beatrix talking to herself, saying “that was an amazing technique” and that she “wants to fight him.”
Looking back, that was actually a foreshadowing moment..
Rose walks across the the upper high class audience to greet Asshat, to his delight. She bows on one knee to apologize to King Oriana and that she will ultimately “walk her own path.” King Oriana breaks part of the drug’s effects to say, “I forgive all of your sins.” Rose cries with tears dripping down her chin and Asshat yells out loud that he “didn’t instruct him to say that!”
In the middle of Asshat screaming at King Oriana, Rose makes a move towards Asshat and Asshat does what every bad guy does, human shield! In these kinds of moments, you’d expect the loving daughter to stop her attack on her loving father, but nope. Rose is a new kind of lady, one willing to take out her father for the greater good. Asshat becomes shocked because of Rose’s actions and how it flips his plans.
This is an example of what makes episode incredible. First, they tease us with Iris getting beheaded. Now, they actually pull through with a similar kind of event that most people wouldn’t think a character like Rose would do.
Then, Rose brings her sword to her neck in an attempt to kill herself and Asshat sends his men to stop her before she can give him the key. All of the sudden, Mundane Mann blasts himself through the window to stop Rose and the cult members stating, “is that the choice you’ve made?”
Utter confusion and flabbergasted by Rose’s actions. I don’t think I quite get the logic of Rose killing her own father and her killing herself, besides doing so to stop Asshat.
I was wondering if the match between Iris and Mundane would continue. It looks like when Mundane walked away from Iris in an earlier scene, it was actually over, over. Rose’s suicide attempt did serve as a pretty damn good point for Mundane to swoop in to become Shadow.
Mundane Mann slashes all the cult members down, except Asshat. In unison with Rose’s flashback with Cid saving Rose from the bandits, it appears that a similar scene happened once again. Mundane decides it’s time for his big unveiling and his slime skin start to emerge to reveal himself to be Shadow! Redoing his voice by purposefully making it deeper, he announces that he is “Shadow.” In the middle of saying “Shadow,” Rose says, “Stylish Bandit Slayer.”
Think about how the episode started off with Iris showing flashbacks of her youth and how she got to where she’s at. This was a great theme for the episode to show both Rose’s and Iris’s development as characters, however a bit more humorous for Rose as we’ll see coming up.
Rose Flashback with Cid Backstory
As teased in prior episodes, Rose was motivated by this kid with a bag on his head that slaughtered all of these bandits. It was obviously Cid, but the details of the event was never fully revealed. It looked like Rose was actually kidnapped like Akane, Claire and Alexia was in prior arcs. Cid hilariously slaughtered all of these men and this is where Rose felt inspired to be a fencer. This is also where Rose asks this “brown bagged” kid what his name was. This is where Cid came up with “Stylish Bandit Slayer.”
Focusing clearly on heavy character development and serious plot moments, this scene took a step back to make us remember just how hilarious the backstory is for these characters and their motivations. Using Cid’s “overkill dialogue” as dark humor of slaughtering the bandits balances out the episode to give it that hint of The Eminence in Shadow humorous magic.
It switches back to the present as Cid mentions how he didn’t know that was Rose. Rose, inspired once again by “Stylish Bandit Slayer” or Shadow, says how much she is still frightened, but still has the strength within her to fight. Shadow gives her some words of encouragement and she runs off. Asshat calls for “reinforcement,” but everyone is dead, so the only person left that could accept his call for help was Beatrix and so she did.
Beatrix Versus Shadow To Be Continued..
Beatrix clashes swords with Shadow as epic music starts playing in the background and the animation starts to ramp up. With the rain and thunder teasing the audience for this epic matchup prior to the episode, their fight takes to the roof, where the battlefield is pouring rain and thundering in the background as the screen goes white for the cliffhanger.
Given how much Cid has hinted at how strong Beatrix is and Asshat revealing that she likely unlocked her “Hero’s Blood,” this is setup to be that all out epic climatic fight that this show has been evading for the whole season.
This might be THE perfect episode for The Eminence in Shadow. An array of emotions, a masterful execution of Mundane Mann versus Iris, an incredible misdirection of events leading to Shadow fighting Beatrix; this episode is “HIM” if HIM was in a form of an episode. Everything we would want to come from this episode, occurred. Iris’s character development, Asshat showing wit as an antagonist, that incredibly epic and shocking beheading of Iris, Rose killing her father and to top it off with the hilarious backstory of how Cid & Rose first met. There were so many moving parts and it all culminated with this perfect ending with Shadow’s toughest opponent yet, the unlocked hero’s blood Beatrix.
Of course, every episode can’t just end without some kind of plot worthy cliffhanger. That cliffhanger was the escape of Perv Asshat as Beatrix decides to fight Shadow herself. That likely leads to his demise by the hands of Shadow Garden, but it’ll be nice to see what comes of Asshat. He has so much more potential to be a long lasting antagonist, a trust “asshat” indeed.
All of the arcs prior, sensibly act as crescendos for this arc. Given how much the previous arc revealed about the Cult of Diablos and Aurora, this arc is more human-centric, which makes it that much more relatable, making it feel like it means that much more. Cid facing his toughest opponent so far, Iris facing failure and Rose being Rose and Asshat doing his best as the antagonist all melted so well in this episode. It’s impressive to watch all of these characters come together in one cohesive episode, creating a truly entertaining experience from start to finish. Besides the high rating I gave the very first episode, this one is by far the best one.
It is a perfect 10/10!
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