INTERVIEW: Exploring The Eminence in Shadow with Director Kazuya Nakanishi and Producer Kazufumi Kikushima


The Eminence in Shadow is a captivating series where fantastical imaginations and reality intertwine. Anime Trending had the exclusive opportunity to interview Director Kazuya Nakanishi and Producer Kazufumi Kikushima to unravel the beginnings of the TV anime series and gain insights into their roles. From the creative elements to the production process, the director and producer share their thoughts on the recently aired The Eminence in Shadow S2.

Thank you both for your time! Could you please talk about how the TV anime project for The Eminence in Shadow started and what were your thoughts when the production started?

Kazufumi Kikushima: To start with, it was the web series that I knew of. When the book was published, they gave me the base script to start with, and that was the beginning of this whole journey. So, as I turned the pages and saw the illustration of The Eminence of Shadow, right away, I thought, “Oh, this might be a very nice idea to make an animation.”

I had the idea, but I wondered which animation studio should I bring this story presentation to. I went to the animation studio Nexus, but after the first presentation that I gave, they said no. The next day, I got a phone call from them saying, “Oh, just kidding! We would like to take your presentation and make it happen. And the reason why we’re doing this is because Director Nakanishi is a must. If he’s doing this project, then we shall make it happen.”

Kazuya Nakanishi: Around that time, I went to have dinner with the president of Nexus, and we were having a casual conversation about what we were doing next. The president was talking about seeing this script and presentation on his desk, and I felt like I saw the script too, so that was the beginning of my memory of starting this whole journey. 

Kikushima: I felt like this was destiny. It’s fate happening right here. 

For Kazuya Nakanishi-san, you are credited for working on many creative components for the series, including key animation, action animation director, and more. Could you elaborate on what you worked on the creative side and share your philosophy?

Nakanishi: I would like to say that I put 100% into every part of my work. However, if I do that, I won’t be able to finish on time, or someone will have to suffer for it. What I was very aware of was finishing up on time so that everyone else on the team could put 100% of their energy. So they’re the ones putting in 100%, and I would be the one making sure the schedule is on time, so it’s like creating an environment for them to put their energy into it 100%. 

And the producer enjoyed that since everything was on time? 

Kikushima: At first, I couldn’t even believe that he was finishing on time on every section that he covered because it was unbelievably on time. For a second, I thought he had three clones. 

Are there any strategies to ensure things are on schedule? Like reusing scenes that were already animated to help tell the story so that you wouldn’t have to draw them again? 

Nakanishi: I didn’t really reuse scenes that had already been created before. I wasn’t aware of really doing that. 

Kikushima: He already has the perfect picture of the end, so we just have to convey that. He was already a big fan of the original form of The Eminence in Shadow

We’d like to take a moment to spotlight your love and passion for the series. The anime adaptation of The Eminence in Shadow really shows that energy and has made fans incredibly thankful and excited. Could you talk about that?

Nakanishi: It was quite an unexpected fact for me that people loved it because I thought it was interesting, but in the process, I tried to make it in a way that they don’t hate it. It was totally out of nowhere that people loved it so much. 

Kikushima: I can’t even believe that I’m here in New York City now getting interviewed about this series. It’s kind of unbelievable. In the series, there are so many elements that are so Japanese — like Japanese culture, Japanese high school culture, or fantasy elements that Japanese anime and manga have. So, it’s quite unexpected that people love it so much and understand the culture and feel for it. That’s why one of the things I really want to ask today at the panel [and] to the audience is, “Why do you love this series so much?”  

For Kazuya Nakanishi-san, you’ve shared that you’ve storyboarded every episode so far in Season 2 and corrected the action. Could you talk more about that and how you do it?

Nakanishi: In terms of storyboarding, I’ve done pretty much everything as much as I could because I write the first draft, then I give it to someone else, and someone else gets it done and brings it back to me. I always have this idea that, “Oh, maybe we should do this and that,” and I have to explain pretty much everything. So when that happens, I feel so bad. That happened so many times during season 1. So if that happens, I’d rather do it all by myself. That’s quicker and very productive, and that’s what pretty much happened in terms of storyboarding from scriptwriting. 

In terms of the action scenes, I already have this perfect picture in my head. If that fits with someone else’s job, they bring it to me, and if that matches with my image, then it’s ready to go. And if not, then I just rewrite everything, period. 

Kikushima: Usually, no one does it. No one is able to do such a thing. He’s a very fast drawer.


For Kazuya Nakanishi-san, episode 20 from season 1 featured some of the best fighting scenes in anime. Could you talk about the creative process behind adapting and working on that episode?

Nakanishi: From a very long time ago, I’d been eager to do huge battle scenes. I usually read books or anime that involve battling in schools. There is a person or character who is the strongest person or monster. But if it’s in the school, it only happens in the school. What’s the definition of the strongest? It doesn’t happen outside or anywhere else. I really wanted to see what would happen if all the strongest gathered around and fought a huge battle even outside of the school. 

I just wanted to draw the battle scenes without worrying about what would happen next, write them out freely, and see where that’d take us. I just wanted to see the battle scenes. That was one of the things I wanted to try.  

For Kazufumi Kikushima-san, you’ve produced another isekai series, Overlord. Did that experience help you with working on The Eminence in Shadow?

Kikushima: Yes, I’ve done a lot of isekai series in my career. It’s definitely the living and working experience that I had such success with Overlord. The experience definitely helped me so much, and on top of that, it includes the experience of how we sell this product, how we do merchandise, or where we want to take it to. It’s all that kind of experience that has helped me so much. In the company, people call me [the] Isekai Prince.”  

Could you both talk about your working relationship with The Eminence in Shadow? Are there any funny or memorable moments you could share from working on the series?

Nakanishi: One thing I could call very interesting and unique — but at the same time a pain in the ass — is when I give my staff members directions, “I want it that way, this way, etc.” I see the final product from them, and I’m like, “Uhh, this is not what I was expecting for this direction.” 

And as an artist, it’s very interesting to see the differences in perspective, but at the same time, that means I have to figure out how to work it out with this. So it’s both sides of a coin. It’s not only the differences of understanding, but at the same time, the reactions of the audience abroad outside of Japan. 

Kikushima: When I first started working with Director Nakanishi, I was amazed by how much he works. Like, “Are you a robot?” kind of surprise. Also, I just wanted to prepare the perfect environment for the director to draw freely. That was one of my goals so that he can work and concentrate on what he needs to do. That ended up leading to this huge success internationally, and we were invited here. So, getting all those positive reactions from overseas fans says everything. 

We had the chance to talk to Seichirou Yamashita at Anime Expo 2023. Could you both talk about how the cast came together and their involvement with the anime series?

Nakanishi: It’s basically an audition in terms of the main characters. Some of them were suggestions or recommendations from the sound director. Overall, they said yes to our offer, so all the cast members were everything we wanted it to be. 

We are now in the second season of The Eminence in Shadow, and it’s currently ongoing. Could you comment on what fans can expect as we come to the end of Season 2?

Nakanishi: That took place in the last episode of season 1, and it’s going to be a conclusion of that in season 2. So please look forward to what will happen next in the series.

Kikushima: Because fans loved the first season so much, we were able to make the next season and move on to season 2. I really, really appreciate all the support from the fans, including the staff members. There are going to be a lot of surprises in season 2, including that, the thing the director mentioned, so please look forward to it. 

Could you both please share any final comments for the fans of The Eminence in Shadow?

Nakanishi: All the team members on my team put everything into this project. So if you could fill that passion and energy through this anime series, that would be fantastic, and I appreciate everyone’s support. 

Kikushima: Now that we were invited to this country for Anime NYC, I’m very humble and grateful for this incredible opportunity. Even here, hearing the voices of actual fans in person is a phenomenal experience for us. As we are working on this project, hearing all the support, voices, and positive comments supports us in moving forward. So we put that into everything in this series. If the fans abroad could receive our passion, that would be fantastic. Thank you very much. I want to travel around the world to visit all the countries on this planet, so I would be very glad if they could invite us to every country. 

We’ll share this with the world and let them know. Thank you so much!

The Eminence in Shadow is currently streaming on HIDIVE. 

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