Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) Review - "One Hell of a Butler"


Sebastian Michaelis Kuroshitsuji

One Hell of a Butler

  • Episodes : 24
  • Genre : Action, Demons, Fantasy, Supernatural, Shounen, Historical, Comedy
  • Airing Date : Oct 2008 – Mar 2009
  • Producers : A-1 Pictures, Aniplex, Mainichi Broadcasting, Movic, Square Enix, Trinity Sound, Yomiko Advertising, FUNimation Entertainment

Kuroshitsuji Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

Ciel Phantomhive led the fine, carefree life of an English aristocrat — until he finds his parents and dog dead on his tenth birthday. Shortly afterwards, he's captured by a mysterious cult-like group that wants to sacrifice him for some unknown reason.

As the group prepares to do their horrible deed, a demon appears before Ciel, and offers to grant him his wishes in exchange for his soul. Ciel accepts the offer, and orders the demon to slaughter his captors. Afterwards, Ciel rises to become the new head of the Phantomhive household, and plots revenge on those who murdered his parents and mistreated him. He becomes the Queen of England's "watchdog", and appoints a handsome, refined and competent young man named Sebastian Michaelis as his butler. Naturally, there's more to Sebastian than meets the eye.

kuroshitsuji wallpaper

Who does Kuroshitsuji cater to?

Kuroshitsuji is, first and foremost, a story of the complicated relationship between Ciel and Sebastian. You can interpret it in a "shippy" way, or you can view it as two individuals using each other for their own ends. Whether you're a BL/yaoi/shounen-ai fan or not, their relationship is interesting to watch.

Not that the show's entirely about homoerotic subtext. As the Queen's Watchdog, Ciel is responsible for getting to the bottom of difficult cases, such as Jack the Ripper's killing spree across London, which will surely appeal to mystery fans.

Also, if you're fascinated with Victorian England, this is a great show to watch. The author took pains to capture the look and feel of the time period, while throwing in a gripping story in the process. For those who enjoy works like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, there's no shortage of material to fanboy/fangirl in Kuroshitsuji.

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

The first thing you'll notice about Kuroshitsuji is the art. It's gorgeous, as you can expect from a show set in 19th Century England, but it also complements the dark story very well. There's just something disturbing about watching a pretty woman in elegant clothes die a violent death on-screen.

The second thing you'll notice is the characters. For example, it's not easy to like Ciel, who's an iron-willed, calculating and somewhat amoral aristocrat. But if you consider how he has a Batman-like backstory, and how he's just a 12-year-old boy, you can still sympathize with him to an extent.

As for Sebastian, well, let's just say there's a reason he has a gigantic horde of fangirls. He's the perfect butler: suave, good-looking, reliable, talented and mysterious. What's not to like about him? Okay, maybe the fact that he's from an, er, "fiery" and "otherworldly" place that none of us would wish to live in, even if we're offered a lifetime supply of our favorite food.

The rest of the cast isn't shabby either. All of them seem like stereotypical, idiosyncratic people at first glance, until their backstories are revealed. That's when you realize how complicated and messed up they really are. Hey, complicated characters are interesting, right?

As for the basic plot, it's pretty simple. Will Sebastian obtain Ciel's soul, or will Ciel find some loophole in the contract and escape it somehow? You could say that this is the thread that binds all the story arcs together, even with all the craziness going on in the series.

Let's not forget the music. The songs "Monochrome Kiss" by SID and "Lacrimosa" by Kalafina both fit the series to a T. One ending song, "I'm Alive!" by Becca, seems a bit too upbeat for Kuroshitsuji, but I suppose it contrasts — and therefore brings out — the grim atmosphere of the show, in the same way that black brings out white, and vice versa.

Overall, Kuroshitsuji is an enjoyable watch. It's a nice addition to the supernatural-slash-mystery-slash-Victorian genre, and puts an interesting spin on the idea of morality: Is it worth it to gain the world in exchange for your soul, or is there something else more important? Tune in to the series to find out.

Kuroshitsuji Trailer

Kuroshitsuji Main Characters List

Ciel Phantomhive

kuroshitsuji-ciel-prof

Voice Actor :Sakamoto, Maaya

As the 12-year-old head of the Phantomhive family, Ciel is mature and steely beyond his years. He has his hands full running the Funtom Company, a toys and sweets-making business, on top of his responsibilities as the Queen's Watchdog. He used to be a sweet, cheerful child, until the death of his parents turns his world upside-down, and transforms him into an aloof, abrasive young man with little sympathy for people in general. However, he seems to care enough for his fiancée Elizabeth, as shown when he goes to great lengths to save her when she's in trouble. He wears a patch on his right eye to conceal the proof of his contract with Sebastian.

Sebastian Michaelis

kuroshitusuji- sebastian-prof

Voice Actor :Ono, Daisuke

When Sebastian says "I am one hell of a butler", he's not kidding. A powerful and attractive demon, he is capable of accomplishing tasks that no ordinary butler can. He is bound to Ciel by a Faustian contract, evidenced by matching symbols on his left hand and on Ciel's covered eye. He encourages Ciel's amoral tendencies, because he believes it will make the boy's soul more delicious. Hilariously enough, Sebastian is named after Ciel's dead dog, even though the demon doesn't like dogs.


Contains Spoilers

Kuroshitsuji Review

I first heard about Kuroshitsuji from a yaoi fangirl friend.

It was sometime around 2009, when the series came out. We were idling around in one of our university's computer labs, when she suddenly asked me if I was familiar with the series. I said "No".

Lucky for me, she's not the type to keep her fandoms to herself. So she opened her computer's browser, and showed me the Wikipedia entry. As soon as I saw Sebastian's picture, I was sold.

Next thing I knew, I borrowed her copy of the series, marathoned it, and fell into the world of BL, never to come back out again.

Okay, Kuroshitsuji isn't "technically" a BL series. There are no blatant lovey-dovey scenes between Ciel and Sebastian, or between any other shippable slash/non-slash couple for that matter. Also, you won't find the words "shounen-ai" or "yaoi" on any of the genre lists on this anime.

But c'mon, let's be honest: This series is absolutely throbbing (ehem) with homoerotic subtext.

From the very first scene, we're treated to a sight of Ciel naked on a platform, with Sebastian's voice talking to him about "granting his wishes" as long as he's willing to sign a Faustian contract. It's like a twisted version of the "handsome prince falls in love with distressed princess before saving her" trope.

Black Butler wallpaper 03

Afterwards, it's all downhill — or uphill, depending on your point of view — from there. As Ciel's butler, Sebastian is responsible for his ward from the time he wakes up, until the time he falls asleep. You can imagine how this routine inspired truckloads of R+18 Ciel x Sebastian fanfics.

And the corset scene. Goodness, the corset scene. If I had any doubts on whether the series was supposed to appeal to BL fans, they all went "Kaboom" the moment it happened. Granted, it wasn't really what viewers thought it was, but the fact that the animators put it there means they know their fanbase all too well.

Oh, and one more thing: If you compare Sebastian with Vincent Phantomhive, Ciel's father, you'll notice that they look very much alike. And considering how Ciel is supposed to grow up to look like Vincent, this… raises some very interesting implications about the future.

The reason I just spent 300+ words rambling about the "ho yay" is because, as I mentioned earlier, this anime is mainly about Ciel and Sebastian's relationship. We notice how Ciel is gradually being influenced by Sebastian, and the possibility that it's working the other way around too. Of course, you're free to interpret their relationship in a non-romantic way, but it's not hard to see why the Ciel x Sebastian pairing is so popular in the fandom.

And even if you don't care for pairings in general, it's still possible to find something to love in this anime. There's the gray-and-gray morality, for instance. No one in this series is truly evil or good — not even the angels and demons. If you have an iron-clad view of what's right and wrong, the themes presented by this series will shake you to the core. Also, you have these wonderful highlights:

1. Solving the Mysteries

kuroshitsuji review Solving the Mysteries

I mentioned earlier that the notorious Jack the Ripper makes an appearance in this series. Well, he's not the only one, that's for sure. The show also has shout-outs to other Victorian legends like demon hounds, castle-bound ghosts and cursed jewelry. I remember reading a lot about those stuff before watching Kuroshitsuji, so it was a real treat when I saw them used the way this anime did. Of course, watching Ciel and Sebastian work together to unravel those mysteries is fun, too.

2. The Shinigami

kuroshitsuji review The Shinigami

Also known as "Grim Reapers", the Shinigami are neutral beings for the most part. Their duties include collecting souls of the dead, judging whether a dying person should pass on, and avoiding interference with human affairs. They vary in personality, from the quirky (Grell Sutcliff) to the no-nonsense (William T. Spears). Grell, in particular, is notable for her role in the Jack the Ripper arc, and her unflappable crush on Sebastian (much to the demon's chagrin).

3. Angela Blanc/Ash Landers

kuroshitsuji review Angela Blanc

Angela/Ash may be an angel, but s/he's definitely not someone you want as your guardian. Obsessed with "cleanliness", s/he purifies — which is to say, kill — souls soaked to the brim with negative emotions. Naturally, s/he clashes with Ciel and his cohorts, and it ends about as well as you expect it would. S/he appears only in the anime.


The anime continues with a second season (which aired in 2010) and a third season (which aired in 2014). Since the manga is still on-going, we can expect more adaptations of Kuroshitsuji in the future, such as the film below:

Black Butler Official Trailer 2014

To be honest, I didn't expect to like Kuroshitsuji — and BL in general — at first. But the moment I gave it a try, I knew I would never be the same since then. Hopefully, this anime will have that effect on you too, and if it does, let's talk about it in the comments!

Issa M.

Writer

Author: Issa M.

Issa is a pen-wielding mercenary by day, and an anime fangirl by night. She might seem anti-social at first, but she's actually quite friendly once you get to know her. Also, she's learned to like Google+ after getting locked out of her own Twitter account for some mysterious reason, so say hello to her there!

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