Black Butler

Japanese Title: Kuroshitsuji
Genre: Drama
Format: 24 Episodes
Allegiance: A-1 Pictures
Director: Shinohara Toshiya
Vintage: 2008
Intelligence Agency Report by: Amaranth
Twelve-year-old earl Ciel Phantomhive is the head of the popular Funtom Company, a British corporation that specializes in toy-making and sweets. At the bidding of Queen Victoria, the young orphan frequently dives into the seedy underbelly of London to solve various societal and political problems, earning him the nickname of “The Queen’s Guard Dog.” As the rest of the mansion’s servants are generally portrayed as a band of bumbling misfits, Ciel is forced to go to extreme measures to hire a butler of masterful skill to help him run the household and complete his fairly regular tasks for the Queen. Just how good is Sebastian Michealis? You might say he’s one hell of a butler…

Field Agent Report by: Amaranth
Overall 9.50

At first, I was a bit skeptical about watching Black Butler, due to a friend’s bored indifference towards the manga version. However, curiosity eventually won me over, and I’m happy to say that I was both surprised and extremely pleased with what I saw. The captivating artwork, entrancing plot, and entertaining characters make this series one definitely worth checking out.

The audio and visual styles used within Black Butler are interesting, nicely-placed, and very well done. The artwork is detailed and complex, without being overpowering. The scenery and costumes are also excellent, being period-appropriate for nineteenth century Europe. The outfits of Ciel Phantomhive in particular are very intricately designed, with just a tinge of gothic flair added to his English noble clothing. As for the audio, the music choices within the show itself were attention-grabbing and diverse, ranging from brass to classical to Indian. The opening and ending themes were well-suited to the premise of the show, and went excellently with the visual sequences that were provided for them. The Japanese voice acting was also nicely done, giving each of the characters a distinct vocal personality without underplaying them or going overboard.

The plot in Black Butler makes use of story arcs, having sub-plots that run for three episodes that contribute to the overarching plot as a whole. It’s not often that I see a plot style like this, and it can be difficult to pull off if not done correctly. Thankfully, this anime makes nice use of the smaller story arcs, using them to build up details necessary to the overall plot later on. As a whole, the plot line gets rather complex over time, but I feel that despite the intricacies, it’s still easy to follow without being confusing. There are also some very unexpected twists and turns throughout the series, some of which I felt completely redirected the plot without appearing to have randomly come out of nowhere. The story line is fascinating, and will likely keep you in suspense for a majority of the episodes. At its base level, this story is about a young, noble orphan who works for the queen of England and figures out some very interesting secrets in the process. I would love to go into more detail, but it would ruin the suspense, and this is one series best watched totally unspoiled.

The aspect that makes Black Butler so wonderful, at the end of the day, is the use of the show’s characters. Each of the main characters is dynamic in their growth throughout the plot. Ciel comes to realize the importance of the people close to him, coming to terms with the hatred he has felt since losing his parents in a terrible house fire. Sebastian grows incredibly fond of his young master as the show progresses, going to any lengths to save his life, even beyond the contractual agreement between them. Even the supporting servants of the Phantomhive mansion surprise you as the story continues. I could go more into detail about Finnian (the gardener), Mei-Lin (the maid), and Baldroy (the chef), but I worry that it might spoil the fun for you. Those characters are best left experienced from the beginning, without knowing how things end for them.

The steward of the mansion, Tanaka, is an older gentleman who has served in the Phantomhive household since Ciel’s father was young. He spends most of the series in a deflated chibi form, only recovering to full-size to deliver important information to the characters. According to the members of the household, he’s very low on energy, and can only speak after resting and drinking dubious amounts of Japanese tea. This tends to be a fun little character trait that pops up throughout the show. There are numerous other characters that make their way through Ciel’s life and leave an impact as well, all of whom play an important part in the overall plot. I found this point to be particularly important for Black Butler, because it leaves the story well-rounded and free of unnecessary fanservice or plot-filler. All of the characters in the anime are uniquely created, and wonderfully charismatic. They pull together the storyline nicely, and do a great job of connecting emotionally with each other, as well as the viewer.

Finally, I would highly recommend this anime to anyone that even vaguely thinks that they might like it. Black Butler is interesting, exciting, and thorough in its delivery of Ciel’s story. The presentation of the plot and personal growth of the characters left a very deep impact on me, so much so that I’ve already bought the first volume of manga, and fully intend to purchase the rest of them. I think it’s safe to say that this series may just be my new favorite.