Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) (2008-2009)
- by Toshiya Shinohara
- 24 episodes +1 OVA
- based on manga
The anime tells the story of a 13 year old boy named Ciel Phantomhive who suffered a secret tragedy in his past. As a last resort, he unintentionally summoned a demon and formed a contract. He exchanged his soul for vengeance on those who had killed his parents. To do so, the demon called Sebastian disguises as a butler to serve his young master Ciel. Just like his parents, Ciel works for Her Majesty and is therefore known as the “Queen’s Guard Dog”. He solves crimes in London’s underworld with his loyal butler who represents a perfect servant of the Phantomhive household. Indeed, he is actually “one hell of a butler” with inhuman abilities who carries out every order of his master. Both form a perfect team to clean the underworld of London.
The anime series can be classified as dark comedy. The setting takes place in Great Britain during the Victorian age. Some historical background of England is also shown in the anime series. For instance, the construction of the famous Tower Bridge and the appearance of the serial killer Jack The Ripper and his crimes. In addition, characters wear clothes from the past and drive carriages. The storyline and concept is fascinating: the combination of a little child and a demon is an awesome choice for a plot. The anime series consists of mysterious elements until the end.
Many funny elements are included. A funeral director and one of the most important informant of the underworld named Undertaker gives the anime a comic relief. He asks for a good joke if someone needs information from him. In addition, his unique laugh and creepy giggles are very amusing. He likes to frighten others such as hiding himself in a coffin. Another character who brings much fun into the anime series is Grell Sutcliff. He is a shinigami who has an outspoken personality. His main goal is to seduce Sebastian and annoys him with his repetition of his ‘declaration of love’. Besides those two characters, the conversation and interactions between the main characters (Sebastian and Ciel) are very entertaining: Ciel as an arrogant and strict boy when it comes to order vs. Sebastian who has a strong sense of duty and carry all of Ciel’s orders. Another funny aspect is that Ciel is the only one (human) who knows about Sebastian’s real identity (demon). It is very amusing to see others’ reaction as they see Sebastian appearing from nowhere in front of them to save his master. For instance, a scene where Ciel got almost shot in the head in short distance and Sebastian managed to catch the bullet.
Sebastian hates not complying with the plan: He calculates to be back right on time to prepare dinner or afternoon tea for his master. He even apologizes in one episode for being late and having failed as a good butler by having not prepared dinner on time. Another character who lightens the anime up is Lizzy (Elizabeth), Ciel’s financée. She always wants Ciel to look cute even his mansion therefore she once decorates his mansion with pink hearts and flowers. Moreober, Ciel once dresses up as a girl to find Jack The Ripper. The scene of how Sebastian helps Ciel putting on the corset and Ciel’s bashful reaction.
The anime does not only consist many comedy aspects but is also filled with plenty supernatural effects. Clearly Sebastian as a demon has many inhuman abilities. While Ciel is in danger, Sebastian saves and always protects him mostly in an inhuman way. In fact, suspense is created during the anime by always wondering and asking how Sebastian is going to save his “botchan” (young master) again. Those rescue missions are mostly filled with fighting scenes where Sebastian uses kitchenware such as knives and forks to kill his enemies. He also has another form apart from his handsome and beautiful one as a butler. His demonic form contains of sharp teeth, slit pupils, glowing red crimson eyes and black high heeled boots. The most hatred creatures of Sebastian are clearly Grim Reapers. Grell Sutcliff and William T. Spears (part of the Management Division) are the only two shinigamis appearing in the first season of Kuroshitsuji. The task of the Grim Reapers also called shinigamis are very well explained: their job is to check each dying soul’s memories to determine if they deserve to die or not.
Moreover, one can say that “Kuroshitsuji” also addresses social themes. For instance, the appearance of the shinigami Grell. Grell Sutcliff is a male but he clearly wants to be a woman by using female pronouns and behaving very feminine. He also has a more feminine look. Another social theme in this anime series is the depiction of the post-traumatic stress disorder also called PTSD. This syndrome affects the main protagonist Ciel Phantomhive who is still suffering from the torture he had to go through in his past. The PTSD syndrome can also be noticed in Baldroy’s personality as a veteran. In addition, many emotional scenes are included. The most heartrending scene is Ciel’s past with the loss of his parents meaning the loss of his life as a child. From this moment, he has to become an adult. He was kidnapped, tortured and humiliated which is a very awful experience for a 10 year old boy.
Kuroshitsuji is filled with many suspenses and curiosities. While watching the anime series, we always wanted to know what Ciel’s plans are and how his butler Sebastian helps him in his unique and inhumane way. It is very thrilling because unexpected things happen. The audience is curious to find out about Ciel’s past and who the torturer are. The following question will come up: Will he and his butler ever find the torturer and murderer of his parents?
With 10 years, Ciel has lost his parents and suffered torture and humiliation. Now, he is the Earl of the Phantomhive family and inherited the Funtom Company (a confectionery and toy company). For his young age, he is very proud, arrogant and seldomly smiles (because of his traumatic past). He lives a luxurious life which means that he does not do anything by himself such as showering and dressing. Those tasks are fulfilled by his butler Sebastian, therefore Ciel seems to be dependent on him. The mature and proud personality of Ciel Phantomhive is sometimes very funny. Especially in scenes when he is put into embarrassing, self-conscious situations.
Sebastian has a strong sense of duty to his master and he is very determined. The fact that he is a demon, he does not sleep. At night, he mostly performs tasks for Ciel. His most famous respond to Ciel’s demands is ’Yes, my lord!’ He protects his master with his life and uses supernatural and inhuman methods. He does not like humans and therefore he prefers cats over them. He is very fond of cats which gives the anime a comic relief. Sebastian’s joy and satisfaction while killing and after having killed humans is very amusing. You can see a big smile on his face. His easy handling with killing people and doing the household is humorous.
The characters have creative and unique personalities, which means that no character is two dimensional. The anime series shows characters from different cultures such as India (Prince Soma and Agni) and China (Lau, Ran-Mao). For instance, the indian culture is also a bit explained such as Kali, the Hindu Goddess. Further characters are the servants of the Phantomhive mansion. Finnian (the gardener), Baldroy (the cook) and Mey-Rin (the maid) who have different abilities. Another really interesting character is Drossel (Drocell) Keinz. In fact, he is already dead meaning he was reanimated with a temporary soul. However, he does not know that he has no humanity anymore. Being a doll, he is made of wheat and wood and he carries a music box playing the tune of “London Bridge”. Drossel Keinz only appears in the anime series which meaning that he is not a character in the manga.
The art of the animation is perfectly depicted. The setting and the characters are beautiful drawn. The fight scenes are easy to follow especially those between Grell and Sebastian and Sebastian’s usage of kitchenware. The places like London from the Victorian age and Ciel’s mansion are stunning. We also like the various costumes of the characters such as Ciel and Lizzie who wear clothes from the past. For instance, Ciel mostly wears different clothes in every episode which make him look delightful.
The opening theme of the anime is a very good choice. It is very amusing even though it also spoilers the anime a bit. The song of the opening theme is called ‘Monochrome Kiss’ by the band SID. The sound and the music are very well. Especially the song of ‘London Bridge is falling down’ is a very catchy tune. You also hear the Japanese “alternate” version in the anime. Indeed, it is mostly sung by Drossel Keinz who uses different lyrics but the same melody. He sings about the materials the dolls are or will be made off. His song is mostly referred to ‘My Fair Lady’.
In fact, the anime can be divided into two halves. The first one which more or less follows the manga story, is really awesome and mind blowing. Then there is the second half which is, unfortunately, the negative part of the anime. Here comes some reasons why: SPOILER ALERT: The anime includes the appearance of angels (which are not in the manga) instead of the Queen Victoria’s butlers Grey and Phipps Charles. Furthermore, we also don’t like the idea of Queen Victoria fusing with her dead husband’s body which is very confusing. One of the biggest mistake they had done in the anime is the sudden change of Sebastian’s personality. In one episode, he acts very uncommon and uncharacteristic by leaving his master alone without saying anything. I mean this is unimaginable because Sebastian will never do this, NEVER! The end of the anime is very confusing, but wait if you get to Season 2, it is way more confusing. It is really sad that they changed the storyline in the second part.
However, the anime is amusing to watch because of the combination of dark comedy and sad emotions. We were fascinated from the first episode because the plot impressed us. We really like supernatural anime series and this series fits perfectly. We watched the anime series before reading the manga. The anime contains ‘filler’ episodes which are very amusing and interesting to watch such as the episode about the mysterious camera. All in all, we definitely recommend this anime series even though the second part was not very good.