By way of a re-introduction, let’s recap the pieces missing from my last post: Hai! Once a month join me on this post to read a bit about my torrid steamy messy romance with the world of Japanese animated series and films. This affair began at some point near the start of high school (more years ago than we will mention) and has persisted through the passionate highs and lows of accessibility, terrible translations and sometimes highly questionable voiceover acting. Just for fun I’ll throw in the occasional tidbit about life as a Canadian who moved from Vancouver to the anime hotbed that is Alabama <end sarcasm>.
If I couldn’t write about this anime, what kind of a blogger would I be?
Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) began as manga written and illustrated by Yana Toboso. This brilliant little gem of a story has since spawned the initial anime series, a sequel, a spin-off OVA, and a musical adaptation. A square Enix production, the original series is distributed by Aniplex, but an English dubbed version, produced by Funimation, is available for those who don’t enjoy reading subtitles. In this case, I really loved the dubbed option since Funimation does a stellar job of selecting voice actors. If you went ahead and tried FMA Brotherhood after last month’s article you may recognize a few of the voices in Black Butler (the more shows you watch, the more voices you’ll begin to recognize when it comes to dubbed anime). While more than one season of the anime exists, I’m still terribly biased in my love for the first, so that’s what I’ve confined myself to for this article.
Kuroshitsuji is the story of a boy and his butler. But lest you think this is an average tale about a rich kid and his servant, be aware that Sebastian Michaelis is “one Hell of a butler”.
The story revolves around the life of the orphaned Ciel Phantomhive. After the brutal murder of his parents, Ciel sets out to get revenge through any means necessary. All the while acting the part of the loyal Earl of Phantomhive and devoted servant to the crown of England. As he is only 12 at the time of his parents’ death the crux of his revenge is a contract which will give him an ally powerful enough to carry out his will for vengeance.
Enter the butler. I don’t know any men who can, with subtle grace and flair, set a table, prune a rose bush or brew a perfect cup of tea. This is likely because Sebastian is a Demon who has taken on human form. (I suppose I should stop wishing for my husband to offer me tea with fresh desserts every afternoon…) Sebastian is enigmatic, his interest in and disdain for the human race are often at odds. Bound to Ciel until the ultimate fulfillment of their contract, he is sworn to protect the boy but still delights in pushing the boundaries of Ciel’s physical safety. While he insists that any good butler would follow the commands of his master to the letter, he constantly questions and challenges Ciel’s decisions.
Witty and dynamic, it is easy to forget that Sebastian is, at best, an amoral Demon motivated only by two ideals: Being a perfect butler, and orchestrating situations to sculpt the Lord Phantomhive into a soul worth consuming. As a demon he has no ties of loyalty or honour, only his aesthetic to fulfill the terms of his contract and what may be construed as his sense of pride. That, and his love of cats
While Black Butler is a dark story filled with tragedy and ultimately the rejection of salvation, it is also a brilliantly crafted narrative faceted with comedy and clever character development. The host of supporting characters make this anime all the more worth watching and frequently serve to show Ciels depth of character when he would otherwise seem completely emotionally stunted.
The household staff at the Phantomhive mansion frequently suffer the brunt of Sebastian’s displeasure in that they cannot behave in a manner more befitting their stations. Their dedicated and fervent ineptitude provide ample source of comedic relief. While their back stories are not explored in enough detail to have completely satisfied all of my curiosity they are, nevertheless, endearing and a great foil for both Sebastian and Ciel.
I hate to pick favorites, but it’s hard not to develop a soft spot for Grell. This Death God parades through episodes with outrageous flirtation and awkward romantic fantasies about Sebastian. His ability to earn demotions within his order almost seems to require as much skill as the job itself. And, what would a reaper be without a creepy obsession with his death scythe?
The Viscount Druitt
Obsessed with the pursuit of beauty, art,and sensual experience,but is he really a villain or just a rake?
Macabre, more than a little creepy and possibly the most well informed man in London’s underworld. All the information you want and more than you need for the price of true laughter.
There’s something wrong with a giggling undertaker…
Notorious opium den operator, mobster, and philosopher. Was it Zhou who dreamt of being the butterfly, or the butterfly who dreamt of being Zhou?
All of these characters, and others I’ve left for you to discover, interact with sometimes heart wrenching complexity through a world more suited to loss than happy endings. While I could spend ages speculating on the less than subtle sexual themes of the show, rampant androgyny and gender ambiguity, not to mention the abundance of yaoi fodder for fanfic writers everywhere, ultimately, the anime is the story of a game. From the first episode to the last, the tale is that of a chess match played with brutal certainty and Ciel’s commitment to seeing out his revenge, even at the cost of each and every one of his pawns.
Watch it. That is all.
In the mean time… Most recently I’ve finished: RIN – Daughters of Mnemosyne, definitely not going on my recommended list, unless you’re in to convoluted plots interspersed with gratuitous sexcapades and pointless nudity. Not to say it didn’t have any redeeming features, but I’m not sure it was even worth the six episodes it got.
I’m currently watching: Aria – The Scarlett Ammo, three episodes in and not only am I interested in the plot, but the characters are also quirky and endearing. More on that once I’ve finished the series.
Up Next: Now I’ve Got a Fire In My Belly!