In late-nineteenth century England, one year and three months after the dramatic conclusion of the original series, Kuroshitsuji II introduces a new butler and young master. The sadistic yet cheerful Alois Trancy has faced some harsh times. He was kidnapped as a baby, and was forced to work in a village as a slave. Gradually, he lost his parents, his best friend, and everyone he knew. Alois eventually returned home and became the head of his mansion, but seemed to exhibit some strange behavior ever since. Even more curiously, he returned with Claude Faustus, an enigmatic, emotionless butler with unfathomable talent...
Kuroshitsuji II is a sequel to the first season with an anime-original story, completely unrelated to the manga storyline, adding new characters as well. The sequel following the original manga story is Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus.
Sequels can be a dangerous territory to tread on. Especially ones for shows that already do not follow the manga but instead, creates its own story. On one hand it has the job of following and wrapping up the previous season’s (to an extent, “original”) storyline and on the other hand, pleasing the fans. To many, Black Butler II has done neither and to others it has done more than that: in other words, there is a clear division between fans.
Let’s get the technicalities out of the way. The art and animation is as beautiful and Victorian-Gothic as the first season, though the animation did slip at times. New pieces of music by Taku Iwasaki (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Soul Eater) are introduced along with new characters, thus being their character theme songs. And he sure does not disappoint. Again, in keeping with the theme of high class Victorian England classical music (or pieces that are inspired by those roots) are used, violin being the most distinct sound out of the instruments. Animation for the OP is taken up a notch and again we have two sets of animation for the OP song “SHIVER”; both of which were fitting to the song and showed two different styles of art; the first animation being the more unique and visually stimulating one.
Now that sound and art is covered, time to sink our teeth into the real meat of it.
So how does one solve the problem of concluding the story from season one, especially with the amount of mess it had been put into? Why, just create a couple of new characters, slap ‘em in and you can create all sorts of plot lines and justifications.
Enter (or rather waltzes and tap dances in) our scapegoats; Alois Trancy, a bipolar; sadistic; misogynistic and rather scantily clad fourteen year old boy and his poker-faced butler, Claude Faustus. Along with the beautiful dark skinned maid, Hannah Annafellows and the silent triplet servants you have yourself the Trancy Household.
Already the anime is set up for a Trancy VS Phantomhive storyline, and it indeed takes that turn, for the better part of the show anyway. Simultaneously it tells us of the involvement of the new master and butler to Ciel’s own past. Easy isn’t it, to just make up characters for the convenience of the story? True, it isn’t the most respectable way to go about wrapping up a storyline but A-1 Pictures does it in a way that doesn’t seem like an obvious convenient plot device but actually attempts to build a relationship between the new characters and the viewers, which I can’t really say the same thing about the first set of master and butler.
First things first: No, this season does include ANY material from the manga in any shape or form, but considering how much the first season had flown off on a tangent it does not really matter, as if content from the manga (such as the anticipated circus arc) were to be included it would just be filler and would not relate to the happenings of the season. This does not mean that this season is ‘pure filler’ though as some fans have stated; instead it can be seen as an ‘alternative storyline’.
The plot itself is not the best, but neither is it the worst they could have done. The introduction to the new characters was a decent move A-1 Pictures made, even though – as I said before – it was not an entirely respectable twist. Because of the short season (only 12 episodes long) there were fewer opportunities for plot holes, and the frequency ratio of random twists had depleted considerably compared to the first season. Some fans argue that there were more inconsistencies and plot holes than the first season, but quite frankly, I have to disagree. This season is as, or a lot less plot hole filled than the first season. It required people to work things out and guess. Nevertheless, there were some semi-serious plot issues but I appreciated how the story was a lot more consistent and actually seemed planned out.
The brilliance of this short season has to derive from the nature of the show however. There’s a reason why the rating has been raised since the previous season from a PG-13 to an R 17. It’s vulgar. Quite disturbing. And very crude. One of the many things I disliked about the first season of Kuroshitsuji was how there would be an awkward transition from serious business to idiotic comic relief, which would just kill the dark atmosphere of the show that was built up. Heavy topics such as prostituting and abuse are brought in, and the entire series was kept mostly enigmatic and dark.
But to be honest, the story wasn’t what really shone during the course of the show. It was the characters. Not just the new cast, but also the old familiar faces.
For the first time, Sebastian the “perfect” being has met his match, an equal: Claude Faustus. Claude contrasts greatly with Sebastian. Rather than being mischievous and teasing he is straight-faced and serious and very, very undeservingly hated – and mostly for being true to the nature of a demon: sly, cunning and untrustworthy. Demons aren’t known for being the most docile of all mythical creatures, and this is prominent in Kuroshitsuji II. The new butler drove the plot of the season, and I have to commend A-1 Pictures/Square Enix for not merely pampering the fans with what most would have had anticipated: a Claude arse-whooping by Sebastian. Sebastian is repeatedly put in a befuddled state, which did not just add that much more realism to him, but also made the viewers connect with the character a bit.
Alois is definitely one interesting kid across any anime. From being happy-go-lucky, to a practicing sadist and cross-dressing (Can anyone say Maria Holic?) Alois displays an array of characteristics which combined, would indicate to your classic psychopath. And as with almost all mentally unstable characters, he did not have the most pleasurable childhood in the world. Thankfully, there was no sob story as there was a disgusting and disturbing past. Truth be told, I found Alois’ nature and antics to be quite entertaining, refreshing and again, a big contrast to Ciel’s personality.
Unfortunately, his character had been marred by the suggestive clothing he dons. You can’t take a psycho 100% seriously if he is wearing hot-pants and leather high heel boots, which sadly is the case with Alois Trancy. I wish I could say that the fan service was just limited to this, but it isn’t.
Fan service is blown WAY out of proportion. Every episode is gorging with it. Think of the first season. Now times the fanservice in that by 10 and you have a rough idea of what Kuroshitsuji II is like. Depending on the viewer, this can either be a plus or a minus. And weirdly enough, although there is triple the gay in this season, there is also fanservice aimed at men.
Re-introducing the maid of the Trancy Household; Hannah Annafellows, the object creating fanservice for the guys. Victim to Alois’ fits of abuse and her clothes ripping as easy as tissue (and always in the area where her cleavage is...I still wonder how her back doesn’t snap holding up a rack that huge), Hannah is, for the first time in the entire Kuroshitsuji franchise, a female character who is a PART of the show; though this does not seem apparent at first.
The biggest problem this show has (which, ironically, is the exact opposite of the first season’s problem) is the length of the show – it was too short. Too short to make it as grand an ending it could have been. Kuroshitsuji II had the potential to be great, but then ended up anti-climatic, which was a shame really considering how great the first two-thirds of the anime had been. I just wish Alois could have been expanded on, as such a interesting and unique character as him is ever so rare. Even so, this season presented thrill, suspense and comedy that wasn’t as strong or well carried through in the prequel.
And what a great comedy it is at times. Not the obvious and staged comedy the show usually (awkwardly) presents with its idiotic antics or side characters (the Phantomhive servants) but with its UNINTENTIONAL comedy. Some of the fanservice, or scenes were just plain ridiculous; you’d double over from laughing at it.
Sequels are dangerous, but nowhere near as dangerous as a demon lusting for your soul. Kuroshitsuji II should be taken with a grain of salt – it most definitely isn’t the best it could have been, but honestly, it could have been a lot worse. If not for the open ended conclusion, which is most likely to lead onto a third season to milk the proverbial “cash cow” I would have rated this higher, but as it stands, it is decent enough.
But you can never please all the fans, and this has never been truer when it came to Kuroshitsuji II. read more
Kuroshitsuji II (Black Butler II) is not a true sequel to the original, or at least I refuse to hail it as such, but it is still an interesting addition to the series and appears to experiment with several archetypes, something I as a writer and literature major can appreciate.
I've heard it called an abortion, a sort of a tragic death to the tragic series about death and mortality, and taken in the aspect of a literal sequel - a direct followup to the Black Butler that received high acclaim - this would indeed be the case. However, what Black Butler II does is not poor storytelling in any sense, as far as I can tell (at least until the last few minutes of the final episode, but we'll get to that) - it is simply such a strong deviation from the anime offered by the original that many I've encountered have trouble accepting its premise. Both offer an interesting, Faustian take on the story of the classical romance, (where the bond between demon and contracted is not platonic, but romantic) but Black Butler II greatly underplays the elements that made Black Butler what it was.
This series introduces Alois Trancy and the butler Claude Faustus, along with several other characters who seem to mirror Ciel Phantomhive, Sebastian Michaelis, and the cast who tends to the former's mansion. While Ciel is outwardly dark but ultimately benevolent, Alois is (in several cases) outwardly benevolent but ultimately sadistic. The image we get from the beginning of the anime is one where Ciel and Alois are polar opposites, with Alois playing the Moriarty to Ciel's Holmes, but that dichotomy is played with in such a way that I would have to consider it unique or innovative at least.
Black Butler II has several faults. For one, it does not serve as a tangible vehicle for an intuitive storyline, but uses its allotted run time to dabble in the deconstruction of dichotomies and social mores (at times not as subtly as it should). The relationship between butler and master is questioned, as naturally so is the relationship between demon and contracted. Fictional conceptions of "the villain," who serves as opposite and parallel to the central protagonist, are also challenged. I can't get into how without spoiling the ride for you, but if you take a step back, it's definitely there. How it goes about this "deconstruction" is questionable.
For one, it's almost not Black Butler anymore. Sebastian is presented on a level plane thanks to Claude Faustus and the presence of several other "demonic" characters, meaning he doesn't allow the series to shine quite as much. I've heard it said that Black Butler IS Sebastian Michaelis, and people who agree with that notion are likely to face disappointment at the sight of this new, humbled Sebastian.
Additionally, it's much darker with much less comedy than the original. We see less of the servants, of Elizabeth, and of the main cast, who have been relegated further into the background. At its core, it's simply not the same anime anymore.
I liked it. I liked that I was able to see where it played with the romance genre and with fiction in general. Ultimately though, its willingness to experiment and dabble in concepts does not save its occasional poor delivery or the eerie ending which doesn't fit with the buildup of the series. The conclusion is quite a deus ex machina, to say the least.
Another thing I will say is that Black Butler didn't need a sequel. If ever it did need one, Black Butler II is certainly not its rightful successor.read more
Here we have Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler), season 2. What is it, and what is it not? (Please, loyal fans, be kind to me, for voicing my opinion.) And please, all you Black Butler fans under age 18, ask your parents before watching this series. I'll say up front that the content is at an overtly ADULT-ONLY level.
What this series is not: It's not at all related to the manga. It's a continuation from the end of season 1, which had begun to diverge from the manga around halfway through. Even though the first season apparently painted itself into a corner, we continue on from that ending. (And eventually get some questions answered regarding that.)
And I hope this isn't a spoiler, but Ciel's back. And so is everyone's favorite butler, Sebastian.
So what IS this series? It's fanfiction. Pure and simple. By fans, for fans. And that means heavy doses of fanservice. You can imagine that its creators took everything they had fantasized about in regards to the first series, and decided, "Let's put it into an anime!" And this fanservice isn't for youngsters. Funimation was right about choosing to rate the series MA (equivalent to an "R" rating). The opening scene is a mere sampling. It shows a naked young boy crawling out of a bed from next to a naked older man.
Fanservice is pervasive, with hints of shotacon, and enough boyxboy and butlerxbutler to make yaoi fangirls melt into squeals.
The first episode introduces a new young master, Alois Trancy (a blonde boy of Ciel's age), and his butler, Claude. The next three episodes are similar to the original series: Ciel goes about with Sebastian, running errands for the queen. We reunite with a lot of beloved characters from the first season (the Phantomhive servants, Elizabeth, Prince Soma, Lau, Grell).
But then Alois and Ciel cross paths. And that's when things start getting sticky. Secret arrangements between butlers. Soul transfers. New contracts. A new rule was added to the Black Butler world when the creators came up with the idea of keeping souls in rings. All these ideas and more are pushed to the max, to practically the very final moments of the series.
For some reason, Alois and Claude are after Ciel and Sebastian. It's not until halfway through the series that we find out what for. We also discover why Ciel is still around, despite how the first series ended. Sebastian also has his own personal bone to pick with Claude. Get ready for a butler showdown....
After we get to the middle of the series, we encounter an incredible number of new twists and turns, making things muddier and muddier. They can come off as brilliant plot twists, or tiresome complications, depending on how you liked the series up to that point. Personally, I didn't have a very good opinion of the series by the 5th or 6th episode, so as each of the final episodes unfolded, I kept asking myself, "Can things get more screwed up than they already are?" And yes, they do.
To its credit, the ending is not ambiguous like the first series' was. Although things are still unclear until the final 60 seconds or so. I'm not sure that they could make more series based on an ending like that (or that I would want to see them!). But it's pretty satisfying, and in keeping with the spirit of both series. You do wonder how it's possible within the Black Butler world, since it's sprung on us quite suddenly, and we've not seen anything like it before. Still, it's nice and gothic, and a little creepy; makes you feel good, while giving you a bit of a chill.
I had always thought of Ciel as being a tad cruel, and rough on his servants. But now he seems a veritable angel compared to Alois. Alois dregs the depths of cruelty, sadism, cunning, and is an utter brat. And creepy. "Ciel," he says, "I want to become One with you." Yep, that's one messed-up kid. Later, we see some of Alois' backstory, and some tragic and difficult things that happened to him. But it still doesn't excuse (or, I think, fully explain) his cruelty and borderline insanity. Fans of creepy characters might like him. But he's rather pathetic. I only felt a twinge of pity when I found out what it was he really wanted from Claude.
There's also one busty maid who's always being required to strip or wear revealing clothing; or sometimes she even rips off her own clothes. If this were a shounen anime, it would be almost ecchi. There's also a character who acts as a sheathe for a demon sword, and gets the sword pulled out of their body in a rather grotesque fashion.
Season 2 retains the lovely animation and sense of style from the first one. And hot butlers. And, as a bonus, an ending that doesn't leave you hanging like before. However, if you want an intelligent, well-crafted story along the lines of the manga, or even the first season, it's really not here. It's a fanfiction series that tries to see how messy you can make the world of soul/demon contracts. Sure, you need to know the world of season 1 in order to watch this. But its purpose is no more than to be a pleaser for mature fans and yaoi addicts.
Being an avid fan of Kuroshitsuji, and seeing the entire first season, OVA as well as being an avid manga fan, I must say that I'm disappointed in this series for several reasons. This is merely an opinion, but I found myself hating the storyline behind season 2 entirely.
Below are the good, bad and ugly of this series:
The series has amazing artowrk and beautiful sound.The animation was crisp and clear and the music was amazing, especially with songs coming from Yuya Matsushima and Nightmare.
The bad, and the ugly.
As several reviewers stated before, it does not follow the manga, but I don't consider that bad because a lot of anime follow this trend. The storyline had actually stopped following the original manga plot during the Drocell arc in season one.
Also, this series started off with a filler episode as the second episode. That is a big no-no for any anime. You start off the series by building up the plot, not doing a filler episode that, regardless of whether you watched it or not would still understand the story.
Out of character moments. There are several large out of character moments and things that were brought up and dropped. In one of the episodes, Viscount Druitt (who has a medical degree and offered to sell off the protagonist, Ciel Phantomhive in pieces on a black market auction) fainted at the sight of blood. It was rather vague on if he was extremely happy in seeing it, since he had sadistic reactions to the previous battle, or if it was because he was woozy but I found it very out of character. There are several other moments in Ciel, Sebastian and a few other characters that I found out of character.
Unexplained changes to characters. Several relationships and things about the characters were not explained or elaborated on, which made a very obscure plot and caused general confusion among fans who had been following the series faithfully.
Fan service. To be honest, in my opinion, and don't kill me on this, but this series was written like bad fanfiction and left many answered questions. There was also a huge amount of fanservice and hardly any of it was presented in a way that I thought was well thought out or tasteful in the slightest. The setting and time period for this show went from elegant to trashy and it caused the series to lose it's appeal.
There were also too many of what I call 'scenes of convenience'. Several characters had the opportunity to be interesting and have a good amount of spotlight but were disposed of in poorly executed ways. Viscount fainting was a poor excuse to get rid of his character during an important scene where he could have taken active role in the plot. He was actually promised a very good storyline with watching over Alois but it was disregarded shortly after wards, which was a let down to me, as a personal fan of the characters. Also, as good as the first episode was, shoving Ciel and Sebastian in it all too quickly, as if the say 'Look! They're still in this season!' Because the writers were afraid of fans not being interested was a poor decision in execution as well.
The show had overall poor execution and a lot of things were unexplained or left off. The episodes got more and more ridiculous after a moment in time and I couldn't find myself watching it after a while. It became a chore and not an enjoyment. As a Kuroshitsuji fan, I'm sorely disappointed in this season. As an anime fan whose critiqued anime for 4 years, this is the worst I've seen in a long time.
It's nothing but a case of bad fanfiction turned into an animated series. I expected a lot more from Kuroshitsuji. It only got worse as the series ended. If they make a season 3, I might not even give it the time of day. There are better anime out there, I implore anyone who reads this to stick to season one, or they might end up just getting angry.
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