Assumptions and first impressions are rather difficult to deal with. The biggest roadblock that I can think of for any series would be what I make of it when I see the title and the cover. So, you can only imagine that I wasn't all THAT interested in reading Black Butler. I actually remember going to the library and I saw the first volume of Black Butler on the shelf. My overall first impressions/assumptions went a bit like the quote below.
"Oh what is this? The life and times of some punk noble living in the Victorian Era and the exploits of his oh-so-perfect butler? BORING."
Yeah... now I'm looking back at how much of an ignorant jackass I was back then, and I'll tell you this right now: If I could go back in time, I'd definitely force my past self to drop the Naruto volumes that I've read no less than 4 times over and pick up the first volume of Black Butler, because truth be told... it's actually pretty damn ace.
Now, I definitely understand why some people wouldn't give this series a shot... namely with its infamous reputation of being "fujoshi shotacon bait" as one of my friends on this site would like to point out. It also doesn't help that the first season had that bloody corset scene and that the entire second season felt like some fujoshi fan fiction that A-1 Pictures picked up from the backwaters of deviantART and that the mangaka herself actually went on to write several yaoi manga series.
HOWEVER... with the exception of the corset scene in one of the earlier chapters and of course the entire Public School arc, this entire series is actually relatively light on all of that stuff. The most that we usually end up getting is just Sebastian and a few other bishie characters and that's your lot. I really wouldn't put it past Toboso to have bishonens and the like in her non-yaoi stuff, since that is relatively familiar territory. Plus, if you can look past the bishonens and such, you actually start to see that she's a damn good artist and is fairly capable of writing plots that can definitely have you invested with what's going on.
HOWEVER... there are just some moments really just have me face-palming and wondering "why? oh God, why?" For example, the entire Public School arc takes place in an (inexplicably) private college of sorts, where the entire student body is male. HOWEVER, virtually every single student is bishie in design and half the students in the school inexplicably look like girls... right down to the leader of the Purple Dormitory having long hair and wearing lipstick. Don't even get me started on Maurice Cole and the concept of "fags" being an upperclassman's servant boy and how Ciel wants to be a fag for one of the upperclassmen. I shit you not, that actually is a thing for like 20 or so chapters.
With all of that said, let's take a look at the way that Kuroshitsuji presents itself. One rather bizarre thing of note when it comes down to the story of Kuroshitsuji is the fact that Toboso has this tendency of following up great and intense arcs with boring/tedious arcs, only to follow those arcs up with more great and intense plot . For example, the Kidnapping and Jack the Ripper arcs are followed up by the Curry Contest arc. The Curry Contest arc is then followed up by the much-lauded Noah's Ark Circus, Phantomhive Murders, and Ship Voyage arcs. However... they're followed up by the Public School arc, which I described earlier. After that arc was resolved, it was followed up by the Green Witch arc, which is the current arc of the manga as of 02/9/14 and is a million times more interesting than the arc preceding it.
Now, it's not like the Curry Contest and Public School arcs were completely boring. Yana Toboso did try to spice things up by adding a certain mystery to it all. However, these arcs were overextended by like 5-10 chapters and were just really boring. I mean, who the fuck writes an arc about curry? Was Toboso watching Food Network or something while she was writing this shit up? I don't know. At best, they were mildly amusing (albeit unintentionally so half the time, because all of this shit was being played straight). At worst, they could've just been omitted from the story entirely. When you spend 3-4 pages explaining the mechanics of how to play cricket or what kind of spices were used in what curry, you know you fucked up.
With that said, whenever an arc is good, it's REALLY fucking good. Kuroshitsuji at its core is a supernatural drama, and whenever there's no shota or boring crap getting in the way of its storytelling, it can definitely have you invested with what's going on. Now, the comedy in Kuroshitsuji was something I took umbrage with in the anime adaptation, mostly because it was too much too often. The manga actually doesn't have so much comedy in it, which was rather surprising. Don't get me wrong, it's the same style of humour (mostly being visual gags and such), but there isn't much of it whenever it's in the middle of one of its downright amazing arcs.
With all of that said, let's talk about the characters. A lot of people don't like Kuroshitsuji because of Sebastian, but I'll get to that in a sec. Let's talk about the young master, Ciel Phantomhive. First off, that's a rather conspicuous surname, don't you think? Second: Ciel Phantomhive is characterised in a manner similar to Bruce Wayne from the Batman mythos. What do I mean? Well let's see... he's orphaned, he's filthy rich, he's constantly brooding and views himself as an adult despite being so young, he has a badass butler, and he's tasked by the Queen to deal with any threats to English society as a whole. Were it not for the eye patch, the fact that he sold his soul to a daemon, and the fact that he's a Victorian nobleman who is under the direct command of the Queen, he'd basically be a shot-for-shot clone of Bruce Wayne.
Don't get me wrong: I can still find myself rooting for him and he is fairly likeable. However, I can't help but feel that if he was characterised in a manner similar to Dick Grayson or Terry McGinnis, he would've been far more likeable as a protagonist. As much as I love Batman, his constant brooding can get a touch tedious and the same can be said for Ciel whenever he's brooding. It also doesn't help that Toboso occasionally likes to cater to SebaCiel shippers and put him and Sebastian into various situations that one might find rather... questionable, to say the least. With that said, those situations are few and far between. Just keep an eye out, and you'll be fine.
That brings me over to Sebas-chan. Now, hating on Sebastian because he's overpowered is like hating on Gundam because it's a mecha franchise. The appeal behind Sebastian does not lie in how he's the perfect butler, but rather it lies in his approach to the various situations that he's been placed in. As we all know, Sebastian is one HELL of a butler. He's only in it for Ciel's soul, and the contract he made with Ciel is only effective while he's alive. So whenever Ciel's in danger, he's obviously going to jump in to save the day, but just barely. Ciel also has to be *VERY* careful as to what he orders Sebastian to do, because Sebastian will literally interpret said order despite knowing full well that's not what he meant. So when you really sit down and think, Ciel and Sebastian have a relationship similar to Integra and Alucard from Hellsing.
I also happen to love Sebas-chan's sense of humour, which comprises mostly of snark, sarcasm, quips, and one-liners. He's also such a joy to read whenever he's taking out goons with silverware only to complain that dinner won't be ready in time if he keeps messing with the goons like this. A typical Ciel/Sebastian situation would work like this: Ciel retreats to his study for some peace and quiet, he gets kidnapped by a rogue guest he was entertaining, and Sebastian walks in with the apple pie he told Ciel would be for dessert. He sees the study was ransacked, the window broken, and Ciel clearly missing. But guess what? Sebastian's not worried about Ciel being missing. He's worried about the pie going to waste and the tea going cold.
As for the other characters, they're alright. My favourite characters other than Ciel and Sebastian would have to be a tie between the other Phantomhive servants (Tanaka, Mey-Rin, Finnian, and Baldroy), Snake, Lizzie, and Agni. Everyone else varies wildly in quality. Characters introduced in the good arcs are pretty damn good while characters in the mediocre arcs are well... mediocre.
So on the whole, Kuroshitsuji is a rather peculiar piece of work. If you can approach this series with an open mind, you'll definitely find something to like about it. Otherwise, go back to your One Piece and Attack on Titan. read more