Young Ciel Phantomhive is known as "the Queen's Guard Dog," taking care of the many unsettling events that occur in Victorian England for Her Majesty. Aided by Sebastian Michaelis, his loyal butler with seemingly inhuman abilities, Ciel uses whatever means necessary to get the job done. But is there more to this black-clad butler than meets the eye?
In Ciel's past lies a secret tragedy that enveloped him in perennial darkness—during one of his bleakest moments, he formed a contract with Sebastian, a demon, bargaining his soul in exchange for vengeance upon those who wronged him. Today, not only is Sebastian one hell of a butler, but he is also the perfect servant to carry out his master's orders—all the while anticipating the delicious meal he will eventually make of Ciel's soul. As the two work to unravel the mystery behind Ciel's chain of misfortunes, a bond forms between them that neither heaven nor hell can tear apart.
Three musicals based on Kuroshitsuji entitled That Butler, Friendship, Musical Black Butler: The Most Beautiful Death in The World – A Thousand Souls and The Fallen Grim Reaper, and Lycoris that Blazes the Earth were performed in Japan.
A Nintendo DS game called Kuroshitsuji Phantom & Ghost was developed in 2009 and released by Square Enix.
Starring Ayame Goriki as Genpou Shiori (a descendant of Ciel Phantomhive) and Hiro Mizushima as Sebastian Michaelis, a live action film of Kuroshitsuji was released in January of 2014.
So, Kuroshitsuji is an anime that is labelled “shounen” but I don’t really know why - it’s filled with bishounens, pretty clothes and the fancy Victorian age backdrop with massive shounen ai and shota undertones. Oh, and the obvious gay shinigami who keeps trying to kiss the butler.
The story starts off with an eerie atmosphere, showing a 10 year old child who exchanges his soul for a demon butler to help exact his revenge against the people who killed his parents and humiliated him. Two-three years later they are still together; Ciel Phantomhive the 12 (later 13) year old Earl also the head of
his house and company and Sebastian Michaelis, the demon butler who could do anything and together working for the Queen to solve mysteries and at the same time learning about Ciel’s past.
It would have been a great story. If not for the amount of filler episodes that had been injected in due to the lack of material that had come out from the manga and the confusion in later episodes that still left me with many, many questions.
The first and second episodes were indeed spectacular. Instantly there is a dark and mysterious aura and it is well maintained throughout the entire series (except for the idiotic moments with the less than lovable extra staff at the Phantomhive household). Even up to episode 6 it was still good. However, after that it just started to get a little tiring with all the missions they have to carry out. Boring in fact. The second half of the series was entirely all filler; filler that wasn’t even interesting and to put it plainly – all over the place.
As mentioned before, the anime does not follow the manga series exactly but the first half of the series does to an extent. The second half was written exclusively for the anime. Now this is where it goes horribly wrong. Most of the second half’s story made absolutely NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Take Sebastian’s sudden disappearance for example. For someone who has made an unbreakable contract and who has already done about two years work for Ciel it was a unrealistic that he would leave Ciel. Moreover it was uncharacteristic of him. His personality wouldn’t allow him to do such an act, even if it were to benefit Ciel in the end. Plot twists came from nowhere, justifications and character motivations did not add up and I would end up sitting there by the end of the episode wondering what on earth has just happened. Poor writing plagued the last three-quarters of the series, which is a real shame, considering how much I enjoyed the first six episodes.
When I first heard Sebastian’s and Ciel’s names I laughed. ‘Sebastian’ as the butler’s name, that was so cliché and Ciel ‘Phantomhive’ - now that didn’t sound conspicuous at all did it? Well it certainly did humour me with these obvious names, but the characters themselves aren’t ones that you can laugh at. Sebastian is seriously one badass butler, the anti hero of our story; he can do anything and I mean ANYTHING. After he SEDUCES A NUN to get information he certainly got my respect - the thought of him using such tactics was almost unthinkable (considering all the "sexual tension" between him and his master). And Ciel… well he is bratty. And he certainly does talk a lot of bull when it comes to why he is doing all this and such. What I liked about him though was how the producers practically used him as a doll to model fashion wear of the 19th century.
But these factors do not save them from being two dimensional characters. Sebastian can be thought as the anime parallel of Edward Cullen. Essentially a ‘perfect’ being with zero flaws, devilishly good looks (no pun intended) and abilities to do the impossible he contains no realism in him, more like a fantasy or ideal of ‘the perfect man’. But unlike the Twilight character mentioned there is an almost witty aspect to the butler, as each episode displays his tendency to be mischievous. In all honesty, though he is not much of a character for BEING the main character, he was still quite the fun person to watch as a viewer. Sadly, I cannot say the same for Ciel. As far as I’m concern, he was there for the fanservice – from cross-dressing to wearing scantily clad clothes for a teenage English boy – mass producing shota fans as we speak. His reason for working for the Queen is neither explained nor in line with his prideful personality and his burning desire for revenge towards the people who ‘humiliated’ him is not emphasized or profound enough to take him seriously that he is truly a bitter, angry boy.
The OP and ED were very well done, both musically and animated-wise. Most anime usually does this thing where in the middle of the series they change the opening song and have a whole new animation to it. With Kuroshitsuji they keep the same song but switch around the verses used but have a whole new animation to it. The first ED uses an American song "I'm Alive" by Becca which would catch some off guard. The rock/pop song contrasts greatly with all the other themes uses but is a song that can be easily sung along to. It also is one of the most amusing endings ever with the animation that employs a chibi-styled art showing the day to day activities of Sebastian as a butler. The second ED song is a lot more melancholic to fit the serious second half of the story. The background music is smoothly done and go fittingly well with the scene at hand. As an anime set in the high class 1800s, the production company rightfully uses dark gospel choruses to jazzy themes.
Art and animation was very beautiful and fluid. Grand manors and clothing were all intricately designed and even in the few action scenes A-1 Pictures still had animation kept up – never letting choppy animation to ruin the flow. Everything is very gothic usually with night-settings, religion being brought in and of course, the clothes. Although Ciel did look very adorable in his attire, I felt like the clothes he was wearing were almost asking for him to be molested, which just made the paedophilia and gay overtones a lot more strong.
The most enjoyable part of this anime was the London/Victorian age setting. I was actually quite impressed with how well they displayed and used London and its history, like how they made Bethnal Green the base where all the drug dealers were from or the fact that there used to be fairs on the Thames during the winter when the water turned to ice. The producers did use the London card to the max - playing with different versions of “London Bridge”, using the Jack the Ripper character and displaying the fashion of the time. And of course since it’s set in England there is some engrish, but the best one is Sebastian’s “Yes, My Lord” - makes me smile every time. The setting practically made this anime; I mean if you replaced the setting to a modern time, different place this anime would have immediately failed.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily say it put the ‘shit’ in ‘Kuroshitsuji’ neither would I say this is a spectacular watch. This series was just ‘okay’ to me, it wasn’t particularly special and it’s quite tedious. I have had many unanswered questions formed in my mind and quite a few qualms about it. For those of you who actually read manga I suggest doing so first or instead of watching this since it just contains the main story and does not sell itself short with fan-pandering nonsense.
Will I be watching the second series? Well, yes for numerous reasons. I liked the manga enough to want to see it animated. I want to see if my questions will finally be answered. And most of all I want to find out WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED after the end of the last episode.
Holy flippin' A!!! Where to even begin with this anime?! There is so much here that I look for in an anime; I even added it to my favorites list before I was even done watching. It's got beautiful and THICK plot, hidden meanings, a GORGEOUS musical score, wonderful and zany characters, and enough emotional hitting power to make me keep a tissue box handy for those sad and happy tears. This would be my first review to be an absolute 10 in score if there weren't just a few unanswered questions and assumed understanding after everything was said and done. Even with
those there, though, this anime is one of the best things I've seen in a while, even better than Hikaru no Go which had be so wrapped up spring break. I'm sad to see it end 'cause I want more of this world, but, on the other hand, I'm glad it's got a definitive ending and isn't really leaving us cliff-hanging.
STORY - 9
The story of this show is something else. There's just so much depth, and it's so cerebral. I'll definitely have to do some re-watching to get all the little nuances and plot points down. I wouldn't recommend this show if you're just looking for some simple anime that would kill an afternoon. This is a thinking anime that touches on a ton of dark and deep issues. You'll also need to be paying close attention to all the plot twists! These little suckers come out of NOWHERE and twist the story into a completely different direction that one would expect. I was left gasping like fish more than once here. For me, that's one of the best aspects of this story is those little plot twists. I never know what I'm going to see when watching something like this. Now that I've mentioned the good, let's talk about why I couldn't give this aspect a perfect 10. After watching the ending, I was left with some unanswered questions regarding some of the details here. While these details didn't sour the complete story for me (hence the 9), they might sour it for someone else. One detail that they didn't address did leave me a bit peeved, but my mind made a connection with another story aspect that I could guess was the answer. If everything had been addressed here, this would have been a DEFINITE perfect 10.
ART - 10
A simple word here. BEAUTIFUL!!!! The animation flows so gorgeously in this anime. From the fight scenes to humorous antics to zany parties to heart-wrenching death scenes, absolutely everything here is flows so smoothly and sweetly. An aspect I noticed a lot in this anime was lighting. I don't see that a lot in anime and found it very appropriate for this title. If the characters were experiencing a dark and horrific scene, shadows and reds played big parts. If they were experiencing light-hearted birthday parties or servant antics, colors were bright, vibrant, and day-filled. Besides just the lighting, the art conveyed the atmosphere so much. It almost seemed to reflect character emotions and fates/destinies as well as set the mood for the anime. You will not be disappointed here! Just a slight warning, though, this anime doesn't shirk from blood. Not that it's gratuitous, every scene with it almost requires it and the blood adds to the atmosphere. But do be warned; I wouldn't let kids watch this.
SOUND - 10
This is the crowning glory in my opinion. Every single piece of music adds to the atmosphere of this anime and leaves a person breathless. It's so haunting...... It's full of fast consistent beats for the fighting, chants and drones for the dark, plot-filled moments, sad female-filled melodies for the gut-wrenchingly sad parts, and a soft operatic finish for the final anime finale. There was use throughout the anime of a really fast beat chanting/droning thing used towards some combat and many plot-revealing scenes that I found particularly innovative and unusual. It added something really unique to an already beautiful track of music. The opening and ending themes fit the anime to a tee; the 2nd ending, Lacrimosa by Kalafina, especially fits the ominous ending the anime is barreling towards when this ending comes in. It's haunting, lyrical, and so emotion-filled. Just beautiful!! Besides the glorious musical score, this anime exhibits very good character voices. I especially loved Sebastian's dark and low voice. I could imagine my demon butler having that voice. *shiver* I can't think of any misplaced vocals at all. Everyone was distinct and complete unto themselves.
CHARACTERS - 9
There were so many hidden depths to most of these characters that absolutely no one seems two-dimensional. Everyone is fleshed out to some degree with emotional back stories and plot twists. Oh the plot twists!! There were a lot where it came to character development. I only wish that there had been equal attention to all characters. For some of them, the viewers were left wishing fervently for more. I personally wished the back stories of the servants at Phantomhive were fleshed out more. We are given some back hints in a few episodes and one episode almost completely devoted to the four of them, but not really a lot and I was curious! Oh well. The gradual building of Ciel's character and his relationship with Sebastian is more than enough to make up for it. There were some characters who I thought I had pegged when something radical happens and their intents and motivations turn in a completely different direction. Again, oh those plot twists!! Gotta love 'em!!
ENJOYMENT - 10
I thoroughly enjoyed this title, unanswered questions and all. My mind can find connections between points where there may be no connection and so I can answer those questions in my own little mind. It was a beautiful and haunting ride that took me on an emotional rollercoaster and through a thorough mind-wringing. There was so much content here, from plot to wacky humor. I loved every bit of it. And the music!! Ack!! I'm going to be haunting ebay and the net in general looking for this OST ASAP!!
OVERALL - 10
I think I pretty much summed it up in the enjoyment section. Everything just came together beautifully and created an anime that has made it to my favorites and re-watchable list. I absolutely adore it and wish there was more!!
As of late, Kuroshitsuji is essentially the poster-boy for thinly-veiled fangirl bait. Kuroshitsuji (or Black Butler, whatever floats your boat) has tons of yaoi tropes, and has the word bishie plastered all over it, so you may think that being somebody who does not like these things, that I hate it because of that. So let's make this clear now: No. That has nothing to do with it. There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to like Kuroshitsuji besides that, so before you reach for the Not Helpful button, please think for a second: are you doing that because my review is badly written, or
just because you don't agree with my score? So, at the very least, just read the rest of the review first, OK?
With that sadly necessary disclaimer out of the way, let's discuss Kuroshitsuji. Kuroshitsuji is the story of a boy named Ciel Phantomhive, and his butler, Sebastian Michaelis. Ciel is the head of a toy company, and is also in the employment of the Queen, who enlists him to deal with various mysteries. Why this is the case isn't really explained, but nonetheless, most of the episodes play out as a Sherlock Holmes style detective series with him solving various supernatural mysteries.
Of course, Ciel is no ordinary boy... he has a contract with his butler for his soul. As you probably already knew, Sebastian is a demon of sorts. He is nigh invulnerable to everything, has amazing skill in pretty much every field, and is basically perfect in every way.
This, however, is the first problem with the series... Sebastian is a massive Gary Stu. He's simply too perfect. Not once do you feel for him as a character. He is completely overpowered, and is essentially an end all, fix all solution to more or less every single problem the series can throw at any of its characters.
Sadly, the rest of the cast isn't much better. Ciel Phantomhive is probably the most likeable character in the show, being something of a snarky, deadpan character with a chip on his shoulder the size of Africa. But he has his idiosyncrasies as well... most of which simply come down to him being a complete jerk to everyone. Ciel is generally single-minded, only caring about whatever mission the Queen has given him, or getting revenge on those who ruined his life. The reaper, Grell Sutcliffe, had potential to be a loveable psychopath in the vein of Ladd Russo or any given Hellsing villain, but they eschew the chainsaw wielding, slasher smile route laid out in front of them in favour of making him incredibly, incredibly gay, as though they were trying to make a psychotic badass Leeron. But unlike the aforementioned Gurren Lagann character, they don't manage to make him nearly entertaining or tongue-in-cheek enough... to be perfectly honest, Grell is just plain offensive.
Another problem with Kuroshitsuji is that it can't seem to decide what it wants to be. For half the series, it goes down the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes route, painting a great depiction of 1888 London, rolling through themes like Jack The Ripper and Scotland Yard, but for the other half it tries to blend a Tim Burton-esque supernatural demon theme to the mix, and the tone of the series becomes very inconsistent as a result. Both styles are well-executed, but they conflict with each other. If they had been more consistent, Kuroshitsuji would have been better as a result. The character designs also mirror this quite heavily; While we often get a good, 1800s design like Sebastian, we also get overblown, colourful and vibrant designs like those of Grell or the Undertaker that creates a very poor contrast.
Also, there's something that can occasionally be very jarring, and that would be the anachronisms. Despite the show being set in 1888, you will frequently see things that are very out of place in this time period, like advanced modern handguns, sophisticated chainsaws, and film. While all of these things did exist in some form at this point, none of them do in the form they are shown in. And even more jarring is that most of these are applied to the Reapers, ancient beings that would not realistically incorporate these sorts of things into their supernatural array of weapons.
And on that note, one of the things that annoys me most about Kuroshitsuji is that the demon lore is left completely unexplained, as though they were some sort of afterthought. The reapers hate demons, but why? It's never given any real mention. There are also Angels, only one of which we ever see, whose purpose and role in the demon lore is never even touched upon, let alone their motives. I think Kuroshitsuji would have actually been better if they had completely left out the angel/demon/reaper aspects of the show and solely focused on the detective angle instead.
The only aspect wherein Kuroshitsuji really shines is the production job. The animation is fluid, and the art style is thoroughly polished, using a blend of dark, rich tones. The 1800s environment is one of the strong points of the series, which makes it all the more of a shame that they so often opt for the Burton-shtick instead. The soundtrack is also very strong, featuring a variety of music fitted to the period, most notably the smooth jazz.
Now, before this reads like an invitation for all the yaoi fangirls to break down my door, let me just clarify this by saying that Kuroshitsuji is not bad. What it is is average. Ordinary. Run of the mill. The only exceptional thing about it being the insane level of fan-pandering it stoops to.
However, there is still one serious problem with Kuroshitsuji not accounted for... the ending. The last few episodes are an evermounting pile of contrived nonsense. Things happen, but no explanation as for why or how is ever really given. No character's motivations ever make sense. Plot twists come from absolutely nowhere with no foreshadowing or real explanation. It rivals Soul Eater in terms of ridiculous bullshit endings, but at least Soul Eater didn't leave us on an incredibly dodgy cliffhanger that leads to a second season of pure filler.
Final Words: It had potential, but it ignored it so it could pander to fans.
When it comes down to programmes that I enjoy but have a hard time defending, few can come anywhere close to the position that Kuroshitsuji has on my list. There really is a lot that I enjoy about the programme, but there's also a good deal of stuff about it that just gets under my skin. Considering the fact that this is a show that receives no shortage of praise and criticism, I feel that someone should try and give a semi-impartial review of the series and explain why they like it in the first place. With that said, let's get on with it.
reason as to why I enjoy Kuroshitsuji is the fact that it's a supernatural mystery drama. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a supernatural programme that isn't action-oriented or comedy-centric? I've also got a soft spot for mystery drama and I also love the time period that the story takes place in. I've always had a thing for history and the rampant hypocrisy that went on during the Victorian period never ceases to capture my fancy. Furthermore, it's actually quite capable of keeping me hooked when it's giving me some involving plot. Of course, you can't really tell that it's a supernatural mystery drama that does all this stuff at first glance.
The most glaring problem that Kuroshitsuji has by far is the fact that A-1 Pictures does not know how to employ levity properly, which is most prevalent in the first 15 episodes. Furthermore, it opts for the worst kind of levity possible: chibi-style visual gags like the kind that Ultimate Spider-Man and Teen Titans use. Of course, I'd say that it's closer to Ultimate Spider-Man, given that all the levity ends up making it difficult to take the story seriously in the first place. Some people like to attribute this to the source material, but the manga itself is quite tame when referring to its usage of levity, but A-1 Pictures in their infinite wisdom decided to ruin a good thing. I understand that Kuroshitsuji is a shonen series by the end of it all, but is dark humour too sophisticated for a shonen audience? Come on...
While we're on the subject, the second biggest problem that Kuroshitsuji has is the yaoi/shota subtext. Even though Yana Toboso has written several yaoi mangas prior to writing Kuroshitsuji and that fact does reflect itself to a certain degree in the manga, any sort of yaoi/shota elements present in the source material were always intended to be used in a comedic context and weren't meant to be taken seriously in the slightest. Yes, you also have some official artwork of Ciel, Sebastian, et al but that shit don't contribute to the story so I ignore it! Unfortunately, A-1 Pictures in their infinite wisdom saw that there were a lot of Kuro fans who were into that shit and decided to dial up the yaoi/shota subtext between Ciel and Sebastian to an uncomfortably disturbing degree (it got to a point where I genuinely contemplated dropping the show).
Contrary to popular belief, Kuroshitsuji has a sizeable portion of its fanbase that *ISN'T* into slash in the slightest. I am a heterosexual male who absolutely despises paedophilia but I also happen to be an avid fan of the manga. Whilst the yaoi/shota moments that are present in the manga end up making me face-palm, they're short enough to the point where I can just look past them and pretend that it never happened. That's not the case at all when it comes down to the adaptation, since it felt like A-1 Pictures was playing this shit straight rather than for laughs. If I were to take a shot for every time there was a *serious* moment between Ciel and Sebastian which felt like A-1 Pictures was catering to the SebaCiel shippers, I'd probably succumb to cirrhosis. Okay, that's hyperbole but it's still a major problem that remains throughout the run of the programme.
Now, another problem that Kuroshitsuji has when it comes down to the execution is the fact that it... gets... BORING. Seriously, this is supposed to be a supernatural mystery drama about a 13-year-old boy exacting revenge against those who've wronged him whilst losing everything precious to him in the process, right? Well, the first four episodes don't really paint this show to be like such. Instead, they just make this programme feel more like a slice-of-life comedy taking place in Victorian England. Okay, Episode 2 - "His Butler, Strongest" is kind of an exception but the point still stands. These episodes aren't bad by any means, but they certainly did get tedious for me. I just come into this show expecting serious plot, and I end up getting flawed storytelling. Well, it does get better but with a caveat attached to it.
Unlike other popular shonen mangas such as One Piece which are published on a weekly basis, Kuroshitsuji is a monthly publication. As such, there was a limited amount of material to work with for the adaptation. Instead of giving this show a 1-cour run like it probably should've had from the get-go, A-1 Pictures decided to just fork the adaptation off from the source material after Episode 15 and then end on a completely different note. With that said, it should be noted that A-1 Pictures wasn't exactly the most faithful to the source material until that point and that there were many alterations present in what they did adapt.
On the plus side, the final nine episodes were where the show actually took itself seriously whilst dropping most of the shenanigans. Furthermore, the ideas and whatnot that they actually brought up were fairly interesting to say the least. Also, I have to give A-1 Pictures props for at least having the decency to end the show before it got too unnecessarily convoluted. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather have a show that has a solid conclusion rather than a show that spends week after week in a filler arc until it can resume adapting chapters. On the subject of the ending, it certainly wasn't a grand finale but at least I can safely say that it ended... you know, until Kuroshitsuji II came into the picture and shit all over that (among other things).
Of course, if you think these episodes don't make any sense or suffer from some rather noticeable writing problems, I don't blame you. The biggest problem that these episodes have is the fact that they try to accomplish far too much in the time that it was given (in other words, they're pretty damn rushed). I mean, I wouldn't mind it if A-1 Pictures at least extended the runtime of this anime-original second half to 15-18 episodes so that things could run at a coherent pace, but I guess it's too late to change that now. Hindsight's a bitch, ain't it? Sure, the damage was done by the time that this show started taking itself seriously but hey! At least it got its shit together!
From a characterisation standpoint, Kuroshitsuji is rather flawed. Whilst the manga has been publishing for roughly eight years and has 100+ chapters as of 25/12/14, the anime came out in 2008 when there were only 24-25 chapters available to adapt at that point in time. As such, Ciel and Sebastian (among others) remain the same throughout the bulk of the programme's run. This is quite unfortunate, as I quite like Ciel as a character and the manga does bring up some rather interesting questions about him. Here, he's more or less a generic broody protagonist who needs to stop trying so hard to be like Bruce Wayne but with an eye patch.
Despite my numerous complaints with Ciel's characterisation, I have almost no complaints about our butler to the core, Sebas-chan. Simply put, I absolutely adore Sebastian and I'll admit to having fangirled over him more than once (seriously though, who hasn't?!). I can't bring myself to hate him since he's got a charm similar to Alucard from Hellsing (in the sense that they're both badass servant characters). A lot of people like to give Sebas-chan crap since he's damn near infallible, but you know what? I don't really care. He's a DAEMON butler. He's not bound to the same rules that govern humanity, and it's not like he's without personality either. I just can't get enough of his quips and his snark. Plus, there's always something hypnotising about watching a butler killing goons with silverware whilst complaining that dinner will be late if he doesn't hurry up. Really, my only complaint is the fact that he remains static throughout the run of the programme but then again... he's kinda like that in the manga too.
As for the side characters like the other Phantomhive servants, Lizzie, Madame Red, Lau, Ran-Mao, and the like... they don't really get a lot of screen time outside of being comedic relief. Well, some characters like Madame Red and Lau end up getting their roles expanded as the series progresses but the fact that they were comedic relief for the bulk of their appearances kinda made it hard to take them seriously once their time to shine in the sun came. It really is a shame that A-1 Pictures didn't allow for more time to pass before adapting Kuroshitsuji because characters like Mey-Rin, Finni, Bard, Tanaka, and Lizzie actually ended up becoming favourites of mine later on in the manga's run. Well... I guess that doesn't stop Mey-Rin and Finni from being so adorable that it hurts, but I digress.
When you get right down to it, A-1 Pictures might not be the best when it comes down to telling a story or giving us some good characters. But there's one area that they never cease to impress me with, and that's with their visual department. As much as I despise some of their OTHER works (*cough* Sword Art Online *cough*), there's no denying that each time A-1 Pictures works on a show, the visuals will be much better than what they previously worked on. That's seriously saying something, because the visuals here in the first season of Black Butler (which came out in 2008 no less) are absolutely gorgeous.
What I really love about the art direction is the large amount of detail put into the backgrounds along with the colour palette. Unfortunately, the art direction and the animation don't really come into full bloom until Episode 16-onward when the show begins to take itself seriously. Everything before then is still really awesome stuff to look at, but the art/animation really shine whenever this show is taking itself seriously and is trying to feed us some involving plot. That really doesn't happen all that often in the first 15 episodes. With that said, the art/animation also shines whenever it drops the super serious, high-detailed stuff and goes into the less-detailed, comedy sketch stuff in a vein similar to Teen Titans. Whilst I'm not particularly fond of the comedic relief used in this show, at least I can say that the visual gags are well-animated and pretty to look at.
As for the animation on its own, well it's solid stuff. A good deal of the animation is limited to stills and talking heads but worry not for this is a drama show with some action thrown into the mix! The action sequences in this show are roughly similar to that of Wolf's Rain and Fullmetal Alchemist (2003): a lot of stuff happening in the foreground, not that much going on in the background. In fact, the high point of the action sequences are mostly going to be Sebastian stopping bullets before they leave the pistol along with Sebastian throwing silverware at random goons in the most epic ways possible. Of course, that's only fitting since Sebas-chan is one hell of a butler.
Another thing to note about the art/animation are the OP/EDs. You know how half-way through the season, the OP/ED change for no apparent reason in some shows, with new animation and a new song? Well the OP's animation changes at Episode 16, but they just use the second half of the OP song. Now, this isn't the first time I've seen an anime use the second half of a song for the OP (Trinity Blood did something similar), but this is the first time I've seen an anime use new animation for the second half of the song. It's the little things like this that make me smile. The 1st ED is shows a regular day in the life of Sebastian in chibi form while the 2nd ED is mostly stills of Ciel and Sebastian set over a more sombre tune. I'm more fond of the 1st ED, but the 2nd ED actually fits the show becoming more serious toward the end of its run and the song doesn't conflict horribly with any dramatic moments! I give props for that.
Art/animation ain't the only thing that Kuroshitsuji has down because the OST for Black Butler across both seasons and Book of Circus is some downright amazing stuff. It fits in amazingly well with the time period that this show takes place in, with most of the BGM being stuff like slow jazz tracks and baroque violin/cello stuff you'd hear at a ballroom. What's more interesting is the fact that there's also quite a few super serious/ominous tracks that would play whenever Ciel and Sebastian are having a moment, my personal favourite being "Si Deus Me Relinquit" (Latin for "If God Has Forsaken Me"). I'd like to explain what it sounds like, but you should do yourself a favour and listen to it. The OP track, "Monochrome Kiss" by SID along with both ED tracks are highly addictive to listen to as well. Fun fact: the first ED track, "I'm Alive" by Becca is actually an American rock song, if I'm not mistaken.
As for the English dub, well... I've got rather mixed feelings about it. You see, unlike the Hellsing/Hellsing Ultimate dubs where actual people of British descent were hired to do the voice acting... the dub just uses American actors like Brina Palencia, J. Michael Tatum, Monica Rial, etc. and has them do their own take on a British accent. Now, Brina Palencia and J. Michael Tatum as Ciel and Sebastian respectively do an excellent job with the roles they've been given. You can still tell that they're faking an accent, but at least they're trying. Everyone else... not so much. The biggest problem I have with the dub is that some characters just speak normally but with the accent and others like the Phantomhive servants have Cockney accents which I find rather irritating. Monica Rial's work as Mey-Rin especially irritates me, but the Japanese VA is like that in the original I can't hold TOO much against her.
Another thing that I take umbrage with is the fact that there are two... Indian characters in the show, and yet they're not voiced by amateur Indian VAs with a proper understanding of the English language. Funimation just had Christopher Ayres and Patrick Seitz go about their lines but with horribly exaggerated Indian accents. Why do I take umbrage with this? Well... fun fact about me: I'm Punjabi, and Punjab is a part of India! One of the things that I hate is whenever there's an Indian character on-screen, and they have a horribly exaggerated accent. Seriously, would it kill Funimation to just hire Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachchan to just do the voice acting for these two characters?
Now, it's not like the dub is complete shit because that's far from the truth The ADR crew also did a great job of making sure the dialogue fit the mouth movements while making sure that the actors/actresses gave a good performance. I'm also guessing that the accents were used as a way of giving *some* semblance of authenticity. At the same time, I just die a little inside every time I hear Christopher Ayres, Patrick Seitz, or Monica Rial give their take on a horrible accent imitation. If anything, this dub is similar to the Kanon (2006) dub: the dub itself is solid stuff, but there's just that tiny little detail that just makes me want to make myself taller.
With all that baggage out of the way, let's wrap this up. Black Butler on the whole is just "good." It's not a masterpiece like some of the overzealous fans like to claim it is, but it's also not shit like some of the others on here would like for you to believe. Now, reviews on the whole are a very subjective thing so obviously there's going to be a lot of areas that people disagree on. But at the same time, there are shows on the market that are a hell of a lot more painful to watch than this. If you want shit, don't turn to Kuroshitsuji. Turn to Sword Art Online. Just watch the first episode of Black Butler if you've got 20 minutes to spare. If you like what you see, keep going. If you don't, drop it altogether. It's just that simple. Alternatively, you can just watch the first 15 episodes and then move over to the infinitely superior Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus. That works too. I also highly recommend reading the manga, as it's one hell of a good read.
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