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.