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.