In June, American audiences saw that return of Ciel Phantomhive and his mysterious butler Sebastian Michaelis in the movie Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic. This got me to revisit the Black Butler series and think about why it was so good. I came to the conclusion that it’s setting, characters, and of course, its story has given the anime a longer life than most.
His Butler, Strongest
In Victorian London, Ciel has had a horrific life. Coming home one day to find his entire family murdered, he was kidnapped by a cult and sentenced to die in a ritual sacrifice to a demonic entity. His luck changes when he is able to summon a demon who promises to help him avenge the murders. The demon, named Sebastian, takes the form of the best butler in the entire universe. Ciel tries to find the murderers of his family while also solving crimes as The Queen’s Watchdog. All of this pales in comparison to the fact that Sebastian will get to eat Ciel’s soul once his revenge is complete.
Black Butler has one of the most interesting character dynamics not only in anime but in all media. Ciel and Sebastian are not friends but are partners whose relationship will come to a very abrupt end once their business is concluded. There is no talk of Ciel getting out of the deal nor Sebastian becoming more sympathetic. There are moments of caring between the two but don’t believe that there is anything more to it. People have talked about the dysfunctional relationship between Rick and Morty, it is nothing compared to Ciel and Sebastian. The writers make their relashunshop[ more real, and that provides a much more interesting show.
His Butler, in an Isolated Castle
The setting of this anime is 19th century London. This provides a nice backdrop in regards to crime and the mysteries that must be solved. Ciel and Sebastian are almost like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson all tho I don’t really know who fits better in that comparison. There is definitely an air of supernatural events, but also some very down to Earth crimes as well. One episode has the two dealing with the ghosts of Prince Edward the V and Richard, Duke of York. In the next, a man is found dead with implications that involve drugs. This allows for a more free range in regards to what type of stories can be told.
The show also mixes real people and events with the fictional characters. Fred Abberline, the police officer who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders, makes an appearance and Queen Victoria is in several episodes. This is a good move since the more outlandish things feel like they have a sense of realism. This was also one of my favorite periods and places and the artists make Old London look great. Even the everyday sounds feel real and one can see the love and respect the artists have for this place.
The anime consists of thirty-six epiosdes. The series did conclude, but a few movies have come out to show what happens in between the beginning and end. The live-action movie is really not worth your time. Book of the Atlantic is an adaption of one of the manga stories and everyone involved in the anime came back. It is a very good movie, concerning the rising of the dead and sailing on a very luxurious ship. The time between anime and series has not slowed down the beautiful artwork and interesting story.
If you like an anime with mystery and the supernatural, Black Butler is for you. A surprising fact was that it was published by Square Enix, a company known for Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy. This show has a little something for everyone, anchored by it’s two interesting and complex main characters. Live the high life at the Phantomhive estate. The servants, I hear, are so good that can’t be human.