Black Butler: You Had Me At Hell-o.Posted by Christina on September 9th, 2011
Once again, I’m late to another great anime.
I remember seeing the manga for Black Butler on the shelf in my local bookstores years ago. The cover art always caught my attention, I’d pick it up, flip through it a bit, and just never wound up buying it for no apparent reason. Years would pass and I’d keep hearing people at conventions and on cosplay boards prattling on about some Kuroshitsuji anime that I couldn’t quite figure out how to pronounce the name of. At some point, I had an “ohhhhhh” moment and realized that Kuroshitsuji WAS Black Butler, and I got a lot less confused when I’d see cosplay referred to as one name when I thought it was from the other.
I had caught the end of an episode of it in a screening room at AnimeBoston earlier this year and thought the ending song and animation were fantastic, and scrolling through Hulu last weekend, I saw that Black Butler had gone up to stream. Finally a chance to check it out from the beginning and see what it’s all about.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but holy crap, this series is oozing with style.
I think you have to be the kind of person who isn’t totally against macabre/gothic-style to be able to enjoy Black Butler. The main character Sebastian is a demon, who is contractually obligated to serve the other main character Ciel Phantomhive, a young earl put in his position too early by the untimely death of his parents, until eventually Sebastian gets Ciel’s soul in exchange for the service. The two have an interesting character dynamic, because it’s hard to read whether they actually care for each other, or if their continued concern is just thanks to their obligation to each other. I’m currently 8 episodes in, and so far there seems to be a good amount of action peppered in to this mostly-dramatic character-driven story. There have been quite a few laughs, thanks to the surrounding characters being incompetent, and the flamboyant Grell, and the smartass banter between Ciel and Sebastian.
I’ve been watching the series English dubbed because that’s what Hulu has available, and much to my surprise I’m enjoying it immensely. J Michael Tatum is spot on for Sebastian, Brina Palencia does a wonderful job being kind of a bratty rich boy as Ciel, and the English accents in general give the series a lot of character and atmosphere that I’m not sure is present in the Japanese original. Of course, the original Japanese cast is nothing to sneeze at either, featuring Daisuke Ono, Maaya Sakamoto, and Junichi Suwabe, just to name a few.
It’s an extremely popular series (especially, it seems, with female yaoi-shippers) that has spawned a sequel series, high-quality but now mostly out-of-print merchandise, and even a musical. This is dangerous for me, because in case you aren’t aware, I’m an absolute sucker for anime musicals. Bleach and Prince of Tennis have made me lose many, many hours watching their musicals, backstage footage, and anything else I could get my hands on. (I may or may not have a photoset of Shuji Hayashi as Byakuya from the Bleach Rock Musicals.) I began watching some of the Black Butler musical backstages last night and oh my, so pretty. The costumes, I mean, not the boys, no never, I’m married after all.
To sum up, I’m enjoying Black Butler quite a bit, and am happy to be in the loop about it now 3 years after the fact. I recommend it if you like pretty things, gothic-style settings, smooth animation and English accents.