Critic's Log - Earthdate: April 5, 2013. Review #44: Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji)
Greetings Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to properly introduce myself. My name is Giovanni and I will honor whatever requests you give me regarding what animes to see. I will also review what is requested because I want to honor your requests and be of valuable service to you while I review the specific anime you requested. I will try to be perfectly honest in what I think of the anime I'm reviewing and I will analyze it to the best of my knowledge. A while back, my fair master has requested that I review an anime called "Kuroshitsu., uh... Kurohitsu...No... Kurotsuji...*Ahem* Pardon me, I cannot pronounce it, why don't I just call it "Black Butler" Ah yes, now that was simpler for me to say. I shall honor my master's request because you see, I am simply one hell of a critic. , Would you care for a cup of tea while I review Black Butler?
One of the noble families of England known as Phantomhive has one hell of a butler named Sebastian Michaelis. He has unquestionably perfect knowledge, he is well mannered, and he is talented with materials, martial arts and much more. But for some reason, he serves a 12-year-old noble boy named Ciel Phantomhive.
To be technical, this is a A-1 Pictures production and the animation is damn gorgeous in this show and it doesn't disappoint. There are a couple bumps in the road in the progression of Black Butler but it does merit the acknowledgement of having good animation. They would later be responsible for the animation of popular titles such as Fairy Tail and a hugely popular recent anime called Sword Art Online. I'll get to those animes eventually. The animation is Black Butler's strong suit. What does impress me about the animation in the show is how well detailed this show looks. The backgrounds, the sceneries, and even some effects are animated and detailed gorgeously. So Black Butler is good for this.
The music for Black Butler is done by Taku Iwasaki. I know I might be stretching this a little for saying this, but... I find Iwasaki-san to be the male equivalent to Yoko Kanno. I actually find him to be extremely talented in the music department when it comes to Anime. Look up his career and I'll bet you'll be surprised on what he has worked before and since Black Butler. I know Yoko Kanno is extremely popular in the community of anime fans, but I do think some of her stuff may have sound too similar to certain musical compositions or songs while Iwasaki-san sounds mostly original. But I'll just say that whatever Yoko Kanno produces sometimes may just be homages to something she's heard. A bonus for me is that he shares the same birthday as I do. I am getting off subject, am I? Anyway, Iwasaki-san's score really fits the show because the music sounds like it is used in the right era that the music is supposed to be based on. I like the Orchestral sounds that Taku Iwasaki inserted into the show, and Orchestral tends to be epic music even though Black Butler isn't necessarily epic, but it does give a nice touch for Black Butler. It makes the show more elegant and I think that's what the intent of the show was aiming for and it sure hit the chords well. The score isn't perfect though but it's still worth listening to. I will say that the opening is catchy and both closing themes are great too.
When it comes to voice acting, let me make this clear... This show is extremely fitting and superb in the English dub because of the fact it is set in England. But to the credit of the original Japanese cast, they must be mentioned too because the original Japanese case is superb as well. Daisuke Ono was terrific as Sebastian and he plays the role elegantly. Also, another seiyu worth mentioning is the voice of Ciel Phantomhive which is played so damn well by Maaya Sakamoto. Out of all the roles Sakamoto-san has played, Ciel Phantomhive is probably a character she was picked to voice beyond her call of duty. I have never heard her play a male role, especially a 12 year old and make it sound nothing like her (for the most part). What I can say is...is that her performance as Ciel Phantomhive is terrific and definitely worth noting about. Jun Fukuyama is also in this show and he plays the lovely Grell Sutcliff. Other worthy seiyus would include Junichi Suwabe as the Undertaker, and Romi Park as Madam Red. On the side of the English Dub, J. Michael Tatum proves that he is one hell of a voice actor in his role as Sebastian (Can I stop using the "One hell of a..." phrase?) He really nails Sebastian in the dub. Brina Palencia is also pretty good as Ciel Phantomhive. Daniel Frederick is terrific as Grell Sutcliff and I hope to hear more of his stuff. He's very underappreciated. The other Voice Actors and Voice Actresses that are worth mentioning would have to be Chuck Huber as Ashe, Colleen Clickenbeard as Angela, Ian Sinclair as Baldroy, Jerry Jewell as Lau, and Lydia Mackay as Madam Red. The only characters I had a bit of a problem was John Swasey as The Undertaker, it didn't really have the same charm that his Seiyu counterpart had. Also, there's Monica Rial's slightly ear-grating voice as Mey-Rin, although to Monica Rial's credit, she wasn't terrible in this show and she's not a bad voice actress. They could've done something a little different for Mey-Rin's voice for the dub. The Japanese cast is superb and so is the Dub. This is really a show that can be seen in both versions. Colleen Clickenbeard did pretty good as ADR director from the first episode to the seventh, that is until Ian Sinclair took her place for the remainder of the show for reasons I don't know why but I can tell you this is that their ADR directing led to Black Butler having... you guessed it! One hell of a dub.
If there are any problems with the show, First off are the characters. Most of them seem a little underdeveloped and some minor characters are a bit interesting too. That's pretty much that. Sebastian is pretty cool but he isn't developed well as I hoped he would. He does get interesting near the end of the first season of Black Butler. Ciel on the other hand is actually interesting and developed pretty well for the most part. All the other butlers such as Mey-Rin, Baldroy, Tanaka are also fun to watch but not developed fully. But to Black Butler's credit, the characters were never boring and they were in fact fun to watch, it's just Black Butler suffers with some poor character development. The Villians are okay and somewhat interesting too but they have the same issues has some of the other characters that I also mentioned. It's a take it or leave it thing regarding characters for this show. Also, there's Grell Sutcliff. He surprisingly develops pretty well for the most part and let's face it... Without him, this show would have been somewhat boring. He really brings fun on the silver platter. Grell really puts the Ho...um...uh... Let me try to re-phrase this, uh... ah yes, he puts the Homicidal maniac character type to good use, even if he isn't evil. I almost slipped out a gay slur that could offend someone in the LGBT community and I decided not to say it. Please know that I've seen plenty of pictures where people have said that Grell puts the "Homo" in homicidal maniac, it was just an example. Ah screw it, please forgive me for saying all of this. One minor nitpick is that Black Butler has a slightly similar premise to Hellsing. Except Sebastian is nowhere as delightfully fun to watch as Alucard. I don't think Black Butler heavily ripped off Hellsing but I do see just one shard of similarity between the two. I take that back, they are both set in England as well.
Another big issue I have with the show is the story. Albeit of the fact that there is a mystery that does get brought up often. Ciel's character arc is pretty good, but there is a part of the show where they somehow reveal the Queen of England's dark shadow which I thought was a little interesting even though it was a bit farfetched. The show does get a bit interesting from time to time but you have to be really patient until the story does pick up. The thing that strikes me about Black Butler is that it does seem to be a decent anime but I have a hard time admitting this. Toshiya Shinohara may not be a big name anime director but This is actually a somewhat above average series. Sure, Black Butler has some underdeveloped characters and an average story but what really shines is the animation and the music. Half the show is elegantly handled. So I guess it is sort of cheating that the show is good for having a fitting soundtrack and great animation while the problems are the story and characters which are essential to a fictional work. I may like this show but I don't like it the same way as some people do. Believe it or not, you really have to see this show. If you just want good animation, you've come to the right place, if you are looking for a great story with great characters, you might have to look somewhere else, but regardless... you have to at least check this out to see whether you're invested in the show or not. I am looking forward to the second season of Black Butler, but until then. I bid you adieu...
Black Butler is available from Funimation, The manga by Yana Toboso is available by Yen Press.
With all that said, Black Butler may not meet up to your expectations but it does have great animation and a soundtrack that is mostly pleasant. It may not have a fully intriguing story and it may not have fully developed characters on this silver platter for your exquisite tastes but I can promise you that if you are looking for an anime to pass the time, you really should take a taste-test for this elegant treat.
I give Black Butler a 7.7 out of 10, it is GOOD!
Feel free to comment below, now if you'll excuse me.., I must report to my master that my task is finished. Farewell for now.