Black Butler

Alt title: Kuroshitsuji

TV (24 eps)
2008 - 2009
Fall 2008
4.016 out of 5 from 48,172 votes
Rank #920

In Victorian England it is commonplace for the rich and wealthy to have a staff, led by a head butler, to run their households; the Phantomhive Estate is no different. The young and demanding Count Ciel Phantomhive, child owner of a toy company, lives in the grand countryside manor. Sebastian is his head butler, and the epitome of perfection; he effortlessly and gracefully completes his day-to day chores and fixes the countless mistakes of the other employees. However, whilst on the outside all seems prim and proper, a more sinister secret lies just beneath the surface. Sebastian is in fact a demon bound by a contract with the young count; he will loyally serve and fight for him in return for his soul.

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As of late, Kuroshitsuji is essentially the poster-boy for thinly-veiled fangirl bait. Kuroshitsuji (or Black Butler, whatever floats your boat) has tons of yaoi tropes, and has the word bishie plastered all over it, so you may think that being somebody who does not like these things, that I hate it because of that. So let's make this clear now: No. That has nothing to do with it. There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to like Kuroshitsuji besides that, so before you reach for the Not Helpful button, please think for a second: are you doing that because my review is badly written, or just because you don't agree with my score? So, at the very least, just read the rest of the review first, OK? With that sadly necessary disclaimer out of the way, let's discuss Kuroshitsuji. Kuroshitsuji is the story of a boy named Ciel Phantomhive, and his butler, Sebastian Michaelis. Ciel is the head of a toy company, and is also in the employment of the Queen, who enlists him to deal with various mysteries. Why this is the case isn't really explained, but nonetheless, most of the episodes play out as a Sherlock Holmes style detective series with him solving various supernatural mysteries. Of course, Ciel is no ordinary boy... he has a contract with his butler for his soul. As you probably already knew, Sebastian is a demon of sorts. He is nigh invulnerable to everything, has amazing skill in pretty much every field, and is basically perfect in every way. This, however, is the first problem with the series... Sebastian is a massive Gary Stu. He's simply too perfect. Not once do you feel for him as a character. He is completely overpowered, and is essentially an end all, fix all solution to more or less every single problem the series can throw at any of its characters. Sadly, the rest of the cast isn't much better. Ciel Phantomhive is probably the most likeable character in the show, being something of a snarky, deadpan character with a chip on his shoulder the size of Africa. But he has his idiosyncrasies as well... most of which simply come down to him being a complete jerk to everyone. Ciel is generally single-minded, only caring about whatever mission the Queen has given him, or getting revenge on those who ruined his life. The reaper, Grell Sutcliffe, had potential to be a loveable psychopath in the vein of Ladd Russo or any given Hellsing villain, but they eschew the chainsaw wielding, slasher smile route laid out in front of them in favour of making him incredibly, incredibly gay, as though they were trying to make a psychotic badass Leeron. But unlike the aforementioned Gurren Lagann character, they don't manage to make him nearly entertaining or tongue-in-cheek enough... to be perfectly honest, Grell is just plain offensive. Another problem with Kuroshitsuji is that it can't seem to decide what it wants to be. For half the series, it goes down the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes route, painting a great depiction of 1888 London, rolling through themes like Jack The Ripper and Scotland Yard, but for the other half it tries to blend a Tim Burton-esque supernatural demon theme to the mix, and the tone of the series becomes very inconsistent as a result. Both styles are well-executed, but they conflict with each other. If they had been more consistent, Kuroshitsuji would have been better as a result. The character designs also mirror this quite heavily; While we often get a good, 1800s design like Sebastian, we also get overblown, colourful and vibrant designs like those of Grell or the Undertaker that creates a very poor contrast. Also, there's something that can occasionally be very jarring, and that would be the anachronisms. Despite the show being set in 1888, you will frequently see things that are very out of place in this time period, like advanced modern handguns, sophisticated chainsaws, and film. While all of these things did exist in some form at this point, none of them do in the form they are shown in. And even more jarring is that most of these are applied to the Reapers, ancient beings that would not realistically incorporate these sorts of things into their supernatural array of weapons. And on that note, one of the things that annoys me most about Kuroshitsuji is that the demon lore is left completely unexplained, as though they were some sort of afterthought. The reapers hate demons, but why? It's never given any real mention. There are also Angels, only one of which we ever see, whose purpose and role in the demon lore is never even touched upon, let alone their motives. I think Kuroshitsuji would have actually been better if they had completely left out the angel/demon/reaper aspects of the show and solely focused on the detective angle instead. The only aspect wherein Kuroshitsuji really shines is the production job. The animation is fluid, and the art style is thoroughly polished, using a blend of dark, rich tones. The 1800s environment is one of the strong points of the series, which makes it all the more of a shame that they so often opt for the Burton-shtick instead. The soundtrack is also very strong, featuring a variety of music fitted to the period, most notably the smooth jazz. Now, before this reads like an invitation for all the yaoi fangirls to break down my door, let me just clarify this by saying that Kuroshitsuji is not bad. What it is is average. Ordinary. Run of the mill. The only exceptional thing about it being the insane level of fan-pandering it stoops to. However, there is still one serious problem with Kuroshitsuji not accounted for... the ending. The last few episodes are an evermounting pile of contrived nonsense. Things happen, but no explanation as for why or how is ever really given. No character's motivations ever make sense. Plot twists come from absolutely nowhere with no foreshadowing or real explanation. It rivals Soul Eater in terms of ridiculous bullshit endings, but at least Soul Eater didn't leave us on an incredibly dodgy cliffhanger that leads to a second season of pure filler. Final Words: It had potential, but it ignored it so it could pander to fans. Animation/Graphics: 9/10 Story/Plot: 3/10 Music/Background: 9/10 Overall: 4/10 For Fans Of: Hellsing, Pandora Hearts.


This fujoshibait anime was super popular when it first aired, by ticking all the right notes. Cute boy, sexy butler, dark atmosphere, and some mystery in the background. I will admit that Sebastian is the coolest anime butler of all times. I mean, what other candidates were there? That irritating indecisive harem shit archetype one from Hayate no Gotoku, or maybe those trash from Ladies versus Butlers? No sir, the competition was low to begin with and dear Sebastian wins while still making breakfast for his master. As a character, I found him to be the tuxedo wearing offspring of Alucard from Hellsing and Enma Ai from Jigoku Shoujo. Battle frenzied and imba in battle like the former, and sends people to hell by making contracts with them like the latter. Plus, he is made of the stuff that makes fujoshis scream like they are being teased in their privates by all the members of a k-pop band. And then there is Ciel, the frail and cute shota with an attitude, who gets to be carried around by Sebastian in his lap like a good doggy every five minutes. Yeah, great service there, people. Along with them, every important character in this series is like a model agency graduate with debatable sex and sexual preferences. All part of looking gaunt enough to keep watching even if you don’t like the plot one bit. And why would you? There is hardly any.I give full marks to character figures and backgrounds, meaning the overall artwork. Victorian England looks very interesting and besides some minor anachronisms, it is very realistic in how society was running back then. High amount of detail and decoration, smart camera angles and uses of lighting and shading, plus many wonderful sceneries to just stare at how beautiful they are. Studio A-1 does wonders when it wants to. But not when it comes to animation since movements tend to have many still panels, jerky movements, low frame rate and sometimes annoying chibi comedy moments that ruin the immersion.As for the story, unlike Sebastian, it’s very weak. The premise is about Ciel becoming a boy detective and selling his soul to the devil in order to get revenge on the dudes who killed his family. It’s also about Sebastian looking cool and that’s pretty much all of it. Ok, it’s not THAT bad but it doesn’t exactly care much about plot progression. Mystery exposition is rushed, the chain of events is loose and happens whenever the author fancies it, and the showdowns ain’t exciting at all. Want a breakdown of most episodes? Ciel is looking for a criminal, goes somewhere, meets someone, a crime happens and it is revealed the guilty one was the guy he just met. So his life is in danger and tells his butler to fix this mess because they will be late for tea time. And then it’s over, Sebastian is simply unbeatable and doesn’t even need to use strategy in battle. It’s just brute force. Basically, the detective and mystery aspects of the story are simple and come down to magic nonsense. As for the ending, there isn’t one, there are more seasons after it where the objective matters less and less. In fact, the second season is completely filler. So yeah, you end up watching it just for Sebastian giving Ciel a spongebath.Let’s not kid ourselves, the selling point of the series is Sebastian. The anime itself is named after him. As long as you are satisfied watching him doing cool stuff with his underage sex partne…err, I mean master, then the rest become trivial. Beyond that it’s just some comic relief characters to poke fun at, which get backdrop stories at some point and gain half an extra dimension to their personality. They are not entirely stunts, basically. But since all that always happens out of the blue, lasts 5 minutes, doesn’t affect the main story, is hardly ever mentioned again, and it’s usually ridiculed by bad jokes, well, that’s as important as painting with watercolors out in the open during a heavy rain.As a whole it is not an anime that will be remembered for anything other than its main character ass-serving Ciel. Fujoshis can adore it all they want and can decorate the ceiling above their beds with doujin pictures of those two. The rest of us normal folks have better things to watch.

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