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.
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.
Having nothing better to watch these days, I went for bijin series just for a change of pace in my anime life. You know; waiting 5 years for another FMAB to pop up. So here I am viewing this “Butler from Hell anime”, which comments make it look like it’s orgasm in animated form. I sat down with zero expectations knowing how bijin looks and lots of fujoshi fandom don’t translate to good news. Well, no surprise, I was right.First of all I will admit that Sebastian is the coolest anime butler of all times. I mean, what other candidates are 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. Not bad of a combo I must say. Ok, he was not battle frenzied like dear old All but was equally imba during battle. And yes, he does send people to hell by making contracts with them. Plus, he is made of the stuff that makes fujoshis scream like they are being teased in their privates by a j-pop band. All of its members at the same time. And then there is Ciel, the frail and cute shota with an attitude that gets carried around by Sebastian in his lap like a good doggy every five minutes. Yeah, great service there people.Well, they are not the only ones of course; pretty much 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 . From the above monologue, you can figure out that I give full mark to character figures. And I also do for all the backgrounds, sceneries, and overall artwork too. 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. I must say Studio A-1 Works does wonders when it wants to. It’s still not a perfect mark though. The actual animation is rather sloppy, with many still panels, jerky movements, low frame rate and sometimes annoying chibi moments. Yes, lots of rather crude chibi looks that ruin true immersion to the story. The sound department is mighty fine too. Great voice acting, nice atmospheric music, ok sound effects, the package does it’s magic with flying colours. The bijins are seducing you with their tone of voice or making you laugh with their sillyness. Now about the story which, unlike Sebastian, it’s very weak. The premise is about Ciel selling his soul to the devil in order to get revenge on the dudes who killed his family and becoming a boy detective in order to find clues. And it’s also about Sebastian… looking cool. That’s pretty much all of it. Ok, it’s not THAT bad but the presentation doesn’t have any sort of brilliance in its handling. Mystery exposition is rushed, the chain of events is loose and happens as the author likes it, the showdowns ain’t exciting at all. Want a breakdown? 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 so tells his butler to fix this mess because they will be late for tea time. And that’s it… No matter the situation, Sebastian is simply unbeatable and doesn’t even need to use strategy in battle. It’s just brute force. Yeah, totally unexciting…Not only that, but as the story goes on, this becomes more and more of a problem and in the end it feels like everything happens like Bleach in totally random and convenient ways. So the detective and mystery aspects of the story are plain horseshit and ruin the already simple premise of the story. I mean, check out Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. It was detective and supernatural but had actual interest and showdowns (of sorts). This? This was Scooby Doo serious before it. The ending is also left rather open, so there isn’t even a closure to the already simplified and kindergarten-handled main story. I was told that the anime added a lot of filler and that the manga is far better, with the second season being nothing but a fanfic. Plus it is far lamer than even the first season. Thus the story is yet another victim of adaptation decay but hey, who cares about the story if you can stare at 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 partner master, then all the rest are trivial. And if that is not enough, there are many comic relief characters to have fun as substitute for the piss poor storytelling. To be honest, most characters get exposition and you really do get to know a lot about them as the story goes on. They are not entirely stunts. 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 makes all character progress and coloring to be equal with the Stone Age while using watercolors on an open space during a heavy rain. But who cares about depth if I get to wet my thingy by staring at them? The value and enjoyment of this anime are a weird thing. Fujoshis adore it and most will probably have decorated the ceiling above their beds with doujin pictures of Sebastian ass-serving Ciel. The only replay value I see here is just so you can keep staring at the bijins and NOT the story or the plot. That counts as something but I definitely know it is not an anime that will be remembered for anything other than its main character. Now if you excuse me, I will return back to watching pitiful anime fandom deifies for silly reasons while waiting for another FMAB. SUGGESTION LIST HellsingJigoku ShoujoMajin Tantei Nougami Neuro
STORY This show had such an interesting premise: an orphaned son of noblemen contracts to sell his soul to a demon in exchange for the demon's help in seeking vengeance for his parents' murder. The demon takes the form of the boy's butler and will obey his every order until the killers are brought to justice. When that day comes, the demon will consume the boy's soul. Great premise! And a good writer could have done a lot with it. Unfortunately, for me, the execution on the premise fell flat. Starting, by the way, with the way most of the premise was rapidly unfolded within a few seconds in a montage scene at the beginning of the first episode. There's so much juiciness in the basic concept that I would have loved to have seen it unfolded slowly, like a good mystery. I would have loved to see at least an episode or two from the viewpoint of the other servants, wondering how the hell this creepy red-eyed butler gets all his shit done so perfectly, without the viewer's having had the benefit of aforementioned Explanatory Expository Montage. Instead, the show dumped it all upon us at once. Which I might have forgiven it if had something interesting to do. But it didn't. Most of the show consisted of a bunch of aimless, unconnected, uninteresting filler episodes. Most of the episodes followed a Sherlock-Holmesian detective style, with Ciel (for some reason that the show failed to explain clearly) acting as the Queen's guard dog and investigating the supernatural mysteries. A few episodes here and there were interesting from a character perspective, but they were the exceptions. Even the main plot itself, when it finally got going, felt sorely lacking. It was awfully forced, from a thematic point of view, and mostly incoherent without even satisfactorily resolving the central mysteries of why the Phantomhives were chosen for cleansing.The season was at its best when it focused on the relationship between Ciel and Sebastien - especially when tension rose between them at the season's end. I wish they had done more with the relationship throughout the series to cap it off with that delicious ending. It felt as if the relationship stayed stagnant for most of the season . . . and then it ended just when things started to get interesting. I should also note that the series suffered for its uneven tone. I appreciate that it was trying to mix humor with the dark, but that worked best when it came from Sebastien, and not when scenes of darkness were juxtaposed with sight gags from the Gaggle of Annoying Servants (see "Character" section below). ANIMATION Middle of the road. Some of the colors were a bit bright for my taste, but that's just personal preference. Nothing to write home about, although I did appreciate the attention to detail in animating in the Victorian era. The character designs obviously appealed to the man/boy love fangirl crowd, with a dash of Annoying Anime Girl and Androgynous Villain with Boobs for the fanboys. I suppose Ciel's English noble-boy wardrobe changes were fun to watch, but overall there was nothing particularly interesting about the character designs. SOUND I enjoyed the music for Black Butler. The opening and ending themes were not memorable, but the music during the show itself was appropriately foreboding and created a dark, brooding atmosphere. I must also comment on the excellent voice work for the leads, Ciel and Sebastien. Brina Palencia did the English voice over for Ciel, and it was perfect: the way she enunciated each syllable and imbued it with haughtiness and contempt. Sebastien's voice actor also did good work. Even with the umpteenth repetition of "I'm simply one hell of a butler," I never tired of hearing his voice. I can't say the same for anyone else in the English dub, though. CHARACTERS The annoying character ratio on this show is off the charts. As in, the majority of characters on the show are extremely, extremely annoying. Exhibit A: Lady Elizabeth, Ciel's Annoying Simpering Anime Girl betrothed, complete with squeaky shrieky high voice and no redeeming traits whatsoever. That episode where she was turned into a doll was deliciously freaky (and accurate). I was hoping she would die a rapid, horrible death, but, alas, no. Exhibit B: The Gaggle of Annoying Servants, including Red-Haired Maid, with the awful shrieky cockney British accent, Super Strong Guy, with awful girly voice (a horrendous Jason Liebrecht!), and Annoying Cook, with no cooking skills. Oh, and I forgot to mention Old Butler Guy Who Deflates. Each servant also came with a suitably annoying voice (at least in the English version - sorry, Netflix only has the English dub). Toward the end of the series, the writers attempted to give the servants all interesting back stories, but by then I disliked them all so much that I didn't care. The servants were supposedly used for comedy, but mostly they were just annoying. Later, the servants were used as cheap emotional parlor tricks, but that failed because they were annoying and, hence, conveyed no emotional heft when they were put in peril. (I will also comment that the show's attempts to use the Nice Scotland Yard Detective with Pregnant Wife for emotional payoff fell completely flat as well, since he had barely even registered as a character before his nonsensical and foolishly heroic sacrifice.) Exhibit C: Red-Haired Scythe Grim Reaper, who was mostly a plot device, and not particularly interesting. Or funny. Fun character design, but that's about it. Exhibit D: The Undertaker Reaper - also not particularly interesting. Or funny. Creepy, but not creepy enough to be interesting. Exhibit E: Lau, the Chinese guy, who appeared in random episodes without my ever knowing who he was. It's still not clear to me whether I was supposed to have known who he was before the episode that actually focused on who he was. All of the above greatly diminished my enjoyment of the show. The sole saving graces of the show, I suppose, were the main characters, the arrogant and dark lord Ciel Phantomhive, and his black butler, Sebastien Michaelis. The erotic undertones of Sebastien's desire to devour his little lord's delicious soul made each interaction all the more fun to watch, and the show played up on this obvious theme quite well. From the character designs to the random scenes of Sebastien bathing Ciel, to Sebastien seeing Ciel in various states of undress, Black Butler made every detail feed back into and tease out the demon-master relationship. After all, the central premise of the show is that a demon wants to devour a child's soul: the show would have been remiss to not capitalize on the twisted perversions hinted by that premise. As it turns out, this was about the only thing the show did right. Even with Ciel and Sebastien, though, the show achieved very little development except at the very end (one piercing glare from Sebastien comes to mind). By then, it was too little too late. OVERALL I guess I enjoyed watching the show, although so many of the characters annoyed me. Every time Lady Elizabeth appeared in an episode, I groaned. I found the mix of dark themes with the supernatural interesting, but the attempt to mix dark themes with humor was not always successful. Again, the central relationship between Ciel and Sebastien was the most interesting to watch - and I say this from a character standpoint, not because I particular enjoy man/boy love anime or found the characters attractive (which I didn't particularly). But, as always, it came down to the story. Or, in this case, the lack thereof. Black Butlerlacked a compelling enough story to support the interesting central characters and premise. The main plot felt thematically forced, instead of unfolding organically from the seeds of a planted mystery. The main villain was weak, one-note, and uninteresting, and hardly the dramatic equal of Sebastien. Overall, the season was a mixed bag. I will not be watching the OVA or the second season.
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