Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) Series I & II

Mpepper/ August 4, 2020/ Reviews

So let’s be 100% clear from the start. I have not read any of the manga. I have only watched the first two series. The first is from 2008-2009, the second from 2010. I hope to find and watch Book of Circus, Book of Murder, and Book of the Atlantic. And of course I’d really love to read the manga. But, long story short, all I have to go on right now is what I’ve seen in these first two series.

The titular character in Kuroshitsuji (known in English as Black Butler) is Sebastian Michaelis, a demon working as a butler in Victorian England to the 13-year-old Earl Ciel Phantomhive. (Well, Ciel is 12 at the start of the series, but whatever.) Sebastian and Ciel have a contract: Sebastian will help Ciel discover and get revenge upon whoever murdered Ciel’s parents, and when the revenge has been taken, Sebastian will devour Ciel’s soul.

Seems like a fair trade.

In the meantime, Ciel carries on the family tradition of serving as Queen Victoria’s “guard dog.” He investigates crimes in London’s seedy underbelly.

The real draw here is the relationship between Sebastian and Ciel, which treads a very fine line—exactly the kind of line that makes fangirls swoon. And I’ll gladly admit I am one. But I’ll also admit that, while the first series had what I’d consider a satisfying ending, the second was a mess. IMHO, of course.

Spoilers follow, so if you don’t want to know details, click away now.

At the end of the first series, revenge has seemingly been achieved and Sebastian is prepared to devour Ciel’s soul as per their contract. Cool.

But since they needed an excuse to continue the story, the second series tells us that a spider (that turns out to be a demon) stole Ciel’s soul just before Sebastian could devour it. So Sebastian goes to retrieve it and reanimates Ciel. Uh… okay, I guess? And Ciel doesn’t remember anything, so… And this is just me trying to work out exactly what the issues were, so I may have misunderstood… It seems like Sebastian is back to square one because as far as Ciel knows there has been no revenge taken? So Sebastian must redirect Ciel’s anger by giving him a new vengeance target. And that target ends up being Alois Trancy, another young earl who has made a deal with a demon named Claude. Like, what are the chances, right? Unless demons really like to play butler? I don’t know what kinds of fetishes demons have, so… maybe?

I’ll skip the intricacies because the leaps in logic were astounding, but at the end of it all, both Claude and Sebastian were after Ciel’s soul. But Ciel’s body was being inhabited by Alois’ soul at the same time. And Alois was jealous that Everybody Loves Ciel. So he played a final trick in not allowing either demon to have Ciel’s soul. In fact, he (with the help of yet another demon named Hannah) made Ciel into a demon. So… bottom line… Sebastian ended up not getting the nummy soul he’d worked so hard for and instead ended up in an eternal contract with Ciel that will never, ever pay off. I think?

And this really irritated me.

If asked to articulate why, though, I struggle. Is it because I believe patience and hard work should pay off, even for demons? Is it because I fell in fangirl love with Sebastian and don’t like seeing him get the wrong end of a raw deal? If he’d seemed happier and more satisfied with the situation, I think I would have felt differently. But his demeanor by the end of the second series was just as irked as I felt. Which in a way ruined the “happily ever after” I wanted for Sebastian and Ciel. Yes, I want them to be together, and now they can be—forever! But at the same time, Sebastian doesn’t seem too pleased with the circumstances. And I want their together forever to be a happy one.

Perhaps it’s about distribution of power. Sebastian was always the servant, but he was also the one with supernatural abilities. Ciel was his master, but Ciel also heavily relied on Sebastian and almost could not function without him. This made for a good balance. If Ciel is now a demon, however, and still master of Sebastian, the relationship has become seriously unequal. And that holds a lot less interest for me. In fact, it’s rather frustrating. It’s like I’m embittered on Sebastian’s behalf.

Keep in mind that I’m only basing all this on these two series of anime. Nothing more. I read somewhere that Black Butler II is completely unrelated to the manga. So maybe if I read the manga I’ll be more satisfied? Or if I watch the rest of the anime? I’ll let you know if/when I do and whether that changes my overall feeling. For now, I’m trying to hold on to what I loved about the characters and show and get over the things that soured me toward the end.

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