Black Butler (Dark Mystery Action Anime Review)
Set in England’s Victorian period, Black Butler is an anime that at first seems to be about a young heir to a very large family fortune, Ceil Phantomhive, and his amazing butler, Sebastian Michaelis; but as the story unfolds what is shown is a much darker story about a queen’s young guard dog and his demonic butler who will one day devour his soul. After his parents are murdered when a fire destroyed their manor, Ceil is left as the heir to an estate and business that seems to be that of a simple, but very successful toy company. Before he is left with the business of his family, he is first captured by a mysterious organization to be tortured, but a month after this he returns to the Phantomhive manor with a black-clad butler. To most people Sebastian seems to be a master of his craft, the perfect butler in every sense, but in reality he is a demon with whom Ceil has made a contract with to help him achieve revenge upon those who killed his parents and captured him. Part of this pact is that Sebastian will tend to the young Earl’s every desire and keep him safe while carrying out the hunt for those who wronged him, but the price of such a butler is that he will devour Ceil’s soul once the contract has been fulfilled. The greatest difficulty of carrying out the needed revenge is that Ceil is unaware of who captured him and who killed his parents; however Sebastian will stay by his side until they are found.
The show itself has some levity to it, especially when it comes to other characters that surround Ceil and Sebastian. This includes the three other members of the Phantomhive staff, who Sebastian personally selected, that together act like an over the top and extremely dangerous slap stick comedy trio when trying to act as servants, but the true reason Sebastian sought out each of these three is for their dark and strange pasts. Ceil’s primary job is that of the “Queen’s Guard Dog”, the one that is called in to solve bizarre mysteries and happenings that could threaten the sanctity of England. This job has him come in to contact with, and often end up on the bad side of, Scotland Yard’s finest who want no interference from a child. During these investigations Ceil finds himself in various predicaments that he might not be able to overcome on his own, but with the help of Sebastian these problems are easily, and swiftly, solved. After all, if Sebastian couldn’t do these things and still have a delicious snack made with afternoon tea, what kind of butler would he be?
The underlying themes of the show will appeal to many, as some of these themes for show that flow throughout are, how far will one go for revenge, don’t judge one on outward appearances alone, and things are not always as they seem. As the show progresses the story becomes darker, but in that darkness light is shed on the true intentions of various characters. Moments of happiness and comedy keep the tone of the anime from becoming too melancholy. It’s is important to note that there are many scenes that may make some uneasy. This is not a show for younger audiences, but those looking for a good Halloween anime will be pleased with this choice. The story is well crafted, using conventions of the time period in which it is set appropriately, the action is well choreographed, with each of the fights and deaths having a uniqueness to them, the animation is excellent, with their being a wide array of colors used for such a dark pallet, and the music is of some of the best in anime today. The most important thing to remember about Black Butler is that Sebastian is, as he says, “One Hell of a butler.”