By Caddy C 3 years, 7 months ago
Black Butler is a popular manga series by Yana Toboso, currently published in the United States by Yen Press. Its elegant Victorian-era characters and costumes made it a hit on the cosplay circuit long before Funimation announced they would release the first season of the anime and simulcast the second.
Ciel Phantomhive, the bratty shota-bait protagonist, disappears after the death of his noble parents. He returns to London before the start of the first season, plus one preternaturally proficient butler and minus one eye. Sebastian, the supernatural servant, is contractually obligated to obey Ciel’s orders, no matter how ridiculous. The terms of Sebastian and Ciel’s contract are vague and sinister, with the only clear requirement being Ciel’s death.
The first Black Butler anime season got it both right and horribly wrong. The anime meandered through inane filler episodes, focusing on increasingly ridiculous characters. The contrast between comedy and creepiness was fun for a few episodes, but became overplayed. After the credits rolled, however, Black Butler surprised the audience by making good on the twenty-four episode long tease between Master and Butler. Sebastian took Ciel’s soul, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t. I gave Black Butler mad props for ending the series conclusively, but its revival for a second season was soon announced. (And a musical, seriously? A musical?) So how could they ret-con the main character’s death? If pre-release press was to be believed, they wouldn’t. The new series was to wipe the slate clean, starting with a new bratty Master/bishounen Butler combo. Fans groaned – who could possibly replace Sebastian and company? Enter Alois Trancy and Claude Faustus. (Faustus – subtle, right?) Fandom geared up to hate the duo, and then a funny thing happened. The new characters were somewhat interesting! Alois is not simply Ciel 2.0; he is bat-shit insane, with the casual cruelty of a child and the psychotic laughter of, well, a psychopath. He gauges out his maid’s eye while his butler dances on the table. (Incidentally, the only onscreen violence is against the only onscreen female – great way to start a series specifically geared towards young women!) Half the episode goes by and a less-than-mysterious stranger appears. The jig is up; Sebastian is back, with Ciel literally in tow. Psyche!
Instead of rebooting the series or explaining away the end of the first season, we got a tease. By season two’s second episode it’s clear that the old gang is back for more of the same. Die-hard Sebastian and Ciel fans will be pleased, but I’m actually disappointed. Black Butler could have taken a risk and gone in a new direction while preserving the gutsy end to the first season, but instead settled on a gimmick to bring back the fan favorites. Alois and Claude may stick around, but Ciel’s running the show. I just hope he can do something more interesting than flood management in the coming episodes.