Hello everyone! Today we’re reviewing volumes 1 and 2 of Black Butler! This manga series falls under action, fantasy, a little comedy, and hits that spot just between shojo and shonen, appealing to a wide variety of audiences. shojo lovers will love the dark and suave Sebastian and the general smooth shaded style of Yana Toboso’s art while shonen fans will enjoy the twisting mystery and kick-ass action of the story events.
“A butler begins his day early. He is the last to finish his work late at night, and the first to begin his work in the morning.”
The story takes place in London, mainly focusing on the Phantomhive Earl Ciel who is not only the head of a massive toy company but also a dominant influence in the underground shadow world. Because the Phantomhive power is so vast, Ciel becomes a target for many external factions and individuals but Ciel seems unfazed by any threats that come his way because of his amazing butler. On first glance, Sebastian seems like a top-notch, attentive and creative butler who tends to everything in the household. However, when Ciel is kidnapped, Sebastian goes to retrieve him post haste without alerting any other staff of the household. You see, Sebastian has a very special wide-ranging set of skills and it goes without saying that as the butler of the Phantomhive family, he can manage such minor feats. At the end of volume 1, we see Ciel officially command Sebastian to save him. He reveals the eye under his eye patch, marked with a seal identical to the mark on Sebastian’s hand. Despite Sebastian’s extraordinary capabilities, he stays true to his role as a butler and asks his master for forgiveness when the kidnapping and rescue ordeal has taken longer than what was expected thus delaying him from dinner preparations. We see Sebastian holds himself to extremely strict standards to the demonic covenant binding master and servant together.
Volume 2 begins with a visit from Ciel’s aunt, The Former Baronness Burnett Angelina Dalles, better known as Madam Red, and Lau, the British Branch Manager of the Chinese Trading Company “Kong Rong” and a butler named Grelle. Madam Red brings word of a serial murderer called Jack the Ripper who targets prostitutes. Ciel agrees to help saying, “I am here to eliminate the source of “Her” distress.” Whoever “Her” is, is uncertain – perhaps the Queen? Anyway, at this point Ciel leads the group to the Undertaker, a shady individual who sells bits and pieces of information. After their visit, Ciel and Sebastian observe that the murderer must be “someone well-versed in medical science and anatomy… someone with no alibi on the night of the murders… [and] someone involved with a secret society or cult of black magic.” Of course, it goes without saying that Sebastian can manage something as trivial as narrowing down hundreds upon thousands of individuals to one perpetrator and the most likely suspect is the Viscount of Druitt, Sir Aleistor Chamber.
After a long ball and a string of strange events, some comedic and some much more violent, upon killing the Viscount, another Jack the Ripper murder has made the front page of London newspapers the following morning. Sebastian reiterates to Ciel, “It would have been impossible for any persons who were at the Viscount’s residence.” And Ciel catches his Butler’s very specific word choice and realizes that Jack the Ripper is no ordinary murderer, rather, he is someone or something with similar capabilities to Sebastian.
The next day, Sebastian and Ciel sit vigil to catch Jack the Ripper and discover Madam Red’s butler, Grelle Sutcliff, covered in blood. Grelle reveals his true self, a grim reaper… and for some reason, Sebastian covers Ciel’s eyes from seeing the grim reaper (perhaps because Ciel will die upon seeing the reaper in its true form?) When Madam reveals herself and her evil intentions, Grelle attacks Ciel and the fight is on between Grelle and Sebastian!
This is exciting stuff! The story moves at a moderately fast pace and the events are relatively easy to follow. A lot of action takes place in these first two volumes. I love the fact that the characters’ multitude of layers are slowly being revealed. The fact that Sebastian is always so calm and collected one moment serving desert, and the other moment, hunting down baddies for his master, makes him one of the most intriguing characters I have every come across. I can’t wait to find out Ciel’s past and his reason for making the covenant with Sebastian as the story unfolds. It’s taken me a while to get to this series because I’ve been so preoccupied with other manga but I hope you guys liked this review and enjoy Black Butler as much as I do!
What are you pondering today?