- Genre: Supernatural, fantasy, dark comedy
- Episodes: 24
- Studio: A-1 Pictures
A precocious young psychopath enlists the help of a deceptively charming demon to realize his revenge against his family’s murders by making said demon his butler and developing an antagonistically sexy relationship with him. Naturally, his quest for vengeance will consist of loosely related investigations for the crown of England and victorian themed hijinks. Eccentric grim reapers. Occasional cross dressing may be involved. Have any of you tried to really describe this show to someone who’s never seen it? Like not what it’s suppose to be about but what it’s actually about. I’m gonna say loads of ho-yay. That’s what it’s about.
You guys have seen Black Butler right? Even if you haven’t watched it, I figure you pretty much know what it’s about and what it looks like. I’m just rehashing what everyone already knows. You probably think I shouldn’t wasting my time. Good thing my time is worthless!
There are many reasons to dislike Black Butler, it’s one of those shows that just doesn’t know when to stop.
Take the visuals for instance. Sure everything is simply stunning to look at. The victorian gothic loli aesthetic is nothing short of sumptious. The properly dark color palette, ever so slightly desaturated in case you didn’t get how grim the world is, is nevertheless vivid and sustained throughout. But can you imagine the number of animators forced into early retirement from the carpal tunnel those costumes must have caused? Have you ever tried to cosplay as Ciel? There is such a thing as too many niceties.
Similarly, the sound design knows no bounds. Music is significant and dramatic. The excellent voice actors ham up the performances. Every single line is delivered with perceptible urgency and gravitas. Basically, the production values here are excellent and completely unsubtle. I hate when a production feels the need to insist on everything.
As for the creative elements, we go from obvious to baffling. The premise is your basic faustian contract and quest for vengeance. This is well trodden territory that’s been done before and done better. The execution of the narrative is sloppy, stringing together various mini arcs that are largely useless to the overall storyline, dropping threads left and right, asking the audience to make countless intuitive leaps to explain the progression of events. In the end, the overall story is almost meaningless. For lovers of great epics like myself, this is downright painful.
And don’t even get me started on character evolution. Actually you can, there is none. There, done. Everyone is pretty much a theatrical caricature shamelessly overacting, and looking almost annoyingly good in the process. It’s a soap opera, plain and simple. But a soap opera that includes gratuitous and graphic violence, objectifying a young boy and endlessly insinuating a clearly predatory relationship with an adult. Featuring a cast of deeply repulsive monster. Worse of all, randomly rewriting the history and culture of Great Britain. I’m not that familiar with soap operas, maybe all these things are to be expected.
I’ll just say this: I would watch more Black Butler any day of the week. If something I have not seen becomes available, it will go straight to the head of my queue. Black Butler is awesome! One thing the very few detractors of this series occasionally fail to take into account is that the series is in fact a pure comedy. An occasionally tongue in cheek comedy that plays on sappy overboard angst for laughs, but still clearly a comedy. If someone was looking for an emotional drama, I gotta imagine that they would be deeply disappointed. As comedy, it’s brilliant and occasionally a little mean. You get the sense that there may not be all that much respect for the genre it’s parodying but that cattiness is part of the fun.
Everything in Black Butler is exaggerated. If you take it at face value, it becomes ridiculous. That super flowery art style works, because it’s clearly supposed to be over the top. The unwaveringly intense delivery of the characters is part of the joke and often hilarious. And those characters are icons for a reason. While it’s true that no one is particularly well fleshed out and motivations are usually either superficial or nonexistent, backstory and intricate characterizations would needlessly clutter the narrative. Sebastian & co. work because they are caricatures. Their simple personalities can bounce off each other in sensationalized ways creating endless opportunities for satirising traditional melodramas, without confusing the audience.
The hyperbole of everyting is also what makes those problematic elements oddly acceptable. Both the sexualization and violence are so cartoonish that it would be ridiculous to take them seriously. Whether you think it’s funny or not, it’s very clearly meant as a joke. Grell’s entire character is pretty much a personification of that. And to nit pick at historical accuracy here would say much more about you than about the show.
Taken individually, nothing in Black Butler works. I should hate it. And if somebody tried to sell it to me as earnest, I would hate it. It’s a collection of everything I dislike most in anime. But Black Butler is so much greater than the sum of its parts. I love everything about it. Black Butler proved me wrong.
Favorite character: Baldroy and Undertaker
What this show taught me: Just because something sounds stupid doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant.
In the eye of a drunk, no one is ugly.
Suggested drink: One Hell Of A Pickle Martini
- Every time Ciel removes his eyepatch – take a sip
- Every time Grell flirts with Seb – fan yourself
- Every time Mey-Rin magoos – take a sip
- Every time we see Lau – take a sip
- Every time Sebastian is one hell of a butler – take a sip of water
- Every time Baldroy accidentally blows something up – take a sip
- Every time you detect ho-yay – take a good sip
- Every time Tanaka becomes a chibi – take a sip
- Every time Sebastian removes his gloves – take a sip
- Every time Elizabeth is innocent – take a sip
- Every time Ciel smiles – blush
25 thoughts on “Black Butler proved me wrong”
You nailed it. Except for the art and sound, there isn’t a single thing about it to recommend it. Plot holes as big as the London bridge. Not the slightest hint of character arc. But combine it all and it works.
It’s black magic
A very thoughtful and well written analysis of Black Butler, “spot on” on all counts.
It’s funny, the opening episode really sets you up for a very dark series, with a certain dark comedy aspect, but more reminiscent of Hell Girl or Shiki than anything else, but then it becomes much gentler, and for the most part it stays there. I think you’re right that a big factor is how often audiences start with incorrect expectations about the series.
I’m so glad you liked it. Writting this post really reminded me how much I enjoyed the series.
Kuroshitsuji has its issues, but it’s rather enjoyable as a whole if you treat it like a comedy as you said.
You nailed it, Irina!
While I generally detest live action adaptations, the one I saw of Black Butler was fairly accurate and very entertaining.
I haven’t been brave enough to attempt watching the live action but I might give it a try
It was modestly faithful to the storyline as well as the “feel” of the anime. Not perfect but not as cringe-worthy as that Ghost in the Shell abomination that came out recently.
I thoroughly recommend watching Book of Circus, which has even more emphasis on the whole victorian gothic loli aesthetic, a much tighter overarching storyline, and thankfully just pretends that Black Butler season two does not exist.
Book of Circus was very pretty but I wish there had been a few more episodes, it felt little underdeveloped here and there. I really loved doll as a character
Yes, I wish it had been longer too. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more development for just about every side-character in the circus.
I find it better not to explain Black Butler to people. I love it. It is fantastic. Don’t watch season 2 but watch Book of Circus and Book of Murder. And that’s pretty much it other than the fact that Sebastian is perhaps my favourite character ever.
I have yet to see book of Murder and Book of Atlantis but since I’ve enjoyed everything else (except the play OVA) I will definitely make an effort to find both some day!
Wait is Book of Atlantis animated already!? I didn’t like Book of Murder much, but I’ve heard good things about the manga.
I haven’t seen Book of Atlantis yet but I look forward to when I can.
You are right: I am one of those persons that hasn’t seen Black Butler, but does know the look and what it’s about. Another great post: it’s always seriously cool when you watch a series that you expect very little of, or are supposed to really hate, turns into something you love. 😀
This show was like having drinks with coworkers and gossiping about everyone that didn’t make it..
I don’t think I ever have tried to explain Black Butler to someone. Wait that’s not right. I could not explain Black Butler to anyone. I’d just say it’s hilarious and you have to find out more on your own lol. Oh and if you haven’t watched the bloopers yet I highly recommend it. Reminds me a lot of the Fullmetal Alchemist bloopers.
I loved the bloopers ep. Haven’t seen FMA but I swear it’s next on y list…..
They’re really similar in a lot of ways. FMA is probably a little better though imo.
I had so much fun reading your post!! I love this anime (and the manga) but I have always an hard time when I try to explain to other people why I like it so much! (In the end I compel them to watch an episode and once they are hooked up I can extricate myself from further explanations!). Now I can say them to read your post and be done with it! 🙂
Not sure It would be of much help but I’m so glad you enjoyed the read! Took me forever to figure out how to tackle this show….