- 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.
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