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Black Butler

Wednesday 17th August 2011


Matt Kamen on Black Butler, the Satanic Jeeves

Black ButlerCiel Phantomhive seems a very privileged boy, especially for an orphan living in Victorian London. Inheritor of the family manor and business, the internationally successful Funtom toy company, Ciel is a young man of considerable means. But the death of his parents was no accident, and he craves vengeance on those responsible – so much so that he offers his soul for the servitude of Sebastian Michealis. A Satanic Jeeves, Sebastian is perfect in every way, a master of any domestic, social or martial task that is asked of him. He is, as he likes to boast, one hell of a butler, often fulfilling the duties of Ciel’s inept staff, and 100% committed to helping his master achieve his goals. Once he has, Ciel agrees that Sebastian will kill him, claiming his soul for the underworld. But before that comes to pass, Ciel must also fulfil his family obligation to Queen Victoria, investigating the strange crimes that plague London Town – including a certain Jack the Ripper....

Black Butler debuted in manga form in 2006, the first ongoing series from creator Yana Toboso following her short work Rust Blaster. Those were only her mainstream works– the talented 27-year old also published “boys’ love” manga under the pseudonym “Roku Yanao” (Rock Ya Now – get it?).

However, Toboso’s most notable visual influence in Black Butler is her love of Victoriana and Neo-Victorian styles. The Japanese obsession with such refinements dates back to the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the musical genre of Visual Kei started to take off in the 1990s that the trend really took off – a movement that took ornate Victorian fashions and blended both male and female styles into a rock-infused androgyny, paraded around in music videos and elaborate on-stage performances, and soon in numerous Gothic Lolita and Steampunk fashions.

Black ButlerAs such clothing styles grew in popularity in Japan, they generated a fascination with the social behaviour of Victorian times, particularly that of high society with its outward image of propriety and decorum. To a Japanese audience, nothing exemplified this more than the English aristocracy’s staff of butlers and maids – and the latter have crept into manga and anime with incredible regularity. The Victorian London setting of Black Butler allowed Toboso to engage all of these elements at once – elaborate clothes, tense master-servant relationships, and ornate backgrounds, with a supernatural twist befitting the city’s dark and foreboding gas-lit streets. It all combines to make one hell of a show…

Black Butler 1.1 is available now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Black Butler Series 1 Part 1

£11.99
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THE BUTLER FROM HELL!
Ciel Phantomhive is the most powerful boy in all of England, but he bears the scars of unspeakable suffering. Forced to watch as his beloved parents were brutally murdered, Ciel was subsequently abducted and violently tortured. Desperate to end his suffering, the boy traded his own soul for a chance at vengeance, casting his lot with the one person on whom he could depend: Sebastian, a demon Butler summoned from the very pits of hell.
Together, they'll prowl the darkest alleys of London on a mission to snuff out those who would do evil. They're a rare sight, these two: the Butler who dismembers with dazzling cutlery and the Young Master who carries the devil's marking. Rest assured that wherever they may be headed, it'll be one hell of a ride.
Contains episodes 1-12.

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Black Butler What the Butler Saw

Matt Kamen on the love that dares not speak its name.
Set in the midst of London in the late 1800s, Black Butler follows young Ciel Phantomhive, the sole inheritor of his parents’ estate following their brutal murders. At his lowest point, he makes a Faustian pact, gaining the services of the demonic Sebastian Michaelis as his personal butler and aide. Sebastian, a master of all manner of skills – from cooking and cleaning to dancing and fisticuffs –  assists Ciel in his tasks until the day his master has claimed vengeance on those responsible for his family’s suffering. Then, Ciel will surrender both his life and his immortal soul to the underworld, and Sebastian will be the one to slay him.

Black Butler Part 2 - Back in Black

Matt Kamen on the satanic servants of Black Butler 2
The first series of Black Butler, based on Yana Toboso’s manga, was a parable on the cost of revenge, following the single-minded Ciel Phantomhive as he sought vengeance against his family's murderers. Ciel’s only aid came from his demonic butler, Sebastian Michaelis, to whom he paid the ultimate price. In contrast, the anime-original second series explores the price of greed and obsession. Introducing  the cruel and scheming Alois Trancy and his own malevolent manservant, Claude Faustus, the 12-episode run spotlights the machinations of the new young lord as he vies for the prestige of the Phantomhive name.

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