Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Anime Talk: Black Butler Book of Murder

Before we get started, just a quick disclaimer: I am a big fan of the Black Butler manga/anime series. So be prepared for a (likely) biased review.

"There's nothing more deceiving, than an obvious truth."

I don't quite remember why I first started watching Black Butler. I think it had something to do with finding out Yuya Matsushita would be in the stage play. Whatever the case, I watched the original Black Butler anime and Black Butler II. When Black Butler: Book of Circus was released in 2014, I watched that too and patiently waited for English subs for Book of Murder. I loved the original Black Butler series, and I quite liked how Black Butler II ended. It was unexpected and I loved that about it. However, I quickly learned that the ending seen in BBII is not the official ending to the manga series; it was just an ending made for the anime only. Well, with great demand, the studio that animated the original Black Butler released Book of Circus, which continues the manga storyline. Book of Circus is my favorite of the 3 series related to Black Butler so naturally, I decided I was absolutely going to watch Book of Murder. Well, without further ado, let's take a look at Book of Murder. 

Welcome to Phantomhive Manor, where the Earl Ciel Phantomhive, known as the "Queen's Watchdog", resides with his five peculiar servants. The Earl is said to proud and bashful; someone that does not like it when his authority is questioned. The Earl's head butler, Sebastian Micaelis is renown as an excellent servant, seemingly able to do the impossible with little to no effort. If that wasn't enough to lure you in, Ciel Phantomhive is 13 years old. He took over his family's Funtom Company, an extremely successful business that specializes in toys and sweets upon the death (or rather murder) of his parents. Ciel went missing for a while after his parents murders and then suddenly returned, with Sebastian with him. What few know however, is that Sebastian is a demon contracted by Ciel. The mark of their agreement is found in Ciel's right eye and Sebastian's left hand. Sebastian serves Ciel as his loyal butler, protecting him from all harm. When Ciel is able to avenge the deaths of his parents, Sebastian will receive Ciel's soul to consume in exchange for his service. 

Book of Murder starts off shortly after the events that occurred in Book of Circus. If you haven't watched Book of Circus, definitely watch it before Book of Murder, as the events that took in the previous season impact the events that take place in Book of Murder. (For those that haven't watched the anime at all: 1. this has some spoilers so don't read too much and 2. Watch the original Black Butler, then Book of Circus and then Book of Murder. You can skip Black Butler II altogether). The series has two parts and we start out with the servants of the Phantomhive household keeping busy in the kitchen. Suddenly, two men clad in white enter and demand to see the Earl but the servants refuse to let them through as they seem to be hostile. However, Sebastian soon enters the scene and it's clear that the two gentlemen are the butlers of Her Majesty, the Queen who have come to give Ciel his new assignment. Ciel must hold a banquet attended by the elites of London. However, during the banquet, their guest of honor is murdered and the most likely suspect is Ciel himself. As events unfold, more murders occur, a struggling author Sir Arthur attempts to figure out who the perpetrator is, and the macabre game between the Earl and the Queen is revealed. 

Overall, I would say I quite enjoyed Book of Murder, however, it was really the last 20 or so minutes that really saved it all for me. Here's the thing: Sebastian largely sits this one out. And watching the last 20 minutes made me realize that one of the reasons I like the Black Butler series so much is due to the interaction between Ciel and Sebastian. Sebastian is, as he likes to put it, "One Hell of a Butler", who is very loyal to Ciel, but he also likes to tease him and treat him not as an Earl, but as a teenage boy. This irks Ciel and he constantly tries to get Sebastian back for it. I missed this banter throughout most of the two part series. I would say that overall, it's my least favorite of the Black Butler seasons, although I did quite like that it references events and characters from Book of Circus. 

As always, the music in Black Butler works very well for the series. It tends to learn toward the use of waltzes and themes with a darker sound produced largely through the use of string instruments. Although this is not from Book of Murder, one of my favorite OST's from Black Butler is Danse Macabre. Seriously, take a listen. You can get a feel for the atmosphere surrounding this series from this song alone. 

Now I will patiently wait for another arc of Black Butler to be animated, although I may just end up picking up the manga once again in order to get the rest of the story (although it hasn't technically ended yet...). I think I would have liked Book of Murder more so if it wasn't a standalone two part series and instead was part of a season. In that way, I think it would have made more sense, but I still enjoyed it nevertheless. And of course, the last 20 or so minutes were absolute gold so it was definitely worth the watch. What I will definitely give a thumbs up for to this mini-series is for not having ended on a sad note. Instead, we end with Ciel revealing how dark his soul can be, despite the innocent exterior he portrays. He is truly an intriguing character and while part of me is jealous of all this 13 year old can do without fear, there's an overwhelming part that feels sorry for him. This was true at the end of all the 3 series, but at the end of Book of Murder, I immediately thought, "Ciel is scary - perhaps scarier than Sebastian himself."  It will be interesting to see where the story of Ciel Phantomhive and his demonic butler Sebastian goes from here. 


  1. Hey, I don't know if you still post anime reviews or not, but fantastic job on this review!

    1. Thank you, it mean a lot! I haven't posted one in a while because I haven't had time to watch anything, but I hopefully in the near future I can pick up another series :)