Kuroshitsuji

The Boring Info The Characters The Terms The Songs The Opinion
Ciel Phantomhive
Sebastian Michaelis
The staff
Contract
Seal
Monokuro no Kisu
I’m Alive!
Lacrimosa


The Animoo

Ciel Phantomhive is the sole heir to the Phantomhive noble family’s estate, companies, and wealth after the tragic death of both his parents in an arson. Ciel manages to survive, but is captured and sold as a slave. His buyer bought him for the sake of sacrificing him in an occult group ritual, but desperate to survive and to punish those who have humiliated him and those who killed his parents, he summons and makes a contract with a demon; his soul in exchange for the demon’s services and protection until the criteria of the contract has been fulfilled.

The demon takes on the form of a human and is given the name “Sebastian Michaelis” by Ciel and from that point on becomes the butler of the Phantomhive family as well as Ciel’s bodyguard, completing any order given to him by his master.


The Boring Info

The anime is 24 episodes long and based on the currently still ongoing manga of the same name by Yana Toboso.
The title, Kuroshitsuji (黒執事) means “Black Butler“.
The manga series has, other than the anime, spawned several books, an audio drama, and a game by Square Enix (who also publishes the manga) for the NDS.
From what I can gather from the various historical events present in the anime series, it takes place from the summer of 1888 (Jack the Ripper appears) and up to early/mid May the following year (completion and opening of the Eiffel Tower).
A recurring theme in many of the episodes is the music and/or lyrics to the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down“. The lyrics are sometimes in English, sometimes in Japanese. I think every stanza was present, scattered among the episodes, except for the last stanza (“Then we’l set a man to Watch“).


The Characters

In snack-sized bits. Images to come.
Ciel Phantomhive – A 12-year-old Earl and master of the Phantomhive estate that he inherited after the death of his parents. Like his family before him, he serves the Queen as her loyal guard/watch dog, eliminating any proof that may shine a bad light on the Royal Family, so that it never reaches the eyes of the public. As such, he has many ties with prominent figures in the underworld, despite his young age.

Sebastian Michaelis – A demon with whom Ciel has made a contract. He takes human shape and serves Ciel as his butler and bodyguard. In the anime, his true demonic shape is never fully revealed.

The staff – Ciel also has a small staff to help maintain his mansion, three of which were hired by Sebastian for their special skills.

  • Tanaka – The house steward who also served under Ciel’s parents and, though not explicitly stated in the anime, was present during the arson and murder of Ciel’s parents. Despite his title, he does very little around the house, and his job is more or less done by Sebastian. In the manga, it is explained as being because he was stabbed in the back during the arson and is thus unable to perform physical labor. In the anime he is mostly seen in chibi-form, with his non-chibi form being described by the other characters as “Real Tanaka” which apparently runs on steam.
  • Bardroy – Also called simply “Bard”; Bardroy serves as the cook of the household. He was once a sergeant in the British army whose entire platoon was killed in an ambush when his superior officer overruled him concerning how and where to charge their enemies, despite Bard pointing out that it was an obvious trap. He chose to become a cook because it required patience to master, though because he easily gets anxious due to his past, he ends up trying to prepare food using flame-throwers or sticks of dynamite.
  • Meylene – The household maid. She is extremely clumsy and wears very thick glasses which she treasures dearly, despite the prescription no longer being sufficient, since they were given to her by Ciel. Before becoming a maid, she was a sniper assassin whose extreme far-sightedness meant she had no use for a scope. She appears to have a crush on Sebastian and has a rather sexually perverted personality in the anime (it doesn’t seemed as strongly portrayed in the manga).
  • Finnian – Also simply called “Finny”; Finnian serves as the gardener, although he typically ends up destroying the garden rather than tending it. Before being employed by Sebastian, he was held captive and experimented upon by a group of scientist trying to discover superhuman strength. Finny appears to have been a succesful specimen, but managed to escape during which he was approached by Sebastian. He chose to become a gardener because he gets to be outdoors as much as he wants, an option he didn’t have when he was being experimented on.


The Terms

Contract
The Contract is a Faustian Bargain. Upon summoning a demon (or just when approached), the summoner may make a contract employing the services of the demon in exchange for their soul, which is collected when the requirements of the contract have been fulfilled. In the case of Ciel and Sebastian, the contract ends once Ciel’s revenge on the killer(s) of his parents is complete.

Seal
The Seal is like a sort of “signature” for the contract. Both the demon and its “master” get matching seals as a symbol of the demon being bound to its master will. The more obvious the location, the stronger the seal, which makes it easier for the demon to find its master whenever the master requires protection. This, however, also means that harder to escape the demon once the requirements of the contract has been fulfilled. In the case of Ciel and Sebastian, Ciel’s seal is placed in his right eye (which is why he wears an eye patch) and Sebastian’s seal is place on the back of his left hand.


The Songs

Monokuro no Kisu
Monokuro no Kisu (Kiss of Monochrome) is performed by SID. It was the opening song throughout the entire series. It’s an okay song, I suppose, very upbeat, but I just feel it’s a bit mismatched with the animation and actual themes of the anime. If I were to guess a genre from the TV size song alone, without having seen the animation, I would have thought it would go well with a slightly ecchi action anime series with young teens and potentially a mecha or two.

In all honesty, I’m tired and the the animation is hard to explain, so I’m not gonna bother. Just watch it. As far as I can tell, it signifies the contract being made, Ciel and Sebastian’s time together, and then the contract being completed (Sebastian taking Ciel’s soul).


I’m Alive!
I’m Alive is performed by BECCA. It was used as the ending for episodes 1-13 What surprised me about this song is that it is one of the few anime endings/openings I’ve ever heard that was actually written and performed by someone not Japanese. It’s actually a pretty damn good! Almost as if it’s “reaching for Heaven! ♪” Anywho, bad puns aside, I think it’s an excellent song, and if you like stuff like Paramore, you’ll like this too.

The animation is super adorable; it portrays a standard day in the life of Sebastian in a chibi-cinema like way. Chibis ♥


Lacrimosa
Lacrimosa is performed by Kalafina. It was used as the ending in episodes 14-24 (finale). I liked the beginning of the song, very Enya-like (or something; it was familiar at least), and the rest was not bad either, but it didn’t strike me as a song you’d care to listen to unless you were in a specific type of mood. If I were to describe it as an emotion, it would be “energetic depression”.

The animation shows a dead Ciel being transported by Sebastian, in a gondola filled with white flowers, to a small rock island to have his soul consumed as per the their contract.


The Opinion

Kuroshitsuji ended up being one of those “meh” series that start out weak, gets significantly better within the first two-three episodes and maintains that high standard until the finale, at which point it crashes and burns at below mediocrity.

One of the things I absolutely LOVED were the many allusions and depictions of actual historical events true to the era, albeit sometimes a bit altered (naturally). This include, but are not limited to, the killings of Jack the Ripper (correct names of victims and dates of death), the opening of the Eiffel Tower, the Opium Wars (aka the Anglo-Chinese Wars), the introduction of heroin in Britain (called “Lady Blanc”, mistranslated as “Lady Brown”), the character Fred Abberline, etc. However, I only spotted these awesome reference because I actually know Chinese history (due to PALCS during my prep year of Japanese) and some British history as well (due to being bored the weekend after watching “From Hell”). So for people not interested in history, these references are somewhat lost and unimportant.

Other than that, when you get past the first few episodes, it actually turns into a very interesting series. It has a few murder mysteries, some comedy, a bit of perversion here and there, and a cooking contest between a demon and a former savage murderer; what’s not to love? XD The only negative thing about this is that since it does many things, though quite well, it never really immerses itself into a single genre to make it truly great. I for one would have loved the anime to have had a darker, slightly more sinister mood to it, all things considered (Ciel’s past, ties with the underworld, mysterious killings striking panics into the hearts of everyone, etc.). The slightly light, humorous undertone kinda kills the dark aspects of the series, but it is still pretty interesting to follow and a few episodes will have you sitting in suspense; dying to find out what happens next, and the staff members serve as excellent comic relief for a quick laugh every now and again.

The finale is however sub-par, but necessary to close off the storyline. It can basically be described as “shit hits the fan and everyone dies, or not, dun dun duuun” since you don’t really know what happens to people other than Ciel. Also, the climactic battle between Good (albeit mentally unstable) and Evil was pretty anti-climactic… It lasted a full 10 seconds and everything occurred off-camera.

All in all, despite it’s cruddy ending, it’s a series worth watching. On a scale from one to ten, I’d probably rank this at about 7-7½.

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