Reviewed by: Dallas Marshall
Released by: Yen Press
Publishing Country: USA
Author: Yana Toboso
Age Rating: 16+
Page Count: 190
Just a stone's throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria's faithful servant...and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master's wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London's underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true...or at least, too good to be human...
Opening the pages of the new bishonen-themed manga Kuroshitsuji by Yana Toboso, which goes by the name of Black Butler here in the states, I could not help but be drawn in by the glossy cover and the sparkle eyed boys which overflow in the pages of Black Butler. Could it be that I have fallen under the spell of fujoshi? Never the less, I can see why fans all over the globe (not just females) have fallen in love with this deceptively unoriginal manga.
Black Butler takes place in England during a time frame which seems to be caught between the present all peppered in with Victorian overtones. The story revolves around Ciel Phantomhive who is the leader of the Phantomhive Toy company which is one of the oldest and most famous toy companies in the world. He is sharp, cynical, and stoic, but the man who truly steals the minds and hearts of our readers is his trusty and talented butler Sebastian Michaels, who is not all that he is cracked up to be.
The first thing that drew me in instead of driving me away from Black Butler is that while depending on traditional pretty boy elements that are found in other female favored manga such as sparkles and (please don't take this the wrong way) "male bonding", Black Butler does not rely heavily on these elements, but does not completely take them away creating a manga which can be palatable for male readers, if they just give it a chance and get past the glossy presentation which could make even the most manliest of men run away screaming for their masculinity. There are no seme and uke trappings within the pages of Black Butler, no prissy male leads, actually, there is a lot of sweet action in Black Butler that can even satiate the most hard-core fans of action.
At least as far as a pretty boy manga goes.
The scenes of Sabastian going into fighting action are swift, fluid and in some cases, brutal. But they are never short of awesome. Hey, you show me a guy who can defeat a mafia family with nothing but silverware and a wicked smile on his face! All done while checking his pocket-watch while pondering on what he is going to prepare for dinner. The action of Black Butler is fair and proportionate while never forgetting to be remain "pretty."
Within the realm of plot, there is not much going on, and it is not particularly deep in regards to giving the reader much to chew on mentally but the characters are one fun mess! Granted, Ciel is kind of dull but his servants which consist of a clumsy maid, an incompetent and fun-loving cook, a fool-hardy handy man, and a Super Deformed butler all come together as one dysfunctional family and made for a lot of humor in between the hubris of Ciel Phantomhive. The man who leads the way in the realm is the titular character himself; the Black Butler, Sebastain Michaels. His cool demeanor, wicked fighting skills and handsome appearance will appeal to fans of all sorts all going about it in a way that does not out do any of the other character traits which so many other manga of this particular genre seem to abuse.
There is not much going on when it comes to story and that it is predictable in its presentation and that Ciel is a rather dull character. However, the reader will be too involved with the pleasing visuals, the funny side-characters, edgy action and even supernatural tones to even care in that regard. Kudos to Yana Toboso who made a manga which has a little something for everyone!