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Black Butler: The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 3, 2012 by  



If you are looking for an anime series that is dark, violent but also has enough humor and craziness…  “Black Butler: The Complete First Season” is definitely an anime Blu-ray that is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2012 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Black Butler: The Complete First Season

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2008

DURATION: 24 episodes (600 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: April 3, 2012

Originally created by Yana Toboso

Directed by Toshiya Shinohara

Series Composition by Mari Okada

Music by Taku Iwasaki

Character Design by Minako Shiba

Art Direction by Hiromasa Ogura

Anime Productions by A-1 Pictures Inc.

Featuring the following voice talent:

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Sebastian Michaelis

Maaya Sakamoto/Brina Palencia as Ciel Phantomhive

Akiko Yajima/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Angela

Emiri Katou/Monica Rial as Meirin (Mei Lin)

Hiroki Touchi/Ian Sinclair as Bard (Bardroy)

Hisayoshi Suganuma/Jonathan Brooks as Fred Abberline

Jun Fukuyama/Daniel Fredrick as Grell

Junichi Suwabe as/John Swasey Undertaker

Koji Yusa/Jerry Jewell as Lau

Romi Park/Lydia Mackay as Madam Red

Shunji Fujimura/R. Bruce Elliot as Tanaka

Yukari Tamura/Cherami Leigh as Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Midford

Yuuki Kaji/Jason Liebrecht as Finny (Finnian)

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.

In 2006, mangaka Yana Toboso (“Rust Blaster”) began working on his second manga that year for Square Enix’s “Monthly GFantasy” magazine.  The series nown as “Kuroshitsuji” (Black Butler) would receive a large fanbase due to its bishounen characters.

By 2008, “Black Butler” would receive an anime adaptation featuring production by A-1 Pictures (“Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode”, “El Cazador de la Bruja”, “Valkyria Chronicles”) directed by Shinohara Toshiya (“Lupin III: Crisis in Tokyo”, “Gurren Lagann”, “Samurai Deeper Kyo”), a screenplay by Mari Okada “CANAAN”, “Aria the Natural”, “Red Garden”, “PoPoLoCrois”), music by Taku Iwasaki (“Angel Heart”, “R.O.D. – The TV”, “Soul Eater”), character designs by Minako Shiba (“.Hack/Sign”, “Letter Bee”, “Madlax”) and art direction by “Hiromasa Ogura” (“Ghost Hound”, “Aquarian Age”, “Appleseed”).  The opening theme “Monochrome Kiss” is by SID and the ending theme “I’m Alive” is by BECCA.

And since the release of the original manga series and anime series, the popularity of “Black Butler” has led to a musical, drama CD’s, a video game and books have been released in Japan.

While the manga is still ongoing in Japan, the anime series has continued with two full seasons at 48 episodes long and now both seasons are being released on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

“Black Butler” takes place in London (during the Victorian Era) and revolves around a 12-year-old named Ciel Phantomhive, who is from the Phantomhive noble family who is known for their toy and candy empire.  A long time ago, Ciel used to be a happy boy but his happiness was destroyed when someone murdered his family.

Now Ciel wants to find the killers of his family and makes an exchange with a demon for his soul.  He wants vengeance on those who disgraced him or the Phantomhive name and to find and kill the murderers of his family.

The demon approves and to stay close with Ciel, the demon Sebastian Michaelis will become his butler and protect him.  But once Ciel’s duties are done as upon their agreement, Sebastian will be able to take his soul and kill him.

The main characters of “Black Butler” are:

  • Sebastian Michaelis – The butler for Ciel Phantomhive and also a demon who will protect Ciel until he accomplishes his task to help Ciel find who murdered his parents and avenge the Phantomhive name.  When all tasks are accomplished, as agreed by his contract with Ciel Phantomhive, he will take his soul and kill him.  Sebastian has taken the form of the previous Earl, Vincent Phantomhive.  Although he protects Ciel, the two have an uneasy relationship as they don’t care for each other all that much.
  • Ciel Phantomhive – Once a happy boy who’s life was changed when his family was murdered.  Now that he is older, he tries to avenge his family’s name and search for his parent’s killer by taking part in a contract with a demon (Sebastian).  The demon will protect Ciel by pretending to be a butler, but once all duties are accomplished, he will consume Ciel’s soul.  Ciel has lost his eye when he was a slave and was used as a sacrifice in a cult ritual.  He has become a cold person since his family’s death.
  • Bardroy (Bard) – The American cook who uses weaponry to make the food for the household, despite not making anything edible.
  • Finnian (Finny) – The clumsy gardener who has superhuman strength.
  • Mey-Rin – The clumsy maid who wears cracked glasses because it’s the first gift Ciel had purchased for her.  She has a big crush on Sebastian.
  • Tanaka – The steward who has served under Ciel’s parents and now serves Ciel.  When his parents were murdered, Tanaka was there and was stabbed in the back.
  • Madame Red – The aunt of Ciel, she is a doctor who practices at Royal London Hospital.  But when she was pregnant, she was in an accident in which her husband was killed and the baby died.  So now she feels hatred towards those she performs abortions on and kills them along with the grim reaper named Grell Sutcliffe.  Together, they are known as Jack the Ripper.
  • Grell Sutcliffe – A grim reaper who decides if a dying sould should be allowed to continue living, Grell is a gay man who calls himself a woman and is infatuated with Sebastian.  He murders people alongside Madame Red.

VIDEO

“Black Butler” is a violently, dark and bloody anime.  Anime production by A-1 Pictures, Inc. is well done as artistic backgrounds of London during the Victorian Era is painted with great shadowing and the action sequences are also well-done as we get several styles which include a serious to more fun and hilarious style of animation.

 

What I enjoy about the series are the overall character designs and the costume designs.  The series is very bishounen-driven but its combination of themes that are dark and hilarious actually work quite well for “Black Butler”.   Last year, when I reviewed the DVD version, I mentioned that I would not be surprised if this series received a Blu-ray release.  The colors look very good, as do the art backgrounds.  Granted, this is a TV series, so you will have a bit of softness but compared to the DVD release, “Black Butler” looks very good with better line detail and vibrant colors.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, you get a English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix.  Typically, I listen to the Japanese soundtrack but in this case, because it takes place in the Victorian era, the English voice dub and accents are done very well.  The voice talent for the English dub have said that “Black Butler” is one of the most challenging anime series as the voice talent had to perfect their spoken dialect and it does give the series its own personal feel and for the most part, it works.    There is also a bit more of a dynamic range when it comes to the English lossless track.

The Japanese soundtrack is also very well done especially when it comes to the more emotional moments, the voice acting is stellar.  But the English dub has the advantage because of it’s 5.1 mix but if you prefer to watch it in Japanese or English, both soundtracks are excellent and should appeal to Sub/Dub anime fans.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Black Butler: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Colleen Clinkenbeard (Director/Line Producer/voice of Angela), Brina Palencia (voice of Ciel).
  • Episode 7 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (Director/voice of Bardroy) and J. Michael Tatum (voice of Sebastian).
  • Episode 16 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Josh Grelle (voice of Edward) and Kevin Leasure, ADR Engineer.
  • Episode 21 Commentary – Featuring English dub voice talents Ian Sinclair, Monica Rial and Jason Liebrecht.
  • “The Story Thus Far” – (23:58) A summary of what has taken place on “Black Butler” feat. narration by Tanaka (the steward who worked for Ciel’s parents).
  • His Butler, Performer – (26:38) A special OVA which aired at the end of the first season of “Black Butler”.  Due to a shipwreck, Sebastian must stage a performance of “Hamlet” to celebrate the third anniversary of the PhantomHive Company.
  • Becca Musician Profile – A text info. on BECCA
  • Textless Opening Song – Featuring the opening theme “Monochrome Kiss” by SID.
  • Textless Ending Theme Song – Featuring the ending theme “I’m Alive” by BECCA and “Lacrimosa” by Kalafina.

It’s great to finally have this anime series released on Blu-ray in the US!

There is no doubt that “Black Butler” has a strong fan following and is a different kind of anime series that most people are used to watching.  For one, it deals with the occult and it does have its share of dark, violent moments but the series itself thrives on its darkness and humor.  And for many of the female fans, it’s strong bishounen character designs.

The storyline for “Black Butler” is quite dark and there is plenty of violence and blood featured.  But interesting enough, to help balance this darkness and make it more appealing to anime fans, you get the Bishounen style, you get the characters who are fun and hilarious (some who are clumsy and dumbwitted) and you have anime character designs that tend to change from more serious to crazy/hilarious.

The character designs, the art design are very well-done for “Black Butler” and you can tell that the first half of this season focused more on character development.  Showing us the somewhat belligerent relationship that Ciel and Sebastian have but also their crazy staff that work at the Phantomhive mansion.  The second season starts to show more serious and emotional storylines but because the manga is still ongoing, this is a series that manages to resolve Ciel’s storyline but also continuing the adventures of both Ciel and Sebastian for season two.  And if you thought the first season was intriguing, the second season also has some surprises in store.

Overall, “Black Butler” is a pretty fun, exciting, dark and violent anime series.  It’s actually a refreshing series because of the time period and the situation of the characters, especially Ciel. While I enjoyed “Black Butler” for its darker overtone, the series also has its fair share of humor and also emotional episodes.  The last three episodes alone are wonderful and definitely sets things up for the second season.

As for the Blu-ray release, you do get the four audio commentary tracks plus the OVA for the first season.  And as mentioned, the video quality for the Blu-ray release of “Black Butler” is definitely much improved compared to the DVD release.  And as far as acting is concerned, the Japanese soundtrack is very good but I really have to commend the voice talent of “Black Butler” for pulling off the dialects, as I have seen many anime series that tend to fail.  So, fortunately, the English dub was well-done.

If you are looking for an anime series on Blu-ray that is a bit dark and has it’s crazy moments and is also a lot of fun to watch, “Black Butler: The Complete First Season” may be what you are looking for.

Recommended!

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