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Black Butler: Season 1, Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 15, 2011 by  



If you are looking for an anime series that is dark, violent but also has enough humor and crazy fun to make it exciting and enjoyable, “Black Butler” is worth checking out!  Stylishly cool, hilarious and fun… definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2011 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Black Butler: Season 1, Part 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English/Japanese Stereo, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14+

Release Date: January 11, 2011

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.

This limited edition comes in a sturdy chipboard box embossed with silver foil accents designed to replicate the original Japanese packaging and is sized to hold the DVD volumes of both parts 1 and 2.

In 2006, mangaka Yana Toboso (“Rust Blaster”) began working on his second manga that year for Square Enix’s “Monthly GFantasy” magazine.

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.

While the manga is still ongoing, the anime series was 24 episodes long and is now being released as a two volume DVD release in America courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

The series 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 & AUDIO:

“Black Butler” is a violently, dark and bloody anime.  Anime production is well0done 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”.  So, far I am enjoying this series and because it was released in 2008, I wouldn’t be surprised if FUNimation Entertainment considers this title for a Blu-ray release in the near future.

As for audio, you get a English and Japanese audio track.  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.  But both soundtracks are excellent and should appeal to Sub/Dub anime fans.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Black Butler: Season 1, Part 1″ comes with the following special features:

Disc 1

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Colleen Clinkenbeard (Director/Line Producer/Plays Angela), Brina Palencia (who plays as Ciel).
  • Episode 7 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (Director/plays Bardroy) and J. Michael Tatum (who plays Sebastian).

Disc 2

  • “The Story Thus Far” – A summary of what has taken place on “Black Butler” feat. narration by Tanaka (the steward who worked for Ciel’s parents).
  • 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.

It’s great to finally have this anime series released in the US!

My first introduction to “Black Butler” was during my interview with BECCA (who sings the ending theme for this anime series) and you don’t really hear too many English ending themes for an anime series.  But because the opening by SID and the ending theme by BECCA, the first thing that came to my mind was this was going to be a darker, bishounen anime series and I was right.

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.  I suspect that by the second half of this series, the storyline is going to be shifting from happy to dark and serious.

Overall, “Black Butler” is a pretty fun, exciting, dark and violent anime series.  It has everything for everyone…fun, humor, dark and violent themes and it’s funny because, although there anime series that exhibit these elements in one, not all are able to pull it off successfully from beginning to end.  But so far, I’m really enjoying “Black Butler” and look forward to seeing how the second half of this anime series goes.

Recommended!

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