Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji in Japanese) is a shounen manga and companion anime series (although it's pretty obviously looking for a crossover shoujo audience). Originally created by Toboso Yana.The Phantomhive family is a respected and distinguished house in Victorian London. Despite a mysterious fire killing off the previous Lord and Lady Phantomhive, their 12-year old, later 13-year-old son, Ciel Phantomhive, has managed to both build a massive toy and candy company within 3 years, and serve the Queen as a major contributor to England's black-ops.It really, really helps that Ciel made a Deal with the Devil to acquire a super butler: one Sebastian Michaelis, capable of dispatching The Mafia or other threats (including those of the supernatural variety) and then baking the perfect pastry. He has agreed to aid Ciel until he "succeeds in all of his tasks", upon which Ciel's soul belongs to him.So Ciel leads a double-life, his service to the Queen combined with his own dark supernatural dealings, and maintaining the peace of the Phantomhive Mansion and its less than serious staff.Mix and stir Hellsing and Count Cain and a pinch of Batman and Loveless, at least toward the beginning. No, seriously.An anime adaptation was produced for the Fall 2008 season by A-1 Pictures, although it detours away from the manga's storyline very early on. A second season was produced 2 years later with an original story and new characters, with most of the previous season's cast returning. Both seasons were dubbed and distributed in the Americas by Funimation.A movie adaption was announced on January 9th, 2013 that was set to take place 130 years after the events of the manga.Character sheet is here.
Anachronism Stew: Quite a few examples, however whether intentional or not is unclear.
What are The Mafia, dressed in modern clothing, doing in Victorian England? Not to mention cell phones. (The anime at least attempted to retrograde their tech somewhat.)
There's also the television and video games. In Victorian England.
Sebastian appears to wear latex gloves when he works in the kitchen.
Let's not forget about a certain shinigami using a chainsaw, the cook using flame throwers or the modern washing machine in the Phantomhive Manor. Recently in the manga, only shinigami have out-of-place artifacts (for instance, the "strange watch" and odd glasses of one guy from chapter 52).
Ciel's pierced ears were extremely uncommon for the nobility back then. And his father had them as well.
The clothing isn't modest enough. Both Victorian and Edwardian fashions were very modest; exposed legs and cleavage would have been obscene. Maylene's bathing suit would have been scandalous and Yana Toboso gave up even trying with the ladies' costume party and Ciel in Wonderland costumes. Also, Elizabeth's fashion sense sometimes sinks into 18th century territory.
Servant-Master relationships were plenty different. Rule of Funnyand Cool aside, a mansion of Ciel's size would have needed at least ten more servants just to keep it clean; keeping one maid and one gardener would be a dead giveaway. Hell, having the servants interact with Ciel and his guests regularly would be unheard of. In contrast, Alois' treatment of Hannah, while far crueler than most employees, is still more believable in contrast.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Zigzagged. A lot of the opponents that Ciel and Sebastian face are aristocratic, but there are many others who are decent souls.
Agni's backstory is that he used to be a Brahmin (see Hinduism — basically, they're the most important members of the caste system in traditional Indian culture) but became a notorious bandit and "monster" in disgust at his father's corruption, though he was reformed after being claimed by Prince Soma as his butler.
Undertaker has proved himself to be this in the most recent manga chapters.
Badass Adorable/ Cute Bruiser: Elizabeth Middleford. This sweet Damsel in Distress reveals herself as such in Chapter 57 and confesses that she desperately wanted for her fiancé Ciel to not see her "uncute" side and thus deliberately hid her badass side up until then. Even nearly at the cost of her own life. Only shortly after Ciel berates her for such behavior (Prioritizing lady-manners over survival) when she is about to die while Ciel who, despite his best efforts, ends up injured and unable to save her and is in danger, Elizabeth spontaneously leaps into action and stabs down the zombies using swords in both hands, while tearfully declaring that she'll protect him.
Badass Normal: Agni, the Indian Battle Butler, at least in the anime. He managed to fight Sebastian, a demon who had been ordered to win (and a direct order basically turns his Power Limiter off), to a mutual draw. Despite being human. Even Sebastian notes he's an incredible specimen for a human.
Maylene the Ninja Maid who is able to use sniper rifles as PISTOLS while leaping from rooftop to rooftop
Finnian, who is strong enough to throw statues across the room.
Tanaka, who is an excellent practitioner of the martial art baritsu.
And Bard, who, in addition to having a gatling gun in his kitchen, effectively blew up a building by igniting a large, highly concentrated cloud of very fine flour, which, amusingly enough, is actually Truth in Television. Flour explosions completely destroyed one of the largest mills in the USA at one point.
And in the anime's second season, Claude Faustus of the Trancy Manor. And the Triplets. And even Hannah.
There's also the Queen's butler, Charles Grey, who was the true murderer in the murder mystery arc of the manga. The rest of her butlers probably also apply, though they haven't actually been seen in action yet.
"White porcelain skin like a bisque doll, beautiful hair, big eyes like diamonds, a youthful body. I will become something else. It doesn't matter if my ugly wife leaves me. I will be beautiful with a beautiful life. I will be suitable for him."
Because Destiny Says So: In the manga, Ciel's goal is to torture and kill the people who killed his parents, though once this goal is complete, it is almost certain and an inescapable fate that Sebastian will eat his soul. In the anime, this is averted, as Ciel becomes a demon and Sebastian is unable to take his soul.
Bishōnen: Ciel and Sebastian are the most obvious. There's also... pretty much a good majority of the male cast, save for Baron Kelvin, Georg von Siemens, Jumbo, Lord Arthur Randall, Azzurro Vanel, Fred Abberline, Tanaka, Damian, and Doctor. Basically, any male character under the age of 45.
The random guy who tortures Sebastian in Episode 20 is also an (extremely) notable exception.
Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: Both seasons of the anime are one of these, depending on your personal interpretation of Ciel, Sebastian and their relationship.
In season one, Ciel has finally achieved his revenge, bringing down the mad Fallen Angel who slew his parents, destroying the twisted puppet-Queen Victoria she commanded and stopping her plans for genocide of the human race. However, he has been seriously wounded and, furthermore, it's time to pay the piper; his last words before losing consciousness are to tell Sebastian to make it as painful as possible, even as Sebastian leans in to devour Ciel's soul at last.
In season two, Alois's spiteful last wish results in Ciel turning into a demon, meaning Sebastian cannot eat his soul. The two will be together forever, and Sebastian's pledge has trapped him in eternal service to Ciel, something that the proud demon is not happy about. Ciel, having no further purpose in the human world, sends out cards about his death to all his allies, gives his mansion to his former servants, and our last sight is of him and Sebastian implicitly plunging back into Hell together.
Black and Gray Morality: The protagonist is a 12/13 year-old boy who, at the age of 10, saw both parents murdered; he was subsequently abducted, tortured, and then almost used as a sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. The next most sympathetic group of characters are a circus troupe who abduct children to either serve as playthings for their master or kill them to make prostheses out of their bones. While there are a number of "white" characters in the series, they are largely unaware of the kind of work that Phantomhive is involved with.
Actually Ciel was successfully sacrificed, not almost - that's how he and Sebastian were even able to make a contract with each other in the first place.
This moral ambiguity is somewhat subverted in the anime, wherein Ciel is much more cynical and less sympathetic as a character than his manga counterpart.
Maylene has a particularly bad case of farsightedness. While this makes her an excellent sniper, to the point where a previous employer said her "amazing eyes" made it the only thing she was good for, she is clumsy and generally incompetent as a maid.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In Kuroshitsuji II, Grell addresses the audience directly, saying that she looks forward to letters of encouragement.
The 3rd OVA from Kuroshitsuji II breaks it down completely. It's a documentary style episode where the characters are treated as actors in 2010 and talk about everything from their roles and behind the scenes to the filming process (complete with a green screen when they were practicing the Sebastian/Claude fight).
Yet another is the end of the 4th chapter in the manga. As Sebastian goes to answer Ciel's call, he opens the door, then looks back at the reader, putting a finger to his lips and goes 'Shh-'
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Bard, Maylene, & Finnian, because of their OTHER jobs. Grell as well, in the case of the shinigami.
Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: All over the place in episode 20. Fitting, considering Lau's story and the fatal blow to both the Phantomhive company, which may or may not recover, and the deaths of Lau and Abberline.
Butterfly of Doom: Chaos Theory is mentioned when Ciel and Sebastian explain to Wordsmith why Siemens was killed and another guy was framed (basically they would've helped their respective countries become so powerful they'd overwhelm England).
Cannot Tell a Joke: Madame Red. We never get to hear the joke but the cast's reactions range from blank stares to confusion. Lau as well in the same scene.
Cast of Snowflakes: Characters are easily distinguishable because no one looks exactly alike and ages can become extremely varied (especially in the circus and murder mystery arcs). And, what's more is that most of the characters have very detailed clothes (save the queen's three right-hand servants who all wear the same uniform); most notably Ciel who changes clothing every chapter.
Catchphrase: Sebastian's favorite phrase, "I am a butler through and through" is a play on words in Japanese and can also mean "I am a butler and a demon". This is rendered as "I am one hell of a butler" in the subtitles and the dub. Also "Yes, my lord."
The Yen Press manga translation turns Sebastian's twin phrases into "I am merely a butler" and "I am a devil of a butler'' respectively.
Also "It is only natural that a servant of Phantomhive would be able to (do whatever impossible thing he just did)." Frequently overlooked because the subtitles translate it differently every damn time, but repeated often enough that Ciel eventually cuts him off when tries to say it.
Changed even further in the FUNimation subs for the second season. It's now "A Phantomhive butler who can't (do whatever impossible thing he just did) isn't worth his salt."
"It is only natural that a servant of Phantomhive would be able to (do X)", appears to be a catchphrase for Ciel's servants as a whole.
"I am the butler of the Phantomhive family. It goes without saying that such minor feats are within my repetoire/that I can handle something like this/etc."
"If I couldn't do this much at LEAST, well then what kind of butler would I be?"
Ciel seems to yell "Listen when others are talking/to what others are saying!!" Quite often. Usually to Lizzy or Lau.
The Chessmaster: Ciel is definitely the main chess-master, but there are so many others in the series, especially Sebastian, Madame Red, and Angela/Ash.
Chess Motifs: Chess imagery is used frequently, especially in the last few episodes.
Chick Magnet: Sebastian — in the anime, at least. Sebastian has been shown to be attractive to Ciel's aunt, three nuns (one of which he has sex with for information ON SCREEN no less), and an angel. Wow.
Child Prodigy: Elizabeth has The Gift for swordplay, being regarded as a fencing genius by her peers in a flashback. She's kept this from Ciel due to a fear when they were much younger that Ciel wouldn't like her anymore if he knew about her talent.
Children Are A Waste: A prostitute goes to a doctor to get an abortion with this as her excuse. That doctor had lost her ability to have children thanks to an accident that killed her husband and nearly her as well. This was the last straw before she snapped and became Jack the Ripper.
Creepy Child: Ciel seems to fit this trope. He's a cynical, jaded, and very driven 12-year-old (or 13, depending on how far you are in the series) who is a Chess Master and wise beyond his years. He has no qualms about getting involved in dangerous missions and will command his badass butler Sebastian to kill someone without a second thought. Then again, there's a reason why he is the way he is now.
Alois may sound a little like FateTestarossa when he's putting on his "sweet, innocent child" act.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The Undertaker, an eccentric gray-haired man who trades murder details for jokes and has some...odd turn-ons, is really the most legendary of the Shinigami in the anime.
In the manga, Undertaker is also a badass shinigami, but of a crueler variety.
It's easy to forget that Grell started off as a highly incompetent butler to Madam Red who could not do anything right... before revealing the shinigami and Ax Crazy/Chainsaw Good sides hidden beneath the butler act.
Also, the clumsy maid is actually quite the sharpshooter.
All the incompetent household staff, really. No wonder he keeps them around.
Curb-Stomp Battle: In chapter 61 Undertaker manages to easily do this to Grell, Ronald, and Sebastian without breaking a sweat. Wow.
Cute and Psycho: Alois. Throughout the first episode of the new season he flips from sweet and innocent to Ax Crazy so many times, it could make someone dizzy.
Deliberately Distressed Damsel: Elizabeth Middleford. She wanted to remain cute in front of Ciel even at the risk of her own life. Only shortly after their conversation about her prioritizing of ladyship before survival does Elizabeth reveal this, as she defends Ciel no less.
Demoted to Extra: Tanaka pretty much vanishes after episode 2 of season 2. He finally reappears for about 2 seconds during the finale, and gets no spoken lines.
Determinator: Edward Middleford. He's a average guy with a little fending genius as a sister and studing in a Boarding School full of geniuses of all kind. So what he gonna do? Envy them? Hell no! He's gonna respect them and try his best to get as much as their level as he's possible to be, which grant him the ability of Mega Manning another guy's ball throwing tecnique after see it a couple of times.
Diminishing Villain Threat: In the anime, while she was never exactly a menacing character, Grell the Shinigami went from being one half of Jack the Ripper and the murderer of Ciel's Aunt Red to a non-threatening goofball with safety scissors and a crush on Sebastian.
The same can be said about the residents of the town in episode 7 of season 1. At first, they're chaining people to walls to be mauled by dogs and following all sorts of weird, creepy rituals. Later, Sebastian and Ciel come across them...in swimsuits, doing some kind of organized exercise routine.
Viscount Druitt is also a prime example, at least in the anime. Goes from trying to sell a cross-dressed Ciel as a Sex Slave to being a mere campy lover of blue shrimp, curry and erotic ice sculptures. His manga counterpart retains his villainous nature (We are the Phoenix, anyone?) but he's still never much of a threat or challenge.
Disguised in Drag: They've managed to get Ciel into a dress in the manga, the anime, and the musical.
In the second musical, this gets taken up to eleven with at least half the male characters running around an opera "disguised" in dresses. Including Abberline, mustache and all.
Dish Dash: Sebastian frequently ends up catching falling dishware, food, and other items due to the clumsiness of Maylene and the other household staff. He never drops anything — by accident, anyway — because he's just that good of a Battle Butler.
Distracted by the Sexy: Ciel's plan B in the cricket game against the Green House, suggested by Sebastian: Bringing Lau to the game alongside Ran Mao and a bunch of other girls in short Qipaos distracted the Green House's boys (the Blue House's boys didn't notice because of their bad eyesight). It works out for a while until they (Lau and the girls) are expulsed from the field.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The infamous corset scene. Which has popped up in pretty much every version! The manga, the anime, and the (second) musical, of all places.
Chapter 34 pulled a bit of this too.
In Chapter 71, when Maurice Cole was finally caught by Ciel for telling him the wrong time to meet with the prefects, he had a group of male students hold down Ciel and take off his shoe, unbutton his clothes, and cover his mouth to prevent him from screaming with the line, "Let's take some pictures, the kind that will make you die in shame!" One wonders what exactly they were planning on doing...
Chapter 76: All of the Scarlet Fox's cricket players suffer diarhea caused by a meat pie filled with laxatives, courtesy of Ciel and Sebastian. Everyone retires but Harcourt is left behind and his expressions of pain are.. well... reminiscent of something else involving that orifice.
Doppelgänger: Sebastian bears a striking resemblance to Ciel's father. Coincidence?
In the anime's second season, Claude looks a lot like Sebastian, too.
Double Entendre: So many. Especially in the second season. Especially when Claude is having a conversation or talking to himself about Ciel.
The Dreaded: Marchioness Frances Phantomhive-Midford (played semi-seriously, semi-comically). The woman even the resident demon would prefer not to spend time with, let alone her darling nephew. Both live in a fair degree of fear of her dropping 'round. On the face of it, it is easy to dismiss her as an over-the-top portrayal as one half of a (potential) Obnoxious In-Laws couple for humour. However... we are talking about the woman who can successfully sneak up on Sebastian without him realising it until it's too late, and who manages to loom over him to the point of making him break out in sweat drops. That's quite a feat for a mere human. There's also the suggestion that she might well be intelligent enough to work out who he is, given enough proof. And, she's unlikely to be pleased.
Eldritch Abomination: Sebastian's true form, at least in the anime. He takes his true form to combat Angela/Ash at the end of season 1. We never see the true form (except for what appear to be cloven hooves stuffed into thigh or knee high leather high-heeled boots) but from Angela/Ash's BSOD reaction, and Sebastian not wanting to see Ciel see it (to not go insane?) it seems Sebastian's true form is beyond our capacity to handle.
Elegant Gothic Lolita: The show has renewed an interest in this style in Japan and there's a line of clothing directly based on what the characters wear.
Evolving Credits: In season 1, the opening "Monochrome Kiss" switches to its second stanza halfway through. A few episodes later, the animation completely changes for the final arc.
Eyepatch of Power: Ciel's eyepatch hides the pentagram that represents his contract with Sebastian.
Eyes Always Shut: Lau sports a variation of this. His closed eyes are not upturned in a foxlike manner; rather, they're more U-shaped, giving him an air of calm.
Eye Scream: In the second season of the anime, Alois stabs one of his maidservants in the eye. With his finger. Why? "A maid should never look directly at her master!" The other servants understandably have an Oh Crap moment, but are then commanded to clean up the bloody mess. It's revealed later that Hannah the maid is a demon. We see in a later flashback of somewhere around that time Alois saying how he's sick of demons and of people looking at him like that.
Ciel getting the seal in his eye seemed to have been very painful. Blood is seen dripping from it afterwards.
Facepalm: Ciel in season 2 episode 3, when Sebastian has a moment of adoration over stray kitties and ignores the task at hand to do so. Really, every time Sebastian and cats are in the same frame/panel and Ciel is around.
Fake Brit: In the English dub, Elizabeth has a loud and rough accent when a lady of her high status would have a posh accent and be taught to speak more quietly, especially when in a party surrounded by strangers. In fact almost all of the Brits have accents vaguely reminiscent of a certain mischievous chimney-sweep.
Fallen Hero: Subverted. Ciel was never really a hero per se, but he did used to be just a normal little kid; then his parents were killed, his house was burnt down, he was kidnapped and tortured by a cult, and he became a villain.
Fate Worse Than Death: At the end of season 2 of the anime, Ciel becomes a demon. The problem with this is that Sebastian is bound to Ciel until he devours his soul, but demons apparently cannot consume each others' souls. Sebastian, for the first time, does not seem enthused with the prospect of serving Ciel "until the very end."
Flip Personality: Alois' soul ends up in Ciel's body and both souls dispute its control. You can see Alois is in charge because of the (not subtle) change in attitude and because the eye seal disappears.
Foreshadowing: In chapter 5 of the manga, Finny is throwing statues at mice that have attacked the mansion. Then cut to chapter 32 and we see him throwing statues at Beast and Joker exclaiming "Found the Mice!"
In Chapter 54, we were given cover art of the Undertaker dancing with a skeleton. Cue chapter 60: Undertaker dancing with one of the zombies in the exact same pose, making a speech about the beauty of his creations.
Fork Fencing: Sebastian carries around a few forks and knives wherever he goes. He's pretty damn effective with them too. Killed an entire room of men with a handful of thrown dinner knives.
Choleric - Green Lion, the "sporty" house. "Green Lion" is also an alchemical symbol for chloride and chlorophyll.
Melancholic - Purple Wolf, the creepy artistic house.
Phlegmatic - Sapphire Owl, the brainy house.
Frame Up: In the "Wordsmith" whodunnit arc, Ciel and Sebastian frame a blood diamond/arms smuggler for the death of a German ship builder who would've made his country's navy more powerful then it should've been at the time. Sebastian's death was just a "joke" by Victoria, who didn't like Ciel's "prank" of completely burning the last Big Bad and his unsuspecting henchmen and victims.
From Bad to Worse: And the ending theme illustrates it, from Super-Deformed Sebastian performing chores, to normal Sebastian rowing a prone Ciel in a bed of white roses on a boat on the river Styx.
There's also when Ciel's parents had been killed. Afterward, his house was burnt down, and he was sold to a religious cult who tried to use him as a sacrifice until Ciel accidentally summoned Sebastian, and then chose to give up his soul in return for Sebastian's help at getting revenge.
A particularly standout example is the joke Madame Red tells the Undertaker in Episode 4 of Season 1: "So Alice's beau gave her the most extraordinary (gunshot) for her birthday. It was white and so (double gunshot) with thick veins running down the sh(gunshot)..."
The Glomp: Four person flying-tackle variety at the end of the Murder Arc, when Sebastian reveals to the rest of mansion that he is not dead.
Elizabeth, during her first appearance in the anime, pulls this completely straight.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: Abberline and his boss seem to fulfill this trope. The former pities Ciel after reading his background file and, in the anime, eventually dies for him in a Heroic Sacrifice. On the other hand, his boss was very disappointed that the Queen wouldn't let him torture Ciel after they arrested him for the Lady Blanc incident.
Heroic BSOD: While Ciel's intentions for the circus children back at the workhouse might not be described as "heroic" so much as "self-serving with a side of philanthropy", Ciel's reaction in chapter 36 upon realizing that the entire workhouse was empty and abandoned, and had been for what looked like years, meaning the circus children had fought—and died—in vain can be aptly described as a BSOD. A very, very frightening one.
Ciel has one in chapter 41, after finding Sebastian's body. It was an act, but he did seem genuinely pleased about being able to smack Sebastian around a little.
Ciel has another one earlier in chapter 34, when Baron Kelvin made an exact replica of where he was held when imprisoned, complete with an altar for sacrificing and even two cages full of children. This leads him to burn down the entire building...including the children.
Hidden Agenda Villain: Just what WAS Ash/Angela's plan anyhow? How was turning girls into dolls, serving a crowd of innocent bystanders the Hate Plague in curry form, leading an evil cult s/he was planning on killing anyway, or BURNING LONDON supposed to help with said plan? What was the soul-infused London Bridge supposed to do? Was s/he just Ax Crazy, or was there some rhyme or reason? Alas, we shall never know...
Historical In-Joke: In the manga, Queen Victoria has the occasional fit of tears that can be only alleviated by a servant (John Brown) with a Prince Albert puppet.
Hypocritical Humor: Ciel chastises Cole for keeping secrets, lying, cheating, and manipulating others to do his work while flashbacks show Sebastian doing all the work of picking through the school's trash for Cole's notes to his underlings and taping the fragments together, not to mention setting up an elaborate tin-can-telephone and scattering hundreds of photos of Cole's makeup routine all over school.
I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Undertaker in the anime loves the feeling of the moisture leaving his body. Unbeknownst to Grell, who tosses him in salt and keeps him buried neck-down.
Changed in the second season to just "_______ Butler".
Ignorance Is Bliss: Ciel tells Snake that his missing friends' whereabouts were unknown, that he is looking for them and that staying with Ciel will be the fastest way to see them again. The reader knows that they were all killed by Ciel's staff when they tried to ambush Ciel's mansion.
I Kiss Your Foot: Claude does this to Ciel in Episode 10 of Season 2...and gets kicked in the face for it.
Image Song: Several characters get them for season 2, including Ronald Knox (who only appears once).
Improbable Age: Ciel, considering his ownership of the Phantomhive company and service to the Queen.
In Name Only: The anime diverged from the manga at episode 7, making it essentially a completely different series. Besides just the setting and characters, there are many major plot points, such as the terms of the contract between Ciel and Sebastian, that are also changed.
The characters are markedly different in personality between the two mediums. In the manga, Sebastian has a much wider range of emotions while he's always "cool" & rarely stressed in the anime. Ciel is darker, Soma is more childish. Grell is more competent, violent, serious, & less romantic in the manga. In the anime, Elizabeth has no dark side. Finally the anime has far more ecchi humor & significantly larger bustlines than in the manga.
Inherently Funny Words: Granted, it obviously means something other than the modern interpretations of the word but you will either giggle or cringe every time the word "fag" is uttered during the Weston College arc.
Kick the Dog: In the first episode of the second season, Alois stabs his maid in the eye with his hand. For daring to look her master in the eye while serving him. The nerve of her.
Kid with the Leash: Ciel's relationship towards Sebastian. While largely true to the trope, it lacks the usual element of contrast in that with few exceptions, Ciel is just as amoral and ruthless as his servant.
Kill The Cutie: All of the main circus crew (except for Snake) and the kidnapped children from the circus arc, and Phelps from the murder mystery arc. Also, Alois.
Kissing Cousins: Ciel is engaged to Elizabeth, who is his cousin. This was rather common in the Victorian Era.
Knife Nut (and Fork Nut): Sebastian throws the Phantomhive household's silver cutlery around with abnormal speed and precision.
Claude uses the Trancy's gold silverware as weapons as well.
Lost Him in a Card Game: In season 1, Ciel loses a game of chess, and Sebastian, to the ghost of King Edward and his little brother Richard. Their contract isn't broken over a silly game of chess, and Sebastian soon returns when it's most beneficial.
Love Makes You Crazy: Under any other circumstances, Ciel would not go anywhere near the big, creepy castle without Sebastian. Unless, of course, Elizabeth has gone missing and he has every belief that she is in there and in trouble. Then he'll do anything. Including giving Grell pretty much permission to rape Sebastian in exchange for backup. Not crazy enough for you? How about after he realizes all the girls in the castle are living dolls, he ditches Grell in order to run deeper? And still keeps looking for Elizabeth after being told he was next to be turned into a doll?
In the manga, Ciel throws himself in front of a bear without a second thought to protect Elizabeth. This act also shows Elizabeth's mother, Frances Middleford, that Ciel is more worthy of being her daughter's future husband than she had originally given him credit for. Still, that could be considered more heroic than crazy, since Ciel knows that if he is in danger of getting hurt, Sebastian can easily save him.
Madness Mantra: "Snuff out the unclean, Snuff out the useless, Snuff out the barren."
The Masquerade: Subverted in that Ciel and Sebastian reveal everything— including the fact that they and Earl Grey work for the Queen, framed another man for Siemen's murder, and Sebastian being a demon to Wordsmith and let him live, memory intact, since the mere thought of their power was enough to stop him from revealing the truth even after he became a famous writer of mysteries— just because Ciel liked his writing style.
Medium Awareness: Season 2, Episode 6. Hannah plays this weird instrument that causes intense physical pain in anyone who hears it. So, Agni tries to free Maylene, Finny, and Bard from the effects by way of Pressure Point attacks. It works...but now their voices are out of sync with their lip movements. And it actually is too, if you watch closely.
In addition: in season 1 they don't seem to make a big deal about the fact that Pluto is a demon hound, or that he can change into a human and dog form...
Morality Pet: Sebastian has his cat friends (and possibly Ciel himself depending on character interpretation—whether he genuinely cares about Ciel or if he wants nothing more than to eat his soul), Ciel has his household staff and Elizabeth.
Hannah, in the second season, appears half-naked in several occasions, with Clothing Damage to the point of improbability. Due the female fanbase, and possibly her role as a servile abuse victim, considered to be by many people Fan Disservice.
Ran Mao from the manga and the first season of the anime is also an example, bearing cat ear-like Odango, showing off a lot of leg, being extremely flexible, and generally being very touchy-feely.
Beast from the Circus Arc of the manga is another good example.
Multiple Demographic Appeal: Boy howdy. It has a number of Seinen themes (villain protagonists, child abuse, violence and gore, etc.), an art style not unlike that of a Shoujo series and a lot of subtext, but is published in a Shonen magazine - though the themes of a Deal with the Devil, as well as the style of action, are not foreign to the Shonen genre.
Real Life people such as Patrick Phelps and Idol Singer Irene Diaz are among the guests, counting as a Genius Bonus, but the Myth Gag happens to be Irene and her producer dancing together.
Never Trust a Trailer: Parodied Up to Eleven in the fourth Black Butler II OVA, featuring the characters as actors. The last portion of the episode features a mock trailer for the season...consisting almost entirely of events that never happened. It gets just a little ridiculous when we see Lau and Ran-Mao show up in a UFO, and it pretty much snowballs from there.
Nice to the Waiter: While Ciel's house staff are usually more trouble than their worth, he always treats them kindly (or as kind as Ciel can be). Lampshaded several times by the staff themselves. Alois Trancy on the other hand... not so much.
She's also very self-conscious about the fact that she's taller than Ciel, and has noticed Ciel's efforts to be seen as grown-up despite his young age. This has resulted in Lizzy behaving more childishly than she actually feels, much for the same reason she didn't let Ciel know she's a brilliant swordswoman.
No Hero to His Valet: Sebastian towards Ciel, as he actually knows the full details in that Ciel will do anything for the queen, as well as Ciel's goal of revenge, along with his willingness to kill innocent people if he deems it necessary. Most people who don't know him personally treat Ciel as either a "hero" or someone to look up to because of how successful he is as a 13-year-old who runs a well-known company. There are some others besides Sebastian that know he is "the queen's dog", though they do not seem to know all of the details.
One-Winged Angel: Sebastian so far has shown this thrice, and every time it's obscured.
Our Angels Are Different: In the anime, the Big Bad is one who's very screwed up, fusing males and females together in one body, killing her/his loyalty cultists when s/he has no more use for him, extremely perverted, mind-rapes the boy trying to avenge the parent s/he killed, having a minion turning little girls into dolls and then disposing of it once he's useless and setting the stage for a possible world war in the future.
Overtook the Manga: The anime officially departs from the canon material by the fight with Grell, and goes into a completely different direction (although a few elements like Agni and Soma are included)
Paper-Thin Disguise: Everyone who watched the first episode of season 2 probably noticed pretty quickly that the stranger visiting Alois and Claude in the middle of the night is Sebastian Michaelis. In addition, Claude's disguise on the train. One wonders if the butlers are aware of what the word "disguise" actually means.
Parental Abandonment: The whole first tier circus crew had been abandoned by their parents due to their various disabilities.
Parental Incest: Subverted. The very first scene of Season 2 gives us the blink-you'll-miss-it visual of Alois getting out of a bed in which an old man is sleeping before the much more noticeable bruised-butt shot. Alois only mentions his father during his clearly false innocent moments, otherwise freaking out at the mention of him, stating hysterically that he "got rid of all the old man's things". The numbers of when he was "saved" from his kidnapping experience, when his father is stated to have died, and when he contracted Claude all match up. The sexual abuse is confirmed in episode 8— along with the fact that it wasn't Parental Incest, because the Earl Trancy wasn't actually Alois's father.
Perky Goth: Is there nothing in the series that DOESN'T fit this aesthetic style?
Pet the Dog: Sebastian will kill without mercy and betrays very little emotion, but he adores and has a huge soft spot for cats. In fact, he keeps a closet full of kitties hidden from Ciel (who is allergic), but they (the cats) seem pretty happy. Also it's not a case of Cats Are Mean, but a case of cats-are-too-nice-not-to-love-even-for-a-demon.
Ciel lets Snake become one of his staff as a way of making up for killing his nakama, not that Snake knows this — he thinks he's only staying until they locate the rest of the circus troupe.
Pillow Pistol: Ciel almost shoots Sebastian with one of these in chapter 14.
Playground Song: During an arc in the anime, Drocell the puppet-working-for-a-serial-killer keeps playing and singing London Bridge is Falling Down. His prey is young, beautiful girls that he turns into living dolls; the song is used to control said dolls and determine what materials to construct them from. Despite being male, he's kind enough to make an exception for Ciel.
The anime seems to love the song "London Bridge is Falling Down". The tune shows up all over the place.
This may have something to do with the fact that in Victorian England, London Bridge Is Falling Down was one of the most popular playground songs.
Also, the Noah's Ark Circus arc of the manga has Joker singing Tom, the Piper's Son as he makes his way to his "father's" office. In fact, most of that family references the song.
Please Wake Up: Ciel when Sebastian died, and he kept repeating things like, "Sleeping on the floor doesn't look that comfortable to me," and "Get up". Subverted because it ended up being a fake death, which Ciel was aware of the entire time.
Powered by a Forsaken Child: Those wonderful prosthetic limbs that the Noah's Ark Circus kids have? Made from the bones of children murdered by Baron Kelvin and the doctor.
Precocious Crush: When Madame Red was around Ciel's age, she fell in love with a slightly older man. That man was Lord Phantomhive... who would marry Madame's older sister and become Ciel's father.
Protectorate: Ciel's bumbling normal servants. A chef, apparently imported from America, who likes using heavy artillery on food, a dojikko maid, a napping steward, and a gardener who mixes up "weed killer" and "fertilizer". It takes all of the powers of Hell for Sebastian to prevent them from daily blowing the mansion up. Also, Elizabeth.
Only bumbling when it comes to the servant part. As one of the manga chapters demonstrated, they weren't hired for their ability to take care of the house under normal circumstances. But during an attack...
Angela. The angel. Wow. Really should have seen that coming.
Also, Ash. The angel with the plot to burn down London. Really should have seen that coming.
Purely Aesthetic Era: Despite all the painstaking historical research, the creators sometimes just throw accuracy to the wind. Mobile phone? Check. Modern motorized chainsaw? Check. To be fair, the modern motorized chainsaw is a supernatural weapon wielded by a death god who may or may not be constrained to series-current technology.
Ravens and Crows: Sebastian is shown as either a raven or a crow in the anime's prelude, and is often shown with the black Corvid feathers around him, even in the manga.
Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Sebastian features this stunning contrast, and that's part of the reason why he has so many admirers.
Royal Brat: Ciel and Alois apply, though they are both partially subverted as they actually do know what life is like for those less fortunate than them, due to their Dark And Troubled Pasts.
Running Gag: Sebastian and his obsession with cats. And then, Ciel's (both hateful and allergic) reactions to said cats.
Every volume of the manga has a different "alternate take" on the series on the inside front cover (Black Racer, Black Chef, Black Ninja...), with a brief synopsis of what that might be like on the inside back cover. Said synopsis always contains the words "(or not)" somewhere, ends with "...or something", and there's a sketch of Sebastian having trouble with the premise in the corner (except for Volume 10's "Black Esper", where he actually likes it).
Father Jeremy Rathbone who shows up in chapter 45. Share the first name of Jeremy Brett who played the detective in the Granada TV series (as well being an almost dead - no pun intended - ringer for said actor), and surname of Basil Rathbone, another Holmes actor from the 1940s. And then he proceeds to pull the deduction technique on Arthur, who mentions the father resembling Professor Bell, whom the real Sir Arthur based Holmes off of.
Phelps's killer in Chapter 47 could be a reference to another Sherlock Holmes story, The Speckled Band.
In the manga Sebastian sends a secret note via snowy owl.
According to one of the early manga chapters, apparently the pets in Hell are Xenomorphs.
Sebastian's line to Claude as he's hanging on to the trap door in Cielois's maze "We meet again, Claude" is the polite, as one would expect of a butler, form of "We meet again, Cloud" uttered by Sephiroth in Advent Children. Even better as Claude and Cloud share a VA. Square-Enix self-shout.
The dress that Ciel uses at the opening image of chapter 8 is exactly the same that Katrina uses in the last scenes of Sleepy Hollow.
Slouch of Villainy: Ciel. He slouches when he's about to do something particularly nasty, and unless he is standing up, almost gives orders to Sebastian exclusively in this pose. Also, he does it in almost all the official art (note the image at the top of the page).
Sociopathic Hero: Sebastian, being a demon, shows no mercy towards his master's enemies.
Middleford vs Midford. The English release from Yen Press chose for latter, but the former was the first to be widely accepted, so there's been some confusion.
Spoiler Opening: Season 1's opening can be considered a variation of this. It does show what will happen, but in somewhat of a metaphorical way that you usually won't understand until you finish the season.
Staying Alive: Sebastian, Ciel and even Lau and Ran Mao at the start of season 2.
Stealth Pun: In one episode in the first season the rest of the staff are trying (and failing hard) to get a photograph of Sebastian. They plan ways to set up the shot and distract Sebastian on a scale model of the house marking Sebastian's position with the figure of a black sheep, which is Kuro Hitsuji in Japanese.
Too Dumb to Live - Elizabeth, you don't follow a stranger who doesn't even act as if he was human, you don't go on a boat in a middle of a STORM just to find a dear, you don't follow your fiance just to make him eat a cake when he's with a gun and tells you to go back because it's dangerous.
Took a Level in Badass: In the anime's second season, thanks to Alois's wish that neither Claude nor Sebastian would be able to eat Ciel's soul, Ciel is now a demon, red eyes, black fingernails and all, with an even more powerful demon (Sebastian) as his servant.
Alois as well. For the whole first episode, he goes from acting completely innocent to downright crazy within a few seconds, and switches back and forth between the two personas. Not to mention how he acts as if he is trying to seduce any male character within five feet of him. Which is, sadly, Truth in Television. Many childhood sexual abuse victims end up acting like this, because their trauma never allowed them to develop healthy ways of interacting with adults.
In certain versions, he actually says 'So I thought to myself'.
Villain Protagonist: In most stories, the amoral demon and his bitter, driven master would be undeniable antagonists, especially given how little they hesitate about killing people who get in their way, seducing people for information, etc., etc.... Given how sympathetically they're portrayed, the beginning of chapter 34 comes as a bit of a shock.
Alois and Claude are much worse than Ciel and Sebastian.