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Manga / Black Butler

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"You see, I am simply one hell of a butler."
Sebastian Michaelis

Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji in Japanese) is a Shonen manga and companion anime series (although it's pretty obviously looking for a crossover Shoujo audience). Originally created by Yana Toboso, the manga began serialization in Monthly G Fantasy in 2006, and is still ongoing.

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 twelve-year-old (later thirteen) son Ciel Phantomhive has managed to rebuild the family legacy, creating a massive toy and candy company within just three years, and serving the Queen as a major contributor to England's black-ops.

It does help that Ciel contracted a demon to serve him: Sebastian Michaelis, whose skills range from dispatching any threat to 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 two years later, with an original story, new characters, and most of the previous season's cast returning. Both seasons were dubbed and distributed in the Americas by Funimation.

A live-action movie starring Mizushima Hiro, Gouriki Ayame, and Shirota Yuu was released on January 18, 2014. Taking place 130 years after the events of the manga, in the year 2020, Western and Eastern cultures have blended and 17-year-old Shiori Genpo, a distant relative of Ciel, is the head of the Phantomhive/Genpo estate and Phantom/Funtom Corporation after her parents were mysteriously assassinated when she was a child and she was subsequently kidnapped. She disguises herself as "Kiyoharu Genpo" and, just like her relative before her, returns with a butler named Sebastian Michaelis at her side, whom she has contracted to help her obtain revenge in exchange for her soul. The movie follows Shiori as she is tasked by the Queen of the Western Nations to investigate a slew of serial mummification deaths, also referred to as "The Devil's Curse".

A third season of the anime, covering the Noah's Circus arc and ignoring everything after a certain point from the anime's side, aired July 2014 as part of the Summer 2014 anime season, followed later in the year by a two episode OVA (at 50 minutes per episode) covering the Phantomhive Manor Mystery arc. An anime movie, an adaptation of the Ship Voyage Arc, was released in 2017.

At the Anime Expo 2023, it was announced that there will be a fourth season in 2024, produced by CloverWorks.

Character sheet for the anime series, the musical, and the movie is here.

Due to length, the trope examples list has been split into sub-pages:

A Phantomhive butler whose series can't demonstrate examples of the following tropes isn't worth his salt:

    Anime Only 
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Claus, Ciel's Italian associate who visits him in the first chapter, gets hit with this on account of the first episode detailing what happens after dinner. Claus is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who acts nice and cordial to Ciel in public, but behind closed doors he's a slimeball who wants to drain his pockets. Unfortunately for him, Ciel is aware of this and asks Sebastian to give him some Phantomhive hospitality.
  • Adaptation Drift: Zig-Zagged. Only the first 9 episodes of the anime are adapted from the manga. The rest of the first and second seasons opt to tell their own story. However the third season Book of Circus, OVA Book of Murder and Book of Atlantic are connected arcs taken from the manga, essentially mid-sequels taking place before the anime diverges.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: A relatively minor one, but Grell's line where Grell claims to sympathizes with Madame Red's infertility and motive for murdering prostitutes who came to her for abortions because Grell can't bear a child either, due to not having a uterus. This makes it sound like Grell's only reason for going rogue to become Red's sidekick was that Grell thought Red's viciousness was cute.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Anime Grell is more like a parody of the clumsy, bad-luck-magnet, demented, perverted, masochistic stalker Sarutobi from Gintama, while Manga Grell is a mostly serious, significantly less romantic, stone cold, blood-thirsty sadist. Also, in the anime, Grell has a crush on Undertaker but in the manga, Grell took an immediate disliking to him. The problem stems from Grell having an increased role in the anime and the animators having less material to work off of at the time, and she was thus flanderized.
    • Similarly, while Soma and Agni always had shades of Funny Foreigner, manga Soma was also intelligent and aware and Agni picked up on more social cues. These traits are dropped in the anime, for more comic relief. This only applies to seasons 1 and 2 of the anime.
    • Zig-Zagged with Lau, who originally looks to be more Flanderized and quirky, until he betrays Ciel at the end of season 1, at which point the audience gets reminded of the darker moments he had in the manga. Then in season 2, he goes back to being comic relief.
    • Ciel himself in season 2 is far less proactive than his manga counterpart- or his season 1 counterpart, for that matter.
    • Undertaker in the manga is a Hidden Agenda Villain and a Dangerous Deserter from the Reaper corps. In the anime, he left the corps peacefully and serves more of a Spirit Advisor role to Ciel, giving him advice when London is burning and helping navigate the reaper library.
  • Alternate Continuity: The anime diverges from the manga in episode 7, before moving back to it in episodes 13-15. After this, the anime goes on its own path for the rest of season one and season two.
    • Several of the cast's anime renditions are also quite different in character from their manga counterparts.
  • Animation Bump: The second season has noticeably higher quality animation than the first, probably due to it both being made two years later and being only half the length of the first season. This is especially evident in the first episode of the second season when Claude is remaking the dining room to look like it did when the first Earl Trancy was alive and the animation is absolutely stunning.
  • Artificial Human: Drocell. It's painfully obvious even before straw starts spilling out of his head.
  • Art Shift/Food Porn: In episode 14, when Ciel is discussing entering in the curry contest, it shows a hyper-realistic shrimp curry in the background behind Sebastian.
  • Back Up Twin: Edward Abberline in Kuroshitsuji II is the twin brother of Fred Abberline from the first season. However their personalities are quite a bit different and Ciel doesn't remember Abberline's death anyway so he fails to make the connection.
  • 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.
  • Bland-Name Product/Fauxrrari: Averted with Angelina's Lamborghini Countach (albeit in a Freeze-Frame Bonus moment) in the Making of Kuroshitsuji II OVA episode.
  • Burning Rubber: In the Making Of OVA episode Back to the Future style during Grell's introduction.
  • 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.
  • Butt-Monkey: Abberline in season 2 episode 4.
    • Grell in the anime. Mostly averted in the manga.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: There are more Chekhov's Guns in the anime than in the manga (unless you count the Chekhov's Armoury limited to the Murder arc), probably because the anime has had two seasons with different concluding plots, and there might be some Chekhov's Guns that have been shown in the manga but haven't been revealed as important yet.
    • Ciel's brand is a symbol used by the underlings of his parent's killer.
    • Pluto's collar is a mind-control device.
    • Unlike in the manga, Ciel's ring has actual plot importance in both seasons, albeit for two different reasons. First, it marks him as a target for an insane Doll maker as a Plot Device All Along. Then, it houses his soul, prompting his memory loss and the entire second season.
      • In the latter season, it becomes a Chekhov's Boomerang and/or a Chekhov's Skill, since a different ring is later used to store Aloise’s soul the same way Ciel’s ring was used. The effect lasts much longer (in terms of screen time, at least) and plays an even more crucial role in the plot than the first example does.
    • Chekhov's Gag: Before we see Finny fight, there's a scene where he deals with his sadness by running through the forest and barreling down all the trees in his path without stopping or so much as flinching.
      • In the third episode, Grell accidentally makes skull-shaped topiary out of EVERY bush in the manor. "His" repeated suicide attempts also count.
    • Chekhov's Gunman: Ash is first seen as Queen Victoria's nameless escort/servant during the Curry Contest.
      • Lau, the comic relief and exposition character, eventually becomes a formidable villain.
    • Chekhov's Gift: Although the gift is never given, the ring that Lizzy plans to give to Ciel to replace the one she broke.
    • Chekhov M.I.A.: Zigzagged, as the character is technically shown, but the audience doesn't get to see the facenote  or hear the voice of Queen Victoria in a scene where the manga included it.
    • Chekhov's Skill: Agni failed to hit Sebastian’s pressure points when they fought (or Sebastian negated their effects), but later he uses pressure points to snap people out of hypnosis.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Combat Commentator: Viscount Druitt in Episode 7 of the second season. He would be a walking Big-Lipped Alligator Moment otherwise.
  • 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.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Ciel, if his indifference to Sebastian's inevitable consumption of his soul once he finishes his Roaring Rampage of Revenge is any indication.
  • 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 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.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Sebastian's true form, although not so much in the manga. He takes his true form to combat Angela/Ash at the end of season 1. We never see it (aside from a pair of thigh or knee high leather high-heeled boots and a cascade of black feathers) but from Angela/Ash's Villainous BSoD reaction, and Sebastian not wanting Ciel to see it, it seems Sebastian's true form is beyond our capacity to handle.
  • 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.
    • Of a sort, in season 2: with episode one the opening involves only the Trancy household, and then switches back and forth between that and the usual Ciel/Sebastian-centric opening as the series goes on, depending on the episode's focus.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Foreign Language Theme: "I'm Alive!", the English ending theme. The vocalist, Meredith Brooks, is a native English speaker.
  • Gecko Ending: The ending of the first season of the anime was made into this retroactively. Season 1 ends with Sebastian leaning down to devour Ciel's soul and later into season 2 we find out that immediately after the screen fades to black he realized something was wrong and Ciel's soul was already gone, stolen by Claude.
  • Ghost Amnesia: The ghost of King Edward has this in the anime.
  • 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.
  • Hair Color Spoiler: Ash has purple eyes and white hair. Who else has white hair and purple eyes? Angela. Angela is an angel. Therefore, when The Reveal happened, it wasn't much of a surprise.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The English dub for one of the season 2 OVAs couldn't use the song itself so it used a different birthday song.
  • 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 they were planning on killing anyway, or BURNING LONDON supposed to help with said plan? What was the soul-infused London Bridge supposed to do? Were they just Ax-Crazy, or was there some rhyme or reason? Alas, we shall never know...
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Hannah, apparently.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Subverted. In the first episode, Sebastian borrows a page from Sweeney Todd in dealing with a Corrupt Corporate Executive. However, he is later seen alive, though injured.
  • Infallible Babble: “The white dog is a good dog, a good dog good. The black dog is a bad dog, a bad dog bad.” At first, it looks like a Madness Mantra used to control superstitious townspeople, but it turns out there really was a hell hound, and the person who was controlling him was using him to punish those she deemed wicked.
  • 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.
  • Knight Templar: Angela.
  • Lecherous Licking: In episode 5 of season 2, a disguised Alois licks Ciel's ear.
  • Light Is Not Good: You know something's wrong when the demon butler is easier to see as heroic than the angel in the series.
  • 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 sexually assault 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?
  • 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 Mey-Rin, 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...
  • Moral Myopia: It seems that, to Ash/Angela, everyone but themselves is impure. When they kill indiscriminately, alters memories and bangs pretty much anything (including Pluto), it's all good. But little girls who might someday become impure adults? Make 'em into dolls. Does an undyingly loyal Battle Butler Mannequinn dare break? Dump it. Cultists who followed your every word? All useless. The otherwise loyal queen who dares cling to her husband's body? Leave her to die. That kid that wants revenge because you personally ruined his life? SNUFF HIM OUT!
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Parodied 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.
    • Possibly a Take That Us on the part of the anime writers, acknowledging that the second season was a little insane at times, to the point where even fans who liked the second season admitted to its overall mind screwiness.
  • Old-Timey Bathing Suit: In episode 7.
  • 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 their loyal cultists when they have no more use for him, extremely perverted, mind-rapes the boy trying to avenge the parent they 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 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 .
  • Pet the Dog: In the first season of the anime, Ciel occasionally shows that he's not completely heartless, and despite mocking Abberline and his Stupid Sacrifice, he is shown to have sent toys to his pregnant wife after his death.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Subverted, and somewhat parodied in episode 4 of season 2. It turns out that every passenger on the train had a Chekhov's Skill that when combined can avert the disaster at hand...but Sebastian can do everything by himself.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Anyone notice what color rings Ciel and Alois have?
  • Sarcastic Confession: When Sebastian is being interrogated by the police they tell him to confess, and he admits that he was responsible for the Black Death. Since this was 500 years ago they assume he's pulling their legs.
  • Set Behind the Scenes: The Season 2 OVA episode "The Making of Black Butler II" shows the "filming" of the season and what goes into making the show, depicting the characters as either Animated Actors, crewmembers, or both.
  • Show Within a Show: Hamlet, in one of the extras. At least, that's what they were originally trying to perform.
  • 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.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Abberline's death was definitely a Tear Jerker, but there was no reason he had to jump in front of Ciel instead of just pushing him out of the way, therefore keeping them both alive.
  • Take a Third Option: In the anime, Ciel becomes a demon to avoid having his soul devoured. However, Alois unwittingly made the choice for him.
    • May be worth mentioning that Ciel seemed to have nothing against having his soul eaten.
  • 12-Episode Anime: Season 2 is half the length of season 1. "Book of circus" has even less episodes.
  • Unflinching Walk: Sebastian in episode 2 of the first season.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Lots. This series takes place in Victorian era Britain. What did you expect?
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Burning down London for purification? Okaaay.
  • Verbal Tic: Drocell's "I reasoned" in the anime.
    • In certain versions, he actually says 'So I thought to myself'.
  • Villainous Face Hold: In Episode 20, Angela has Sebastian chained to a wall and uses the handle of her whip to lift Sebastian's chin up so that she can see his face while she mocks him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So whatever did happen to the real Alois Trancy?


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Kuroshitsuji


Sebastian Michaelis

Apart from masquerading as a butler with heightened talents, he almost never reveals his true form onscreen, and only long high heel shoes and some feathers falling around him implying that he at least has bird-like wings.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / OurDemonsAreDifferent

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