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This is a review of the Japanese live action movie, Black Butler, not the manga or the anime (of which I only have a limited familiarity). As seems to be the general theme with most of the adaptations of anime/manga that I have seen, it would be inaccurate to call them "Big Screen" movies. They look more like horrendously underbudgeted movies which spend most of their money on replicating the costumes of characters from the show.
If you are unfamiliar with the premise of Black Butler from the manga, don't worry too much as the show plays fast and loose with the source material. The premise is that a teenage aristocrat, Kiyohara Genpu, is employed as a paranormal investigator to solve an ongoing murder mystery. He/she is assisted by a demonic butler, Sebastian, who is as impossibly competant as he is smug. It's set in an alternate world, where it is the near future but full of throwbacks to Edwardian Europe. It's also a place where a trained butler puts the milk In the teapot before pouring it out, so it is a distopia as well.
This movie is terrible. I was hoping for some inventive, erotically charged, paranormal campy action movie, but instead it is a muddled, plodding, offensively boring movie. Most of the film consists of absurdly dressed characters expositing back story at one another for increasingly long periods of time. The costumes themselves are flashy but tacky as hell, and fall into the amateur cosplayer trap of looking totally unworn; basically they look exactly like costumes, and not a thing the character ever wears. When the action does come along, it is too infrequent and so-so to save the movie.
Part of the manga/anime's big appeal was its (somewhat innapropriate) homoerotic innuendo between the child heir and his staff, and those fans hoping for this to appear in the movie will be disappointed. Part of this is down to the complete lack of chemistry between the two actors, part of it is down to the fact that the butler is nowhere near as appealing as his impossibly attractive 2D version, and another part of this is down to the sex of the protagonist, which the movie gets really confused over resolving. Our aristocrat is played by a female actress who makes no effort to look male, yet everyone uses male pronouns for the character. Apparently she is claiming to be male for some weaksauce plot reason, though its never really clear if everyone is convinced she is a boy, or whether they are just obliging. Is Kiyohara trans, or a cross dresser, or in disguise, or confused, or a flamboyant dresser, or just messing around? The movie doesn't seem to know. It's just another detail the movie manages to screw up.
This is a brilliant manga. The art is amazing, the storyline is great and most of the characters and their backstories are complex and realistic. I love the Victorian times and the whole Elegant Gothic Lolita style, so the art was a treat for me.
I got into this series because it looked a lot like another one I enjoy, Pandora Hearts (due to its many Alice references). When I first saw it though, I thought it was a comedy. It was not, though it has plenty of hilarious moments too. I remember buying and reading the first volume, and it hooked me. Those four chapters set up the characters and story perfectly, with all sorts of subtle hints as to Sebastian's true nature. And his rescue of Ciel from the Mafia was truly badass.
I do have some problems with it though. At times, some of the story arcs can get a bit silly (the best example would be the Jack The Ripper one), which is a shame when you consider that when Yana Toboso writes good, serious plots, she does them well, as can be plainly seen in the Noah's Ark Circus arc (my personal favourite). My biggest complaint though, is the pandering to the Yaoi fangirls. This is such a great manga. It could easily be considered a serious work of art, so why cheapen it by adding fanservice. And then, to cease the complaints of male readers she adds in some fanservice for them too. Why not no fanservice at all?
Ciel is a tragic and interesting character, who you can definitely feel sorry for. Sebastian manages to be the perfect butler while not becoming a Marty Stu, and while he always acts the perfect gentleman, we can all see the dark heart that lies beneath his decietful exterior. The others brange from tearjerking to humorous to a bit silly.
Overall, a great manga.
This Review is manga only
Frankly enough, Black Butler knows how to draw viewers, due to its stunning drawings and the gothic artstyle yet... let's face it, both characters and story are mediocre. Both main characters are Gary Stus: Ciel is an unsufferable prick with almost everything handled on a plate and Sebastian's a Noble Demon at best. Developed as they are, they don't have actually any positive trait, yet they always win. The only reason they are main characters? The villains are far worse, most of them horrible Complete Monster, admittedly twisted enough to be charming. The manga (and much worse, the anime) are also very sexist, potraying women always having a role second fodder to a man. Of all the character, only the Undertaker is Crazy Enough and enigmatic enough to make you wonder about his alignment, especially after recent chapters.
Even more cringe worthy is the fact now most secondary characters are pulling out of their ass Levels in Badassery in a weak attempt to make them interesting, but ends up far more an attempt to measure up to the rest of Shouned Mangas
However, what makes the series stand out? The comedy. Instead of constantly explaining the jokes, they allow the comedy to flow flawlessly. Even when you don't take the plot seriously due to the borderline Villain Protagonists, they provide an excellent comedy due to being Comically Serious , and the story are so batshit insane (improving curry with chocolate? Really?) that I can't help but roll in laughters.
One more positive traits is the art. The author clearly engages in Scenery Porn and the designs are gorgeous. You want to see more of the enviroment, and the fighting scene, despite being painfully one-sided, are dynamic and eyecatching. Lastly, the Ho Yay is rather well done, although really... they should stop focusing on the underage boy
Overall... not my type, in terms of plotting being mostly a So Bad It'sGood cliched revenge story, not my type, but worth a look
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