Genres: Historical, Horror, Manga, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller
Thirteen-year-old Ciel Phantomhive is the head of the wealthy Phantomhive family, and owner of the toy company, Funtom. Beside the intelligent, quiet, gothic young man is his ever faithful butler, Sebastian Michealis. Sebastian is a butler of many skills, including gardening, cooking, cleaning, landscaping, laundering, tailoring, and various others. Why, even when Ciel is in trouble, his butler can be called upon to provide a solution to their dillema. Simply put, Sebastian is one hell of a butler, and Ciel will make sure to utilize him until the mystery behind the deaths of Ciel's parents can be solved, and all of Ciel's tasks completed.
Hello folks. This week we’re looking at the gothic comic, Black Butler.
Black Butler, also called Kuroshitsuji, is a supernatural/mystery manga illustrated and written by Yana Toboso. It first appeared in the shōnen magazine Monthly GFantasy from SqueakEnix. Yen Plus got the rights to bring it over to North America, and the series has since become a massive hit. It spawned an equally popular Anime series, and even a live-action film that debuted earlier this year.
Let’s have a look at the cover. It depicts a dapper, devilishly handsome man, who is elaborately pouring tea from a silver teapot. This man is Sebastian Michealis, the titular Black Butler.
The story: Earl Ciel Phantomhive is only thirteen, and already he is the head of his family and the owner of his father’s toy company, Funtom Company. But rather than being carefree or happy, Ciel is sullen, quiet, and hyper-intelligent. And always at his side, since his return after a sudden disappearance and Ciel’s parents’ death after a fire broke out in the Phantomhive Manor, is Sebastian, the butler. Sebastian is skilled in various forms of service for the household, but when Ciel is kidnapped by a drug’s smuggler, Sebastian’s true nature is revealed: Sebastian is a demon.
Spoilers and some terrible things ahead folks ,so be forewarned.
It eventually comes to light that Ciel, after his home was burned and his parents murdered, was kidnapped by cultists who intended to sacrifice him. They tortured the boy, made him a slave, and branded him. During one such session of humiliation, Ciel’s pain and hatred are enough to rouse the interest of a powerful demon. Ciel offers his soul in exchange for revenge upon those responsible for his torment, and so Sebastian agrees to become his servant. The first order: killing all of the cultists in the room. Since then, Sebastian has faithfully followed Ciel, their contract symbolized by a pentagram mark in Ciel’s right eye.
The series has a wide range. Often there is a mystery, either related to Ciel’s main story or not, that must be solved. As ‘The Queen’s Watchdog’, Ciel is charged with solving these mysteries, and so he does, with Sebastian’s help. Sometimes the adversary is very human and quite manipulative or wicked, but sometimes the answer is more supernatural, and Ciel will use Sebastian to kill whatever demonic, spectral, or supernatural threat they come across.
There are other characters that heighten the story and help bring much-needed humanity to Ciel’s life, such as the other staff-members of the Phantomhive household. Honestly, they aren’t needed since Sebastian can do everyone’s job perfectly, but there is a gardener, a maid, and even a chef. Their real jobs, however, as extra guards for Ciel’s well-being, should Sebastian somehow be detained or unable to answer his young master’s summons. The maid is in truth a skilled assassin, the gardener an experiment-subject who has been given super-strength, and the chef is a former soldier and explosives expert. There is also Lizzie, or Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Midford, who is Ciel’s cousin and arranged bride-to-be. She adores Ciel and doesn’t suspect anything amiss with him. She serves as Ciel’s foil in her childish, somewhat impulsive nature. But her adoration of Ciel helps bring out the young man’s inner kindness, which helps in making the reader feeling sympathetic to him.
I personally love this series. The anime took a wildly different direction at one point, veering away from the main story, but the manga has progressed to further stories and situations. In any case, I like how Ciel and Sebastian make up two-halves of a single being that is capable of many things, from espionage to crime solving, and even a touch of romance and whimsy. The side-characters do add a great deal of lightness to an otherwise heavy story-line, and the artwork is impeccable. Plus it doesn’t help that I have something of a crush on the dark and sinfully charming Sebastian.
For gorgeous artwork, a blend of mystery and supernatural, and characters that are engaging as well as complex, I give this series 5 stars! Pick it up, and read it. You’ll be in for one hell of a manga.