Manga Quick Information
In the reign of Queen Victoria, just outside of London, lies the manor of the Phantomhive family, now run by its sole member by the name of Ciel. The Earl himself is a faithful servant to the Queen and owner of London’s most successful toy company, despite only being a small boy. So how does a young man manage to do it all? He thankfully has his ever faithful butler by the name of Sebastian, who can do anything from clean the silverware to vending off intruders, often at the same time. But is there more to Sebastian? And just what is Ciel exactly hiding underneath that eye patch of his?
When starting a new manga series, it’s a rare to a find one that you can honestly say that from volume 1 you’re completely hooked. Generally first chapter in volume one sets the ground for the story and characters, but the latter half of the book tends to be filler until later volumes where the plot picks up again. Black Butler however is a very effective first volume with having one of the best pacings in the debut book. The first chapter sets up the story within the manor, and introduces the main characters nicely – including the Earl Ciel and the graceful Sebastian. The second gives a deeper insight to the Victorian period and sows seeds into suspicion of who Sebastian really is, the 3rd chapter gives hints into Ciel’s dark past. The last chapter, the most action packed of all four, hits the ground running as Ciel gets kidnapped and the mystery behind his special bond with Sebastian is finally made known to the reader.
Leaving the great mystery until the last pages but keeping subtle hints throughout the book that something is not quite right is a brilliant move made by Yana Toboso; too often the big selling point is made within the first chapter, leading to the situation I described above where the later chapters seem lacking compared to the big giveaway. Along the ride towards the story twist there’s plenty of comedy, action, supernatural and crazy antics to pull the audience in and keep them tided from cover to cover. The story itself combines some old clichés seen in manga with its own style and vision of how it should be told. It’s not every day you get a manga that’s told in London Victorian times or where the pulling of the tablecloth from a table full of plates without knocking them over is seen as the coolest thing ever. The bottom line is that first volume is entertaining from the start and definitely sets high expectations for future volumes.
But having a good story is no use if the characters don’t carry it off well. Starting with the side characters we have Bardroy, Finnian and Maylene, also known as the cook, gardener and maid of the manor respectively. Their roles are completely dedicated to comic relief; they’re hardly ever drawn outside of the typical humour style with exaggerated mannerisms, simplified character art and little random thought quotes surrounding them. This can throw readers off some of the darker aspects of the manga but their comedy is never unwelcomed as they genuinely make you laugh, frequently. Next we have the protagonist himself; Ciel, being a young boy in charge of a whole household and a long line of servants, he’s never far off from being all high-and-mighty, proud and a typical brat. Hints of a tragic past however and small signs of vulnerability draw us to him but also find it amusing when he ends up in less than perfect circumstances. And last, but certainly not least, is Sebastian, who pretty much steals every panel in the book as he’s just so awesome! Imagine if Batman, his butler Alfred and the Joker all got together and had a secret love child; Sebastian would be that baby. He contains the grace, patience and mannerisms of a top class butler, the swift moves and fighting skills of a superhero, and that devilish grin and inhuman look in his eyes of a villain. Yana Toboso fantastically portrays the crafty butler as a character we all want to be friends with and is not afraid to spread across 2 pages the excellent moves Sebastian pulls to get what his master wants. Sebastian also scoops the awards for best end page pose of a manga ever, best threats involving nursery rhymes and best inappropriate reaction whilst walking away from a dramatic explosion.
Yen Press loving puts this book together with a beautifully themed cover, a colour page and 2 pages dedicated to translating various dishes and words used throughout the book.
Art is also a highlight with huge amount of details gone into creating the Victorian period with its own paranormal flare; characters outside of the comical trio are highly detailed with plenty of depth as well, it’s one of those series you can tell that it’ll be just are beautiful in anime form as well as in the manga. Action is also nicely paced in panels with none of it obscured, making Sebastian’s moves all the more macho and cool.
One little niggle within the book though is the liberties taken with the Victorian period; such as mobile phones and cars that look like they should be in an American gangsta film (so being completely ahead of the wind-up cars that were in late Victorian times). Normally this would be forgivable for a supernatural themed story but it can break the atmosphere slightly when one panel you have the old ‘on the hook’ telephone and a folding motorolla styled cell in the opposite page.
To wrap this up; the next time you’re in the shop looking for a new manga series to read and you only have enough money for one volume, Black Butler is the highly recommended choice.
|Score:||9 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Sat, 17 Jul 2010|