Newest Review: ... which rests in the book's pages. This manga is great for lovers of dark storylines but also lovers of comedy. This manga includes som... more
He's a Hell of a Butler
Black Butler Vol.1 - Yana Toboso
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Black Butler Vol.1 - Yana Toboso
Advantages: dark comedy with a wonderfully quirky cast, lovely art, and a mystery to unravel
Disadvantages: slowish pace of this 1st volume may deter some readers
Young Ciel Phantomhive lives a pampered life as the only son of a wealthy British family in Victorian England. The young adolescent seems to have it all: a fine home, loving parents, even a suitable young fiancee, a childhood chum who was selected by his parents during his early childhood. This all changes during his early adolecesnce...a terrible fire sweeps through the family mansion and Ciel himself is caught in the inferno. The fire is no accident, however, and Ciel knows his parents were foully murdered. He doesn't know who the culprits are, or why they did it, but as the fire rages, he calls out, to be answered by something willing to strike a bargain. Upon Ciel's agreement, a seal is placed within one of his eyes as proof of his contract and so it is that the mansion is restored, Ciel is saved apparently unharmed, and the butler Sebastian comes into the household to serve.
Sebastian is quite the butler. He not only flawlessly carries out his duties as butler, but carries them out in a most uncanny fashion. He is also most solicitous of young Ciel, and as the story unfolds, we come to understand something: Sebastian owns Ciel's soul, and he is there to help fulfill his part of the bagain so that he may collect it. There are no good guys here in the standard sense: Ciel may have been victimised by a crime, but he is definitely no angsty, weepy kid. He's made a bargain with a demon, fully cognizant of what he was doing and without undue durress. Daily events in Ciel's life as head of the Phantomhive business empire unfold, where it becomes all too obvious that this young man looks sweet and naive, but in truth is a precocious youth with a coldly calculating devious mind and a lack of compassion to those who wrong him in ANY way. He and Sebastian are wonderfully matched, and this gothic fantasy series gives free reign for these two to wreak their particular minor (and major) vengeances with flair.
While they are decidely not GOOD guys, they are honourable, and not only in their dealings with each other in respect to their bargain. They may be ruthless in obtaining what they want, revenge included, but they also possess a strong sense of right and wrong and seem concerned with the preservaton of innocent bystanders, though how they implement this code of honour would give the Addams family something to gawk at in frank admiration. Speaking of gawking, there is plenty to stare at here as the art is simply spectacular, filled with fluid lines and an excellent attention to detail. It great adds to the atmosphere of the story, and when called for, adds a bit of levity to keep the storyline from becoming too dark and brooding.
With its somewhat slow pacing, and a lot of time given to Sebastian's household duties, one might begin to wonder just where the story is going in this first volume. It all become clear by the end however, and I found myself appareciative of the time taken to fully set up the story. Having seen the anime, I already knew where it was headed, so I perhaps had a bit more patience than I otherwise would have, but can unequivocally say that reading this was well worth the time spent. Be aware however that the plot revolving around the death of the Phantomhives is not resolved here as it is the basis of the series. It is after all, what Ciel struck his bargain for.
This manga is available as a paperback edition only, from Amazon, The Book Depository and other retailers who deal in manga.
Summary: Ciel Phantomhive takes on one hell of a butler.
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