Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black Butler (manga, vols. 2-5) by Yana Toboso

I enjoyed the first volume of Black Butler, but when events in the anime and manga overlapped, I tended to like the anime more. The first volume didn't have much in it that I hadn't already seen in the anime. Since my vacation put me near an excellent public library, I decided to read a few more volumes of this series. Based on some of the details in volume 5, I'm guessing that volume 6 is the point where the manga and anime completely part ways. If that's the case, I might start buying this series from volume 6 on, since I'll have the joy of not knowing what's going to happen next.

Black Butler will have to compete with all the other manga trying to snag my attention, and it's at a disadvantage in a few areas. While I like the artwork and love seeing Sebastian in action, I have to admit that I don't actually care about the characters all that much, as compared to the characters in some of the other series I read. I'm interested to see where Toboso will take the series, but Black Butler is missing whatever element makes me need to read what happens next.

I did, however, enjoy the snippets of Madam Red's life in volume 3 - if/when Toboso gets around to showing more about other characters' pasts, I'll probably start to care for them more, the same way I did for Madam Red. Even Madam Red, though, didn't grab hold of my emotions as much as she could have.

Hm, there's not much more I can say. I still love Grelle, although, again, I'd rather watch him in the anime than see him in the manga. Oh, and although I knew that the anime diverged from the manga at a certain point, it was still a shock to actually see the Queen's face in volume 5. It was at that point that I figured I probably wouldn't be able to predict what will happen in future volumes. I think I've seen mild spoilers about the circus on YouTube, so I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen in volume 6.

As usual, don't read the volume summaries below unless you don't mind POTENTIAL SPOILERS. If you do, just skip down to the read-alikes/watch-alikes.
  • Black Butler (manga, vol. 2) - Ciel learns about a killer called Jack the Ripper, who kills prostitutes and then removes their uteruses. Ciel (dressed as a girl) first goes after the Viscount of Druitt, but a murder occurs during the man's party, so he can't possibly be Jack. That's when Ciel realizes that a human couldn't have committed all the murders - but an non-human being or something with such a being's help could have. He doesn't manage to save Mary Kelly, the final victim, however. Grelle, a Grim Reaper, kills her, according to Madam Red's instructions. Ciel tells Sebastian to hunt them down, even though Madam Red is his aunt. The inside-cover alternate Black Butler stuff that Toboso did in volume one appears to be a regular extra: this volume has Black Doctor.
  • Black Butler (manga, vol. 3) - Madam Red can't bring herself to kill Ciel, so Grelle kills her, and readers get to see her life up to that point (falling in love with the man her sister later marries, marrying another man and getting pregnant, only to end up losing her unborn baby and her ability to conceive). Ciel orders Sebastian to kill Grelle, but William T. Spears (Grelle's boss?) interferes. Then it's time for Madam Red's funeral. The volume wraps up with a visit from Lizzie's formidable mother, who has come to make sure that Ciel will be a fit future husband for Lizzie. They all go hunting, and Ciel protects Lizzie from a bear (which was really killed by Sebastian, although only Lizzie's mom noticed this). The inside cover alternate Black Butler in this volume is Black Ninja.
  • Black Butler (manga, vol. 4) - Ciel has unwanted house guests: Prince Soma and his servant Agni. The Prince has come all the way from India looking for Mina, the servant who raised him. Prince Soma is convinced that Mina was taken to England against her will by some man. It turns out that Agni is in league with that man, killing people for him. Agni knew all along where Mina was but didn't tell the Prince for reasons that won't be revealed until the next volume. In order to beat the guy who took Mina, Sebastian will first have to beat Agni in a curry-making contest at the Crystal Palace. The inside cover alternate Black Butler in this volume is Black Racer.
  • Black Butler (manga, vol. 5) - Sebastian takes part in the curry-making contest and wins with his curry bun, which even children can easily eat. However, Mina doesn't wish to return to India with Prince Soma - unbeknownst to him, she hated him and her life as a servant. Ciel figures he has now wrapped everything up, so he's less that pleased when Agni and the Prince decide to stick around. Ciel sends them both to his town house to get them out of his hair. The volume ends with something about a circus being in town. The inside cover alternate Black Butler in this volume is Black Chef.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Godchild (manga) by Kaori Yuki - It's been ages since I read this, and I never finished it, but I remember it being another dark mystery series with some occult aspects, set in Victorian England.
  • Count Cain (manga) by Kaori Yuki - I know even less about this series than I do about Godchild, but if Godchild interests you, then you might want to start with this series first. I think Godchild may be a continuation of this series.
  • Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga; Loveless (anime TV series) - Another series in which a damaged young boy is the master of an older man. Ritsuka hasn't been the same since his brother died. He now no longer has anyone to protect him from his abusive mother, and he doubts he's even the same Ritsuka from before his brother's death. When a mysterious young man named Soubi comes and claims to have been Ritsuka's brother's friend, Ritsuka can't help but want to talk to him. Later, Ritsuka learns that his brother was involved with a strange organization that pits Sacrifice/Fighter pairs against each other. Soubi was Ritsuka's brother's Fighter and now considers himself Ritsuka's Fighter.
  • Emma (manga) by Kaoru Mori; Emma: A Victorian Romance (anime TV series) - Another series with a flashy Indian prince. This is a historical romance set in England, starring a maid and a member of the gentry. Unlike Black Butler, it dwells more on period details and is more of a slice-of-life story. I've written about the manga and the anime.

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