Sunday, May 13, 2018

REVIEW: Black Butler: Book of Murder (anime OVA)

Black Butler: Book of Murder combines fantasy, mystery, and historical elements. It's approximately two hours long.


This OVA is based on Black Butler manga volumes 9 through 11. I read them way back in 2013, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the OVA was very faithful to the manga.

I highly recommend that Black Butler newbies not start with this OVA. At the very least, watch Black Butler: Book of Circus first, since Book of Murder references it and parts of the story depend heavily upon it.

Okay, in Book of Murder Ciel is confronted by the "Double Charles." The Queen suspects Ciel lied about the circumstances behind all the deaths at the Baron's home back in Book of Circus, and she's giving him an opportunity to reaffirm his loyalty. He has been instructed to hold a party. She has selected the guest  of honor, Georg von Siemens, to be accompanied by her butler, Charles Grey, and has allowed Ciel to choose the rest of his guests on his own.

The party seems to be a relatively ordinary affair, up until Georg is found stabbed to death in his room. After that, several other guests die. Only one guest could not possibly have committed the murder: Arthur, a struggling young writer who has so far only published one book, a detective novel. Arthur is asked to investigate the deaths and determine who the culprit is.

Although I've wanted to watch this OVA for a while now, I was always put off by its price, which is fairly high for both a short OVA and a Funimation title. When Right Stuf's Holiday Sale came around, I broke down and ordered it (and then dealt with weeks of trying to get my package - thank goodness they eventually sent a replacement, because the original package still says it's in Iowa).

I've now seen it twice, once in Japanese with English subtitles and once with the English dub. I was a little disappointed. Part 1 was the weakest. Even Sebastian's spectacular party-saving efforts were boring (how many times has he done that tower of glasses trick now?), and the murders, surprisingly, didn't really improve things much. Ciel's reaction to Sebastian's death made me uncomfortable - instead of coming across like a grieving child, he seemed more like a horrible, rotten rich kid.

Part 2 was much better, and I found I enjoyed it even more during my rewatch, because I knew more about what was going on behind the scenes. I'd forgotten lots of details since I last read the manga. I liked the way the murder mystery aspect had several layers - the public layer, a more traditional murder mystery, and a secret layer, the truth behind everything that happened at the party.

I have to say, I wonder about the Queen's past Watchdogs, because Ciel only managed to get back into the Queen's good graces due to the powers of his demon butler. I assume Ciel's father only had whatever tools were available to an ordinary (albeit wealthy) human being, so how did he manage to properly serve the Queen if this was the level of ability she expected?

The bits with Jeremy were fun, despite the character naturally working better in the manga. Although I enjoyed the Japanese voice acting more overall, Jeremy was one of the few characters I thought was done better in the English dub. That said, even if I hadn't read the manga already, I'd probably have figured a few things out well before the ending, if only because of certain scenes. It was still fun watching how everything had been accomplished, however. I very much enjoyed the part where Sebastian was almost defeated by his love for cats.

This is an OVA I'd advise getting only if you're a big Black Butler fan, and only if it's on sale. Even then, be prepared for it to take an hour to truly become enjoyable.

  • Part II Commentary - This commentary was done by J. Michael Tatum (Sebastian's English VA), Ian Sinclair (ADR director, Baldroy's English VA), and a third person I can't recall. Unfortunately, the first 20 or so minutes were the worst I'd heard in a while. It didn't start with introductions, and when Ian Sinclair finally did get around to introducing everybody, he'd adopted a soft, whispery, late-night radio voice that was barely audible. He threatened to use this voice during the entire commentary but thankfully stopped after a bit, and the commentary content eventually improved as well. I especially enjoyed the bits about Arthur's unusual accent and figuring out what Jeremy should sound like.
  • U.S. trailer
  • Trailers for other shows

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