Black Butler (黒執事 Kuroshitsuji)
By Yana Toboso
Published by Square Enix in Monthly GFantasy
2006 – Present
” One hell of a butler and a boy driven by revenge make a contract, working together unveiling the mysteries of London’s dark side”
A British detective, demons, dead gods, knights and suits… very sharp suits…
The ability to take a normal, everyday institution and build an exciting and entertaining story around it, is manga’s “raison d’être”. And there’s no better than example than this week’s choice.
Set in Victorian London, the son of a wealthy Earl is kidnapped and orphaned by a murderous cult. Overcome with despair, the young Ciel Phantomhive unwittingly summons a demon and agrees to hand over his soul, the food of demons, for heads of those responsible for the death of his parents.
The demon, who Ciel names Sebastian after his pet dog, takes the form of a diligent butler who follows his master’s orders to the letter. The perfect butler, Sebastian displays otherworldly abilities to aid his master’s new role as the “Queen’s Guard Dog”, an underworld detective, tasked with solving London’s unexplained mysteries. All the while, waiting for the revenge that will allow Sebastian to finally feed on the soul promised him…
A normal historical setting, expertly interwoven with extraordinary circumstances, catapults this regular crime story into the heady heights of fantasy. This is what good manga is all about.
Black Butler’s protagonist, Sebastian Michaelis is suave, mysterious and very “English”, but offers something new to the world of manga. A “type O” protagonist, the charismatic demon shares more than passing, characterized resemblance to the “Shaman King” and “Inuyasha”.
Though effectively cast as a “sidekick” to Ciel Phantomhive, Sebastian shines as a protagonist. Growing as his “master” revenge story unfolds.
Yana Toboso has cunningly created a concept where her lead character can only move within the constrains of Phantomhive. This narrative method creates a unique dynamic in the story, where Sebastian autonomy and is only directed by the actions of a secondary character.
Toboso’s beautifully crafted story combines the themes of a heavy, dark Victorian fantasy with the tropes aimed at a female audience, with art to match.
Exquisitely designed characters, blood curdling crimes and the tragedy of a boy consumed with revenge makes Black Butler a true one of a kind manga and a more than warrants its “pager turner” status.
” What?! For a while I thought the protagonist was Ciel! I didn’t know about this technique!”
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