chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
[personal profile] chomiji

Twelve-year-old Ciel Phantomhive is an orphan and a victim of a horrific past, but he is also a special agent of Queen Victoria, a head of industry (toys and sweets), and master of a palatial estate near London. Keeping house for the young master are a set of curiously and comically inept servants - Finnian the air-headed gardener, Mey-Rin the horrifically klutzy housemaid, Bardroy the lethally bad wise-ass cook, and Tanaka the (mostly) inert steward - plus Sebastian Michaelis, the super-efficient and multi-talented butler.

The charming yet steely Sebastian is, in fact, a demon from Hell. Literally.

This beautifully drawn series careens vertiginously from horror-tragedy to broad comedy. Ciel investigates Jack the Ripper, is befriended by a feckless South Asian princeling who gets the household involved in a very serious curry-cooking battle, and most recently delves into a strange circus that may be playing a role in the matter of some missing children. Flashbacks reveal the nature of Ciel's relationship with Sebastian, why Ciel has that eyepatch, and what happened to the rest of the Phantomhive family. And Queen Victoria is not the only 19th century celebrity to make an appearance.

 

Black Butler, vols. 1-8 (review)

To quote TVTropes, "Mix and stir Hellsing and Count Cain with Loveless, at least toward the beginning. No, seriously." The gorgeous illustrations always have a kinky air about them, a number of characters are motivated by various sorts of barely-bridled lust, and mangaka Toboso loves to cross-dress Ciel. Although the series runs in a shounen magazine, the slyly elegant sexuality running throughout is just one reason that this is not a series for kids of Ciel's age (Yen Press rates it as "Older Teen").

The series features yet another take on shinigami, who in this case are spiritual bureaucrats/investigators who have to collect and account for the souls of the recently departed. BB shinigami are always turned out in natty Victorian dress suits (black, except in the case of the flamboyant Grell), wear glasses, and are equipped with "death scythes" that can be just about anything in the outdoor tools department: a long-reach tree-pruning saw, a lawn mower, and a chain saw have all made appearances.

I have just finished Volume 8, which wraps up the Noah's Ark Circus arc. Frankly, I had to close the book for a moment and just breathe at one point. It wasn't so much the death and destruction. Although there was plenty of that, it was certainly no worse than scenes in many of the seinen series I've been following. It was more the emotional cruelty of the various situations: for the child performers of the circus who paid the ultimate price for their master's deeds (and some of whom learned, just before they died, what he had actually been doing) and for Ciel, who was in reality their executioner (although his servants did the killing) and who is prevented from performing the one act of mercy that he hoped would expiate some of his guilt.

Ciel and Sebastian remind me of what [livejournal.com profile] sanada told me at one point about Samurai Deeper Kyo: "In most series, these would be the villains." I certainly plan to keep reading Black Butler, but I'm a little disturbed by the type of enthusiasm I'm seeing from some of the fans. There are some very dark, deep currents running under the beautiful artwork and slapstick humor.

 

Date: 2012-01-29 02:44 am (UTC)
inkstone: Sohma from RG Veda (Default)
From: [personal profile] inkstone
I remember when I finished that arc, I took a looooong break from the series because I found myself hating all of the characters. I picked it back up recently though but yeah. They definitely would be the villains in another series.

As for the art, Toboso Yana used to draw BL. You can see that in some of the style of the series though.

Date: 2012-01-31 02:25 pm (UTC)
inkstone: Lambdadelta from Umineko (absolute certainty)
From: [personal profile] inkstone
Oh, I didn't mean the quality of the art. I meant the style -- as in the feel and tone and composition of the artwork. There's a feel to the art that gives away the mangaka's BL roots the same way that you can tell Oh!Great began his career by drawing hentai manga by looking at the early chapters of Tenjou Tenge.

Date: 2012-01-29 03:17 am (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] meganbmoore
I think I read the first volume of this, Pandora Hearts and Natsume about the same time and have yet to get back to any of them despite meaning to. I skipped spoilers but saw you mentioned the fandom. This is one of those things where fandom's portrayal of a canon convinced me to never go near it but then people with faiely compatible taste liked it.

Here from anime_manga

Date: 2012-02-01 03:57 am (UTC)
aquila_black: Grell, smiling. He looks almost sane and put-together, here. Colorful, but not out of control. (Grell: Happy)
From: [personal profile] aquila_black
This was a very nice overview of the manga.

I'm not sure what you mean, though, about being disturbed by the type of fannish enthusiasm you're finding, around Kuroshitsuji. Could you elaborate?

Re: Here from anime_manga

Date: 2012-02-02 05:23 am (UTC)
aquila_black: Ritsu Minami next to a tall window; dusk illuminates his long, dark form and two of the butterflies pinned on his wall. (Ritsu: Window)
From: [personal profile] aquila_black
Hmm. Generally it's stuff posted to a comm or x-posted to anime_manga itself that makes the weekly list. But I was glad to see someone had done an overview of Kuroshitsuji.

For story recs, I'd point you in the direction of this, which sounds like what you want to read.

[personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist did a fic rec list on Crack Van that I haven't finished, so I can link you to that as well.

It's hard to find fic that revels in the ... underlying harshness of Kuroshitsuji. But you might also like this one. Seeing as I'd have no reservations about offering the link if it weren't something I wrote.
aquila_black: (Ritsu as always)
From: [personal profile] aquila_black
Taking sadistic pleasure in the characters' misfortune was not what I meant. Rather, that in Kuroshitsuji, I find it useful to lean into the emotionally difficult parts and connect with it as if it weren't going to overwhelm me. It starts out being a little more than I can take, but it doesn't stay that way, and I think part of empathizing with the characters is coming to terms with the fact that they're in a really unsafe, amoral world.
aquila_black: Harry Potter is unconscious. His outstretched hand holds the Philosopher's Stone. Caption: Immortality. (Default)
From: [personal profile] aquila_black
Yeah. And once I got past the shock, reading about a child who was marked by the realization that *nothing* was keeping terrible things from happening to him or his loved ones appealed to me. It feels like something that most people come to grips with and are changed by, but most stories tone down or selectively edit out.

Someday, I'll probably double-check that it always does what I tell it to. My impression, from dealing with older computers, is that they actually lost data less often. But I could be wrong about that.

Date: 2012-02-05 09:14 pm (UTC)
avierra: (Grell & Mme Red)
From: [personal profile] avierra
I enjoy Kuroshitsuji, but I don't enjoy the fandom at all. I think we're both rather older than most of the fandom. >_> But it's a lot easier to take, if like Tea House, you don't read the comments. I think we're a lot older than those fans too. I have shared my opinions about TH fandom before, and most of them apply to Kuroshitsuji as well.

One thing I do like quite a lot about Kuroshitsuji is that Toboso makes Sebastian act like the demon he is, corrupting a 13-year-old traumatized child (named Ciel, no less... how could he have resisted?) And all so he could have a tasty snack. I think one thing a lot of fans overlook in the BLishness of it all is that basically what is being depicted is a classic Faustian bargain that will in all likelihood be consummated. There isn't going to be a fluffy happy-ever-after for Ciel, because he will be consumed. I have thought a lot about what is going on, and one of the big themes in Kuroshitsuji is the corrosive effects of revenge and what that does to a person. It would be really interesting to me if Sebastian turned out to be a personification or construct of Ciel himself-- his revenge-- existing simply because of Ciel. We'll see, I guess. She is playing it straight for now though. As far as the BL angle, I think while Toboso flirts with it, she makes it extremely yucky on the face of it by making Sebastian look like Ciel's father.

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