Manga Review: Black Butler by Yana Toboso
I am so stoked to be able to bring you this review. I’ve been waiting for Black Butler to be translated into English for over a year.
A short distance from London, just beyond the fog-cloaked forest, there stands a well-kept manor house.
Kuroshitsuji, or Black Butler, is an awesome gothic tale about a butler who can do absolutely anything. The art in the manga is the best gothic craftsmanship I have ever seen. In fact, before the English translation came out, I had to talk myself out of buying the Japanese version several times because I loved the art so much. I just wanted to hold such beauty in my hands and study the details even, if I couldn’t read the darned thing!
I just finished the English translation version and I am not disappointed in the least. The story and characters live up to the awesome artwork. So, what’s it about?
The Black Butler, Sebastian, is the kind of man anyone could use around the house. He can clean, garden, make the most delicious sweets, and even rescue you from kidnappers. Most would say that his type of know-how is impossible in a mortal and they would be right. Sebastian's master Earl Phantomville, a twelve-year-old boy named Ceil who is obsessed with games. Being the head of the family that owns Funtom, Britain’s leading confection and toy making manufacturer, liking games is a must.
The other servants of the house are comical, but useless. After all, who needs maids, gardeners, and man servants when one has Sebastian the greatest butler of all time? These other servants make it difficult for Sebastian to do his job by constantly messing things up, destroying china sets, poisoning the garden, and eating the Earl’s desserts. The Black Butler always saves the day with his quick wit, speedy service, and ultimate all around wonderfulness.
My favorite scene is when Sebastian is riddled with bullets and then stands, his coattails all in tatters and looks at the bullets in his hand. Then he throws all the bullets back at the baddies, effectively sending them to their graves. After the fight, he picks up his master and calmly walks for the room while apologizing that dinner has not been prepared.
As I have said, this artist is awesome. I haven’t been this excited about a manga artist since Kaori Yuki’s Godchild. From ruffled cravats and tailored suits to ornamented chandeliers and elaborate tea servings, every detail is beautiful. Even the chibi portions of this manga are well done.
A fun detail is that each chapter, Sebastian makes a special dessert for Earl Phantomville. The dessert is shown up close with a banner stating things such as:
Today’s Dessert: Apricot and green tea mille-feuille.
This awesome book includes seven pages of author notes with translation notes outlining everything you’d like to know about what is described in the book, including what mille-feuille is.
The author is definitely into portraying authentic Victorian England settings and clothing, but I’ve never seen a manga artist pay this much attention to customs, history of the time, and even what people might have been talking about during dinner.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the author:
I like black…
…It’s a color that can’t be violated by any other colors.
It’s a color that simply keeps being itself.
A color that sinks more somberly than any other...
…It’s a passionate, gallant color.
Anything is wonderful if it transcends things, rather than being halfway.
If you haven’t bought a manga yet, this is the one to start with. Few others are in it’s league. You can find out more about Black Butler at Amazon.com.