Black Butler, Vol 1 - Basically as good as the first season of the Anime

Black Butler, Vol. 1 - Yana Toboso, Tomo Kimura

Ok, I knew I wouldn’t have any resistance against this series and HEY, I was right. I just recently broke down and watched the anime on Netflix and I was hooked…much to my husband’s dismay. But it has everything I really like in manga and other genres: Victorian England as envisioned by the Japanese, a really cute Bishonen character, Steampunk and/or Alternate Universe setting, and interesting supernatural elements. The story is interesting, the setting is WONDERFUL, and the characters are fascinating.

So, I was fortunate enough that my local library has a good bit of the series and I immediately went back to the original version, because I’ve found that it is very seldom that I like the anime more than the original manga. Again, I was right.

The first story was largely the same as the anime, though without the backstabbing of the business guest whose arrival causes such problems. I liked how the manga focused more on Sebastian’s day to day occupations such as decorating the manor, polishing the silverware, and fixing deserts for Ciel. And I can’t tell you how much I love Finny, Mey-Rin, and Baldroy…and of course Tanaka (I can’t explain how much I laugh at the transition between ‘real’ Tanaka and little Tanaka). Ciel is actually not focused on a great deal and I think this is a wise choice; so much of the series is focused on him that I like that our introduction is to the people surrounding him. It highlights their importance. Also, there is only a hint of the alternate universe the story actually resides in.

The second story was another familiar episode from the anime…and one I still have issues with. I’m not a huge fan of Elizabeth, at least not at this point in the story. I find her annoying and very pushy. Ciel does, however treat her differently than he does anyone else. But I hate what she does to the manor and how she dresses up the servants (though seeing Sebastian thanking her while wearing a pink bonnet might just be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen).

The third story was, again, very familiar from the anime. It was one of my favorites because one, you get to really see Sebastian at work and begin to understand what Ciel’s role is; two, you finally come to understand this is a different Victorian London then the one history tells you about (Italian mafia-really); and three, one of my favorite scenes is in here…WOOF. Sebastian truly is amazing in this and you see just how terrifying he can be.

This volume wets the appetite for more while setting the foundation for what is to come. The characters are well defined for first meetings, the stories are interesting by themselves, and the framework is incredibly intriguing. I’m very excited to what else is in the works.

Note: the Yen press has impressed me greatly with their notes at the end of the volume. Not only do they explain Japanese information for the reader’s better understanding but they also explain information from Victorian England that would not be common knowledge. They are extremely well thought out and very helpful, I strongly suggest checking them out while reading the series.