3 Things About This Book : Perfect Juxtaposition Between Humor and Violence | Diverse and Complex Characters | Intriguing Facts and Allusions |
Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) by Yana Toboso
Series: Kuroshitsuji, #1 – 165 (30 Volumes, ongoing)
Published: 2007 – 2021 by Yen Press
Genre(s): Manga, Shounen, Mystery, Action, Fantasy, Supernatural
Book Depository – Vol 1 to 30
Overall Average Rating:
*This review is written based on volumes 1 to 30 of the series.
Set in London during the Victorian Era, Kuroshitsuji follows Ciel, a twelve-year-old boy who sold his soul to his devil of a butler to enact revenge on those who killed his family. To achieve this, he takes up the mantle as Earl Phantomhive and “Queen’s Watchdog”, facing mysteries and dangers along the way.
The manga begins with a lighthearted, comedic slice-of-life tone which, honestly, threw me off since I was expecting it to have a darker start. Nevertheless, it’s a great beginning that shows you how perfect the juxtaposition between humor and violence is in Kuroshitsuji. Every moment when the manga begins to feel too dark or too light, the opposite swoops in to rebalance everything—to provide some breathing space when things get too dark, or some severity when it gets too light. It’s utterly brilliant! (My favorite moments of humor in this series are when the fourth wall gets broken in the most subtle ways.)
What makes the manga better are the diverse and complex characters. From the design to the personalities and the backstories, each major and secondary character is memorable and easily distinguished. Even tertiary characters can have the same effect, depending on how well one can relate with them. Moreover, I love how there are characters introduced in specific arcs but aren’t only limited to those arcs only. It’s refreshing to see them being adapted into the plot as it progresses, to witness their development, and to be able to empathize/sympathize with them.
I also love the portrayal of certain female characters like Elizabeth and Mey-Rin. Though, in the beginning, it’s easy to brush them aside as your standard one-dimensional female characters, the way they are developed flipped my perspective of them. I adore that despite their obvious weaknesses, they are strong in their own ways.
Other than that, I like how Ciel isn’t your typical shounen protagonist. Usually, the protagonist grows and gains strength to overcome adversities with their own power. However, in Kuroshitsuji, Ciel is often protected or saved by others instead. Yes, he has his own capabilities, but he has very real limits because of who he is too. The way Ciel develops as a character in each arc is also done really well. For instance, in the Circus Arc, complexity and human-like depth are added to Ciel who was pretty much cold, calculative, and only occasionally acts his age in the previous volumes. It adds another facet to who he is and makes him more realistic.
The butler Sebastian, though, is less complex as a character in comparison to Ciel because of what he is. Even so, the contrast between his lack of humanity as a demon and his learned humanity as Ciel’s butler is intriguing. It should be noted that, depending on how certain scenes are perceived, there are some sexual undertones between Ciel and Sebastian. The manga is pretty dark overall and has aspects like children trafficking, pedophilia, rape, murder, etc, but it’s not a BL. A romantic relationship won’t be on the horizon for these two.
That aside, the allusions to other texts and people, and the inclusion of real-life events add another layer of intrigue to the manga. The translation notes at the end of each volume were both informative and interesting.
All in all, if you’re a fan of mystery, dark themes, strong messages, and even stronger characters. Or, if you’re looking for a manga similar to Yuukoku no Moriarty (Moriarty the Patriot) or God Child, then Kuroshitsuji is the manga for you. Fair warning, the tensions in the manga skyrocket from volume 25 onward, so be prepared!