Anime: Black Butler: Book of Circus
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Retail Price: $64.98
After a long hiatus of the anime series, Black Butler has returned to the story of Ciel Phantomhive and his “faithful” butler Sebastian Michaelis. The first season of the anime introduced us to a young Ciel, whose parents were murdered which sparked a thirst for revenge (think an anime Batman with the help of a demon). Willing to do whatever necessary to fulfill his goals, Ciel created a contract with a demon of the underworld (Sebastian) to give up his soul once his mission was completed. The second season of Black Butler used new and original storylines that deviated from the manga, with the introduction of an abuse survivor named Alois Trancy and his demon butler, Claude. The second season may have had its own direction, but the opposing figures brought a crucial balance to the human/demon relationships of Black Butler; however, the third season decided to shed the weight of Season 2 and return to the manga arcs for adaptation - with the popular arc Book of Circus.
The Book of Circus storyline of Black Butler takes the main two characters Ciel and Sebastian to the Queen, where she has the intention of enlisting their help for an unresolved case regarding missing children. After some intricate sleuthing from the odd duo, contacts from the underworld shed light on an increase of disappearances when the unusual group Noah’s Ark Circus would make their way from town to town. The next step had Ciel and Sebastian making the commitment to sharpen their circus/performer skills to uncover the truth behind the growing mystery. When they are given an opportunity to encounter the fellow circus performers (tiger tamer, knife thrower, etc.), it becomes apparent that the person in charge was prepared to help these individuals in low moments. Of course, Ciel and Sebastian realize that this pivotal figure doesn’t do anything without something that could benefit his needs.
Book of Circus takes place mid-Season 1, but the placement still works just fine with the anime narrative (still disregarding Season 2). One question that fans may be curious about is the dynamic between Ciel and Sebastian -- something that has very much stayed on par with what we would expect from the two. Sebastian remains dedicated to Ciel, which could be argued that is merely a result of his own motivation, but Ciel overlooks all and any morality to do what he deems necessary. Ciel carries the plot over Sebastian, and it makes it easier to root for him if you place the Season 2 events aside. He shows utter disgust behind the crimes occurring and puts his own well-being at risk if it means he can do something good.
With it being Black Butler and still mostly manga-based, the comedy elements to the series are still present in the overall atmosphere of Book of Circus. Sebastian is the one who usually finds the satire when poking fun at his partner or the rivalry/dislike between him and another grim reaper who arrives in the newest Black Butler installment. The circus acts, themselves, are given enough attention to add layers of entertainment, suspense, and comedy, which is a necessary function to capture the fun energy required to pay homage. Towards the latter half of Book of Circus, they begin to take more daring and darker directions with the characters development in the anime -- with a looming threat that is a focal point of the mystery. For it being the return to Black Butler, the series definitely tries to bring all of the different thematic aspects in a shorter span of episodes to spark a potential continuation.
The animation used in Black Butler: Book of Circus tries to encompass what we have seen from the anime series, but it also takes a chance to make it a sharper look. Color schemes and an overall vivid depiction make it a slightly different feel from the others, despite the fact that the animation for Black Butler has always been an enjoyable aspect that didn’t require enhancement. The voice cast recreated the roles they effortlessly fit into, with plenty of enjoyable voice actors that are strikingly different from each other. I’ll take Book of Circus as the opportunity to test the waters of another Black Butler return, so we’ll have to see if it leads to any further adaptations of the manga for its dedicated anime fanbase. Black Butler: Book of Circus is available now on DVD and Blu-ray, so make sure to add it to your collection while you can!
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
It’s a nice surprise to see the series return, which must be credited slightly to the nostalgia-based kick in anime.
Still missing Alois, but that definitely won’t change the fact that his storyline is gone/unofficial.
This brought more enjoyable qualities to Ciel by avoiding his characterization in Season 2.