Anime: Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic
Released By: Funimation
In Theatres: July 12 - July 14
If you know (love) anime, there is a strong possibility that you have heard of, or at the very least have seen the long term franchise Black Butler (a continuous manga and anime series.) The series adapted a first season to follow the narrative of the manga and was followed up with an original second season that featured new characters. Despite having a polarizing response, I found the second season to be an excellent change of pace to the traditional follow through of source material, but after a few years Black Butler returned with Book of Circus, almost ignoring the continuity of season two and returning to it’s manga roots. Now, after dipping back into the Black Butler pond, a new feature length film titled Black Butler: Book of Atlantic comes to audiences to prove that the franchise has steam left in the ship (no pun intended.)
Having delved into three seasons of Black Butler already, there was an element of previous expectations however, being the first film (aside from Japan’s live action adaptation) Black Butler solidified it can tell a contained story in a feature film while offering new energy to the title. Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic begins with young Ciel and his demonic butler Ciel boarding the ship titled the Campania for a seemingly pleasant cruise - except that isn’t like Black Butler at all and it begins to turn into a mystery about the supposed resurrection of deceased men and women. The two are joined by several members of an exclusive and ominous society labeled the Aurora Society and witness the group bring a woman back from the dead but when she isn’t what she used to be, the cruise becomes a fight for survival.
The zombified woman appears with a ravage taste for flesh and kills in a way that steps up the bloodshed of Black Butler in a massive manner. It would be one thing to combat a couple zombies, but as the movie goes on viewers discover several hundred others that have been brought back as ravenous creatures. Now Ciel, Sebastian and Elizabeth Midford must come up against a supernatural threat with others such as Grell making a return - but the introduction of Ronald Knox (Grell’s new partner) brings some new blood to the series mythology. The zombie aspect of the series isn’t simply something brushed off as a one time story either, adding more mystery to a familiar face and some subtleties that indicate more Black Butler story is prepared to be told.
One thing about this Black Butler adaptation is the intensity of action and mystery, used sparingly in the original first season and Book of Circus. For the first time, Black Butler contends with mainstream action series adding more weight to those elements but staying true to itself with some light hearted wit and comedy. There are those moments where overt fanservice come to a head (Ciel’s bathing scene is that example of what I am strongly against from the series) but if they were to cast that out entirely, the story itself can speak volumes for the Black Butler title. The action between Sebastian, Grell and Knox with the new zombie villains is a high for the series but those little missteps are a reminder that the series will most likely always contain a bit of over the top scenes too.
The biggest surprise (and personally my favorite moment since Alois slaying the entire character roster) was the new direction for Elizabeth Midford - aka the hopeful wife of Ciel Phantomhive. Elizabeth has always been a character I have felt for but during the Book of Atlantic film, she was given enough opportunity to show off a genuine side as well as a powerful presence that wasn’t talked about in previous Black Butler seasons. This role reversal for Elizabeth was backed by a flashback sequence that instantly connects her with the audience and adds a newfound respect to the young woman Elizabeth is and additionally is becoming. If it’s even possible, I found myself wanting a spin-off entirely dedicated to the youngest of the Midford family.
From the animated perspective, the series stepped up its game on a film scale, adding hundreds of zombies and an elaborate ship to feast your eyes on. It felt like a cinematic version of the series meaning it was accomplished on nearly all fronts from storytelling to enhanced visuals. The plot twist featured in Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic was something of greatness to bring more depth to someone we know while adding a slew of potential questions for the series and where it could (should) be heading next. If you are a fan of Black Butler make sure to check out this particularly impressive tale that is meant to be seen as a film in the most theatrical way for anime lovers everywhere.
Overall Score: 8/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- Hands down dedicated to #TeamElizabeth
- This story added more of the horror fragments I originally appreciated from the series.
- Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic was certainly a major high point for the franchise.