Story/Art: Yana Toboso
Translation/Adaptation: Tomo Kimura
What They Say
The cheer of the holidays may have passed, but the Noah’s Ark traveling circus has been making the rounds, bringing fun and joy to children of all ages. However, as the ringmaster’s cries fade away, a disturbing trend begins to surface in the wake of the colourful entourage. Children are disappearing whenever the circus packs up for its next destination, and there are no clues – or corpses – to be found.
Dismayed by these occurrences, Queen Victoria dispatches Earl Phantomhive and his most able butler, Sebastian, to locate and reunite the missing children with their loved ones. When the situation calls for the pair to infiltrate the big top undercover, however, will Sebastian’s inhuman skills be enough to see him and his young master through a treacherous tightrope act that may well end in death?
The sixth volume of Black Butler is released in the standard manga size format complete with a cover featuring a gothic dressed Ciel sitting in an oversized chair while holding a riding crop poised with his feet on an ottoman which is set against a white background surrounded by a black boarder. The spine for the release meshes up with the cover’s boarder and continues the black look with the title, volume number, author and “Yen Press” being written in white over the color as a close up of Ciel’s face from the cover is present in the middle of the spine and Yen Press’ company logo is placed at the top. The back cover continues the black background look with a white chandelier outline as well as some hanging rope decoration being present at the top of the book while the copy is printed in white on the left side. The right side indulges in a relative explosion of color as it presents an image of the orange haired ringmaster from the contained stories arc juggling in front of his tent while an image of a top hat wearing Sebastian handing out balloons to a child can be seen behind him.
The book contains a glossy page which contains a grey looking picture of Ciel, Sebastian and three of the characters introduced in the volume standing in a “V” formation with the only color to be found being a different purple item which each of the individuals possesses on them in one form or another while the reverse side is used for the index and also includes a bit of purple as well as silver for a ring and a yellow base color for the parchment like look the Contents Page is going for. The page quality for the rest of the book is of acceptable quality that is a bit on the higher end of what seems to be the standard type used in the US manga market and which is free from any really noticeable pulp artifacts. About the only downside is that at around 180 pages the book looks a bit small compared to other titles on the market but the material does make up with some quality what it may lack a bit in quantity while additionally the author also adds some illustrations to the inside halves of the front and back cover. For the most part the printing is clear and sharp and the amount of ink bleed through is rather minimal.
The text itself is well translated as it flows smoothly with no honorifics present, though given the manga is set in Victorian England it is likely they weren’t present in the original text anyway. The art is a definite draw as the author has a real flair for drawing sharp dressed characters in outfits that look like they may cross the line and be a pain to reproduce in subsequent panels at times though he will also throw in more super deformed styles as well to help sell a particular gag when called for.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With the previous case he was dispatched to having come to its conclusion (and having netted Ciel’s company a nice little boon going forward as well as Ciel gaining a new- and at times rather annoying ally along the way)one might think that Lord Phantomhive has earned a bit of a reprieve. But the work of the Queen’s guard dog is never done and to this end Her Majesty has already contacted Ciel about a new problem. It seems that there is a traveling troupe that goes by the name of Noah’s Ark traveling circus that has had some rather unpleasant mysteries appear around it.
Both the Queen and Scotland Yard have become interested in the fact that there have been a large number of children who have been reported as missing in the towns where the circus has been and so the task of discovering what role- if any- the circus plays has fallen to Ciel. When a visit to the well-connected-to-the-underworld undertaker fails to turn up any signs that the children’s bodies have found their way into his very broad circle of knowledge Ciel is left to have to investigate the circus in person.
While attending a performance Sebastian gets carried away when a volunteer is needed for one of the acts which gives him an opening to meet some of the members of the circus backstage. He discovers that most of the performing members all hold a similar condition in that they possess prosthetics and when one member of the troupe get carried away Sebastian exhibits remarkable skills that persuade the ringmaster to offer him an invitation to join the troupe.
In one of his more sadistic acts not only does Sebastian come up with the excuse that it would be wise to accept the invitation so they can investigate from the inside but he also convinces Ciel to come along- the problem of course is that the young lad is singularly unqualified for anything resembling physical effort so it will take the help of Sebastian to pull this off- but the butler’s help isn’t going to come without some pain involved and possibly a blow to Ciel’s ego by the troupe as well. Just when it seems there is no sign of children around and the pair may be wasting their time the appearance of a familiar adversary shows that there are dark things in the near future for those around this big tent. Will Ciel be able to formulate a plan to get to the heart of the mysteries or is this sequence of events beyond even the Lord Phantomhive to discern?
The current mystery that Ciel and Sebastian are tasked with is one that brings in a clash of atmospheres as the normally bright air and fun environment of the circus clashes with a very dark mystery. To play up this clash not only do the perils look like they are increased as Ciel attempts to investigate in a very closed community of people but the humor is increased exponentially as Sebastian gets to not only have fun at Ciel’s expense but he also gets to be around his favorite type of animal…granted it is in a size he doesn’t often see.
As the story unfolds small little pieces of the performer’s history are slowly chiseled out of the solid block that makes up the initial picture the troupe presents- pieces that start to give a bit of an ominous feel as it becomes harder and harder to not recognize that there is a connection here between the circus and ongoing events. That even the undertaker is stumped is a sign of how deep the secret behind the circus runs but when a familiar adversary also approaches there is no chance Ciel can walk away and try to rationalize that there is no fire to go with all the smoke present. To this end Ciel will even expose himself to danger in a brand new way as he risks not just his life (probably) but also his pride as he has to assume a role that he is supremely unsuited for.
With the previous case having wrapped up Ciel and Sebastian find they don’t even have time for a break as the Queen has a brand new mystery for them to solve. The investigation leads them to a traveling circus whose mysterious air gives little sign that they have a collection of children with them but the appearance of a particular thorn in their side forces the two into action even faster than they had wished as the appearance of the thorn means there is a spectacular amount of danger on the horizon. The only way to get to the bottom of things before time runs out is for Ciel to extend himself as never before and accept that this time he may not have the luxury of having Sebastian carry the most hazardous end of the risks.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 19th, 2011