Story/Art: Yana Toboso
Translation/Adaptation: Tomo Kimura
What They Say
When one curtain falls upon the big top stage, another rises behind the scenes, as young Earl Ciel Phantomhive and his virtuoso butler, Sebastian, face off against the villain behind the missing children. But as Sebastian, under orders from his master, single-handedly draws the gruesome tale to its sad conclusion on one front, battle lines are drawn on another! With the masterless Phantomhive Manor under attack from the Noah’s Ark Circus and Sebastian nowhere nearby to protect its inhabitants, is Ciel’s home once again headed for the same tragedy that took the lives of the young earl’s parents?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Events have come to a head as Ciel and Sebastian have cast off their temporary disguises and confronted the noble man behind the Noah’s Ark Circus’ crimes. The circus ringmaster thinks he can shake Ciel up and he gloats that Ciel will lose what is precious to him as well when he announces that the rest of the circus members are assaulting Ciel’s manner at the same time- and just as if the stakes needed to be higher it turns out that Elizabeth has paid a call to see her beloved Ciel and despite his absence is spending the night there.
Joker’s trump card quickly crumples though as he sees that Ciel and Sebastian have no panic over the revelation as they know a secret that spells doom for the circus, a secret that will reveal perhaps the greatest mystery still facing Black Butler’s readers. Bardroy, Finnian and Mey-Rin aren’t employed for their (incredibly lousy and destructive) domestic skills but rather there true role is as a handpicked special forces team gathered to protect the manor and all guest who may be present- and they demonstrate these skills with a flourish.
One final blow will crush Joker’s psyche when he discovers just how used he and the circus have been as their benefactor Baron Kelvin has allowed a much darker creature into his employ whose methods might put even a demon to shame and whose horrifying endeavors Joker and his friends have unwittingly been supporting-and benefiting from. But Joker is not alone in his emotional tempest as the Baron’s designs have reached the deepest levels of the oft unflappable core of the Queen’s guard dog and his solution to the current crisis will not go unnoticed by some representatives from the palace or the Undertaker who makes a rather cryptic remark on the possible state of Ciel’s soul. With so much darkness having pulled him into its dark reaches can even the earl Phantomhive keep sight of his guiding principles or have these latest events caused a crack that will magnify over time?
The current volume of the series manages to top the despair and horrors that were reveled in the previous volume with the horrors Baron Kelvin endorsed while chasing his obsession. To add extra weight to the emotional punches to come the volume lures the reader and tries to lower their guard somewhat as it shows the servants of Phantomhive manor dispatching the circus members who the reader has recently come to know and perhaps even in a strange way grow fond of in some cases. When placed against the guardians of Phantomhive manor all their skills will come to naught, but perhaps some small measure of mercy is shown them as the circus members never find out the true scope of the hell they have helped to create.
Unfortunately for Joker, he gets the distinction of finding out a good deal of how far their patron has fallen as he discovers not only the terror that Baron Kelvin tried to recreate for Ciel but Joker also discovers the despair of finding out that what he thought was the circus’ greatest gift is merely a macabre atrocity in disguise. But even he is spared (though the definition of “spared” is pushed to its utmost) at having to see how deeply he has been lied to and how shallow his hopes and dreams were that allowed him and his friends to continue in their grisly acts as he doesn’t bear witness to the final act in the mockery that was his reason for living.
But Ciel isn’t spared as his gruesome past leads him to making a decision that even a demon questions the necessity of and which may help lay the tracks for his own destruction in the future. Yet through it all the earl Phantomhive doesn’t have the luxury of turning away and closing his eyes as his duty forces him to move forward despite the continued weight his actions heap upon his shoulders. And he isn’t alone in this as the reader will also be brought along on this dark nightmare where the definitions of right and wrong may blur and they may discover a dreadful conclusion they may never have anticipated or be able to fully rectify with the image they have come to view the protagonist in.
Black Butler has always been a dark tale given its back story and the presence of a demon in its midst but things may have been pushed right to the edge in this latest adventure as sorrow seems to be the theme of the day and even the presence of some spectacular action that reveals the hidden nature of some characters and a more comedic final chapter in the volume can’t completely brighten up. The earl of Phantomhive’s load has always been a heavy one but the chance that he may collapse under its weight has always been a possibility- and this volume may be the one in which that collapse happens. Fans of the series don’t dare miss this volume as the conclusion Ciel chooses to events here look like they may have the power to change the course of the series going forward. Be advised though that herein lays some examples of the incredible darkness that lies in the heart of humanity and which also creeps over the doorway to madness. Recommended
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 24th, 2012