What They Say :
In late-nineteenth century England, one year and three months after the dramatic conclusion of the original series, Kuroshitsuji II introduces a new butler and young master. The sadistic yet cheerful Alois Trancy has faced some harsh times. He was kidnapped as a baby, and was forced to work in a village as a slave. Gradually, he lost his parents, his best friend, and everyone he knew. Alois eventually returned home and became the head of his mansion, but seemed to exhibit some strange behavior ever since. Even more curiously, he returned with Claude Faustus, an enigmatic, emotionless butler with unfathomable talent…
The Review :
The menu is set up vertically on the left side, on a black and white background similar to the manga, almost like a Victorian window pane, with Sebastian on the right on the first disc, and on Disc 2 and 3 we have Sebastian, Ciel, Alois and Claude all together in formal attire with what appears to be reading scripts (perhaps based on the ‘behind the scenes’ OVA). The selection process is standard, no problems with selection and the design is very fitting for Black Butler with the choices between Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras on all 3 discs. No scene selection for the episode choice but otherwise very suitable.
Pleasantly, we get a few extras for Black Butler on each disc – mainly commentaries from the dub cast.
On Disc 1 we get a commentary for episode 1 by Luci Christian(Alois) and Jason Douglas(Claude). Being a fan of these two ever since I started watching dubs, it was great hearing these two together, especially Jason who has been in and out of anime with film work so great to hear him back in a starring role. The two discuss the show and how creepier it has become, but also about how the two of them originally met and how long they’ve been doing this, and what’s changed since them, both in their approach to working on dubs and their personal lives. It is rather informal which is half about the show and half about themselves, so it mixes quite well.
Disc 2 we get a commentary for episode 12 between Brina Palencia(Ciel) and J. Michael Tatum(Sebastian). These two act a bit sillier than Luci/Jason but it’s a lot of fun – they do discuss how they met Luci and Jason, various stories with their fellow voice actors, and some fun convention stories (whether it’s Tatum dancing with a monkey or Brina disappointing female fans that Ciel ISN’T played by a 13 year old boy) They discuss the show of course, their favourite characters and how Tatum figures out accents – definitely a lot of fun as they’ve been on the show since Day 1.
Disc 3 we get a couple more extras, but we do get another commentary, a solo commentary by Ian Sinclair (director and voice of Bardroy) on the infamous and hilarious OVA3 a.k.a. the behind the scenes one. He discusses the making of this episode, how he enjoyed working on certain parts (like the accents and dialects) and praising his actors for doing a great job. It’s more into the show itself than the other two commentaries, but because it’s on such a comical episode it’s still a lot of fun.
Other extras on Disc 3 include a collection of dub outtakes, whether it’s Ciel cursing, Sebastian doing limericks, or Monica Rial as Mey-rin enjoying Mey-rin’s boobs (don’t ask) it will raise a snicker or three. We also get the dub trailers to both seasons, and the clean opening and both cleaning endings to Season 2. Overall, a lot of smiles were brought with these extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Black Butler was a really interesting show which discussed a young boy who has a demon for a better for vengeance, in exchange for his soul when he dies. Indeed, the first season ends with Sebastian about to consume his soul as it left on a cliffhanger. So when this sequel came out I was unsure what was going to come from it – 12 episodes instead of 24 meant this would be more condensed, and also I learned it was original from the manga so this would definitely be an interesting season. What I got was a dark story which was intense and intelligent, but also confusing at times giving me mixed feelings about it overall.
Indeed, the story doesn’t even start with any build up from the end of Season 1. Instead we are introduced to a new character, Alois, who you immediately see as both a tortured soul due to a flashback, and how apparently messed up he is when he literally punctures the eye of a maid just for a small mistake. We are also introduced to his butler Claude, as we also see he too is a demon butler just by the sheer ability he carries out his duties. The story initially seems to suggest these two are our main protagonists, as he deals with his uncle in a business fashion, but then a mysterious man appears at the door requesting shelter. Alois is intrigued by him and the contents of his luggage and invites him in, as the man asks for a special black tea box Alois has in exchange for revealing what is in the luggage. However, before any deals can be made, Claude attacks the man where it is revealed that the man was indeed Sebastian, and the luggage contained the apparent lifeless body of Ciel. After an exchange, Sebastian escapes with the box which contained Ciel’s ring, which allows him to wake up.
The confusion I had begins here because initially, there’s no real explanation for why Ciel has recovered, did his soul get removed? Did Sebastian not do it and he recovered, yet the ring was needed to restore him? Either way, no explanation is mentioned and indeed it seems like Ciel returns to his normal life, his servants return, his fiancé Elizabeth returns, and he once again does personal appearance and using Sebastian to help him out whether it’s dealing with bridges, finding rare animals or dealing with people being set on fire as the Queens dog. It seems confusing considering what happened in the previous season, but it suddenly becomes clearer that Ciel has lost his memory with just vague thoughts of people he knows (he didn’t know Madam Red has died for example). The re-introduction of Grell does add some humour to the dark turn it is taking, but by the end of the third episode we begin to learn more about the Alois family and his involvement, albeit mostly unclear in terms of his relationship is with the Phantomhives, only that he is a key to absolving Ciels’ revenge.
There is tension between the two, and the focus is on Ciel wanting to kill Alois, with Claude and Sebastian fighting on behalf of their masters. At one point, it seems Alois is killed and Claude seems to want to switch his attention to Ciel, tasting his blood (which sets up nicely for the end of why Claude is interested, also the earlier incident with the maid actually becomes much more important as her character is explored as a vessel for various weapons/powers, the maid Hannah becomes a vital player as her own demonic origins and link with the Alois family is discovered). Claude begins to fuse the memories of Alois and Ciel together as we get a flashback involving Alois and his brother, how Claude was summoned and Alois’ life beforehand which does give you good understanding of how he became what he is. It’s also finally explained what happened between Sebastian and Ciel and why he couldn’t consume his soul (takes until the 11th episode though) so it a slow run down as everything that was confusing is finally connected by the end, so in that way it succeeds, though the ending as the Alois/Ciel hybrid talk whilst the butlers fight to save them is a bit of a surprise, and does seem to set as a conclusion for the anime as the manga continues.
To say this series is a lot darker than the 1st season is an understatement. The first season had its moments but there was a lot of fun to be had with it. Even the comic moments in this season all have a hint of sinister edges (during the initial death duels between Sebastian/Claude, some involve Iron Chef cooking battles for example). The main problem I have is that it really would confuse anyone who hasn’t seen the first season, and even those who have its still makes you wonder so many questions, and whilst a number are answered, some aren’t fully answered well like what was Alois involvement with the Phantomhives. It doesn’t help that Alois isn’t an antagonist that you have fondness for, the show tries to make you sympathetic with him with the loss of his brother, their past, etc – and it does work to an extent as Alois seems way too reliant on his butler and inside is a scared child, but those moments are few and far behind. Also, Ciel whilst never the nicest character in the first season, seems to have turned even more mean-spirited – this may be due to his loss of memory initially, but as his memories return he actually gets worse. Granted, when his memories are fused, this is less of an issue, but the relationship between Sebastian and Ciel was what the main focus of the first season was, and that doesn’t occur as well with Claude/Alois to the point where it felt the series was dragging. Sebastian of course is still his awesome self, but even he struggles with it as his battles with Claude are not as interesting (Grell is sadly not in it that much as are the servants), and it does feel like it was being over complicated for the sake of being it, whether in bringing Lau and Ran-Mao back like nothing happened at the end of Season 1 or a battle between Spears and Sebastian for no reason just to seemingly bring him back.
However, interestingly to compensate for the much darker nature, we get a set of OVAs which have a couple of background stories of seriousness involving Alois and also in training new reaper recruits with Grell and William T. Spears, but 4 of the episodes are pure hilarity. We get a two parter of basically what would happen if Black Butler crossed over with Alice In Wonderland which is pure crack – Ciel as Alice is enough, but when you get scenes like Grell as the Cheshire Cat, Ciel having to choose which breast to suck of Ran-Maos to see if he grows or shrinks, and the return of Madam Red as the Queen of Hearts, with Sebastian’s narrating it really makes you miss the comic elements that the first season had. We have an episode of Elizabeth playing a story in a visual novel style with the protagonist known as ‘Lady’ infiltrating the Phantomhive mansion which is unique, but the big one and my personal favourite is a ‘behind the scenes’ episode where it is set that Black Butler was a bit hit around the world, and that the cast is being brought together to make a sequel, whether we get to see how Sebastian actually flies, people flubbing their lines, doing interviews, Elizabeth doing the equivalent of a V-Log seeing what the cast does behind the scenes (the Meyrin/Lan-mao bits had me in stitches), it is incredibly funny and worth getting the release just for this episode alone.
It may seem like I’ve harped on about it being disappointing, and for me it’s not so much disappointing, as more like it felt like they tried to make an experiment with a new story and change many elements that made the first season so enjoyable. The story felt needlessly complicated and the new characters are not likeable enough to really feel sorry for them despite the anime’s best attempts to do so via flashback. Sebastian and Ciel’s relationship is not as major a focus as it’s more a rivalry with a fellow prodigy child and demon butler, and the scenes whilst intense, doesn’t seem to be what Black Butler is about. Add to the fact that a lot of the storylines from both the past season which ended take a while to be explained, and even the relationship between Alois and Ciel isn’t really well defined, it did feel like it dragged on. It’s still watchable in terms of the story is quite intense, the violence involved and how the character Hannah actually is linked, plus the relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is eventually explored and tested, and the ending is a real surprise which does offer a finale of sorts. I’m not sure if it was done so that anyone can watch it as a clean slate, but fortunately, the series is saved thanks to the comic timing of the OVAs, which act as an anesthetic to the darkness the main series offered – the humour in the Alice and Behind the Scenes episodes reminded me of how well the first season got the right balance of serious and comic, and whilst this season seems to have separated that, they still remind us of what they can do well.
Black Butler Season 2 offers us a unique story where Ciel and Sebastian do take second billing compared to Alois and Claude for most of the story. It concludes in dynamic fashion and the story is deep and complex. This isn’t always a good thing as it takes a while to get into, and not everything is fully understand or explained, whilst the characterization isn’t as enjoyable. It’s still something to get involved with and fans of the first season will most likely enjoy it, however as it’s an original story you need to go into it with a different sense of mind than if you are reading the manga. Fortunately, it is nullified by some excellent comedy in the OVAs so whilst I won’t recommend it 100% (especially if you haven’t seen the first season) I’m still glad I watched it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary with Luci Christian and Jason Douglas, Episode 12 Commentary with Brina Palencia and J. Michael Tatum, OVA 3 Commentary with Ian Sinclair, Dub Outtakes, Dub Trailer for Seasons 1 and 2, Textless Opening, Textless Endings 1 and 2
Content Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 16th, 2012
Running Time: 450 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.