Stuck on a ship sinking into freezing waters while surrounded by an army of the undead.
Dante missed a level of hell it seems.
Story/Art: Yana Toboso
Translation/Adaptation: Tomo Kimura
What They Say
The veil of mystery cast over the Aurora Society’s “absolute salvation” is torn away, and the true mastermind behind the scheme steps forward at long last. In the ensuing battle, Earl Ciel Phantomhive looks on in horror as Sebastian, his infallible manservant, is struck down by the death scythe of an unforeseen combatant. Devil though he may be, even Sebastian is not immune to the blade of a reaper’s scythe. As Sebastian’s cinematic record spills forth, the tale of how a devil became a butler to a little lost lord flickers to life in shades of sepia, blood, and ash…
Content: (please note that content portions of review may contain spoilers):
The intermission in the desperate fight for survival of Sebastian and Ciel resumes as the Undertaker’s scythe continues to unwind the movie of Sebastian’s life that shows their meeting and early days as partners and it gives the assembled cast and readers a look into the ground floor of the seemingly adversarial at times relationship the pair exhibit. As the events play out the trials and tribulations of they faced in coexisting will be laid bare as Ciel needs a lot of help to bring him up to the level he needs to be at to survive the world he has chosen to move in -which probably doesn’t surprise most as Ciel is often being schooled by his exceptional butler- but here we find that the demon needed just as much help learning how to become worthy of staying in the Phantomhive manor and serving his master/future meal.
The problem is that an intermission by definition is merely a pause in ongoing events and despite having their initial purpose and struggles laid out (though perhaps a little auspiciously nothing of Sebastian before he met Ciel is seen) the assembled group isn’t going to find that their struggles are done as the free-for-all moves up in pace as the crippled ocean liner finally loses its fight it shifts as its bow sinks below the waves, sending the participants flying as the ground below them shifts 90 degrees…and the most inconvenienced by events may turn out to be the exceptional butler as he has enemies on all sides and has to protect his master while somehow keeping him from drowning while dealing with the wounds sustained earlier. Even if somehow the pair from Phantomhive manor survive the sinking ship they may find new trouble if even the frozen waters prove not to be enough to kill the undead creatures that had been released and there may be no way that they have a chance of surviving unscathed; but if they survive can they heal in time to withstand a perhaps more dogged and personal battle- the treacherous Easter Egg hunt?
Black Butler continues to be an exciting series that seemingly almost knows how to perfectly drag the desired emotions out of its readers by the paces the characters are put through and this current volume continues to ride that wave as it uses its existing cast to both provide insight into the main characters but also using some secondary ones. In addition the story uses the settings to wondrous measure as it sculpts a situation that poses a substantial threat to its leads which brings a feeling of tension and suspense to events that many other manga overlook as they make their leads practically unassailable- which at times looks to also include this series Sebastian.
From an action standpoint this arc may be one of the most impressive in the whole series as it has been crafted to reveal secrets of many of the main cast as well as to reinforce why Ciel believes he shouldn’t trust anyone…and that most assuredly includes his butler who does not have Ciel’s best interests in mind and now the list adds a somewhat odd former ally to that list. In addition events here allow for building of a larger whole as well as the tracks are laid for Ciel and Sebastian to have to face off against the Reapers and a former Reaper at some point in the future which gives promise that the story is going to have a large arc ahead of it at some point as the various powers’ agendas collide.
Beyond that though the volume really shines in showing off the characters that the readers have come to know in a different light that serves to open them up and lay bare some of the weaknesses and insecurities they possess that helped shape the somewhat combative interaction that the main pair exhibits. The main two aren’t alone though as the transition story brings back a few characters that haven’t been around in awhile and gives them a chance to play while also giving an important character a moment to realize just how changed a loved one is and how much that individual is hiding from them. Of course the volume ends by setting up the next arc as the work of Ciel and Sebastian is not done but even this intro has a setup that will leaves the reader waiting impatiently for the next volume.
Black Butler charges forward as it not only places its leads in mortal peril (or what passes for mortal when it comes to a demon anyway) but also takes a moment to peel back the secret of their earliest days together it reveals how both had to grow in order to meet the conditions of the pact they made. With both a level of danger that will push the demonic butler to his limits and a look at some of the trials overcome in order to seek a bloody revenge the volume helps to flesh out further its main cast as the story shows just what they are willing to give to accomplish their mission while also foreshadowing just how much pain may be waiting for someone who loves Ciel at the end of the pairs dark quest.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 23rd, 2013