Series: Black Butler #1
Published: 2010 by Yen Press
Genres: Graphic Novels, Fantasy
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Black Butler by Yana Toboso is an alternate history fantasy manga set in Victorian England. The orphaned Ciel Phantomhive is the heir to the Funton Toy empire. He is attended by a butler named Sebastian with seemingly supernatural abilities to run the household, make delicious desserts, and kick bad guy butt–all before dinnertime.
For those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time, you’ll note that this is the first manga that you’ve seen me review, and only the second graphic novel. It’s a type of writing/art that I’ve never really gotten into, but have been wanting to explore. I decided that Black Butler is probably the best starting point for me, because I adored the anime version and am very curious about the source material.
Volume 1 is good, but is definitely mostly an infodump. It introduces you to the characters and sets the scene, but it isn’t until the end of the book that we start getting into a glimpse of the Sebastian that I know and love. And of course, seeing that glimpse is enough to make me want more, and I’m doing that whole “I should be saving money but I want to buy Vol. 2 but I have a bunch of books on my shelf” thing. I know I’ll crack eventually. I’m also excited that Season 3 of the anime is finally out, and trying to decide whether to wait for it to come to one of the streaming services that I already have or to cave and buy the DVD.
Volume 1 has four chapters, the first two of which have their own story arcs. I like that a lot, as it’s easy to come up with good stopping points, even though graphic novels are quicker reads than books without any pictures. (See what I did there? Ba dum bum.) In the first chapter, we see a typical day on the Phantomhive estate. We see the other servants, Finnian, Mey-rin, and Baldroy, cause domestic chaos right before an important visitor arrives. The second chapter introduces us to Elizabeth, Ciel’s betrothed. The third and forth chapters start getting more into the meat of the story as Ciel gets entangled with the Italian mafia and Sebastian comes to save the day. This is also the point where we finally start seeing more of the homerotic undertones between Ciel and Sebastian.
At this point, the manga is very close to what happens in the anime, although I anticipate that the two will diverge from each other pretty quickly.
Since this is a manga, I should probably say something about the art style. While I enjoyed it, I don’t have much to compare it with, so I’m not going to go super in-depth on that. There were a couple places where the fonts were very small, but usually that was for sidenotes and things that weren’t super important to the main plot. There are also a lot of pictures of desserts that Sebastian concocts, which made start digging around in my hoard of candy that I usually forget exists. Dieters beware!
I enjoyed my first real manga experience, and am looking forward to reading more. Does anyone have recommendations?