Judge Roman Martel puts the butle back in butler.
Our reviews of Black Butler: Season One, Part One (published January 23rd, 2011), Black Butler: Complete First Season (Blu-ray) (published April 14th, 2012), and Black Butler: Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (published April 14th, 2012) are also available.
He really is one hell of a butler.
When we last hung out with Ciel Phantomhive (Brina Palencia) and Sebastian (J. Michael Tatum) they had narrowly escaped from a vengeful doll maker who declared Ciel "unclean." The second half of Black Butler jumps right back into the mix of over the top goofy and gothic. The first story arc deals with curry. Yes, you read that right. Instead of Ciel's servants providing all the over the top humor, we get a Indian Prince and his servant causing havoc. It was fun. I especially enjoyed the riffs on "Iron Chef."
With the conclusion of this plot arc, the story finally starts for the finish line. The humor is toned way down and we get into dark territory. There are betrayals from some characters, deaths of other characters, and holy hell rained down on just about everyone. Even Queen Victoria gets pulled into the action with a macabre twist that was actually pretty disturbing. The series climaxes with Ciel's deal with his demon consummated as they attempt to stop a supernatural menace from destroying all of London.
Just about everything you enjoyed from the first half of the season carries over into this half. The animation is still a combination of pretty boys in Victorian garb performing murderous acts. When the humor kicks in, the animation gets super-deformed and outrageous. The music follows suit, but there are some really lovely and dark choral pieces used in the final episodes, as well as some stereotypical "French" music for the episodes that occur in Paris.
The voice acting is still a mixed bag. I do have to give them credit for going all out with the accents here. We even get some Indian accents for the prince and his servant. But it really ranges all over the board, with some folks sounding pretty good and some just laying it on with a trowel. These are mostly the comedic characters, so I can give them a bit of a pass, but I know some people are just going to HATE this dub. For me the stand out performer is Brina Palencia as Ciel. She really does a great job with the part, especially as the series reaches the finale. The last half of the final episode is all Ciel and Sebastian and their interplay is excellent. The way she works emotions into her voice in those final minutes is great stuff.
Funimation provides another solid package with this second season. It starts with two episode commentaries featuring members of the English voice cast. First up is Josh Grelle (who played King Edward) and Kevin Leasure (the ADR Engineer) on Episode 16. Theis is a typical commentary track, filled with lots of joking around and behind the scenes information. Then there's Ian Sinclair (Bardroy), Jason Liebrecht (Finnian) and Monica Rial (Mei Lin) on Episode 21. This is a commentary done completely in character and seems like they had a blast doing it. Depending on your tolerance for these characters you might have a good laugh or run from the room screaming. Finally there is a fun bonus episode that focuses completely on laughs. Ciel and his entourage attempt to put on a production of Hamlet for some orphans. Nearly all the major characters make an appearance, and the results are over the top fun. You also get clean opening and ending credits.
Black Butler has so much going for it. The Victorian world drenched in gothic gloss is appealing. The characters and relationships between Ciel and Sebastian are intriguing. The main villain has a nice twisted motivation and does some disturbing stuff. Even the smaller arcs contain some great ideas. But the show shoots itself in the foot with the wild variation in comedy with gothic horror. You can make those two genre's work together, but it requires a bit more tact, a focus on dry humor, and less of the nosebleeds and prat falls. In the end, I enjoyed the show, but just wish it was a little less frustrating.
Guilty of being one hell of a butler.
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