Soon, Judge Daryl Loomis will complete his plan to fuse his soul with that of Don Rickles.
Our reviews of Black Butler: Season One, Part One (published January 23rd, 2011), Black Butler: Season One, Part Two (published March 6th, 2011), and Black Butler: Complete First Season (Blu-ray) (published April 14th, 2012) are also available.
What is your order, my young master?
As somebody who hasn't read the manga Black Butler is adapted from, I can't comment on how faithful the anime was to the source. What I can say after watching the first collection of the anime, though, is that I had a really hard time conceiving of how they could continue, given how the series ended. Sure enough, at the outset of the sequel, the writers present a ridiculous scenario that accounts for how all of this is supposed to work. Ultimately, much of what was so good about the first series is still here, but it is more problematic this time around.
For some reason, the events we were led to believe were about to take place did not. Instead of the demon butler, Sebastian, consuming his soul, Ciel Phantomhive remains alive, but has amnesia and cannot recall the shocking events of the previous few days. Now, however, another young lord with a demon butler of his own wants to see Ciel dead and the butler wants the same thing Sebastian wants: to feast on Ciel's delicious soul.
Right off the bat, the entrance into this sequel is senseless. If that's the way the manga was written, it's still a mistake. That's not to say that I wasn't happy to revisit the characters that I had come to appreciate from the original, but the writers chose an awfully weird route to return the audience to the world. Almost worse than that is the kid they bring in as the main villain, who is as sniveling a little brat as one can find. There isn't a ton of new ground covered and, at half the length of the original series, Black Butler: Complete Second Season resembles a highly extended OVA more than anything else, which could be the biggest problem of all.
Speaking of Original Video Animations, we get a full six of them on the third disc, each the length of a regular episode. They range from the poorly conceived two-part Alice in Wonderland adaptation to a couple of interesting extensions of the world to a weird "behind-the-scenes" piece depicting the characters as real people getting set to star in the new season. There are some pretty funny moments in that, but they are a mostly superfluous addition to the set.
Most of the vocal cast returns in both versions of the sequel, though, which is a great thing. Even if the writing isn't quite as strong and the OVAs are mostly stupid, the characterizations from the actors are some of the best I've heard in anime. The animation is the same style, with maybe a little more flourish this time around, and still very nice. This sequel isn't something I could recommend alone, but if you were a fan of the original, there's more to sink your teeth into here.
The Funimation release of Black Butler: Complete Second Season is basically identical to their first series release. As in that case, while the sale release contains both the Blu-ray and DVD, I received the standard definition discs for review. The main episodes occupy the first two discs while the OVAs and the majority of extras are on the third. The episodes and OVAs all look very good, with crisp transfers and solid colors. Both the English and Japanese sound mixes are strong, though the solid voice acting and surround option on the English makes it the preferable mix. The extras include audio commentaries on two episodes and one OVA, a reel of outtakes, and the traditional textless opening and closing titles.
As absurd as the entrance into the second season was, the overall story and vocal performances make it easy to slide back into this world. It isn't as strong as the first season and the OVAs are unnecessary, which isn't terribly surprising, but Black Butler: Complete Second Season is a worthy piece of anime. Combined with the first series, it's an excellent saga.
It's a step down, but it's still not guilty.
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