My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Black Butler rounds out the circus arc and it is an unhappy, angst-fest of a volume. That’s not to say it’s not good, because it is, but it is the darkest thing so far, beating out the Jack the Ripper arc and that’s not an easy thing to do. I think that’s because the Yana does a very good job of making us pity Joker and his crew. The plight of children in Victorian times is about as foreign from today’s views as you can get. Joker and the rest were done practically from the moment they were born deformed and/or injured which was common place in the work houses. The pity only cranks up when its revealed what they were fighting for and the lies they were told.
That said, they were doing a very bad thing, luring in children for a deranged noble and even more deranged doctor. Much of the beginning of the story is getting these pathetic details while Joker dies (Sebastian more or less killed him last book, we’re just waiting for him to bleed out). Ciel does find the missing children and more or less loses it as he’s forced to remember his own incarceration by sadists. He loses it to the point of doing something unbelievably drastic. (More on that at the end)
In the meantime, the rest of the circus performers attack Ciel’s estate with the intent to kill. We finally get to see what his staff is really capable of. I was sort of hoping it wouldn’t be the ridiculously over the top stuff the anime gave us but it was. I have a few problems with this too (that spoiler also at the end). They protect the estate – and Lady Elizabeth who’s visiting – with lethal force. And the Grim Reapers give one last twist of the knife in showing what shaped the circus crew (though they also felt like the lone untied thread. I wasn’t sure why they were at the circus. To retrieve the souls obviously but I was wondering why they let Sebastian do their dirty work).
The final chapter is a bit of silliness that fell a little flat with me. A cross dressing lesbian tailor who is there to make Ciel and Lizzie Easter clothing. She was too over the top to be enjoyable for me, at least. I did like Ciel wanting to shield Lizzie from the brand on his back. The art is gorgeous. The story is sad, good, but sad. It’s becoming more and more a manga I can’t wait to see more of.
Now for the spoilers.
Seriously, if you haven’t read it you might want to stop now.
So. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of Finney, Baldo and Mey-Rin having hidden abilities. I really love the idea of Finney being a test subject, trained to kill, possessing super strength and the ability to heal. Baldo’s story is less clear in this but he’s obviously military trained. It’s Mey-Rin that bothers me deeply. I have no issue with her being a super sniper. It’s her cover story that makes no sense. Why blind her with glasses? I don’t get it. Maybe it’ll be explained later (and a better one than was in the anime hopefully). Their clumsiness in the jobs they hold at Phantomhive Manor (jobs they are ill suited to and untrained for) is comedy relief but Mey-Rin makes little sense.
Ciel’s drastic actions bother me. He was so freaked out he had Sebastian destroy the place with fire with the missing children inside instead of trying to rescue him. To the story’s credit, Sebastian calls Ciel on this later and the boy (and it’s easy to forget he IS a boy) admits his own arrogance in the decision. His belief was living through what they had, the kids would rather be dead. That is arrogant, unsubstantiated and possibly erroneous. He figures that he’s stronger than everyone and since he barely survived a similar torture, then no one else has a prayer of doing the same. Arrogant, yes, showing his true age, yes. I guess I’m sort of hoping that more will be made of this later since he did murder a bunch of innocent kids but I’m thinking this is probably the end to it. I could be wrong.
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