Playing in the same realm as the first series, Black Butler II takes a sharp turn with other characters and runs with it.
What They Say
Devilish butler Claude and his young master Alois must outwit a priest, a viscount, and a conniving uncle with an eye on the family fortune. As if that weren't excitement enough for one day, a mysterious guest pays a visit to the mansion.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Yana Toboso, Black Butler II follows the successful first series which ran from late 2008 and into 2009 with a full twenty-four episode run. That series garnered a lot of fans, or fangirls as evidenced by the convention circuit, and has become something of a favorite among US fans that's getting a lot of adoration. I missed out on that series but will get to see it in January 2011 when FUNimation releases it on DVD and Blu-ray. So when the simulcast for Black Butler II came up, I figured I'd give it a spin with no real knowledge of what came before and see where the chips will fall.
Black Butler revolves around the pair of Alois and Claude. Alois is a young man who Claude serves as his butler and apparently both of them are quite vicious. During an early scene at a breakfast where Alois comments on how naked an egg is, one of the maids catches his eye and they're plainly not allowed to look at him. So much so that he pokes her eyes out with his fingers, leaving her a blind and bloody mess. And he does it out of care since if Claude did it, she'd be in far worse shape as he protects his master at all costs. Claude's quite an elegant type as we see him going into a dance routine of sorts when he sets up a dinner table for a visiting group of people that want to see Alois, presumably for money. The style and detail to it are really quite intriguing as it's the kind of refinement that makes Claude all the scarier because he's a cultured and cruel man.
The visitors, led by Alois' uncle Alfred, is intended to discover what it is that's up with Alois as he's got quite the history about him since he returned with Claude as his butler. Deaths became more common and there's some family history that's involved as well that has the uncle concerned. Bringing in the priest and a viscount to try and see through the façade that Alois presents to outsiders is something that Alois has to get through, something that he does with a strange sense of style. Alois has a dark past though as we see through the flashbacks, a past that has significantly defined him and given him a dark edge that even the most casual of observers can see.
Alois' position as a wealthy young man of inheritance is a curious one as he is definitely like a child with no moral compass. He's cruel and blunt with his uncle yet gives him a great deal of things because he can practically make him dance for it. Alois' cruelty is even more apparent when a mysterious black clad visitor arrives and the one-eyed maid is serving him and Alois decides to punish her more. Alois looks to be somewhat jealous of the stranger who travels to strange places, something that Alois doesn't get to do and is very interested in. There's a larger story starting to play out here as the stranger has a keen interest in a trunk that Alois has and as his identity and the contents are revealed, Black Butler hits a bit of action as it turns into a chase scene that doesn't have too much of an impact just yet, though perhaps it has something for those who saw the previous series.
Black Butler II has a really solid visual presentation to it with lots of great backgrounds with extensive detail that really brings out the ostentatious nature of it all. The character designs are very attract, both for the men and women, and those contain a fair amount of detail as well. I particularly loved the way Alois comes across as there is a certain insanity to his face that shines through without being too strong. It's there, and it's obvious, but he's not a foaming at the mouth raving lunatic. He's just about to burst at the seams though. Claude has the cold and calculating butler thing down pat, though we don't get to know too much about him here, not that I was expecting much considering this is the second series.
Black Butler II starts off in a curious and strongly violent way that's really surprising. I had no idea what to expect going in considering it's so popular among young women, but it's got a great kind of brutality that's tightly controlled and elegant that's highly appealing. With a rich visual design to it, intriguing characters that I really want to know more about and hints of something larger from the start, Black Butler II has captured my attention. With this following the previous series but using different characters, though the originals do show up here, it's something that you can jump into and get while still having the knowledge that there's more to understand and learn if you watch that first series. It may not have the same impact without those episodes, but what we get here is certainly a lot of fun and I want to see where it will go. And it has me wanting to see the first series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.