Black Butler Season 1 Part 2 - Mania.com



DVD Review

Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 14 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 59.98
  • Running time: 300
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Butler

Black Butler Season 1 Part 2

Black Butler Season 1 Part 2 Anime DVD Review

By Chris Beveridge     March 01, 2011
Release Date: March 08, 2011


Black Butler
© FUNimation
Ciel's quest for revenge reaches its peak as those responsible are identified.
 
What They Say
Sebastian Michaelis is more than just one hell of a butler. He's a lonely boy's everything. Summoned from darkness, Sebastian serves Ciel with a sly smile. He brews the morning tea with care, gently dresses his ward in the daintiest of robes, and quashes the Young Master's enemies with a flourish! But following orders can be quite the bore, and Sebastian grows ever so hungry...

Before he can silence the rumble of his stomach, however, there is the small matter of an unholy union, a contract if you will. The Butler must locate and exterminate the nefarious ne'er-do-wells responsible for the murder of his Young Master's most unfortunate parents. Then - and only then - may Sebastian reveal his true form and dine on the delicacy that is Ciel's scrumptious soul. And while the demon devours his prize, all of London shall burn.

Contains episodes 13-24.

The Review!

Audio:
Black Butler comes with a pretty standard audio design as we get the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps and the English 5.1 mix at 448kbps. The Japanese track is pretty solid as it deals well with the dialogue and music to good effect. There's some good placement with it and a few sequences where the depth adds to the action. The music has a good flow to it as it doesn't ramp up too high and drown out the dialogue but it's still adding a good layer of warmth in a number of scenes. The English track has a louder feeling to it in general but adds a bit more clarity to the various sound effects and the music has a fuller feeling to it. Dialogue for both tracks is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
 
Video:
Originally airing in late 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across two volumes with seven episodes on the first and five on the second plus an episode-length extra. This series has a pretty dark look to it as much of it takes place at night or indoors with minimal lighting but it holds up rather well. There's a very distinct look to it but it doesn't go over the top with a layer of added grain or anything. The colors are generally a bit murky but certain vibrant colors, such as the reds at times, really stand out well. There's a lot of detail to this show in its backgrounds with the elaborate walls, paintings and so forth and it all comes across very well without any serious or noticeable loss. The show looks quite good here overall and feels like it represents the source materials well.
 
Packaging:
With this being the second set that stands on its own but fits in with the LE box that the first pressing of the first set has, it carries a lot of similarities. The front cover has a deep glossy black look to it with some great framing in white that has a full color illustration inside of Sebastian holding onto a sleeping Ciel who looks so child-like there. The soft colors, the illustration style and the blues in the background gives it a very elegant feeling. The back cover uses the same black background but expands the framing in the middle to cover most of it but done far more simple. Inside of that we get a white box that houses several good shtos from the show and a clean simple summary of some of the basic plot points of these episodes. The discs extras are clearly listed and the production information and technical grid are all done in small print along the bottom.
 
Inside the package we get a pair of thinpak cases that are clear in nature. They stand out well because the artwork is done primarily in black and white with the only real color being Sebastian' face. He's on both covers with very different expressions and styles that shows the two ways an encounter with him can go. The logo is kept simple and there's a really nice black ornate border that feels very appropriate here. The back cover is all black for its background with a bit of Victorian style to it. Through the center we get the simple breakdown of the episode numbers and titles. The reverse side of the covers are done up really nicely with each of them featuring a two panel spread against a black background of the various main characters of the series so far that has a good sense of placement and design about them that's quite appealing.
 
Menu:
The menu design for Black Butler works well as it uses a background style that's evocative of how the mansion and Victorian homes are with the print style as it's done with shades of purple and black. Inside of it there's a large block in the center with character artwork that looks good, especially with Sebastian and her very demonic look because of his expression and eyes. The navigation strip along the bottom of it has a good looking font to it that gives it a touch of elegance without going into a script style and there's enough ornate material around it that it all feels very appropriate and sets the mood with the somewhat menacing instrumental music. Sometimes static menus can work well. Unfortunately, the discs did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles.'
 
Extras:
The extras for this release are interesting overall and I like how one of them is classified. Each disc has a commentary track on it for an individual episode so we get two total which is definitely welcome for fans wanting to hear more of the cast and crew talking about their experiences on it. The second disc has a few extras well with the clean opening and closing here. What's also included is an OVA episode that's all about fun that goes back to when Soma was part of the show and has Ciel organizing a charity play with Hamlet as the story. The actors get delayed in arriving so he has Sebastian organize replacements, which means the main cast gets drawn into it. It's simple and silly fun overall and a nice inclusion after watching the seriousness of the season finale
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of Black Butler certainly provided for a number of interesting and amusing stories but it also had some really dark material. The story arc for Grell and his origins was a high point for me since it wasn't something I saw coming and it has that air of insanity about it that's very appealing. The same can be said for Sebastian in a different way as he's all about the controlled and elegant chaos as he works towards his own goals in serving Ciel. He has style and it's an area where he can back it up with substance as well that allows it to work as well as it does. Sadly, Ciel himself is the weak link here though that's mostly because his nature hasn't been explored that deeply with him in regards to his relationship with Sebastian.
 
Black Butler hits a number of different things with this set and opens with material about Prince Soma who is visiting from India with his servant, Agni. Having them stay at the Phantomhive mansion leads to some basic kinds of fun and challenges, such as Soma taking on Ciel in fencing that has each of them feeling somewhat embarrassed, but also an interesting moment where Agni is able to get the household servants to help him cook a meal, something Sebastian hasn't exactly been able to do, nor really tried either. Soma's presence does take on a bit more of an involved angle when he and Ciel discover that Agni has another purpose in being there, which leads to a series of events involving a curry making contest for the Queen of England no less. It's an unusual leap yet it actually makes sense within the episode itself.
 
As the second half of the season moves along, we do start to get more to the larger issue at hand with Ciel and his contract with Sebastian. What helps this along is the more prominent role played by Angela, an angel that is manipulating events in London through the Queen. We've had hints about what it is with Ciel and his parents that caused the contract, but things come in a lot clearer here as Angela torments him with visuals of it. There's plenty of reason for Ciel to go the route he did with Sebastian over it and much of the series has been about him trying to figure out who all is truly responsible so he can get his revenge. Bringing in Angela in a two-fold manner by having her manipulating the Queen at the same time is interesting since it gives it a larger feeling as it progresses towards the climax.
 
While there are a couple of other stories mixed into the set, it's the final arc that really brings the series together as a whole. With London on fire and Angela looking to bring about an end to mankind because of the mistake that was made in creating man and woman, it does all come down to simple revenge itself. Black Butler hits an appropriately big feeling here as Ciel struggles to make it back to London only to discover what's happened and then to risk it all to try and get revenge on Angela. Sebastian really shines here as he gets fully serious against her but they kept things back a bit when he reveals his true form. There is something to be said for not showing everything, but it turns into such an incredible tease that it's more frustrating than I would have expected. The payoff at the end of the series is fantastic though as everything comes to a conclusion in a way that can make an impact on you. Providing you never acknowledge there's a second season.
 
In Summary:
Watching Black Butler's second season before the first was an interesting experience, but I definitely came away with an greater appreciation for this first season afterward. Looking at this season as a whole, it had its ups and downs with some segments that didn't work all that well, but the larger material worked wonderfully with its own sense of self and style. The grim reapers are priceless and Grell in particular was fantastic. The revelations about the Undertaker were pretty interesting as well. But when it focuses on the two leads it's at its best. The relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is the reason to watch it and the way it all comes together at the end is surprisingly beautiful. FUNimation put together a great release here overall, especially with the limited edition for the first set, making this a must own set for the fans and definitely one worth checking out if you've never seen it before.
 

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 16 Commentary, Bonus Episode: "His Butler, Performer," Episode 21 Commentary, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song

Review Equipment

 

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

 

 


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