The Anime Reporter, (i.e. me), takes a look at the next batch of demonic instalments from the Black Butler manga series: Volumes 6-10 (Chapters 24 – 47).
If you haven’t yet checked out this deliciously dark and mysterious series, you really ought to! Check out my take on the first five volumes to find out why that is!
Volume 06 carries on in a much darker tone than the curry-themed plot of the fifth volume. As the queen’s covert watchdog, Earl Phantomhive (thirteen year-old Ciel to you and me) is asked to investigate the possible connection between a series of children disappearing and the most wonderful and creepy of all places; the circus. Ciel and his ever reliable demon-in-tow, Sebastian, go deep undercover, swapping their identities for those of two new recruits eager to join up with the circus.
There, they meet some rather distinctive personalities, as well as some capable fighters and marksmen with skills far beyond Ciel’s. As if an undercover mission inside a travelling circus wasn’t chaotic enough, Sebastian isn’t the only supernatural superstar touring with the circus. A familiar face glowers at the pair from an equally secretive identity. That’s right, folks, we’ve got ourselves another appearance from a shinigami!
You know… shinigami… Soul reaper? Like the creepy guy at the end of the Jack the Ripper case? (That’s why we have the spoiler alert, right kids?) Yep, one of those cheery beings has made a return appearance and has no intention of letting a human boy and his demonic lapdog ruin his investigation. So now Sebastian has to go undercover while staying under the Victorian equivalent of radar in front of a supernatural soul-reaper who’s also undercover. This storyline continues from Volume 06 to Volume 07 and wraps up with the feeling of a story well told and the slightly sickly sensation from reading about an insane character, well realised. This circus tale is exquisitely executed, showcasing not only Sebastian’s demonic powers, but his manipulative prowess too (with one or two scenes that are perhaps a little inappropriate for younger readers). It’s little wonder that this storyline has become the focus for the returning Black Butler anime series.
Volumes 8-10 take a different tack, with a good old fashioned whodunit! Ciel is asked, advised, ordered to throw a very snazzy dinner party with a very specific guest list. All is going well, aside from the occasional drunken quarrel and hurled champagne bottle until people are getting ready to retire for the night. One of Ciel’s guests is found dead by the fireplace inside a room locked from the inside. As the bodies slowly mount up, the finger is pointed at Ciel himself and it becomes near impossible to investigate the murder while everyone around suspects him. A young writer named Arthur is asked to investigate, as he is the only one with an airtight alibi. Arthur puts the pieces together in a manner not unlike that wonderful fictional detective written by… Oh what was his name? Something Doyle. In any case, Arthur has a keen eye for details and a wonderful knack for putting pieces together.
The case is all but wrapped up by the end of Volume 10 and while a murder mystery in a spooky mansion is hardly a new idea, the clues and motives at play in this story arc are truly refreshing. It would serve no purpose to give the clues away, but suffice to say, in a series called Black Butler, it would only be a letdown if you-know-who did it. Expect the unexpected and quite a bit of misdirection with this one, but don’t even think about missing it!
Black Butler manga Volumes 6-10 are all currently available in English from Yen Press. My advice: This is one series you’ll want to get your hands on!
Dark Depths: 9
Character Development: 7
82% “Jolly Spiffing!.. And also totally unhinged.” – Black Butler Volumes 6-10 manage to plunge the series further down the demonic-rabbit hole, offering up a hell of a lot of mystery and reminding us that even in a story about a demon, sometimes the most twisted characters just have to be all too human.