From FUNimation Entertainment, the publisher behind anime like Sekirei, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom and Strike Witches comes the second season of Black Butler, the supernatural series based on the manga by Yana Toboso.
Taking place in Victorian-era England the story of Black Butler follows Ciel Phantomhive, a young man who lost his family after they were killed and serves the queen as her “guard dog”, solving crimes and maintaining control over the criminals in the city. To do this Ciel is accompanied by Sebastian Michaelis, a demon who serves as Ciel’s butler. In exchange for his help in getting revenge against the people responsible for the death of his parents Ciel agrees to give Sebastian his soul to devour once the task is done.
The first season ended with Ciel getting his revenge and it seems as though Sebastian is all set to devour his soul. As the second season kicks off viewers are introduced to Alois Trancy, a twisted and sadistic boy with a similar past to Ciel who serves as the queen’s “spider”, cleaning up the messes left behind after criminals are dealt with. Helping him in this task is another demon butler, Claude Faustus.
At first it seems that the series will follow Alois and Claude but a familiar face soon appears with a young boy asleep inside of a suitcase. After a narrow escape from Alois’ mansion Sebastian brings Ciel back and viewers learn that something went wrong and Ciel has lost some of his memory so Sebastian hopes to once again make Ciel’s soul worth devouring.
It was interesting to see the introduction of another master and butler combo, especially since the two masters share a similar past but are very different in the way that they choose to deal with it. Ciel and Alois eventually find themselves going head to head with their demon butlers at the forefront of the battle, but it seems that both butlers have plans of their own for Ciel.
As opposed to the first season of the series Black Butler II doesn’t have many episodes dedicated to the solving of mysteries; instead it spends most of the twelve episodes telling the main story arc, which should please fans who don’t like filler. The second season also introduced a slightly darker story than the first as well as plenty of plot twists that make it easy to get drawn into.
Along with the main story the collection also comes with six OVAs, which offer everything from a glimpse at the Phantomhive household from the perspective of a guest to telling the story of Will and Grell’s reaper exam and even a version of Alice in Wonderland, staring Ciel as Alice that outdoes the original tale as far as craziness goes. Viewers will also be treated to a mock documentary that tells how Black Butler II came to pass complete with a trailer for another version that would make Michael Bay shake his head. As far as stories connected to the main arc go “The Threads of the Spider’s Story” is the only one that really gives that as it offers insight from the help of the Trancy household.
Visually the series is just as impressive as the first as everything is dark but beautifully drawn. The characters keep their Victorian/gothic designs as well and it fits well with the story, although once again the men seem to be the better looking of the genders of the series aside from Hannah Anafeloz, Alois’ maid. The series comes in a Blu-ray and DVD combo so you can expect the Blu-ray version to be slightly improved as far as quality goes.
As with the first season Black Butler II suffers from the English voice cast forcing the English accents, which sound awkward at times. The Japanese voice cast is the better option of the two, but the English dub is bearable if you don’t want to read subtitles or if you liked the first season’s dub. The subtitles all read well and have good flow while remaining on screen for a fair length of time.
Included as on-disc features are trailers for the series as well as other FUNimation titles, the clean opening and closing themes, commentary for episodes 1, 3, 12 and the third OVA “The Making of Black Butler II” and outtakes from the recording. The episode commentary and outtakes make for interesting viewing and should please fans.
All-in-all Black Butler is a great supernatural series with plenty of combat, a dark story and random comedy to help keep it balanced. Alois made for an intriguing villain to have Ciel square off with in season two as he offers a much darker side to the master and servant concept, which is hard to believe considering that the butlers are demons out to devour souls. The many plot twists that the series offers all the way to the end delivered an entertaining experience as the story keeps you guessing all the way to the finish, where it takes a turn that even Sebastian didn’t see coming.
If you enjoyed anime like PandoraHearts, Hellsing and Code Geass then Black Butler is a series that you shouldn’t pass up and season two is a must for Black Butler fans.
Black Butler II
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Runtime: 450 minutes
Number of Discs: 3 DVDs (Also on Blu-ray)
Number of Episodes: 12 + 6 OVAs
Languages: English, Japanese with English subtitles
Age Rating: TV14
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
(A review copy of Black Butler II was provided on DVD by FUNimation Entertainment. To learn more or to watch the series online you can visit the Official Page at FUNimation.com)