Recently, I had the chance to take a look at the first season of Black Butler which has seen a release from FUNimation. As soon as I was through with that, I sat down to watch season two along with the six OVAs which are included with the second release, specifically so I could talk about it with you lovely readers!
Let's take a look and see whether it lives up to what was a solid first season, yeah? Hit past the jump for my thoughts and to learn more about your home entertainment options for the hot butler-on-butler action!
Black Butler II and OVAs (Released as a DVD/BD Combo pack)
If you remember season one of Kuroshitsuji, it had a pretty much ideal ending where Sebastian presumably gets to devour Ciel's soul. No surprise twists, happy musical numbers or anything too silly. When it became popular enough that the producers decided a second season would be rather swell, the plan was to take that ending and drop a few elaborate twists on it for a rousing encore.
On the one hand, I understand why and how they thought things would turn out, but if I can be on the level, I'd say it really didn't live up to the quality I enjoyed with the first season. For starters, a few characters were brought back which made little to no sense in context with a supposed continuation, and it wasn't until the midpoint that we find out why that is. I don't like feeling confused for half a season, wondering where the story is going and how it even got to any point beyond the whole part where I thought Ciel was going to die and be eaten.
The obvious different/addition though, is a new butler and contracted human team. Alois Trancy enters the picture with his butler Claude, who is a less classy and more artistically inclined version of Sebastian. He likes to tap dance and fantasize about Ciel, after all.
What really got me though, is that while Ciel isn't a very likable character to begin with, he pretty much gets his personality redemption when you add Alois to the dynamic. It only took one line for me to hate that kid, and he makes Ciel look like totally cool guy. To that end, the show succeeded in making you feel a bit sorrier for Ciel and his plight - which in season two is that Claude stole his soul while Sebastian wasn't looking, so the next step was to redirect Ciel's revenge. He lost all of his memories and Sebastian worked it out so the new culprit behind the murder of his parents would be Alois.
Again, I have to express that I can see where they were going with this plot, and if I had been a fan of Kuroshitsuji when it originally aired my first impressions for season two might have been just as enthusiastic as Colette's back in the day, too. Fortunately for me, this review gig lets me see things all at once and saves me the trouble of suffering the week-to-week agony and suspense! I would have been much more disappointed if I'd lived through this during its time rather than two years later.
Besides the 12-episode hurrah, the box set you're able to purchase includes a third disc with six OVAs. Two of them are themed "Ciel in Wonderland," which are wonderful fluff that I quite enjoyed. One of them focuses on Alois' household and their back stories, one for Will and Grell (but mostly Will, unfortunately), and a fifth OVA which mainly focuses on Sebastian being hospitable to someone who intends to kill him, but is a guest at the Phantomhive manor. It's another amusing episode if you like Sebastian's dialogue.
The last OVA (actually, it's the third OVA, and there's a commentary track for this too), is about the "making of" season two. It's a spoof episode with the characters behaving as if they were actors, and giving you more information on the motives behind a new season, as well as an epic spoof trailer. All six OVAs appear to occur between seasons one and two and are appropriate to view any time after you've finished season one, with the exception of the episode on the Trancy household. It could be a little spoilery if you care about that kind of thing.
Like my earlier review on Black Butler (part one), the animation and voice acting were consistent. The cast returned with their great performances and the action was all quite well done. For fans of the show, regardless of whether it is consistent with the manga storyline, it may or may not be your cup of tea depending on whether you view it as fan service or fan disservice. I leaned more toward the latter, all things considered, but it's for you all to decide.
Other on-disc extras include clean OPs and EDs, trailers and an actual outtakes track which is three minutes and 20 seconds long, full of botched dialogue or slipped-in jokes and whatnot from the voice cast. Some of it is actually quite funny - it's worth a watch.
If you're interested in seeing some of Black Butler before you purchase, you are actually able to hit up the FUNimation official page and stream some for free! Good on them for letting folks legally sample the hot stuff before having you buy it, right?
[5.5 - Average. It's just "okay." Black Butler II has many flaws and didn't quite follow through, but some will enjoy it. I suggest reading up on it more or checking out legal streams before purchasing.]
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