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Black Butler: Book of Circus

Black Butler - Book of Circus (cover)The Black Butler anime adaptations are based off the original manga by Yana Toboso. The first season was likely going to be the only season, based on the storyline. Then it got very popular. And the second season was…a sad attempt to leach off the fandom. And now we have a ‘third’ season: Book of Circus. It’s not truly a third season, though, and that has caused some confusion, especially for Black Butler fans who have only watched the anime franchises and have not read the manga at all.

So here’s how the first season of Black Butler and the new Book of Circus arcs connect: you have episodes 1-15. And then Book of Circus happens. Anything after episode 15 of the first anime season is null and void in relation to Book of Circus, and also never happens in the manga. Book of Circus covers chapters 24-37 of the manga. You won’t have a hard time following Book of Circus if you haven’t watched or read any of Black Butler before, though. The few characters whose backstory isn’t explained here are not so vital to the plot that not knowing them would ruin it. The basic gist of Black Butler is this:

The Earl and Countess Phantomhive, and their ten-year-old son, Ciel, were all presumed to have died when their manor burned to the ground. Ciel has actually been kidnapped, his parents were murdered, by occult followers for a ritual sacrifice, but Ciel himself accidently summons a demon. Ciel forms a contract with the demon, whom Ciel gives the name ‘Sebastian’. Sebastian will get to consume Ciel’s soul in exchange for helping him find his parent’s murderers and exacting revenge. Ciel returns, reclaims his family inheritance of the Phantomhive Earldom (including the Phantomhive’s lesser-known designation as the Queen’s Watchdog), and uses his family’s often unsavory connections to fulfill the Queen Victoria’s orders while seeking his revenge.

(Kuroshitsuji) Book Of Circus by kuro-maiBlack Butler: Book of Circus is really how the first anime should have happened, if they’d waited just one more year for the Circus arc to complete in the manga before making the anime. From a technical view, it is obvious at times that there was a smaller budget for Book of Circus than the previous seasons. It is only 10 episodes, and sometimes the animation isn’t quite up-to-par, but nothing is skimped on the important scenes.

The first episode begins with a recap, which isn’t really surprising – it has been four years since the final episode of Season Two aired, after all. The end of the first episode begins the main premise when Ciel receives two tickets for the Noah’s Ark Circus. It turns out the tickets are from Queen Victoria, and she needs Ciel to investigate the disappearances of children from small towns around England. The only lead she has is that this circus has gone through every single one, and she orders Ciel to find the missing children and return them to their parents.

Ciel and Sebastian visit the circus. Sebastian is quite taken with the tiger (he has a bit of a thing for cats), and they manage to search all the tents except for the ones belonging to the star attractions, who are dubbed ‘Firsts’ by the other circus staff. So, Ciel and Sebastian join the circus, hoping to gain access to those tents eventually. It soon becomes apparent that the missing children are not being held near the circus and Sebastian and Ciel must find them some other way – much to Ciel’s relief. He doesn’t really enjoy circus life.

The answers lie in the pasts of the Firsts, and in Ciel’s own past, in a conclusion that is heartbreaking and horrifying. Book of Circus holds nothing back. There is very little comedic relief in Book of Circus, and a lot of morbid humor, and the episodes can be downright macabre at times. Ultimately, Book of Circus is a study in human nature, and why the human race does the things it does, whether those deeds are good, or evil, or evil done in an attempt to protect something good.

Black Butler - Book of Circus (cover 2)Ciel sums it up at the end when he says to Sebastian, “Cowardly, base – we’re more demonic than demons are! I’m just like them. I’m full of the same ugliness they were. This is how humans are. It’s how we are, Sebastian!”

Do note that there are hints of drug use, child slavery, extreme body modification, and pedophilia (mostly in the last few episodes as the villain is revealed). Violence toward children – but not sexual violence – is blatant. Black Butler, in any version, is not for the faint-of-heart, but it does have its moments. We get to see many beloved characters again – Undertaker, Prince Soma, Grell, and the entire Phantomhive Manor staff, just to name a few.

The last couple of episodes open up just as many questions as they answer, it seems. We are shown barely the surface of the background of some of the Phantomhive staff, as well as introduced to characters who are closer to the Queen. Presumably, this is in preparation for the two-part OVA, Book of Murder, which will follow Book of Circus in October, but perhaps there’s the possibility that more manga-to-anime adaptations are being considered. Or at least that’s a nice thought.

Black Butler: Book of Circus is currently available for free streaming in the US on Hulu and FUNimation’s YouTube Channel. It is also available on Crunchyroll in some regions, excluding the US.

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  1. […] Black Butler: Book of Circus | Fantasy-Faction […]

  2. […] and Black Butler II) of the anime in this article. The third (Book of Circus) is already discussed here, as well how it fits in with or supersedes the first anime […]

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