Black Butler Review
Black Butler is set for an October 17th limited release in the UK, as the live action adaption of the popular anime continues is success away from its native shores. Based on the Japanese Anime of the same name, the Black Butler is the first live action adaption that, whilst deviating from its source material quite drastically, attempts to retain enough of its original quirks and features to please the faithful fanboys. We admit, we had seems ome of the anime before this movie, but wouldn’t put ourselves in this category. With fight scenes that feel like a cross between The Raid and Equilibrium, an intricate revenge plot and more than a dash of supernaturalism, Black Butler has enough to keep you entertained, but maybe not enough to fully satisfy.
It all takes places in the 21st century, when the world is divided into two continents, the East where the movie is set, and the West which is controlled by the Queen. Our main characters are Shiori Genpo (Ayame Goriki) a young girl, masquerading as a boy to remain head of the patriarchal family business, and the eponymous butler (Hiro Mizushima). Sebastian, a demon, has pledged to serve Shiori (aka Kiyoharu) until she gets revenge on those who murdered her parents before her eyes, upon which he shall consumer her blackened soul. Shiori acts as a spy for the Queen in the East, serving as one of her “watchdogs”, and is tasked with solving a series of gruesome deaths, where people are being mummified and found with a demon tarot card. .. These two threads pull together, intertwine and separate throughout the movie to produce
If you are familiar with the Black Butler’s source material, the anime finished its third season only weeks ago, you’ll notice the differences right away. Its not set in Victorian England, obviously creating any number of variances; our main character is a girl, disguised as a boy; and to top it off, a lot of the familiar staff are absent. However, this film isn’t as much an adaption as it is a sequel, events taking place generations after Ciel Phantomville and Sebastian’s time. Whilst we could think more about the differences, to be honest, we think the movie should be judged more on its own merits, or else it is doomed to be a victim of critical fans rather than enjoyed for the movie it is.
The most enjoyable element of the entire film is, undoubtedly, the portrayal of Sebastian by Hiro Mizushima. When the movie was in its early stages as just a thought in the producer’s head, Mizushima was envisioned as Sebastian, to the point where, if the actor said no, the project would die on its feet. His visual appearance is stark and elegant, almost perfectly graceful within his slim form. His red contacts betray a glimmer of devilishness about him, although the quirks of his dialogue is somewhat lost in translation (either Japanese to English, or in the script somewhere). His physical commitment to the role is no more obvious than during the fight scenes, where both he, and the movie flourishes.
There are a few fight scenes in Black Butler which very much make the movie worth watching. The first comes within a few minutes, and sets up the action to come. Sebastian saunters into the room, casually and full of unassuming menace, before proceeding to eliminate everyone in the room with his weapon of choice, his silver service dinner knife. The live action Black Butler carries a lot of style and swagger forth from the manga and anime. Put together with an element of British Victorian style with more modern trends, the futuristic setting is a bit of a culture clash. This can cut either way for a western audience, and we think if you’ve previously enjoyed movies from this genre you’ll be able to look past it and appreciate the adaptation, but it probably shouldn’t be an entry film.
Overall, we found it entertaining, but for 2 hours, we got a bit lost. Whilst we enjoy a good mystery, we think it is important to empower the viewers with the knowledge to try and unravel it as the movie progresses, rather than relying on last minute reveals to tie everything together. The two main characters are entertaining, and their complex relationship, whilst not as well defined or playful as the manga/anime, was still confusingly interesting. If you enjoy anime/manga, go for it!
We give this movie a fair 3.5/5 stars.