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First Impressions – Kuroshitsuji: Kishuku Gakkou-hen (Black Butler: Public School Arc)

OP: “Kyoshinsha no Parade -The Parade of Battlers-” by -otoha-

One episode in, and I can say that Kuroshitsuji slips into this setting as comfortably as if it were the finest Saville Row bespoke suit. The fit, in other words, is perfect. Context is everything, and while the “Hogwarts Arc” trend is problematic, Black Butler is a series that was born to do it. It makes perfect sense from a plot standpoint – no illogical contortions are needed to get here. And equally as important, aesthetically speaking it just couldn’t be more seamless. Toboso Yana could write this in her sleep (though she very clearly didn’t).

I was a bit worried about a new director (Okada Kenjirou) never mind one from Shaft. But the Toboso gene is dominant (only Okada – ironically – Mari has been able to fuck it up, and that was with original material), and Okada (Kenjirou) has worked at places like Bones, too. Once directors escape Shaft they often get a “nature is healing” effect, and leave much of the nonsense behind. This premiere looks, sounds, and feels like Kuroshitsuji – there are no issues on that score.  It’s a winner if you’re a fan of the series and for the most part I am, especially if Grell isn’t involved (along with the mode of writing that he represents).

In short, this was vintage Black Butler. And vintage Black Butler is really, really good. The premise this time finds Ciel asked (in Victoria’s usual underhanded fashion) to investigate Weston College, England’s most prestigious public school (remember, in English schools “public” and “private” mean the opposite of most other countries). Her cousin’s son, Derrick Arden, has stopped contacting home and refused to answer requests – and he’s apparently not the only one. The logical way for Ciel to investigate this is to do it himself, so he decides to become a Weston student. And if there’s no opening, he and Sebastian can “create one” (very sinister, how cold that was).

This situation is absolutely ripe for the picking for this series. It’s natural as can be to relocate to a place like this, and having Ciel deal with all the ridiculous customs and “traditions” at a posh British boys school has basically unlimited potential for entertainment. This environment is so twisted and horrifying in real life that Toboso hardly needs to embellish. We get a bit of hazing (it’s pretty light, actually), preposterous rules (only those with prefect permission can cross the lawn), and unpaid slavery (“fags” are called “drudges” here). Whether we’ll delve into stuff like corporal punishment and sexual abuse (which were endemic at such places in Victorian times) I’ve no idea – that may be too edgy even for Kuroshitsuji.

Sebastian has come along, posing as the headmaster of Ciel’s Blue “Sapphire Owl” house. In true Hogwarts fashion Weston is divided into four houses – also along for the ride are Violet Wolf, Scarlet Fox, and Green Lion. Each house has its own specialty, and it’s own prefect. These are known as the P4, and they hold absolute power over the boys’ lives. As well, only those invited by them can have a visitation with the mysterious headmaster – and meeting him is critical to Ciel’s investigation. He’s welcomed to Weston instead by another master, Johann Agares (Hayami Show, on the money casting if it ever existed), whose clumsiness may be a plot point or may be just for comic effect.

As usual with Kuroshitsuji, each distinct arc brings a raft of new characters to track.  At Weston we have kindly (which with Kuroshitsuji usually means buying green bananas is not advised) McMillan (Shiraishi Haruka), the red-headed first-year who takes Ciel under his wing. The heads of the respective houses are Gregory Violet (Tachibana Tatsumaru), Edgar Redmond (Watanabe Toshiki), Herman Greenhill (Takeuchi Shunsuke), and Sapphire’s prefect Lawrence Bluewer (Enoki Junya). Also seemingly significant is Bluewer’s fag Clayton (Ishige Shouya), who figures to have a lot of impact on the misery level of Ciel’s day to day existence.

It’s hard to overstate just how good Sakamoto Maaya is in Kuroshitsuji. I mean she is generally, but she’s just so great as Ciel, and her performance is the anchor for everything that happens in this series. Black Butler has always excelled at world-building and “Public School Arc” is no exception – it takes you into the moment and never really lets you go. I talk about aesthetic a lot with anime, but this is a show that very clearly has one. Everything is does has a certain flair, a grand theatricality to it. This setting suits that perfectly, and these promise to be a vastly entertaining eleven weeks.

ED: “Shokuzai (Atonement)” by SID

The post First Impressions – Kuroshitsuji: Kishuku Gakkou-hen (Black Butler: Public School Arc) appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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