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Kuroshitsuji: Kishuku Gakkou-hen (Black Butler: Public School Arc) – 04

“Horses for courses” is a turn of phrase you’ve heard me use before. And an especially apt metaphor for Derby Day (what a finish). Usually it’s in reference to an anime matching my own tastes, like this season’s Yatagarasu or Tonai no Youkai-san, and the extra cred that brings with it. But it also applies to Kuroshitsuji and the setting it’s chosen for Kishuku Gakkou-hen. It’s hard to imagine a backdrop better suited to Toboso’s aesthetic – or a setting better tailored for that backdrop. Again, it’s the ultimate Saville Row suit (which are surely all young master Ciel wears).

This is Black Butler at its best (as was Book of Circus, in a different sense). It’s mostly Ciel puzzling over puzzles and casting a disdainful eye on the insipid rules and the ovine behavior of those around him. It carries the bonus of putting him amongst boys his own age, among whom he seems especially out of place, and forcing him to use all his charm and deception to try and fit in. It’s a setting that gives Toboso room to highlight everything this series is great at, and limits the opportunities for her to get in her own way (which was also true of “Circus”). I’d go so far as to say that Kuroshitsuji and Mahoutsukai no Yome are the polar opposites of suitability for a school arc, the Yin and Yang of the premise on prime display for all to see.

As Sebby notes, Ciel is being forced to approach the Derrick Arden problem by means more “amicable” than usual (there are limits to that, as we’ll see). He’s made progress, no doubt, by becoming Clayton’s drudge. But he’s still a drudge’s drudge, as he notes, and no closer to the inside of Violet Wolf. He’s forced to be more outward than he normally would be, asking questions openly rather than work (using Sebastian, mostly) behind the scenes. The P4 are an odd group, Gregory Violet perhaps most of all. But their reaction when Ciel mentions Arden at their gazebo tea party reveals that they know (though not, seemingly, their drudges) a lot more than they’re letting on.

Ciel’s internal musing that “people confined together are always the same” – and Sakamota Maaya’s delivery of it – is probably my favorite moment of the episode. It says so much about this ridiculously smart child who above all else doesn’t suffer fools gladly, in an environment – the Victorian public boys’ school – that fetishizes foolishness to religious levels. Ciel is being forced to play nice and take risks, pushing him out of his comfort zone. And Ciel pushed out of his comfort zone is a pleasure to watch.

He doesn’t learn too much here. Derrick Arden was peculiar, talented (strangely so, it seems). His transfer from Scarlet to Violet was not the only one – several other boys were shifted, too. And above all else, this was done on orders from the still-unseen Headmaster, and everyone involved is uniform that when the Headmaster gives an order it’s absolute and unquestioned. No statement could be more a red flag to a bull than this to Ciel – lack of curiosity and initiative and things he disdains at the highest level. But he can hardly act on that when he still needs to worm his way into the confidence of the P4.

If anything, it seems as if Ciel’s actions have aroused their suspicions. McMillan-kun is a good resource – he’s a bit of a gossip hound and has become a full-on Ciel otaku. But Ciel’s sudden celebrity status among the younger boys is a mixed blessing at best for him – Ciel is extremely uncomfortable with any sort of bonhomie, much less this kind of childish exuberance. Even at the risk of calling the wrong sort of suspicion to himself Ciel sees no option but to keep asking questions, and have Sebastian do the same.

Eventually Ciel decides to rely on “whatever means necessary” – starting (with his butler’s help) a fire at the Violet Wolf dormitory. Knowing (as Bluewer suggested he should) the rules well enough to know that all the boys in that house (the ones that survive, anyway) will be assembled in the quad and subjected to a roll call. Will Derrick Arden and the other missing lads be among their number? And what will Ciel’s next move be if they’re not? Whoever the mysterious headmaster is, it seems very likely that the answers lie with him.

The post Kuroshitsuji: Kishuku Gakkou-hen (Black Butler: Public School Arc) – 04 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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