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Kuroshitsuji: Kishuku Gakkou-hen (Black Butler: Public School Arc) – 09

Well, that was pretty stark. I’ve noted how this one was one of the most extended straightforward stretches in the series. The mystery was always there but most of the action was presented exactly as it really was. Even Ciel’s behavior was quite transparent (for him). But when the switch flipped at the end of last week’s episode, it really was like a light switch. And instead of blinding us with luminescence, the room was abruptly bathed in darkness. Welcome back, Black Butler.

One could argue all that normalcy was kind of mooted by events of this episode. I mean, it does look as if most of it was not plot-essential. It seems to  have been there strictly for entertainment value – but to that I say, so what? I think the entertainment was the whole point. Kuroshitsuji taking on an environment it was born to, British public schools. Ciel out of his element and engaging with lads his own age more than he ever has. It worked splendidly – some of the most engaging material in the series. On the bread and circuses front this series has never skimped on either (sometimes literally) anyway – with Kuroshitsji the pomp has always been as important as the circumstance.

Toboso-sensei – as flamboyant a mangaka as you could want – taking on an environment that even in real life is absurd and perverse beyond the pale seemed like a certain recipe for overindulgence. But she wisely let the absurdity of the setting carry the day, adapting Ciel and Sebastian to it rather than the other way around. She took her time getting to that midnight tea party, but once she get there she cried “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war. Starting with the identity of the Headmaster, who we pretty much knew was going to be someone she had a history with.

Undertaker is squarely in the camp of the flamboyant side of Black Butler. That’s where the series sometimes gets in its own way for me, and he’s not among my favorite characters. But Undertaker is not as bad as, say, Grell (who makes any scene he’s in basically unwatchable). And his role here not only makes sense, but is relatively modest. He’s someone the prefects called in when things really hit the fan, and of course he just viewed that as a big lark. But Undertaker being here certainly doesn’t answer the big questions in the mystery.

One that is apparently answered – Derrick Arden (Kobayashi Yuusuke) is dead. What we see here is a reprise of the “Book of the Atlantic” plotline, where the Aurora Society was reanimating the dead. And Derrick is clearly no longer human. As recounted by Edgar Redmond, he was so bright he was dazzling – beloved by his fellow students. But as it turns out, he was at the center of a bullying ring – one he was supposedly investigating on behalf of the four new prefects. Someone tipped them off with a coded message in a poem, and Derrick and his mob were caught in the act.

Bullying is terrible of course, though one could hardly claim it was uncommon in settings like this (which, in effect, ran on institutionalized bullying). So it doesn’t really explain why they (Greenhill, seemingly) killed him. They were desperate to keep the status they’d finally achieved after five years at Weston, and a bullying scandal would be a black eye for the school. But why kill him? I’m not satisfied that’s been answered – and there’s also the matter of the several other boys (Derrick’s accomplices?) who’ve also disappeared and are presumably (un)dead. And who wrote the poem? So there’s still plenty of mystery for the last two episodes to chew on.

Given the recent piece I did on product placement, prompted by the current Suntory Bartender anime, I should also make note of the bottle one student was shown to be drinking from (scandal!). I ROFL’d when I saw “Makarran”, because this was much more in line with what we typically see in anime – either a parody like “Starbooks” or just an Engrish romanization of the actual name (which is of course Macallan in this case). It’s also the second Macallan reference in anime this week – thanks, All For One…

The post Kuroshitsuji: Kishuku Gakkou-hen (Black Butler: Public School Arc) – 09 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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