The year is 1888; Ciel Phantomhive, the adolescent heir to a vast British estate and lofty title, has struck a deal that binds the demon Sebastian to him as his butler. And he needs the help: his other four servants are knockabout clowns who make the Keystone Kops look effective. Based on the manga by Yana Toboso, Black Butler (2008) is a weird mixture of Gothic horror, bishonen fantasy, and slapstick comedy. Ciel describes himself as "the Queen's Guard Dog," and he solves mysterious, often supernatural crimes--but Sebastian does all the work. The first episodes involve Jack the Ripper, and the still-unsolved case of the notorious mass murderer turns out to concern an effete, renegade Grim Reaper. Another adventure involves a sort of werewolf. The filmmakers can't seem to decide if Black Butler is supposed to be the anime equivalent of an old penny dreadful or a sophomoric comedy. Often grotesque violence is juxtaposed with heavy-handed gags. After the werewolf/"demon hound" savagely kills an evil nobleman, Sebastian defeats the creature with dog biscuits. The English dub, with American actors trying to do what they imagine are British accents, is painful to listen to. Black Butler is every bit as much fun as a dropped ice-cream cone. (Suitable for ages 16 and older: violence, violence against women, animal cruelty, grotesque imagery, risqué humor, sexual situations, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
(1. His Butler, Able, 2. His Butler, Strongest, 3. His Butler, Omnipotent, 4. His Butler, Capricious, 5. His Butler, Chance Encounter, 6. His Butler, At the Funeral, 7. His Butler, Merrymaking, 8. His Butler, Training, 9. His Butler, Phantom Image, 10. His Butler, On Ice, 11. His Butler, However You Please, 12. His Butler, Forlorn) --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.