Monday, October 20, 2008

Anime first impressions: Kuroshitsuji

I've put myself on a hiatus from anime since last January for a couple of reasons: sheer fatigue and lack of any interesting series to watch. Sure, Gundam 00 was already good enough and Miss Sumeragi still elicits a fangirl scream out of me, but I've already overdosed myself on mecha and shonen. I had to take a break.

Then I bumped into this certain anime figure from a hobbyist blog that I frequent, Tomopop:

I heartily agree with one of the tags used in Tomopop's article

After seeing that awesome Sebastian Michaelis figure, I knew that it was time to end my several months-long anime fasting. Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler), is about the day-to-day affairs of the Phantomhive household, particularly its head butler Sebastian, and his 12-year-old master Ciel Phantomhive.

I couldn't help but see two other series whenever I look at Kuroshitsuji: Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro and Princess Resurrection. There's the remarkable similarity between Sebastian and Neuro (both wear suits, sport almost the same hairstyle, partner up with kids, and have the same demonic sass), and the Phantomhive household can be considered parallel to Hime's, with its noble head of estate and the bumbling staff. At this point it's safe to say that fans of Neuro and Hime/Lillian will have another series to watch out for.

Judging from the first ep alone (I haven't looked into the manga yet), Kuroshitsuji looks like it has the perfect set-up for an episodic series, with each episode having the dynamic duo deal with their guests using the world-famous Phantomhive hospitality.

The grotesque and macabre side of the mansion and its master seems to be only apparent only to outsiders, however; when left alone, Sebastian and the rest of the staff provide the mandatory comedy in the show but otherwise act quite normally - that is, if being overly clumsy and cooking meat with flamethrowers can be considered normal.

The first episode of Kuroshitsuji thankfully steers clear from any overt shounen-ai overtones, but fangirls can still look forward to getting their usual fix of sparkles, and petals falling all over the place. What else can you expect with a show that stars two pretty boys?

Admittedly I was looking for a show the likes of Mushishi and Mononoke. You know the formula: a guest enters the scene with a problem, the lead characters deal with the problem using hax, psychobabble and/or mindfuckery, and look good . While I did get exactly that from Kuroshitsuji, I wasn't quite satisfied with it, finding that the "horror" part of the first episode is considerably watered down compared to, say, xxxHolic.

The ending would have done Sebastian's demonic character justice if the crook of the week was indeed cooked in the oven, with his fat used for Sebastian's scrumptious Lemon Meringue Pie (which was subsequently served to his hardworking staff). Instead, we have a comedic cop-out of an ending with the crook limping out of the mansion. Shame.

Not helping Kuroshitsuji is the rather blah selection of OP and ED. The opening theme, Sid's Kiss of Monochrome, just sounds like a generic rock anime theme (good going, generalizing all rock themes like that), while Becca's I'm alive sounds like it was ripped off from a Hansons or Moffatts album. Here's to hoping a good theme from bands the likes of Nightmare and abingdon boy's school.

(I couldn't help but think that the choice of OP and ED for this show is a big hint that I'm expecting too much noir from this anime than what is actually intended. Meh)

In any case its still too early to pass judgment on the series; only the first episode is fansubbed so far (not to mention that I haven't read the manga yet), and the show leaves a lot of room to introduce other interesting characters and events. I'm actually hoping that it won't degenerate into a slight shounen-ai comedy and develop its horror angle a bit more - of course, with Sebastian being a demon, that isn't too hard to do.

This nugget of wisdom is one of the few good things going for Kuroshitsuji first ep.


the critique said...

The anime pales in comparison to the manga. Then again, there are just some points that cannot be translated to tv, especially if you have impressionable minds (or might be square enix's wishes to appela to a wider audience = higher sales... whatever)thrown into the audience mix. The first guest being tonight's meringue pie and tomorrow's pumpkin soup appetizer is likelier in the manga... they've been feeding the pet lion kids in vol 31.

Good info. Thanks!