Black Butler Season 1 Series Review: One Hell of A Good Time

I’ve been a big fan of Black Butler since I first saw the anime many years ago – though most of the time I try to pretend season 2 does not exist and for the duration of this review I’m going to. I’ve also reviewed Book of Circus and Book of Murder in case you are interested. Irina and I also debated the merits, or lack of them, of season 2 in a collaboration that you should definitely check out if you missed it.

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We’ll get this out of the way first. Yes, there are some uncomfortable moments for some people in Black Butler. The relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is at times just a few steps over the line of what some people find acceptable and while nothing is overt on screen the dialogue and insinuation is not exactly subtle. There’s plenty more explicit out there but this will still rub a few people the wrong way. If that’s you, thanks for visiting the blog, please read one of my other reviews.


Still with me? Great. Moving on.

Alright, any history buffs in the room that care whether or not 19th Century London is portrayed accurately in terms of dress, mannerisms, status, etc, you should probably also step out.

For those who are left, this is why you should watch Black Butler.

Ciel is brilliant as a character. No, he doesn’t really develop as a character. He comes into this series fully formed. Everything truly terrible has already happened to him and he is utterly resolved. Not on revenge, as he states several times in the series, but on ensuring those who humiliated him are in turn humiliated because that is what he wants. He’s under no illusion. This isn’t a noble quest and he knows he has made a deal with a demon. For 95% of the series he is unwavering. It’s kind of refreshing to have a protagonist not trying to find themselves.

Instead, Ciel is fighting to remain who he has decided to be. In the face of everything that comes his way throughout the series he is determined not to leave his path. This allows for there to be conflict and self-reflection but means he isn’t really developing and there is no over-arching character arc here. But it is a joy to watch.

Some might disagree with that last statement. In honesty, Ciel’s a snobbish, childish, jerk who is like the kid who didn’t get picked to play so now he’s going to steal all the equipment so no one else can either. That doesn’t mean he isn’t appealing as a character though. You just wouldn’t invite him around for dinner any time soon.

And then there is Sebastian.

He is polished and cool and refined and he steals every scene he is in. Perhaps he is a boring character because he is so perfect but I always enjoyed watching how he would meet Ciel’s demands and I loved the play between the two as they found new ways to torment each other within the bounds of their contract.

Mostly the series is a kind-of-mystery of the week. The mysteries aren’t particularly compelling and the solutions are usually pretty basic or rely heavily on the supernatural to explain, so don’t get too invested in that aspect of the show, it won’t hold up. However, the overall story of Ciel seeking those who killed his family and working under the Queen to draw his enemies to him, is quite compelling even as it makes you question the logic of those actions.

Angela is also a rich and interesting character, even though she is sadistic and a little bit crazed. Though she isn’t in all that much of the series she is definitely a highlight and her appearances signal some big movements in the plot.


Lastly, we have probably the most annoying aspect of the show. The other servants in the Phantomhive mansion. While they are useful(?) to the plot in the final episodes, their presence mostly serves as an irritant and delivers some of the poorer comedy found in the show.


I recommend Black Butler for a watch, but I am aware it isn’t for everyone. Let me know your thoughts on this series.

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19 thoughts on “Black Butler Season 1 Series Review: One Hell of A Good Time

  1. I completely agree with what you said about Ciel. He is a strong character from the very beginning and he doesn’t pull any punches. And you know, I like that he is brat lol. And yet I still adore him. I think it makes him more interesting as a character.

    I am not sure if you have read ahead in the manga, but later on, he do see some character development in Ciel. But it is done brilliantly (Yana-sensei is so talented) and it doesn’t come across as sappy like in other series. And even though he does develop a little, he is still bratty, selfish, bad-ass Ciel in the end 😀

    1. I haven’t read any of the source for this one. I fell in love with the anime and for me that is kind of enough (that and the merchandise – can I get more Sebastian themed items?).
      Ciel is awesome and stands out from so many other protagonists so I think it is great he’s getting some love. Thanks for the comment.

      1. I understand when an anime is just enough because I feel that way about certain series. But the Black Butler manga is PHENOMENAL. Yana’s art gets better and better as it goes on, and the narrative is just fantastic. As much as I love the anime, I think the manga is better and makes the series even stronger. If you ever get the change, I highly recommend reading it. It’s worth the time 😀

  2. As a manga-first person who initially experienced the anime through Book of Circus and watched the first season to prepare for a theatre screening of Book of Atlantic, there was kind of an expectancy for the anime’s first season to adhere heavily towards the manga, but after the curry episode, everything pretty much goes to hell (no pun intended) in that regard. That said, if it was someone’s first anime (that’s true for one of the other commenters on this post), I can see why they would be so attached to the series for both manga-adherent sections and anime-original ones.

    Still haven’t watched season 2 yet between mixed opinions from others and taking on watching challenges, so jury’s still out on that…

    1. Having never read the manga, the diversion didn’t really bother me except that like many anime that take liberty with the source, it just seemed poorly planned out and could have been executed better. I like Book of Circus not so much because it follows the source better, but because it is just a much better narrative. That said, I did fall in love with this franchise because of season 1.
      My personal opinion would be to avoid season 2, but Irina puts up a fair argument against that.

  3. It was! I’ve yet to see Book of Murder and Book of Atlantic in anime form but Circus was amazing to see animated. I look forward to when I get round to seeing the rest. Ciel really is something else in those terms. Even with his rather bratty and snobbish attitude he is a character I have always liked probably for how stable and developed he is mentally for his age. And there is good reason to be obsessed with Sebastian!

  4. I think I will forever be a massive fan of this series. Probably due to nostalgia as it was my first anime. I’ve never thought about how Ciel doesn’t have to find himself but it’s so true and it does make a nice change. I always found such charm in Sebastian’s utter perfection as a demon and his capabilities. In theory it sounds so boring but his character is too amazing not to love haha! I’m not the biggest fan of season two but I did find it interesting to see where it took the series outside of the original material. But nothing can beat the original story and I’m so happy they decided to pick it up from Book of Circus and continue on with it!

    1. Circus was really fun.
      Ciel is such an interesting character when you think about how he’s presented compared to so many young protagonists in anime. And Sebastian… well I think it is well known I am obsessed with Sebastian.

  5. There are currently three animes that I would like to call Juggernauts that I haven’t seen yet: Deathnote, Full Metal Alchemist and Black Butler. All of these are very high on my list and I just hope very much to complete at least all 3 before the end of this year.
    I don’t know yet if this is going to be an anime that I will be enjoying, but I have heard so many good things about it by so many people that I quite frankly just HAVE to watch this.😊

    1. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, you should have a great time with this one. I had a friend I watched it with and all she wanted to do was point on the historical inaccuracies of the character’s outfits and mannerisms. Needless to say, she didn’t much like the show.

      1. Haha…no I’m guessing not, lol 😂Well I am not like that, as I really watch pretty much everything for entertainment, and if it manages to that count me in, and never mind any historical inaccuracies 😊

    1. This might be one of the few cases where I am happy to be in Australia. The DVD’s for this one have always been fairly reasonable and are easily available.

  6. I think my favorite episode of Black Butler would be the first. It hit upon some nice dark tones, while later episodes seemed to shift a little too far towards the lighter side of things. It is a fun series, and Sebastian is comically absurd in his power, but I definitely feel the series could have been “more”.

    1. It could have been more. I think without the servants of some of the more fillery episodes like the curry cooking, this could have been a nice, tight, psychological story. That said, I don’t dislike what it is and it certainly makes for fun watching providing those darker moments don’t put you off.

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