A review by someone who has never seen the original anime.

“I am just one hell of a butler”— Sebastian

Although I love Japanese movies, I haven’t seen a lot of anime (i.e., animated Japanese TV shows and movies).  That doesn’t mean I am not familiar with it–it just isn’t something I watch very often.  A few years ago, when my oldest daughter was in high school, she dragged me to some anime conventions and got me to watch a few series’ with her, such as Death Note, Azumanga Daioh and Sergeant Frog–but I am certainly no expert on these shows nor the printed version, manga.  So, when you read my review, it is not coming from a rabid fan–and from what I read, rabid fans of the original TV series and manga Black Butler were not especially pleased by this movie version.  So, for you lovers of the original Black Butler, this review might not at all be very helpful–I’m just a guy watching a movie who has no basis for comparing it to the original.

Black Butler
Directed by
Kentarô Ohtani & Kei’ichi Sato
Ayame Gôriki, Jonathan Brooks, Masatô Ibu
DVD Release Date
4 June 2014
Martin’s Grade: B

From what I’ve read and learned from my daughter, the original show featured a 12-year-old boy as the protagonist.  However, here he is now 17 and a girl–and, oddly, posing as a boy in order to maintain the family title and estates.  Additionally, instead of being set in Victorian times, the movie is set today.  I am pretty sure these are not the only changes, but these are a few of the obvious ones.

The back story is that years ago, someone murdered Genpou Shiori’s parents.  Genpou serves the Queen of the West and is one of her secret force, The Queen’s Watchdog.  Their job is to serve their queen and ruthlessly pursue anyone who threatens her or her kingdom.  As I mentioned above, she is posing as a young man and goes by the title ‘Earl’.  Assisting the Earl is his/her faithful servant, Sebastian.  However, Sebastian is no ordinary fellow…he’s a demon who does anything she wants–including killing the Queen’s enemies.  It seems that when Genpou Shiori’s parents died, the boy sold his soul to the Devil in order to gain the services of this demon in order to assist in his quest for revenge–an obvious variation on the old Faustian tales.

The film begins with the pair on a mission to infiltrate a gang involved in the sex slave industry.  Not surprisingly, Sebastian uses his amazing powers to wipe out the entire gang…but armed with only a butter knife!! ??  This and several other fight sequences within the film are insane–full of incredible action and which will keep you on the seat of your pants.  However, what follows is not all action–in fact, in places the film can be quite talky and full of unnecessarily dull and complicated exposition by the baddies.  When the film is in high gear, it is clever and intense.  But, when folks start explaining things, then I felt as if I should take a shot of No-Doze!

The plot that follows is amazingly cool and disgusting.  It seems that there is some serial murderer who has so far made eight ambassadors turn into mummies!!  One moment, they seem normal and the next they are bleeding from their orifices and the next they look like beef jerky!  Obviously something horrible is afoot and it’s up to the Earl and Sebastian (as well as the clumsy yet amazing maid) to save the day.

So is it worth seeing?  Well, it’s not bad and I mildly enjoyed the film.  As I mentioned above, the show did have portions that were just too talky and I also disliked how many times the film backed up to show you what really happened–this seemed like bad writing because it was used so much.  But, it’s tough not to like Sebastian and the process by which folks became mummified and how is amazingly original. Not a must-see film but worth your time. In a very odd move by the Asian distributers, if you visit their Facebook page and look at the recent posts by them, you’ll see a link allowing you to watch Black Butler for free.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer