Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead
The Black Butler returns with a new story in this live-action adaptation. After witnessing her parents’ murder, Shiori Genpo vanished and returned masquerading as the illegitimate son of the Genpo family. By taking on the male persona of Kiyoharu, she was able to inherit the mantle of Earl. This title allowed her to maintain the family’s wealthy estate and the position of The Queen’s Guard Dog. Earl Kiyoharu Genpo has offered up her soul to Sebastian in exchange for the ultimate revenge against those who murdered her family.
A deadly plague is slowly spreading through high profile dignitaries from all over the world. The Devil’s Curse leaves it’s victims in a withered mummified state. The only thing linking the deaths is a single card featuring a demon found at each crime scene. The Queen’s Guard Dog has been called on to investigate this horrific string of murders. With the aid of a demon butler, Kiyoharu attempts to fit the pieces of the case together while uncovering disturbing links to her own family’s demise.
In order to learn more about the case, Kiyoharu infiltrates the inner circles England’s criminal underworld. She soon discovers that there is nothing natural or random about these murders. Kiyoharu must find the connection between the rising reports of human tracking, arms dealers, private night clubs and the untimely deaths of world dignitaries. With cunning skill, bribery and a talented butler by her side, the Genpo orphan slowly unravels the truth and becomes a target herself. Sebastian must protect his young master if he is to devour her soul after the contract is fulfilled.
The investigation is full of twists and turns that culminate in the ultimate reveal of a shadow organization with malicious intent. Kiyoharu finds the answers she is looking for, but they place her in deadly situations. She must rely on Sebastian if she has any chance of making it through this alive. Enemies come to light, bonds are tested, and the world is in grave danger of being exposed to this mummifying plague. Kiyoharu is forced to decide if exacting revenge for her family is more important than saving countless lives.
Full disclosure, I have never personally watched the Black Butler anime series. I’m sure there are discrepancies between this live action adaptation and the source material, but the film itself is fantastic. The scenes involving close range combat are masterfully choreographed and artfully filmed. The film is well paced and includes many subtle hints to reveal the main antagonist without being blatant. Even with a 2 hour run time, there are no scenes that drag or lack importance.
Even though the film is a dark, mysterious drama, there is a surprising amount of humor. The comedic timing of Sebastian in the English dub is spot on. The sarcastic comments between Sebastian and Kiyoharu are quite entertaining. The music throughout the film not only matches the tone of the scenes, but elevates the gravity of the performances as well.
As with any film, there are a few issues. There is one particular character that is revealed to be a villain later in the film that develops the token “I laugh over the top and for far too long because I’m the antagonist” persona. The over the top acting by that character takes you out of what is a pretty intense moment of the film. Throughout the movie, there is a reoccurring thematic tool of using quick flashbacks to show certain key events. It was well used sporadically until the end of the film where every other scene was a flashback. This tool was used because at one point there were at least 5 new twists revealed in a matter of about 3 minutes.
Even with these issues, Black Butler: The Movie is a truly enjoyable film with well developed characters, interesting story arcs and impressive action. There are some surprising character reveals that are highlights of the film. Even if you’ve never seen the anime series, this film serves as a separate story that can be enjoyed and understood by all. This film made me want to watch the anime immediately which is hardly ever the case with live action adaptations. If you’re a die hard fan of the anime, I would suggest giving this iteration a proper chance and enjoy it for what it is, a fun mystery involving a demon butler who kills people with a butter knife. How could you not enjoy that?!
Combo Pack and Extras
The combo pack released by Funimation comes with both Blu-ray and DVD copies. The film can be enjoyed in both Japanese and English dub. The extras include the original trailer as well as previews to various movies and shows.