Black Butler (manga)

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"You see, I am simply one hell of a butler."
Sebastian Michaelis

Black Butler (also known as Kuroshitsuji) is a Shounen manga and companion Anime series (although it's pretty obviously looking for a crossover Shoujo audience). Originally created by Toboso Yana.

The Phantomhive family is a respected and distinguished house in Victorian London. Despite a mysterious fire killing off the previous Lord and Lady Phantomhive, their 12-year old son, Ciel Phantomhive, has managed to both build a massive toy and candy company within 3 years, and serve the Queen as a major contributor to England's black-ops.

It really, really helps that Ciel made a literal Deal with the Devil to acquire a super butler: one Sebastian Michaelis, capable of dispatching The Mafia or other threats (including those of the supernatural variety) and then baking the perfect pastry. He has agreed to aid Ciel in all of his endeavors until Ciel "succeeds in all of his tasks". Then Ciel's soul belongs to him.

So Ciel leads a double-life, his service to the Queen combined with his own dark supernatural dealings, and maintaining the peace of the Phantomhive Mansion and its less than serious staff.

Mix and stir Hellsing and Count Cain with Rozen Maiden, at least toward the beginning. No, seriously.

Adaptations include


Japan also had stage musicals:

  • Musical Dance-off Kuroshitsuji - That Butler, Friendship- (2009)
  • Musical Kuroshitsuji - The Most Beautiful DEATH in the World - 1000 Souls and the Fallen Reaper (2010 and 2013)
  • Musical Kuroshitsuji: Lycoris that Blazes the Earth (2014 and 2015)

And there is a Japanese live-action movie:

And a video game:

Tropes used in Black Butler (manga) include:
  • Air Vent Passageway: Used to escape a sinking ship.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Sebastian teaches the very proper Edward how to appeal to women.
  • Angst Coma: Happens to a lot of children in the background. Also happens to Ciel.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ciel is only 12 years old, yet he is already engaged to his cousin Elizabeth.
  • Art Evolution
  • Badass Family: The entire Midford family. Including Elizabeth.
  • The Baroness: Hilde. She is the milder, fervently militaristic version of the trope.
    • Sebastian can be seen to count too, despite being male and one of the main characters. Those stiletto heels... Within the trope he belongs to the less mild sadist/sexpot subtype.
  • Battle of the Bands: Funtom 5 appears suddenly and stuns Starlight Four into silence in a decisive victory.
  • Beneath the Mask: Ciel, Sebastian, and various other people hide significant parts of themselves from the public eye.
  • Body Motifs: Eyes. Eye injury, strange-looking eyes, and covered eyes play a large role.
    • Also hands.
  • Boy Band: Ciel constructs Funtom 5 from the ground up to appeal to the female audience. Since this is a manga, the audience reaction is more like in Japan and the appeal is not limited to young girls.
    • Starlight Four does not meet the strict definition but shares many qualities with a boy band.
  • Breather Episode: One is there between every manga arc.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Chaos Theory is mentioned when Ciel and Sebastian explain to Arthur why Queen Victoria ordered von Siemens's murder. She thinks it will alter international politics in her favor by weakening Germany.
  • Came Back Wrong: Maggy, courtesy of Dr. Stoker.
  • Carrying a Cake: Elizabeth gets in this situation once. Sebastian carries cakes a lot too, but doesn't fall into the trope.
  • Cat Scare: More accurately, fianceé scare.
  • Catch Phrase: There are several:
    • Sebastian: "I'm one hell of a butler."
      • Yen Press doesn't bother to retain the Japanese pun and translates the catch phrase as "I am but a butler" or "I am a demon and a butler" depending on the context.
    • Sebastian: "Yes, my lord."
      • Agni: "Jo agya." (The equivalent of "Yes, my lord" in Hindi.)
      • Wolfram: "Ja." ("Yes" in German.)
    • Sebastian: "It is only natural that a servant of Phantomhive would be able to (do whatever impossible thing he just did)."
    • Sebastian: "If I couldn't do this much at least, well then what kind of butler would I be?"
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: Sometimes they're playing cricket. Other times they're burning children alive.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Inverted. Underdogs can cheat too, and the Underdogs Never Lose trope is the one that ends up played straight in the cricket game, where Ciel's final dirty trick goes past just bending the rules when he switches the regulation ball with a slightly lighter one.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Many tiny things turn out to be important later, as befits a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot. One particularly extreme example is how a character wearing a certain type of shoes in an early chapter is subtle foreshadowing for a major surprise twist that takes place many arcs later.
  • Chekhov's News: "Steiger Roze dies."
  • Chess Motifs
  • Children Are a Waste: A prostitute goes to a doctor to get an abortion with this as her excuse. That doctor had lost her ability to have children thanks to an accident that killed her husband and nearly her as well. This was the last straw before she snapped and became Jack the Ripper.
  • Circus of Fear: Used as what is meant to be light entertainment by the host.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Weston prefects: Redmond of Scarlet Fox House, Greenhill of Green Lion House, Bluer of Sapphire Owl House, and Violet of Violet Wolf House.
  • Cooking Duel: The curry contest. Queen Victoria has the final word on it.
  • Costume Test Montage: Nina has to select a fashionable outfit for Sebastian, but with light colors as the new black, nothing looks particularly good on him.
  • Creepy Doll: In the manga Baron Kelvin gets really creepy with his doll decorations.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Whenever Sebastian gets to face an arbitrarily large group of mundane humans. Agni gets to stomp once too.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: A good portion of the entire cast, most notably Ciel.
  • David Versus Goliath: In the final Cricket match, not only are the players in the opposite team more skilled, but they are also noticeably taller and more muscular.
  • Deadly Gas: The miasma, otherwise known as mustard gas and sarin.
  • Deal with the Devil: While Sebastian has a morbid sense of humor that he only shows to his enemies and Ciel, he has been rather honorable and faithful to even the spirit of his side of the bargain.
  • Death by Origin Story: Ciel's parents.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Ciel's parents, of course.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: The dinner scene with Baron Kelvin. At first it looks like No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine, but as it goes on, we find out that Baron Kelvin is pretty much treating it as a date and is being genuinely nice in his own, sick way.
  • Disguised in Drag: They've managed to get Ciel into a dress in the manga, the anime, and the musical.
    • In the second musical, this gets taken Up to Eleven with at least half the male characters running around an opera "disguised" in dresses. Including Abberline, mustache and all.
  • Dish Dash: Sebastian frequently ends up catching falling dishware, food, and other items due to Mey-rin's clumsiness as a maid.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Used intentionally with the purpose of winning at a cricket game.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The infamous corset scene. Which has popped up in pretty much every version! The manga, the anime, and the (second) musical, of all places.
    • Chapter 34 pulled a bit of this too.
  • Doing In the Scientist: The corpses animated with electricity and brain implants? Really magic.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The village of witches? Really a black research site for the German Army. An attentive reader can figure out the deception very early though.
  • Double Entendre: So many. Especially by Sieglinde.
  • Down to the Last Play: Happens in the cricket tournament. Of course. Also played with in another game in the same sub-arc when the game is supposed to be nowhere near finished, but it's Joanne Harcourt's last throw. He says, "This is the end," and then, to his complete surprise, collapses when the poison a pie he ate earlier takes effect. His team chooses to forfeit the game.
  • Driving Question: Who killed Ciel's parents and was responsible for what happened to Ciel afterwards?
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Ciel is quite a bit more immature in the first chapter than he is anywhere else.
    • Also, the worst of the Anachronism Stew in the first few chapters is quietly forgotten with the exception of the telephone and a small reference to the television later on.
  • Empty Eyes
  • Engineered Public Confession: This is how Ciel ends up dealing with Maurice.
  • Evil Versus Evil
  • Eye Scream Ciel getting the seal in his eye was very painful, at least in the manga, based on his scream. Blood is seen dripping from the eye afterwards.
  • Fable Remake: In a side story, Arthur has a series of dreams/visions based on snippets from classic fairytales.
  • Fan Service: So, so much.
  • Flower Motifs: There are plenty.
    • Ciel himself has connections to many flowers:
      • White roses may represent how Sebastian sees Ciel or Ciel's innocence.
      • Baby blue eyes in the anime may be meant to represent Ciel's true self.
      • On various covers Ciel can be seen wearing black roses. Those may represent the darkness in his heart.
      • There is also the connection to his house flower the blue gentian, a flower that is an omen of death if picked.
    • In the second anime we see Sebastian and Ciel on a dreamlike field of white and midnight blue roses.
    • Both Ciel and Vincent compare Madam Red to the "lycoris that blazes the earth".
    • The pairing of Irene Diaz and the lily-of-the-valley contains much symbolism.
    • In addition to the obvious Easter connection, the yellow narcissus can also be seen to represent Elizabeth and/or the relationship between her and Ciel.
    • Ciel and Snake share a significant event in a hothouse full of pretty flowers that are both medicinal and poisonous.
    • The straw hats with the assorted colorful flowers can be seen to represent triumph and happiness.
    • There is some very interesting symbolism at a funeral involving wind-carried red rose petals overshadowing the more ordinary white lilies. Is that a wedding or a funeral?
  • Food Porn: There are many lovingly drawn, labeled shots of Sebastian's cookery.
  • Foot Chase with a Side Order of Chef: Beast and Dagger escape to the kitchen of the Phantomhive manor. Unfortunately for them, Baldroy has heavy weaponry and knows the pair is coming.
  • Foreign Looking Font: The Japanese logo uses something that looks like the old-fashioned blackletter font.
  • Foreshadowing: Found all over. One of the defining features of the series is the number of surprise revelations, and those tend to be foreshadowed, however subtly. Behind the Mask is a major theme, and any named character is susceptible to having Hidden Depths.
  • Four-Leaf Clover: An ironic one is seen in Joker's Cinematic Record flashback. It is probably significant that the characters don't notice the clover.
  • Frame-Up: In the Murder Arc, Ciel and Sebastian frame a blood diamond/arms smuggler for the death of a German ship builder who would've made his country's navy more powerful then it should've been at the time. Sebastian's death was just a "joke" by Victoria, who didn't like Ciel's "prank" of completely burning the last Big Bad and his unsuspecting henchmen and victims.
  • Genius Bonus: If you translate the Theban letters and interpret the magic circle as representing a molecule, you get the chemical formula for sarin.
  • The Glomp: Four person flying-tackle variety at the end of the Murder Arc, when Sebastian reveals to the rest of mansion that he is not dead.
  • Gratuitous English: Sebastian's "Yes, my lord."
    • The lyrics of the in-manga original song "Shining Star" in the original Japanese release contains lyrics such as "Kimi wa shining star chippoke na hikari datte". This is an unusual case, since the entire song is supposed to be in English.
  • Halloween Episode: Chapter 120. The celebration is explicitly multicultural, which allows for American Halloween elements to be included.
  • Horror Hunger: The zombies.
    • The horror gets worse when it turns out that they're hungering for people's souls.
  • Human Sacrifice: Ciel was used for this, but ended up making a deal with Sebastian instead.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "The/That Butler, ______."
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: Ciel tells Snake that his missing friends' whereabouts were unknown, that he is looking for them and that staying with Ciel will be the fastest way to see them again. The reader knows that they were all killed by Ciel's staff when they tried to ambush Ciel's mansion.
  • Incest Subtext: Edward is much too attached to Elizabeth. This becomes obvious when he starts talking about her perfection and how he can't really see anyone else when she is present, apparently not realizing how abnormal that is.
  • Innocent Innuendo: The infamous corset scene.
  • Insert Grenade Here: Happens to a German tank.
  • It Got Worse: Ciel's backstory, culminating in a Deal with the Devil.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Sebastian makes a comment to this effect when exploring a forest with Ciel.
  • Jack the Ripper: The villain of one of the early arcs.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
  • Kill the Cutie: All of the main circus crew (except for Snake) and the kidnapped children from the circus arc, and Phelps from the murder mystery arc.
  • Kissing Cousins: Ciel is engaged to Elizabeth, who is his cousin. This was rather common in the Victorian Era.
  • Lady and Knight: Ciel and Sebastian's subtype is an all-male version of the dark lady and black knight.
    • Sieglinde and Wolfram are a bright lady and white knight.
  • Locked Room Mystery: The Murder Mystery arc.
  • Meaningful Name: Dr. Stoker and the Karnstein Hospital.
  • Mental World
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Ciel, Joker, Sebastian and Baron Kelvin].
  • Mood Whiplash: All the time. In what is possibly the most extreme example, the story goes from some of its funniest comedy ever, involving a cavalcade of sex jokes, to some of its most frightening horror ever, involving exposure to what turns out to be mustard gas, with only a few pages in the interim.
  • Mugging the Monster: Subverted and then almost immediately double-subverted. Surely those ragged Indian thugs trying to rob Ciel have no chance against Sebastian. Right? Right. Then the new characters Soma and Agni enter the scene and side with their countrymen. Agni actually knows how to fight. And then rather quickly Soma figures out that he was siding with robbers and orders Agni to switch sides. Curb Stomp Battle ensues.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: There are a number of Seinen themes (villain protagonists, child abuse, violence and gore, etc.), an art style not unlike that of a Shoujo series and a lot of subtext, but is published in a Shonen magazine - though the themes of a Deal with the Devil, as well as the style of action, are not foreign to the Shonen genre.
  • Music at Sporting Events: Ciel arranges some for a cricket game.
  • Mystery Arc: Specifically the Mansion Murder Mystery arc, though the entire series could be considered one of these.
  • Mythology Gag: Chapter 39 is pretty much a running one, mix and stir Shout-Out:
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Demonstrated by the circus crew with their failed attack on the Phantomhive Manor. Sebastian, of course, can bring some knives to a gun fight and win effortlessly, but most people aren't Nigh Invulnerable.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: In the manga, Lizzie's brother Edward really doesn't like Ciel taking his sister's attention away from him.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Ciel doesn't enjoy having to put on a corset.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: We see coffins with corsets, a sure sign that the person responsible isn't quite right in the head.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: The Aurora Society uses a combination of this and "Only the Rich May Pass".
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Ciel has shades of it.
  • Passing Notes in Class: An unusual case in that it's a teacher secretly passing a note to a student.
  • Personality Blood Types: Appear in an indirect way. Bravat's fortunetelling to determine a person's protecting star really finds out someone's blood type. The associated personality traits match the Japanese system.
  • Pillow Pistol: Ciel almost shoots Sebastian with one of these.
  • Playground Song Tom, the Piper's Son in the Circus Arc.
  • Please Wake Up: Ciel when Sebastian died, and Ciel kept repeating things like, "Sleeping on the floor doesn't look that comfortable to me," and "Get up". Subverted because it ended up being a fake death, which Ciel was aware of the entire time.
    • Then Ciel later on in a much darker version when Sebastian died. Ciel first behaved like in the previous case but when Sebastian stayed dead, Ciel showed himself overwhelmed by grief. Subverted again, as it was a fake death again and Ciel was aware of it the entire time again. The emotional outburst shows his skills as an actor.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus: Sebastian's performance training for Phantom Five produces anachronistic and demonically-tinted results. Manga pages are mute, but the band really seems to be playing rock.
    • Sebastian himself is only seen playing the violin, which comes from older stories about the Devil. Sebastian's violin lessons for Ciel involve the likes of Bach.
  • Running Gag: Sebastian and his obsession with cats. And then, Ciel's (both hateful and allergic) reactions to said cats.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: A very elaborate one in one arc.
  • Sex for Solace: The rationalization Sebastian used to seduce Beast. He did it to gain information.
  • Shinigami: Of the psychopomp variety. There's even a Celestial Bureaucracy of them.
  • Shout-Out: Father Jeremy Rathbone who shows up in chapter 45. Share the first name of Jeremy Brett who played the detective in the Granada TV series (as well being an almost dead - no pun intended - ringer for said actor), and surname of Basil Rathbone, another Holmes actor from the 1940s. And then he proceeds to pull the deduction technique on Arthur, who mentions the father resembling Professor Bell, whom the real Sir Arthur based Holmes off of.
  • Something Completely Different: In a non-canonical side story honoring a character poll.
  • Story Arc: The overall narrative is divided into many semi-independent story arcs. These arcs can be quite different from each other in tone and even genre.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Sebastian and Undertaker, ostensibly in a fight against each other, have a little chat over multiple panels during the time it takes for a tea cup to fall to the ground. This is likely inspired by the trope but also justified because both characters are known to be able to move extremely fast.
  • Talk to the Fist: Bard's little speech is interrupted by Dagger and Beast.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: A meat pie gets switched with another, poisonous meat pie.
  • Tarot Motifs: Subtle tarot motifs, not limited to the major arcana and apparently even involving reversed cards, can be found in the manga.
  • That's an Order: When Ciel really means it, he likes to add - depending on the translation - "this is an order" or "I command you" to his orders to Sebastian. This may or may not add an element of magical compulsion.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: According to Ciel, the types are those who steal and those who are stolen from.
  • True Companions: Ciel's house staff trio, and also the circus crew.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: In the sub-arc centered around cricket. In a subversion, Ciel accomplishes his team's victory by a combination of underhanded tactics, unsportsmanlike play, and outright cheating, in addition to the usual hard work and raising the team spirit. Oh, and there was also that little poisoning incident.
  • Visible Silence: It goes "shiiiin".
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Type 2 is one way to interpret Ciel and Sebastian's relationship.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Curry, candy, getting fitted for outfits, Easter egg hunts...
  • Whole Costume Reference: On one of the chapter covers Ciel wears the famous dress from My Fair Lady.
  • You Didn't Ask: Ciel's reply to Sebastian when he asked Ciel why he never brought up that he had asthma.
  • Your Soul Is Mine

Book of Circus

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Sebastian addresses the viewer a few times to explain things about the backstory, such as the identities of Soma and Agni.
  • Censor Shadow: A very out-of-place black shadow keeps covering certain character's severed arm even though it is not particularly more gory than other things that were left uncensored.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: The only major anime-orginal addition to the main story.
  • Intoxication Ensues: From a bouquet of paper flowers.
  • Mushroom Samba: The world undergoes a radical change to a bright and happy dreamland in a scene that is played for horror.

Book of Murder

  • Gratuitous French: The brief conversation Ciel and Sebastian have in translated French in the manga is spoken in actual French in the anime. For a loose definition of "actual".
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Native French speakers say that the part that is supposed to be in French is incomprehensible because the accent is so bad. Even someone unfamiliar with French can recognize the language as not-French based on how it sounds. Arthur's amusement from overhearing the discussion gets a new, unintended interpretation in the anime.
  • OVA: Made of two episodes of nearly an hour each.