- There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who steal and those who are stolen from.
- —Ciel Phantomhive
Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji in Japanese) is a famous manga and anime series originally created by Yana Toboso. It's notable for appealing to the shojo manga crowd despite technically being a shonen series. (Blame the bishonen.)
The anime adaptation diverges from the original manga fairly early on, to the point where everything after the Curry Contest arc and all of season two is anime-original material. (Season three, "Book of Circus," is a more faithful adaptation of the infamously sad Noah's Ark Circus plotline.)
Basic Plot and Themes Edit
Black Butler takes place in an alternate Victorian England where demons and other supernatural beings exist and can be summoned (or not). When a human summons and contracts with a demon, his or her wish comes at the price of the human's soul once the wish is fulfilled.
Two years before the story starts, Ciel Phantomhive has the worst tenth birthday ever bar none: His house burns down with both his beloved parents inside, then a mysterious cult captures him and uses him for an unspecified dark ritual. In his desperation, he summons and contracts with the demon Sebastian. Now Earl, he leads a double life as the head of a highly successful toy and candy company and a royal double agent searching for the people behind his parents' murder; Sebastian follows and serves him at every step.
The series is, at the core, about humanity: What drives it, what's at its core, its flaws and foibles. It's not generally a very positive outlook, but the memorable cast and moments of ludicrous awesomeness and
black bizarre comedy, sometimes within pages/seconds of each other, keep its fans interested.
Key Characters Edit
Ciel Phantomhive Edit
Main character and probably the darkest, most tortured anti-hero this side of Batman. Despite being only 13, Ciel is a master manipulator—often using his childish looks to get people to drop their guard—and shrewd businessman. He's also asthmatic (which becomes important in a few arcs) and refuses to deal with idiots and/or London high society any more than he absolutely has to.
Sebastian Michaelis Edit
Ciel's preternaturally level-headed butler/tutor/hitman/whatever the plot needs him to be this chapter. He's the brawn to Ciel's brains (though no slouch in that department, either) and by far the most popular character both in and out of universe. Sebastian fangirls tend to forget, however, that he's not only a sociopath/psychopath by human standards (by demon standards he's normal), but also several hundred years older than all of them, if his comment about having started the Black Death is any indication.
Also, he likes cats of every size, from normal stray to circus tiger, and has no more patience for idiots than his master.
Finnian ("Finny"), Baldroy, Mey-Rin, and Tanaka Edit
Ciel's head gardener, chef, maid, and steward, respectively. Of them, only Tanaka has served Ciel's family longer than Sebastian. All four are...less than stellar at their assigned jobs (Tanaka spends most of his time in chibi form with a Japanese tea mug), but Sebastian's awesomeness and their own hidden talents more than make up for things like broken dishware or burned chicken.
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Midford Edit
Ciel's deeply affectionate cousin and fiancee. She redecorates Phantomhive Manor in her "cute" (read: fluffy animals everywhere) style every time she visits, to Ciel's eternal frustration. Despite this, he is willing to do anything he can to protect her when she gets in trouble (which doesn't happen often, thankfully). The reverse ends up being true in a later arc as well.
Grell Sutcliffe Edit
A Grim Reaper originally introduced as another character's shy, incompetent, suicidal butler. She (see the important note) tends to get the comic relief role in the anime; the manga treats her somewhat more seriously. In both incarnations, post-reveal she is flamboyant, over-the-top violent, and one of a very few characters capable of unnerving Sebastian. Some speculate that Grell's obsessive infatuation with him (and possibly fellow Grim Reaper William T. Spears) is a none-too-subtle jab at real-life fangirls.
(In this canon, Grim Reapers are able to view a human's memories, which they call the Cinematic Record, and decide whether the human deserves to die. They collect the souls of dead humans using their Death Scythes, which all look like modern farm/plant care tools like a pruning pole or lawnmower. Yes, really.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Grell has explicitly referred to herself as a woman multiple times throughout the manga. (In an early arc, she empathized with her future partner in crime due to their shared infertility; Grell because she was assigned male at birth, the other woman because of an emergency hysterectomy.) Sex-change surgery is out for obvious reasons, but please refer to Grell as "she" anyway.
In Fanfiction Edit
As is often true in anime continua, fangirls tend to think most of the male cast members are hot. What makes the Black Butler fandom's reaction noteworthy is that the main protagonist a) is likely younger than them at 13 and b) looks a few years younger. Furthermore, when not paired with Lizzy, Ciel is most commonly paired with either Sebastian or Alois Trancy, a character from season two who serves as his
Sebastian and the Grim Reapers shown thus far are also prime Lust Objects, being shipped with OCs, each other (Grell/Sebastian and Grell/William are especially popular), and even the reader. Modern AUs are also popular, since Victorian morals and society are hard for modern fans to swallow and/or write.
In the PPC Edit
There are currently no agents from the Black Butler continuum.
Agents are advised to avoid fighting demons, Grim Reapers, or angels whenever possible, as all three species are notoriously difficult to even injure.