Anime Review: Black Butler Season 3 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 13.06.2017

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Black Butler Season 3 (UK Rating: 15)

The Black Butler series has been running for over 10 years now and is still running strong in Japan. This dark tale of a young aristocrat boy and his demonic butler has gained a huge following both in Japan and the West. Thus far, though, its anime has had some issues. A great first season was followed up by a second stuffed with non-canon moments, original characters, and original stories. Fans were not pleased. Now, this third season is adapting one of the most popular arcs to win back their good graces, the story of Noah's Arc Circus. This complete season collection comes courtesy of Anime Limited and is out now.

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With so many different anime series out there, it's imperative for the very first episode to grab the attention of potential viewers. There are plenty of watchers in Japan and the West that will give the first episode of every new season a watch to see what's worth sticking with. Black Butler delivered an episode that would ensure they would come back for the second episode. It's very reminiscent of the first episode of season one and the very first chapter of the manga. The servants at the house running around to try and prepare for a special visitor and making a complete mess of it all, only for Sebastian to have to save the day. It's filled with funny moments and also helps establish many aspects of the series that will be seen again and again over the course of the season.

The special visitor is actually out to kill Ciel and take his place ruling over the underworld. For the uninformed, even though Ciel is only 13 years old, he is the head of the Phantomhive family and works for Queen Victoria herself. Ciel is known as the Queen's Guard Dog and serves her by dealing with criminals in England's underworld. Ciel became the head of his family when he was 10 and his family was butchered. He found his family, and even his dog, dead along with estate in flames. Ciel was taken by the same people who killed his family, branded with a hot iron and imprisoned. While here, he unknowingly summoned a demon - Sebastian in his true form - and sold his soul for revenge. One day Sebastian will devour Ciel's soul, but only once Ciel's wish is granted and their pact completed; that will be on the day Ciel gets his revenge.

This latest season adapts a fan favourite arc from the manga, entitled Noah's Ark Circus. The first episode acts as a standalone story, following which the main story begins. Ciel receives a letter from Queen Victoria with a task to undertake. A circus troupe is travelling around London and wherever it visits, children have been vanishing… It's a rather dark tale but also an absolutely enthralling one. Ciel and Sebastian go undercover as runaway servants, joining the circus as performers and finding a darker truth than they thought, one that links back to the beginning of their tale.

The art style looks absolutely amazing - with stacks of style and some gorgeous animation. There are tons of little touches that enhance the experience; for example, the scenes that recap important events or characters from the series. In these, the ever-cordial Sebastian is here to serve the audience, as well as Ciel, breaking the fourth wall with aplomb. Scenes framed in beautiful ornate borders as a montage of events play out within.

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This release contains all ten episodes, although sadly it is missing the two OAVs, entitled "Book of Murder."  The extra features are rather disappointing, too; there is both an English and Japanese dub at least, but accompanied by just some trailers and two episode commentaries. The Japanese dub hosts some of the best the country has to offer in voice acting, though, including Daisuke Ono as Sebastian, perhaps best known for his work in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure as Jotaro Kujo or as  Heiwajima in DuRaRaRa! and Maaya Sakamoto as Ciel, also known as The Major in Ghost in the Shell Arise, Mari from the Evangelion films and Aegis from Persona 3. The English dub doesn't host as many big names but, regardless, the cast puts on some fantastic performances, in particular J. Michael Tatum is an ideal Sebastian, perfectly delivering the snide, sarcastic nature of the character.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Black Butler Season 3 is a wonderfully dark adventure in old Victorian London. The series manages to include truly tragic and bleak moments but also black comedy and silliness. This story is sure to bring plenty of new fans to the series. It world builds so well that no prior knowledge of Black Butler is required, making it a great entry point for those new to the franchise. Black Butler has finally got the anime adaptation it deserves with this season.

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