First Impressions – Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus

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So far, Summer is full of series that are meeting expectations – and that’s mostly a good thing.

I’m surprised by how happy I am to have Kuroshitsuji back.  I always liked it but it’s not a franchise I’ve thought about all that much since the last OVAs appeared (in 2012, I believe).  I think the reason is that the sub-par second season still affects the aftertaste, even if one intellectually realizes it’s not “true” Kuroshitsuji.  This premiere was a reminder of just how good the canon material is, and I have an overwhelming sense of relief that the series is free of Okada Mari’s insipid ending and back on its own turf.

“Book of Circus” is going to follow a very specific arc from the manga – probably my favorite, and possibly the darkest in an always-dark series – yet it chooses to open with a very approachable stand-along re-introduction episode.  I was surprised to see the season announced as only 10 episodes, and there’s not a lot of room to spare on episodes like this one, but I can certainly see the value in re-acquainting fans old and new with the Kuroshitsuji universe after such an extended absence.  In that sense the episode works very well – and the OP sequence at the end is one of the most visually stunning I’ve seen in a long time.

The sacrificial lamb in the first episode is a tea merchant named Cedric Brendel (Shitayama Furoku), who’s having dinner at the Phantomhive estate in the company of Lau, under the premise of wanting to expand his business into the children’s market but in truth, wanting to eliminate an obstacle in his plan to make a fortune as an arms merchant using tea routes to run guns.  The reality is he’s here to give the audience a reminder of what happens when you mess with the Queen’s guard dog – and of course his faithful akuma manservant.  And if you know anything about Kuroshitsuji, you know that isn’t going to be pretty (though it will be elegant).

This episode is really a survey course in all things Kuroshitsujivaguely shotacon interactions between Sebastian and Ciel, Meyrin, Bardroy and Finnian being incompetent, Sebastian taking time out for slaughter while trying to stay ahead of his duties as butler (there’s no one better with forks), Ciel being a stone-cold badass.  Kuroshitsuji is like a dance, really – well-choreographed, everyone going through their paces.  It’s highly stylized, quite ridiculous and often very funny and very brutal at the same time.  There’s an art to the way mangaka Tobosa Yana makes all this work together, and the new director for this round  – veteran Abe Noriyuki – clearly gets that aspect of the series.  This feels like Kuroshitsuji through-and-through in a way the second season never did.

What this is building towards, of course, is the world of Ciel and Sebastian colliding head-on with that of Noah’s Ark Circus – which we get a bit of a teaser of after that boffo OP, including the introduction of Miyano Mamoru as Joker (the casting is almost too spot-on, but I could never imagine anyone else playing him).  I won’t go into detail for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar, but rest assured, as long as Yoshino Hiroyuki doesn’t take liberties in adapting it (and Lord knows, that’s no safe assumption) the Circus Arc is killer material, can’t-miss stuff.  If you like what Kuroshitsuji does – and I can certainly understand why not everyone does – you’re in for a hell of a treat as long as Yoshino-sensei doesn’t fuck it up.

OP: “ENAMEL” by SID

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9 comments

  1. s

    Every time you mention Yoshino Hiroyuki the writer, i always have to remind myself that you are not reffering to the seiyuu….Im done for another season of Kurotsuchi and it looks like funimation got their hands on it as soon as they could. The cats down in funimation love this series, especially Brina Palencia (that woman is talented)

  2. M

    I really, really enjoyed episode one of this arc. I loved the first season, and the way it started made me feel like we were back on good ground (did not like season 2). And the whole "circus" characters look really good. Pretty excited here. 😀

  3. w

    As one of the ep commenters in the site I watched this in, it's like an ep that reminds how awesome Sebastian is as a flawless butler and how incompetent other servants still are—which makes me sad for them. Then again, they're not given much in training. Tanaka-san is the usual tea-drinking person, and the trio of "idiots" don't try too hard to learn their way around…>.<

    These things aside, I'm excited for the mystery this arc will be. I know this will be based on the manga more, and I'm glad for that. I didn't read this arc, but I read the later ones. Or maybe I just forgot lol.

    The second season will always make me cringe and sigh, but if we were to think of it as out of canon/manga stuff—not official—this new season will have to do better at making everyone discard the thought of the second season as official in the Kuroshitsuji world. Sadly, it will be impossible to forget. >.< Which makes me sadder because they already butchered it with filler-ish season before they came to their senses to stick to the manga somehow. Ugh. It could have been better if they did so from the start. There would be a few changes, but as long as they 're animating the good mysteries Yana-san drew, the ones that gave it appeal for me who do not care for the shotacon or whatever vibes, I'm game. It's really the appeal of Kuroshitsuji for me. And it's set in Victorian England.

    Thanks for the review~

  4. k

    I loved this episode ! and your video is verry accurate, i hopeyou keep reviewing this series!!

  5. m

    I never took the darkness of Kuroshitsuji that seriously–yeah, Ciel lost his parents, yeah, he was almost sacrificed by a bunch of creepy cultists–until I read this arc in the manga. That was real dark stuff, elevating the manga beyond the pseudo-worship of Victorian pederasty I saw it for. I ended up feeling really bad for characters I'd never expected to.

  6. R

    I wasn't crazy about Kuroshitsuji back then. It was okay…I had fun and more time. Six years later (well, almost), it is still okay if only I had more time. The feeling I got from this episode was a little meh.

    Like everyone, I need to make some choices now. I am holding on tightly and dearly to Ace of Diamond, Haikyu and Hunter x Hunter, and still checking out Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo Returns — yes, it is silly stuff, but it is fun and has a retro feel. With that I can take another 5 to 6 shows from this season. For Tokyo Ghoul, Barakamon, Zankyou no Terror, and Aldnoah.Zero, I'm sold. I have also added Ao Haru Ride to my basket but can drop it if it will turn bad. As for the last slot, I'm a little undecided. I'm considering Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun if it can continuously make me laugh; otherwise, I'm not going to take it because I dislike the character design of the female protagonist — for Christ’s sake, what the hell is that giant ribbons and backpack for a 16-year old female? If that happens, I'm unsure if I will pick Kuroshitsuiji or another show. None of the others from your first impressions really cry out loud for attention, so I'm a little undecided for the last spot, or should I just leave it unfilled… Hmmm…

  7. H

    Space Dandy?

  8. R

    Whoops…yes, I missed out Space Dandy, so problem solved. Thanks!

  9. e

    It worked quite well as an easy acquaintance – or reacquaintance in my case. Been years since I both wacthed the 1st season and read up to the Circus ark… – to the series and the mood transitions were smooth. The OP peppered some more backstory bits throughout – as cleverly as the rest of the sequence -.
    If all goes well we shoud be treated to an intese if short ride.

    P.S.: I got very sorry for the random flying pheasant. Bad timing there…

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