It seems to me that the landscape of Kuroshitsuji is basically made up of two types of characters (I almost said “people” there, but that would be imprecise), victims and those who exploit them. And that the real drama is the story is those who try to move from the second category to the first, and ultimately, the futility of the attempt. “Book of Circus” is effectively a chronicle of such people, but the most fundamental example of this is of course Ciel himself.
I always find episodes like this one especially fascinating, because they highlight the duality of Sebastian’s nature. I mentioned how the latest episode of Hunter X Hunter was a good reminder of who Hisoka really is, and in many ways I think Sebastian and Hisoka are similar characters. Both are supremely charming and skillful men (broadly defined) who are also deadly, and their charm and wit makes it easy to forget just how deadly and treacherous they are.
Sebastian’s role in Kuroshitsuji isn’t precisely the same as Hisoka’s in H x H, of course, but there are some important similarities. Both are allies of convenience to the young boy protagonist, acting helpfully in the present towards an ultimate payoff that’s obviously not in the best interests of the boy. It’s even more clear-cut in Sebastian’s case, and no one should be in any doubt over what he is. He’s a demon who exploited the pain and desperation of an innocent child at the moment of his greatest agony, and intends to damn the soul of that child to eternal torment for his own gratification. No amount of cuddly behavior in the meantime can change that fact, though it can have the effect of making us forget it. And that disconnect is the engine that drives the character side of Kuroshitsuji, without the tiniest shadow of a doubt.
Ciel is in many ways the ultimate victim, but his response to his victimization is do whatever it takes to try and strike back at those who victimized him – even at the cost of his soul. Against that backdrop we have the denizens of the Noah’s Ark Circus, who are clearly victims themselves. We see more tidbits of their past here – prosthetic limbs everywhere, talk of “Father” giving them “new bodies”. For reasons that aren’t yet clear they’re now victimizing others on his orders – the eternal struggle of those in the second category to make it into the first. Clearly they recognize that what they’re doing is wrong, and they have doubts and regrets – they’re most obvious in Doll, and now in Beast. But goaded by Joker, they seem unable or perhaps unwilling to stop.
For Sebastian, the end always justifies the means. We see the evidence of that here, when William Spears again foils his plans to leave the circus and do his master’s bidding. Attempts at bargaining fail – William being focused on the poisonous and seductive nature of Sebastian’s words – and unable to go to the registry office, Sebastian is forced to improvise. In this case that means seducing someone more susceptible than William – Beast, who’s just unsuccessfully tried to persuade Joker to stop whatever it is the circus has been doing, and in doing so tacitly admitted that she’s in love with him. Sebastian, as always, zones immediately in on the weak points of his victim – he knows exactly what to say to break Beast down. And in doing so achieves his ultimate goal (one assumes he’s also capable of sexual gratification, though that’s strictly secondary here) by extracting the name of Father from her – Baron Kelvin. It’s a name known to Ciel, but not much beyond that – a man he’s met once who falls into the broadly disdained group known as “philanthropists”.
That leaves us with an almost Les Miserables “One Day More” setup, with the circus first-stringers (in Joker’s absence – he’s off to see Father) about to execute a “special” abduction, while William declares this tomorrow will finally mark the end of his assignment. And thanks to the interference of Soma and Agni, Ciel’s confrontation with Kelvin has been out off for a day as he convalesces from his still debilitating asthma attack, while Sebastian has discovered the uneaten Funtom Sweets lollipop in Ciel’s pocket and tossed it on the fire (did he see something significant in the sweet?). It’s almost exhilarating to see such flawless pacing as “Book of Circus” has delivered so far, when so many current anime are struggling in this respect – every moment leads seamlessly into the next, and every episode ends with a sense of anticipation for what’s to come. This is Kuroshitsuji at its best, and full credit to the staff at A-1 for not trying to fix what isn’t broken.