When it comes to circuses, even the “normal” ones are pretty creepy. Throw in the mix of plot elements we see in Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus and you take the skeeve factor off the charts. As I’ve said before, I think this scenario is pretty much a perfect storm for Kuroshitsuji to absolutely shine – stylistically and thematically you could hardly imagine a better match. Kuroshitsuji is a very good manga, but in my view it’s never been as good as it was during this arc.
Every now and again we get series that are so good at telling their stories clearly and eloquently that in their best episodes it doesn’t leave a lot lot for me to write about, and this is such an episode. I have to give credit to Yoshino Hiroyuki for a change, because he’s doing a seamless job transitioning the material to the screen, but fundamentally this is just a great story. I remember getting to this point in the manga and being stunned by what happened during Joker’s “show” at Kelvin’s manor, which is interesting because it’s not as though Kuroshitsuji had given any reason to believe it had a lot of lines it wouldn’t cross. But this felt different, somehow (especially the lion “tamer” scene) – as if we were falling into someplace dark and terrible where all our illusions about decency and even humanity were meaningless.
It was only afterwards looking back on it – and this was brought back by the way the anime beautifully captured the shock and horror of the moment – when I realized this was a brilliant piece of writing by Toboso Yana. Why? Because we’re expertly placed in Ciel’s shoes as he experiences that shock. He too has been given no reason to doubt the brutal and terrible nature of the Kuroshitsuji experience, yet he too still has capacity for horror – and it really hits home when he sees what’s in the cellar of Baron Kelvin (Chafurin). To have the audience’s experience so perfectly mirror that of the protagonist, and to have that experience be so viscerally powerful, is a masterstroke. And the anime nailed it, happily.
My notepad sits pristine and white at the close of this episode. That’s by means necessarily a compliment, just as a ream of notes after an episode is by no means an insult – often it’s quite the opposite in both cases. But here, as I said, it’s simply a matter of not especially needing to accent or point out anything because the episode doesn’t need it – that, and being so transported by the experience of watching it that I was never far enough out of the moment to consider writing anything down.
I’m certainly not going to spoil anything about how the pieces we’ve had laid out in the past six episodes (I don’t count the premiere as part of this story) fit together, but sticking “Book of Circus” out to the end will certainly yield great rewards. Is this an easy arc to watch? Absolutely not – it’s strong stuff and not for the weak of stomach. But it’s one of the remarkable qualities of Kuroshitsuji that when it’s really on, it somehow remains fun to watch even when it’s brutal – the sense of style and the sheer charisma of the cast make sure of that. It’s a series that’s tended to be underappreciated and I’m certainly guilty of that as well, but not now – I’m quite aware of just how good this arc really is.