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Book of Circus: Episode 1 Review - Where's the circus?
Ciel Phantomhive and his demon butler, Sebastian, are back with an all-new series, Black Butler: Book of Circus. Here is my review of the first episode, complete with tons of pictures to give you a good feel for the show.
Previously on Black Butler:
Book of Circus is an arc in the manga that was left out of the original Black Butler series. It takes place in the middle of the first season around episode 15. Because of this, you don't need to have finished both previous seasons in order to understand what is going on, but you should probably have seen at least the first five or six episodes of the original series.
In any case, if you have ignored my advice and want to jump straight into Book of Circus without seeing the original series, I will do my best to catch you up on the basics.
The story of Black Butler takes place in Victorian England and revolves around thirteen-year-old Ciel Phantomhive. His parents, the Earl and Countess Phantomhive, were killed and Ciel was captured and sold to a cult as a child sacrifice. While in a cage and awaiting his own turn to die, Ciel calls out desperately for help and accidentally summons a demon, whom he names Sebastian Michaelis.
He makes a contract with the demon; the demon will rescue him and keep him safe until he can get revenge on the people who killed his parents and humiliated him, and in return, the demon gets to devour Ciel's soul.
Sebastian saves Ciel and returns him to his family's estate, where Ciel becomes the Earl, and takes on all the roles his father had before him, including the role of the "queen's guard dog." Sebastian is posing as his butler until their contract is fulfilled.
Let's get into it:
Episode one opens with the the contract between Ciel and Sebastian, a longer flashback than has been shown in either of the previous scenes.
Ciel is in a cage, watching a room full of people in hoods and masks slaughter children on an altar. He knows his turn is coming soon and he's panicking.
"Someone...anyone...I don't care who!" he pleads. Suddenly, the room goes dark and he hears a voice that says he can help him, but warns him that there will be a terrible cost. Ciel doesn't care. He's desperate and makes the contract with the demon and the demonic seal appears on his eye.
The scene cuts to an average morning at the Phantomhive estate. Mr. Brandel is coming for dinner and Sebastian has a lot to prepare before then. He gives Bard, Finny, and Mey-rin their jobs for the day before getting to his own work. Unfortunately, the servants are incompetent and Sebastian ends up spending most of his day fixing their mistakes.
Evening comes and Brandel, Lau, and Lau's companion, Ran Mao, arrive in a carriage. They are ushered into the mansion and Ciel introduces himself to Brandel.
At the dinner, Brandel remarks that the Funtom Candy Company does so well because Ciel is running it. Ciel tests Brandel by inquiring if he is implying that he is a child. Nervously, Brandel denies it. Ciel leaves him be, having had his fun.
After dinner and before dessert, Brandel and Lau retire to the lavatory to freshen up. Brandel complains about Ciel and says that it will be good to have him out of the way. Lau is interested, but shows no intention of stepping in either to help or hinder.
Brandel has planned this night out. At exactly eight, a team of gunmen will burst through the dining room doors and shoot CIel and Sebastian. Brandel looks at the clock and as it is less than a minute from eight o'clock, he says what he has been holding back all evening. He calls Ciel a brat and says that there's "nothing [he] hates more than brats and wagers that make no money".
After telling him off, Brandel ducks under the table as his gunmen burst through the door and shoot Ciel in the head. Sebastian runs to him, and they riddle him with bullets. Brandel has finally gotten rid of the queen's guard dog and now he can smuggle in guns without hassle.
When he stands up, there's no sign that the conflict happened. Ciel is still at the head of the table, quietly eating, and Sebastian is serving tea. There isn't any sign that Brandel's men even showed up.
Perplexed, Brandel returns to his seat and Sebastian cuts him a slice of the cake. When he takes a bite, he bites down on something hard. It's a bullet from the gun of one of his men.
Brandel can't believe it. Ciel tells him that Lau had tipped him off to Brandel's gun scheme and that they had been waiting for his attack all night.
Sebastian had already taken out Brandel's assassins before the dinner had even begun.
Enraged and terrified, Brandel pulls out his gun and shoots at Ciel but the bullets never reach him. Sebastian has caught them without even seeming to move.
Brandel shoots at Sebastian, but it has no effect. At Sebastian's direction, the gun explodes and injures Brandel's own hand. Brandel staggers to the door and opens it, to find Sebastian standing outside.
Sebastian places the crown that was around the cake onto Brandel's head, as he had found the hidden object in the cake and was, therefore, lucky.
Since Ciel plans to dispose of Brandel, there's no reason to hide what Sebastian is any longer. Sebastian delivers his famous line: "I'm one hell of a butler." Then he begins changing shape in a smoky cloud of darkness.
Ciel explains that the reason no one knows how the queen's guard dog gets rid of his opponents is because "dead men tell no tales."
Brandel is swallowed by a spiraling dark cloud and the scene fades to black.
Lau and Ran Mao enter later, and Lau inquires if Ciel has finished, knowing full well what had happened to Brandel.
Lau produces a letter for Ciel that someone had given to him, assuming Lau was a servant. Inside the envelope are two tickets to the Noah's Arc Circus, a traveling circus that had just come to town.
As the credits roll, we see glimpses of the circus walking into town with great fanfare. The ringmaster, Joker, invites everyone to come see the circus.
After the credits is an epilogue where Sebastian is getting Ciel ready for bed and they talk a little about their agreement. Sebastian kneels at Ciel's bed and promises again that he will stay by his side until Ciel's wish is fulfilled, even if his wish is "foolish revenge."
As Sebastian is about to leave, Ciel stops him and tells him to remain in the room until he falls asleep. Sebastian consents, remarking to himself how fragile his prey is.
The Book of Circus arc is my absolute favorite arc from the manga, so the fact that it was going to become its own show was the best thing in the world. I was super excited for this show to come out. I kept an eye on anime sites all over the internet, waiting for the airing date, and waiting for the first episode to appear.
I admit, I had my expectations a little too high.
The entire time as I watched this episode, I was thinking: where's the circus? I wanted to see the circus performers I had read about, but the circus wasn't even mentioned until the ending credits. I know there are things called "dramatic tension" and "setting up the story," but I was impatient and felt a little cheated at the end.
I could have written that off as a personal fault except that in addition, the first episode didn't feel like a first episode. The first episode of a series is supposed to catch the viewer's attention and introduce them to the characters: present the core storyline in the show that will continually draw the series forward.
This episode felt like a filler episode; a good filler, but a filler, nonetheless. It was basically a repeat of the first episode of the original series. The purpose of this episode seems to be to show that Sebastian is "but a demon and a butler," as the more literally translated subtitles say.
The whole purpose of the episode is to show the relationship between Ciel and Sebastian and what kind of life they live. Yes, I know Sebastian is a demon butler. He's good at butler things because of his demon powers. And?
The only reason I can think of to have this type of first episode is if you expect your audience hasn't seen or read any Black Butler before this. But if that was the case, they should have had a bit more canned dialogue. Who is Lau? From this episode, we have no idea. Why is Ciel a thirteen-year-old earl? We don't know. But at least we know he has a demon butler and that he is the queen's guard dog.
As a diehard fan of Black Butler, I don't think there could be a plot hole big enough to make me stop watching. Especially not when the series follows the manga circus arc. I just hope that things pick up in the next episode.
In the end, I rate this episode: ✭✭✭✩✩