The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Black Butler: Book of Circus

Hope Chapman

Rating: 2 (until I see some circus-in')

Few anime series have a production history as wackadoodle as Black Butler's. Let's see. How do I even wrap my head around this?

Black Butler I: Solid adaptation of the manga's first five volumes with an original (and very final) ending created to cap the TV series and give the anime viewers a complete story.

Black Butler II: Retcon of the TV series' ending made to appease the franchise's ardent boys' love fanbase. It gave the story's previously tragic Faustian ending a more yaoi-tastic eternal relationship twist. Frankly, it was awful. It was embarrassingly awful. But different strokes, I guess.

Black Butler III: The story can't go any further into the future (it's gone far enough, frankly,) but there are still fans' hearts and wallets to be plundered (mine included) so it's time for an in media res approach that goes back to the story's roots: the manga source material. The original anime cut off right before the fan-favorite mystery of Noah's Ark Circus and its colorful cast of crippled kidnappers. So we're going back to that well, and animating that material this time around, which is fine. Bring on the big top!

But not just yet, and that's where this first episode really drops the ball. Black Butler: Book of Circus doesn't even start with the main attraction. Despite the fact that the only audience for this series is the people who've sat through the first two seasons, it insists on playing out like a compressed version of the first two episodes of the original show: some know-nothing schmuck underestimates Ciel and tries to assassinate him for his title, but ends up silenced forever by his "hell of a butler" Sebastian, after several bouts of cheeky humor and built up irony that will ensure the dirty rat is hoisted by his own petard. All the while, the budget has taken a noticeable downturn. Black Butler was never a gorgeous show by any means, but it was animated and directed better than this. Fingers crossed that the rest of Book of Circus doesn't look as shabby as this dry and regurgitory first episode.

We've already suffered through the laughingstock that was Black Butler II, just get to the damn circus already so we can feel love for the series again. Nobody needs the basics revisited again in such a cheap and repetitive way.

Black Butler: Book of Circus is currently streaming on

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