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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Black Butler: Public School Arc

How would you rate episode 1 of
Black Butler: Public School Arc ?
Community score: 3.9

What is this?


Butler Sebastian Michaelis works with his 13-year-old master, the Earl Ciel Phantomhive, to do the dirty work of "the Queen's guard dog" in nineteenth-century England's gritty underworld. One day, Ciel receives a letter from Queen Victoria telling him that several students at Weston College, one of England's top public schools, have seemingly disappeared, including a relative of hers named Derrick. Sebastian and Ciel infiltrate Weston College to investigate the matter.

Black Butler: Public School Arc is based on Yana Toboso's Black Butler manga series. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

Rebecca Silverman

As many of you are aware, I am picky about historical detail, and as you're probably not aware, I was (per my parents) obsessed with the 1880s as a toddler. This fascination has persisted into my adult life. So that means that Black Butler hasn't always worked for me because it can play fast and loose with the time period. That makes me particularly happy with the way this new season handles it: not only is an apparent effort made in the subtitles to pay homage to the time and place (including using British spellings, like "favour"), but a lot of the little details are also beautifully done, from the maker's mark inside Ciel's school hat to the checked fabric of the prefects' pants. Care is taken with lighting so that a room at night is mostly dark with only an oil lamp lit, and even the toast racks at breakfast are accurate. When you add the luscious look of Sebastian, the bookshelves, and the buildings, it almost doesn't matter that Gregory looks like he's from the 1980s rather than the 1880s. It certainly makes up for using a lot of still shots, although I applaud the school-day images that look like paintings to disguise the shortcut.

The plot this time involves Ciel Phantomhive enrolling in Weston College (a real school in England founded in 1845) in response to a letter from Queen Victoria. Although she doesn't ask him to attend, she casually mentions that students have stopped writing and visiting home, particularly the son of a duke, which is of especial interest to her. Ciel takes it upon himself to ensure that Her Majesty owes him a favor despite the entire shipboard incident (Book of the Atlantic) not appearing far behind him. With Sebastian disguised as the head of his dormitory, Ciel is ready to uncover the mystery. It's all in the grand tradition of boarding school novels, which have been popular for centuries and which Mrs. L.T. Meade particularly popularized in the Victorian Era. (Enid Blyton is better known, but her books date to the 1930s.) It's very well suited to Ciel as a character, as it forces him to use his brains and butler more subtly than almost any other setting would require – his social status means far less at Weston than it does in the adult world.

This episode is mostly invested in establishing Ciel's new setting, which naturally includes introducing school slang and the social system. I admit I chuckled at the P4, apparently the ancestors of Hana Yori Dango's F4 (it stands for "Prefect 4"), all of whom are ludicrously gorgeous and give off serious Utena vibes, but largely everything flows smoothly and does an excellent job of piquing the viewer's interest. Something is clearly amiss at Weston College, and Ciel may not actually be the best person to figure it out, because he is very much at the bottom of the social hierarchy. But with Sebastian at his side, can there be any doubt that he will find a way to climb up and find what really happened to Derrick Arden?

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