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Black Butler: Public School Arc
Episode 11

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Black Butler: Public School Arc ?
Community score: 4.0


I may find that the day-to-day scenes of the Phantomhive household are the least historically accurate, and by God, does Mei-Rin annoy me, but there's still something very nice about returning to its familiarity at the close of the season. Ciel has completed his task for Queen Victoria and that means he gets a bit of respite from his work—even if, as Sebastian shows him in the carriage, his job will never truly be finished while the Undertaker still lives. (Or unlives, as the case may yet be.) It's also a stark reminder that Ciel is the head of his household; while he was at Weston, he at least got moments to act like the child he is, but now, from the moment he's fully awake, he's the man of the house. Yes, he may be wearing a boy's short pants but that's his only concession to his physical age.

Watching him put on those pants also highlights the most major historical issue with the series: Sebastian, as a butler, should not be dressing anyone but himself. When he does that, he's performing the tasks of a valet—or personal manservant—whose role is to take care of his master's personal needs. Sometimes called a “gentleman's gentleman,” a valet's duties fit a lot of what Sebastian does better than the term “butler;” a butler is in charge (along with the housekeeper) of maintaining the day-to-day running of the entire household, while a valet is solely responsible for the gentleman he specifically serves. Black Valet doesn't have the alliteration of Black Butler—and Sebastian does do some traditional butler things (such as his discussion with Ciel about new glasses and hats for the other servants). Still, it's a dictionary-based issue I have with anime depictions of Victorian servants in general—and this series has the questionable distinction of being when I first saw it happen.

Other pieces of this finale are a delight in multiple senses. The haberdasher the Phantomhive entourage goes to is presumably a reference to Lock & Co., London's oldest hat shop while the bookshop is likely a reference to Hatchards, which has been selling tomes since 1797. More importantly, the mourning jewelry that Sebastian took from the Undertaker is both accurate and an indication that his role in the plot hasn't finished yet. Hair jewelry, one of the many facets of Victorian mourning culture, took many forms, and the medallions of the Undertaker were one of the more recognizable. They featured a design made from the deceased's hair, and just like in the episode, often had the name and date of death under the glass with the maker's mark on the back. All names on the Undertaker's grim charm bracelet are women and Sebastian's careful sleuthing reveals that the Claudia P.—who died in 1866—was none other than Ciel's grandmother, Claudia Phantomhive. What this means isn't yet certain but even as the story prepares to move into the darkness of the haunted German (or Austrian) woods, that small token of her death ties this arc to the future. The fact that Ciel has the same initials as his late grandmother may also prove significant—with the Undertaker, you never quite know how death will be perverted for his end.

And so we must bid adieu to Black Butler once again. Guest appearances by Soma, Agni, Irene, and Arthur (not yet writing the detective fiction he came to despise) shall have to tide us over until next we meet the young Earl Phantomhive and his too-good-to-be human servant. The post-credits scene, entirely in German, suggests that we may not have to wait too long. Let us hope that is the case.


Black Butler: Public School Arc is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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