It’s time for another Manga vs. Anime edition. This time our star is Black Butler. I’ve watched almost all of the anime episodes and am shocked (okay maybe not that shocked) to see how fast the anime veers off-course from the manga. There are only 6 (soon to be 7) volumes of the mange out in the US right now, but after a bit of research there should be at least 12 volumes and it’s still marked as ongoing. So, who knows how many volumes it will eventually end up with. The anime only covers roughly the first five volumes, even though there are 24 episodes in season one. Honestly, this kind of excites me because I hated how the anime ended. I have renewed hope that the manga will end up on a completely different course.
Today I’m going to cover the first 3 volumes/6 episodes. There anime goes off in it’s own direction after that, but there are episodes later in the season that cover volumes 4 & 5, but I’m not sure I’ll cover it in a post. It’s a side story at best and I’m not sure I want to do the comparison, but we’ll see.
When I say that the anime covers the first five volumes, I should say roughly. Almost immediately they make up their own story line. In the manga chapter one is about introducing the main players and showing how good of a butler Sebastian is. Their guest, Chalus, is meant to be highly impressed and brings something important to Ciel that comes into play later. (More on this in a bit) It’s short and to the point, which is perhaps the problem.
There wasn’t enough meat to make this first chapter into a full episode so they needed to expand, but in the process completely changed it. Their guest is now an Italian man running one of their companies in India. It seems like he is reporting in, but in fact he has already sold the company and is trying to swindle Ciel out of more money. They also add in this horrific game where the pieces the man lands on (broken leg, ghosts, being burned in a fire) end up coming true. This episode has always kind of confused me, especially since at one point Sebastian is locking the man in an oven, but in the end he is seen limping away from the manor screaming. I wish they had kept the Chalus story line and just beefed it up a bit, especially since he comes into play in chapter 3 in the manga. However, we do still get to see how impressive Sebastian is including the very cool remove the tablecloth scene.
Chapters 2 and 3/4 are flopped in the anime. Episode two goes straight into the drug/kidnapping storyline that is told in chapters 3 & 4. This is where I’m not sure why they took out Chalus because the item he brings back from Italy is what helps Ciel nail the mobster. The flop in order would have made sense at that point since the two are so closely related. Although, I can still understand the change since chapter 2/episode 3 is kind of fluffy without much action. Beyond throwing in extra scenes with madam Red, Lau, and Grelle the episode is pretty spot on to the manga. Even the additional scenes, which are taken from later chapters, are pretty true to the manga. (Beyond moving them that is.)
Chapter 2 (aka episode 3) is another one that needed a lot of beefing up. Their solution? Throw in Grelle, a horrible butler, and get Sebastian to train him! (And the ah ha moment for why they intro’d them sooner than the manga) His ineptness is even worse than the normal crews! (I wasn’t sure that was possible.) He offers comic relief and the extra minutes they needed to make it a full episode. Beyond the Grelle moments, the episode is pretty spot on. Lizzie comes and takes over in her cute, yet annoying way. We learn she is Ciel’s betrothed and loves everyone/everything to look adorable. The only thing they really left out was that Lizzie is his cousin. They also add in some set-up for the next episode and throw in some more back-story on the Phantomhive family. All in all, the additions work and nothing feels too out of place.
Episodes 4 -6 are part of a big story arc and cover chapters 6-14. Ciel is called to London to investigate the Jack the Ripper case. There are several twist and turns and Ciel gets way more than he bargained for. If you’ve not read the series yet and don’t want to be spoiled…stop reading now. You’ve been warned…Ciel finds out that Jack the Ripper is non-other then his dear aunt, Madam Red, and Grelle. Oh, did I mention that Grelle is really a grim reaper?? Yeah.
I have to say the episodes stayed pretty close to the manga here, although I still feel as if the manga did it a hair better. There’s more back-story, especially to Madam Red that really fleshes out her story. Her cinematic record (think life flashing before your eyes at death) is a full chapter and really delves into how much she loves Ciel’s dad/her sister husband, but also how much she adored her sister and how she tried to make it all work. Losing everything she loved–her sister, brother-in-law, husband, and unborn child—really took a toll on her. It’s no wonder the poor woman snapped. I wish the anime hadn’t boiled it down to just the basic. There was such beauty in the full story and deserved to get the full airtime.
The only other thing they changed/added that really bugged me is when Grelle, who is about to be killed by Sebastian, shouts out that he knows who killed Ciel’s parents. This is not in the manga, although I’m not sure it if will be later. I do know it is a set-up for later story lines in the anime–ones that lead Ciel to the truth. And ones that I particular hated and hope does not end up in the manga. Or if it does, I hope it takes more time to fully explain it and flesh it out. (Still crossing fingers for something utterly different)
Whew. That my friends is basically the first three volumes/six episodes! The anime of course skips a couple of chapters, which made me a little sad. They weren’t important chapters in the be-all-end-all sense, but they’re good none-the-less. One chapter gave us more insight on Sebastian and how miserable…frustrated…trapped he really is, especially when it comes to the other manor staff. Plus it offered a couple of good laughs, especially with all the staff blunders. In the other one we met Lizzie’s mom/Ciel’s aunt. Okay, so I can see why they skipped this one, but it was fun to see someone give Ciel a run for his money when it comes to competitiveness. I hope sure hope that spunk comes out in Lizzie later.
While I have seen all 24 episodes of the anime, and enjoyed it, the manga is better hands down. I’m excited to see all the story lines the anime skipped and where it’ll end up overall. I may still do the last few comparisons, but most likely I’ll just review volumes 6 on up on their own merit.
If you’ve seen/read Black Butler, be sure to let me know what you think