So, yes…. I caved in.
Here’s the thing: for the past summer season, there have been three series that stood out to me: Shiki, because it had the best atmosphere, Occult Academy, because it had the best execution, and Kuroshitsuji II, because it had the best plot (a possible fourth on this list would be Sengoku Basara Two because it had the best action, but that entirely depends on its final three episodes). Because Kuroshitsuji II did what many other series failed at, and became more interesting to watch than I could have hoped for, I guess that I just was obliged to check out that first season now – not all of it, mind you. This is one of those series that at times seems to be actively trying to be bad with its random stories and insert-episodes, so this is a review of just the episodes 5-8 and 17-24. If you want an impression of the entire series, just note that I couldn’t make it even past the second episode. Twice.
Without the random annoying side-story, Kuroshitsuji becomes quite a snappy and diverse series about the occult in England around 150 years ago. There are a few holes in the plot here and there, but they’re all simple enough that they can be just guessed, so I can recommend this method of watching for the people who are interested in Kuroshitsuji’s darker parts, but have no indention of sitting through hordes of uninspired light-hearted moments that only take ten seconds to become annoying.
Because I must say, those darker parts were quite worth it. This series sells itself with bishies doing the most impossible stunts, but behind it is an interesting and quite often disturbing world with quite a bit of intrigue. The lead character Ciel starts out as a bit of a questionable lead character, but he turns out to be quite an interesting anti-hero who has given up on life, just for the sake of his revenge. The darker parts of this series is where the unique selling point of Kuroshitsuji also really shines: Sebastian fits right in with this dark atmosphere, and even the few anticlimactic uses for his powers turn out to be hilarious, like they should be.
Having said that, though, I do want to say that I still like the second season of Kuroshitsuji better. Alois and Claude (and Johanna possibly too) are by far the most interesting characters in the entire franchise, and these two really made a huge spectacle of the second season. The first season tries, and it has some neat villains too by the way, but none of them really get close to how fun it was to just see those two flamboyant characters parade across the screen. Sebastian and Ciel are interesting, but in the end they aren’t really the most complex characters and there is no development between them either. Especially Ciel makes a number of rather strange and stupid decisions throughout the series.
Still, I liked the plot here, the creators put in some very interesting ideas for Ciel to tackle, and overall I had no problems getting though this series and I quite enjoyed it. Kuroshitsuji is a strange series though. I can easily have seen the first season as 13 episodes, and my guess would be that it would have been much more accessible and balanced than that it is now. And yet for some reason this show paraded all over with its bishies and shallow side-stories, even though beneath it is actually pretty good. This isn’t another case of Kobato, whose first half was simply inoffensive before it could get to its good part. Kuroshitsuji’s random stories are annoying beyond belief; they are completely different from that it really is about, and I really don’t want to watch anything more of that.
|Storytelling:||8/10 – Good atmosphere, well told, a pretty good sense of build up.|
|Characters:||8/10 – Nothing special or well developed, but an interesting cast nonetheless with a nice chemistry to watch.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – To me, the second season was also better in this aspect, but the art looks consistently solid and the soundtrack is also pretty adequate.|
|Setting:||8/10 – Okay, it’s England with a lot of liberties taken, but this series makes very good use of these liberties to show a very interesting setting here.|