Black Butler is a historical black comedy and psychological thriller written and drawn by Yana Toboso that takes place in 19th century Victorian-era London. Main character Ciel Phantomhive is captured by cultists one night after his manor is burnt down and his parents murdered. He endures months of excruciating and humiliating torture before making a contract with demon Sebastian Michaelis to help him achieve revenge on those who wronged him at the cost of his soul. Sebastian becomes his butler, anticipating and attending to his every need, as Ciel works as the Queen’s guard dog, solving crimes plaguing London while awaiting the day when he will exact his revenge.
The manga is published by Square Enix and began serialization in Monthly GFantasy in the October 2006 issue. Since then it has been collected into 23 tankobon volumes (as of May 2016) with over 20 million copies sold worldwide with 5 million being outside Japan.
Studio A-1 Pictures has adapted the manga into three anime to date: Black Butler, Black Butler II, and Black Butler: Book of Circus. The first season, Black Butler, is directed by Toshiya Shinohara and written by Mari Okada. It premiered in October 2008 on MBS and TBS and ran until March 2009, with 24 episodes total. Its theme music includes opening theme “Monochrome no Kiss” by rock band Sid and ending themes “I’m Alive!” by Rebecca Hollcraft and “Lacrimosa” by Kalafina. Black Butler II is directed by Hirofumi Ogura and written by Mari Okada and ran from July to September 2010, spanning 12 episodes total. Its theme music includes opening theme “Shiver” by The Gazette and ending theme “Bird” by Yuya Matsushita. The third season, Black Butler: Book of Circus, adapts the Noah’s Ark Circus arc of the manga and is directed by Noriyuki Abe and written by Hiroyuki Yoshino. It ran from July to September 2015, and lasted 10 episodes. Its opening theme is “Enamel” by Sid and its ending theme is “Aoki Tsuki Michite” by Akira. Aside from the TV anime, a two-part OVA adaptation of the Phantomhive Manor Murders arc titled Black Butler: Book of Murder was screened in Japanese theaters in 2014.
Two films have been released in the franchise to date. The first, simply titled Black Butler, is a live-action film directed by Kentaro Otani and Keiichi Sato and released by Warner Bros. in 2014 that stars Mizushima Hiro as Sebastian and Ayame Goriki as Earl Kiyohara Genpu. The film diverts greatly from the manga, taking place in a parallel quasi-Edwardian history in an unnamed Eastern nation in the year 2020 where the character Ciel Phantomhive is replaced by Earl Kiyohara Genpu. The movie grossed over $5 million at the box office in Japan. The second movie, Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic, is an upcoming anime adaptation of the Luxury Liner arc of the manga. It is being produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Noriyuki Abe with character designs by Minako Shiba and music by Yasunori Mitsuda. The cast from the TV anime will also return to reprise their roles. It will be released in Japan in 2017.
The franchise also has a popular series of musicals adapted from the manga with three already performed to raving crowds—That Butler, Friendship, The Most Beautiful Death in the World, and Lycoris that Blazes the Earth—with a fourth musical currently in production.
That Butler, Friendship, is the first musical adaptation of the manga. It is written and directed by Shintaro Asanuma with music by Shunsuke Wada and stars Yuya Matsushita as Sebastian, Shougo Sakamoto as Ciel, and Uehara Takuya as Grell Sutcliff. It ran at Sunshine Theater in Ikebukuro between May and June 2009. Its story revolves around Ciel, who is busy preparing his manor for a ball when three new guests appear from Japan. Ciel invites them to the ball, but there an unwelcome intrusion occurs, starting a mystery surrounding the three Japanese guests.
The Most Beautiful Death in the World - A Thousand Souls & the Fallen Grim Reaper is the second musical adaptation. It is directed by Sakurako Fukuyama and written by Mari Okada with music by Taku Iwasaki. Yuya and Uehara return as Sebastian and Grell respectively with new members including Yukito Nishii as Ciel, Taisuke Saeki as Eric Slingby, and Matsumoto Shinya as Alan Humphries. Its initial run was held at Akasaka Act Theater in Akasaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka in May 2010 and a second run with recast characters was held in 2013 at the Akasaka Act Theater in Tokyo and Umeda Arts Theater in Osaka. Its story encompasses demons, grim reapers, an incurable disease, and a cursed past and sees Ciel and Sebastian set out to investigate an outbreak of random killings on the Queen’s orders while the Grim Reaper Dispatch Society finds themselves plagued with non-collectable souls.
The third musical, Lycoris that Blazes the Earth, saw many of the cast members returning from the second run of The Most Beautiful Death in the World - A Thousand Souls & the Fallen Grim Reaper. It is directed by Nobuhiro Mouri and written by Yoshiko Iseki. It was first performed in September 2014, and a later re-run of the musical was the first for the franchise to jump overseas for a tour in China in December 2015. Its story revolves around Ciel and Sebastian as they investigate a string of murders committed by famous killer Jack the Ripper.
A fourth musical is currently in production and scheduled for a performance run from November to December 2016. It will be an adaptation of the Circus arc of the manga directed by Nobuhiro Mouri and written jointing by Daichi Ryuzaki and Mouri. Its cast includes Yuta Furukawa as Sebastian, Reo Uchikawa as Ciel, Miura Ryosuke as Joker, Tano Asami as Beast, Tamaki Yuki as Snake, and Shuhei Izumi as Undertaker.
The franchise has also branched out into other media as well including a video game titled Black Butler: Phantom & Ghost developed by Square Enix and released on the Nintendo DS in 2009 and three character book releases: Black Butler Character Book: That Butler, Assembles, TV Animation Black Butler Black Record, and an official comic anthology titled Rainbow Butler.
Characters Ciel Phantomhive (CV: Maaya Sakamoto) Earl and head of the Phantomhive household after the death of his parents, Vincent and Rachel. Ciel runs the Funtom Company which manufactures toys and sweets. His right eye, which is usually covered with a black eye patch, bears the sign of the Faustian contract he made with demon butler Sebastian. His mark allows him to summon and give orders to Sebastian.
Sebastian Michaelis (CV: Daisuke Ono) The title character and a demon butler who acts as Ciel’s bodyguard after entering into a Faustian contract with him. He follows Ciel’s every order with swiftness and unshakable loyalty. Skilled at practically everything, Sebastian can handle any task with ease, no matter how impossible. He bears a Faustian contract on his left hand, meaning he must abide by Ciel’s will. His mark allows him to find Ciel whenever Ciel exposes his contract mark.
Finnian (CV: Yuki Kaji) Usually referred to as Finny, he is the manor’s gardener. However, every time he tends to the garden he ends up destroying something out of clumsiness. Sebastian refers to him as an idiot for this fact. Previously an experiment subject kept locked up and forced to kill his friends, he possesses supernatural abilities that he tries to hide and has “S-012” tattooed on his neck which he usually keeps covered by a straw hat.
Mey-Rin (CV: Emiri Katou) The household maid. She is given a pair of glasses by Ciel for her binocular acuity which limit her eyesight particularly at close range and cause her to be clumsy when working. She has a crush on Sebastian, blushing whenever in his presence and becoming even more clumsy. She is a professional sniper who doesn’t require a scope thanks to her acute vision.
Baldroy (CV: Hiroki Touchi) The household cook. Baldroy rarely produces anything edible and uses weaponry to cook including a flamethrower, believing that cooking requires explosions. He is employed by Sebastian after being found on the battlefield after his entire platoon is wiped out. Though terrible at cooking, he is inventive with his surroundings and can create explosions even using fine flour.
Tanaka (CV: Shunji Fujimura) The house steward. Tanaka is stabbed in the back trying to protect Ciel the night his parents are killed. Because of this he rarely talks or works but always participates in the other servants’ antics. Prior to Sebastian, Tanaka served as the family’s head butler and is capable of killing intruders effortlessly.
Grell Sutcliff (CV: Jun Fukuyama) A Grim Reaper who wields a Death Scythe in the form of a chainsaw and is the antagonist to Sebastian. He initially worked for Madam Red but killed her when she refused to kill Ciel. Grell is a capable fighter and can go toe to toe with Sebastian.
Undertaker (CV: Junichi Suwabe) A previous informant to the Phantomhive household for many years, Undertaker is a former Grim Reaper and funeral director in London whose shady motives aren’t revealed until later in the series.