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Black Butler: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/24-bit), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: AB (No Region C)
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Discs: 7 (3 x Blu-ray + 4 x DVD)
  • Studio: FUNimation Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 3, 2012
  • List Price: $69.98

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Purchase Black Butler: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Series
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

[Rating:3.5/5]

Black Butler (黒執事, Kuroshitsuji) is from the manga written and illustrated by Yana Toboso. A goth/loli-goth anime with supernatural and mystery overtones it is set in a strange Victorian England. The main character, 12-year-old Ciel Phantomhive, head of the Phantomhive family and the successfully Funtom Toy Company has made a demonic pact, in essence selling his soul, so that he could avenge the deaths of his parents. In return, he was given a demonic butler, Sebastien Michaelis, to serve his every whim and aid him in his ultimately goal of revenge. A perfect butler in every way, Sebastien is also a deadly killing machine sworn to do Ciel’s bidding by the supernatural contract he his is bound by, but when it is up, he will then take Ciel’s soul.

Through this first season of the series, the two encounter numerous mysteries in which they must intervene, Ciel being Queen Victoria’s “guard dog.” Among them are the brutal killings of women by Jack the Ripper, demonic curry, and a demon hound terrorizing the countryside. It’s all part of the path toward Ciel avenging the death of his parents.

The creators lighten the series a bit by offering up a comical and incompetent house staff as a counterweight to the perfect and brooding Sebastien and the driven and ruthless young Ciel. Additionally, Ciel’s betrothed, Elizabeth, is a colorful blonde who loves to dress up his manor house in gaudy party favors and pastel colors whenever she comes to visit. Character designs are in keeping with the period and gothic theme of the series on the whole.  While there is certainly no fan service here, there is a little bishōnen in the grim reaper character Grell, and strong loli-goth tendencies, especially in one episode where Ciel must dress up as a girl to go undercover.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

Another obvious up-scaled transfer from FUNimation, Black Butler never reaches the level of clarity and detail of true high definition animated production. There is a little bit of noise apparent in darker areas and some motion artifacts can be seen as well manifesting in aliasing around line art. The series arrives in a 1.78:1 framed 1080p/24 AVC/MPG-4 encodement.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Both the original Japanese language track and an English dub are provided. The Japanese is offered in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/24-bit) and the English in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit). I used the Japanese track as my main reference with occasional checks of the English track along the way. The 2.0 Japanese track seems to have a narrower dynamic range with slightly pushed dialogue, but a good sense of stereo imaging. Moving over to the English 5.1, there’s a little more dynamic range and more air around the dialogue. The surrounds are used to create an ambient mix, rather than something very aggressive and discrete.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Black Butler‘s been loaded with commentaries, a bonus episode, and a summary episode for the whole season making for a decent set of extras on Blu-ray.

The supplements:

  • Episode 01 Commentary
  • Episode 07 Commentary
  • Episode 16 Commentary
  • Episode 21 Commentary
  • The Story Thus Far with Narration from Tanaka (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:23:58) – A summation of the first season of Black Butler narrated by the character Tanaka.
  • Bonus Episode: His Butler, Performer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:26:38)
  • Musician Profile – Profile of Becca, the multimedia artist responsible for the series’ soundtrack
  • Textless Opening Song – Monochrome Kiss
  • Textless Closing Song – I’m Alive
  • Textless Closing Song – Lacrimosa
  • FUNimation Trailers

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

An interesting if not fully engrossing series, Black Butler mixes the supernatural with goth and mystery for something a little outside of the usual. At least it isn’t another high school based series loaded with fan service or another mecha series. I only wish that the plot here could have been a little more involving and some of the tertiary characters more interesting.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B0071LEH14[/amazon-product]

Purchase Black Butler: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Series
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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