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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Black Butler is a dark fantasy anime based on the manga series of the same name created by Yana Toboso. The series centers around a young earl in Victorian England seeking revenge for the death of his family. Expect to see fantasy violence (including child abuse, torture, physical violence, sexual violence, weapons, blood, killing, dead bodies, and demonic imagery). Multiple scenes imply child characters were sexually abused, although nothing is shown on screen. Storylines also feature dark subjects such as torture and human sacrifice, and some characters sell their souls to demons. There are scenes where characters fight to the death using swords, guns, and chainsaws; we see a lot of spraying blood, but there isn't any detailed gore shown. There's a lot of sexual content throughout, including many suggestive scenes between young teenage boys and older men. Both male and female characters wear revealing clothing. Characters are implied to have sex, however nothing is shown on screen. There's talk about abortions and sex work. Language includes "idiot," "stupid," "damn," "bastard," "hell," "ass," whore," "s--t," and "f--k." Characters are shown smoking cigarettes and cigars and drinking alcohol.
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What's the Story?
BLACK BUTLER follows the story of Ciel Phantomhive (voiced in the English dub by Brina Palencia) and his demon butler Sebastian Michaelis (J. Michael Tatum). Ciel is a young earl in Victorian England whose family was murdered and he was kidnapped by an unseen assailant who sold him to a cult. In an effort to escape being a child sacrifice for the cult, Ciel makes a pact with a demon: Ciel will forfeit his soul to the demon in exchange for the demon's servitude until Ciel gets revenge on whoever murdered his family. This demon ends up becoming Ciel's butler Sebastian who helps the young Earl with his duties as the lord of the Phantomhive house.
Is It Any Good?
This edgy dark fantasy anime deals with mature subject matter but undermines itself with its inconsistent themes and messy plot. Black Butler is a confusing show that tries to tackle dark material like child abuse and trauma, but it feels like these serious issues were only included in an attempt to be edgy. The show often undermines these themes too by trying to mix in a lot of cringey comedy during what should be its most serious moments. The story is unclear with its motivations; in the beginning it seems it's going to be a supernatural revenge story, but it quickly turns into a detective mystery-themed show and jumps back and forth between both of these two directions. Instead of combining these elements in a way that makes sense, they feel like they clash. Despite taking place in Victorian England, the characters don't act like they're living in this time period, which feels like a missed opportunity because the art and Victorian setting are are well done. Sexually suggestive scenes between teenage boys and older men have nothing to do with the story and only feel uncomfortable and unnecessary. Overall, Black Butler is a disappointing, messy show that doesn't take its mature themes seriously.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the impact that viewing excessively violent and graphic content can have. What kind of messages about violence is this anime trying to convey?
What impact can viewing sexual content have? What kind of messages about sex is this anime trying to convey?
- Premiere date: February 8, 2011
- Cast: J. Michael Tatum, Brina Palencia, Ian Sinclair
- Network: Hulu
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Complex anime series too violent for young kids.
Dark psychological anime mixes sci-fi, drama.
Formulaic anime is violent but interesting.
For kids who love anime
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