Wednesday, 4 March 2015

ONE TO WATCH: BLACK BUTLER


Based on the massively popular manga series (twelve million copies in Japan and translated into twenty languages worldwide), Kuro Shitsuji (Black Butler) follows the demonic butler Sebastian Michaelis (Hiro Mizushima), bound by a supernatural contract to serve the teenage head of a noble family (Ayame Goriki) who is out to avenge her parents' deaths. Already adapted into a successful anime series, this is the first attempt at a live action feature.

Directed by KentarĂ´ Ohtani and Kei'ichi Sato, Black Butler starts promisingly enough. A fantastic fight sequence kicks things off, introducing Sebastian in the coolest way imaginable - rescuing the girl from a bunch of hapless goons armed only with a butter knife. It's an amusing opening that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Hiro Mizushima is fantastic in the lead role but there's some solid support work too. Ayame Gorika holds her own as the steely-eyed teenage mistress disguised as a master, and a special mention goes to the clumsy maid, Rin (Mizuki Yamamoto), who really grows on you as the movie progresses.


Black Butler looks breathtaking, oozing atmosphere from every frame, and the fight sequences are really well choreographed. With great performances, a unique premise, cool effects and blistering action sequences, you would think that the filmmakers nailed it, but Black Butler has some pretty damning faults. Why they feel the need to explain away every single plot development is beyond me, and it grates after a while. No matter how strong the cast is there's just no escaping the endless dialogue. At just under two hours long Black Butler becomes a bit of a chore, which is a shame because we wanted to love it. 

Fans of the manga can breathe a big sigh of relief because there is a lot to enjoy here, not least the pitch-perfect performances and quirky, comedic tone. Had it not been for the weak writing and relentless exposition we could have been onto a real winner. For once, a sequel would be more than welcome.  


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