Manga-ka: Yana Toboso
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: July 2012
Synopsis: “With his royally sanctioned dinner party a shambles and a murderer on the loose, Earl Ciel Phantomhive is a veritable prisoner in his own home, alongside those of his guests who still live. And in the most shocking of turns, the young earl now finds himself without his indispensible manservant, Sebastian. But as the mystery deepens, there arrives upon the young earl’s doorstep an odd vicar, wearing an insolent smile and an Inverness cape that flaps and splashes behind him… Is this mysterious thirteenth guest the perpetrator of the crimes that have bloodied the halls of Phantomhive Manor?”
The murder mystery resumes, taking us into the third volume of Black Butler‘s Phantomhive Manor who-dun-it. I was a little surprised to see this story arc lasted even this long, going right up to the final page of this tenth volume of Black Butler and beyond. None the less it gives secondary characters time to shine, and introduces a new character with some secrets of his own that bring about a conclusion that really couldn’t have been put off any longer.
Like many readers of Black Butler, a great deal of my enjoyment for it comes from my adoration of the butler, Sebastien. He’s a fangirl favourite for a reason – gorgeous and pretty much perfect in his current career of choice, plus more than a little mysterious. Of course, those caught up to the series know that his presence isn’t much more than macabre eye-candy in this book. His absence does at least result in the opportunity for the other servants of the Phantomhive household to shine yet again. We get to see a brief but moving scene of the servants mourning the loss of one of their own, while not long before that we got to the old and seemingly defenceless, Tanaka, prove that he’s anything but. I’m glad to be given more reasons to like these characters, and to have their flaws explained past being just cheap entertainment. Even Sebastien isn’t without his easy humour sometimes though, and this volume has a particular moment taking place in his never-before-seen bedroom that made me laugh out loud. Just when I was beginning to wonder if the man actually sleeps in there…
A new character is introduced mid way through this volume who brings a whole different deductive spin to the murder mystery still going on. It feels pretty clear who the character is based off of, and with a novelist of a certain name sitting in the room, it only served to confirm where things will likely lead. Still, I immediately had two theories about the confident and intelligent, Jeremy, but I liked that I couldn’t decide exactly which of the guesses was the right one. The story doesn’t waste time in teasing us with truths about him either. He’s quick to take apart every facet of the murders in the Phantomhive Manor and figure out what happened. The result is a little lacklustre but I think I appreciate a simpler to understand answer than something too convoluted which can sometimes be the case when you’re building up suspense, alibis and motives this long.
One of the flaws of this extended arc that wasn’t helped by its resolution or new character introduction was how unmemorable several of the present characters were. The story focuses so heavily on certain ones – recurring of course in particular – that the few circumstantial characters are so forgettable that I kept being momentarily stumped on who they were, what they did and why they were there whenever they popped up. Much as I like the characters chosen to be the focus, it made the story feel imbalanced having a few always lingering in the background. One mini plot point seemed added for no reason other than the author suddenly remembering that they had other people there, especially since despite being a big potential clue, it wasn’t even brought up until after the case had been solved.
Even though by the book’s end, the mystery is solved, there still remains a big hole remaining after the cliffhanger in volume nine. This tenth volume ends on its own cliffhanger that turns the previous on its head. Still, considering who’s involved, it’s hardly as dramatic or unexpected as the author might have hoped it would be (though I doubt even she thought this would be seen as a surprise turn of events). I am glad to see Professor Author is sticking around for at least some of the next volume. This wasn’t an especially exciting volume on its own but it did a good job wrapping up those lose ends and leaving us ready for something new in volume eleven come this October.
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes