Martial arts mayhem from Kentarô Ohtani and Kei’ichi Sato as the manga springs to life
Two directors, Kentarô Ohtani and Kei’ichi Sato, take on the task of bringing Yana Toboso's massively successful manga Kuroshitsuji to the big screen, a comic which has already inspired an anime TV series, a musical and a video game. Tsutomu Kuroiwa takes on screenwriting duties and appears to have amalgamated several of the comics with a new female-led story for this live-action epic.
The titular black butler is in fact a demon who has taken on the guise of Sebastian Michaelis (Hiro Mizushima) as part of a pact struck with Shiori Genpō (Ayame Gôriki), who has agreed to surrender her soul in exchange for his help in avenging the murder of her parents. Though it is left up to Sebastian to save the day, the battle against evil is fought by leading lady Gôriki, who does a wonderful job as a grief-stricken orphan and a secret agent for the aristocracy.
Playing out like a barmy concoction of Panic! at the Disco music videos, giallo horror and Victorian crime drama - with steampunk-influenced clothing such as top hats and giant bow-ties lobbed into the mix - Black Butler bashes out opulent set-pieces in the moody, mercurial manner of a hormonal teenage goth. Its emo-infused melodrama proves bizarrely entertaining as Sebastian, Shiori and a clumsy maid team up to solve a mystery involving the mummified corpses of state officials.
The slickly choreographed fight scenes and shoot-outs are sped up and slowed down, making for exhilarating spectacle. At one point Sebastian rises up like a marionette against a backdrop of flames to reveal his indestructible power and it’s both silly and rousing. As if mystery and revenge weren't enough to keep the audience amused, Kuroiwa also stuffs in a race against a ticking bomb, and an exclusive members' club which plays host to orgies fuelled by exciting new drugs. It’s all madly intriguing but does result in Black Butler being somewhat overwhelmed by its own excess.
Selected release from Fri 17 Oct.