Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black Butler, Volume 5 by Yana Toboso

Sebastian Michaelis is the Butler to Ciel, the young Earl of Phantomhive. He basically runs the house and tells the staff what to do. In fact, Sebastian does his job so well because he isn't strictly human, but a demon, a demon that Ciel has created a bargain with. If Sebastian keeps Ciel safe until the young Earl can find and bring to justice those who killed his parents, Ciel will let Sebastian take his soul. But in the process, Sebastian must sometimes take on the impossible, like now.

Ciel is being visited by an Indian Prince,Soma Asman Kadar, who has brought his servant, Agni, a man with the Hand of God to serve him. But Agni has left to work for Harold West, a man who wants his own company to receive a patent to make curries from the Queen. Having the Royal Patent would assure his company of success, but Agni challenges Sebastian to compete in this curry-making competition. With only a few days to prepare, can Sebastian's dish out-do a man who not only comes from India, but who is an expert at making curries?

Sebastian turns his hand at everything to do with making curries, from the cooking to the blending of spices and selection of ingredients, but when he recreates Agni's Curry that is the Prince's favorite, can he improve it enough to make it something distinctive and make it his own? And during the competition, can Sebastian win over the judges when he faces not only Agni, but two other professional chefs? And when it seems that neither competitor may win over the other, will the appearance of Queen Victoria hand victory to one of the two cooks?

And when the Prince finally finds the girl he came to England to find, will he find the ending he wanted, or will he have his dreams and fantasies cruelly killed by the girl who he loved and missed so much? And when it comes time for Ciel to reveal to the British Police at Scotland Yard who exactly killed all those people in the streets, will Agni's overdeveloped sense of honor cause him to falsely confess to the crimes? And what do the Scotland Yard feel about Ciel? And how did Ciel's servants come to work for him? When Queen Victoria sends Ciel some tickets to the Circus, what will be the story, and the crime, behind its members?

Well, the Prince has found the girl he wanted to find, but the ending for him isn't as happy as he would wish. In the end, it causes him to decide to make some changes in his life, but as most of thebook shows, he's pretty much an idiot, so that even his attempts to make some sort of changes in his life come smack up against his basic naivety and over-enthusiasm. But in the process, through his servant Agni, we discover why the three servants in the household are so dire at their jobs: none have held the posts for long, and Mei-Rin the maid, for example, is very far-sighted, but cannot bear to give up her glasses, which are the wrong prescription, because Ciel bought them for her.

In fact, it was nice to see that the reason that the servants were so bad at their jobs had some sort of reason beyond "but he's got Sebastian as a Butler, so he doesn't NEED competent servants." I did wonder where the rest of the Prince's servants and hangers on had gotten to. I think he may have sent them back to India once he decided to learn to be a gentleman and make his own way in the world, not being a sponge on his parents. It's just not mentioned in the manga.

In any case, this story took a strange and unique turn towards the end. It may have been intended strictly to be funny, but the jokes, if they were intended to be jokes, fell rather flat for me. I still am enjoying the series, but it's one of more subtle amusement than laugh-out-loud humor, and I am hoping that the end may be somewhat happy, but given the conditions laid out for Sebastian's service, I wouldn't be surprised if it had the same sort of ending as "Godchild" by Kaori Yuki, which this series somewhat resembles for me (though much less dark, certainly). I do enjoy the story and the characters, and I will continue reading this series to see where it goes. Recommended.

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