Monday, November 5, 2012

Black Butler(Kuroshitsuji) and demons in entertainment
I recently started another anime/manga series called Black Butler, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite things of all time. Set in Victorian England, the series follows the loyal butler Sebastian Michealis and his thirteen year old master, the earl Ciel Phantomhive, who became the head of the Phantomhive estate and company after a mysterious fire killed his parents. Ciel is also known as "the Queen's guard dog" as he follows in his family's footsteps as the patrol/crime investigation frontman of the London underworld. Ever at Ciel's side, ready to carry out any order to the letter, Sebastian is actually a demon in a supernatural contract with Ciel: once Sebastian helps Ciel carry out all his goals, including vengeance on those who killed his parents, Sebastian will be allowed to kill Ciel and consume his soul.

Black Butler can best be described as a dark, supernatural black comedy/thriller. The series' elaborate art and soundtrack(some of the best anime has to offer) pay plenty of tribute to the Victorian era that could entrance anybody. This, and the epic action scenes, humor both dark and light, and exquisite roller-coaster plot  all set up a poignant story about the relationship between a boy full of cold hatred and despair far before his time, and his composed, mysterious butler who is his loyal servant, protecting him from danger both emotional and physical...for now.

This gorgeous song, one of my favorites of all time, describes the series(and Ciel) perfectly
If God has forsaken me,
Then I shall forsake God, too.
Only the oppressed may possess a black key,
I close all doors
Thus I seal away all prayers.
who protects me?
From the most frightful: myself

Both Sebastian and Ciel are two of the most popular characters in anime history. Ciel is enchanting as a stoic Artemis Fowl-like earl who fearlessly patrols London's seedy alleys and black markets and unceasingly fights for justice, not because of his beliefs, but because of his duty. Yet he hides a despair and sadness so bleak that it compelled him to initiate the contract with Sebastian in the first place. Sebastian is hilarious as a witty, extremely skilled butler who is highly skilled at practically everything, and handles every task, no matter how impossible it is, with ease, stating it is only natural the butler of the Phantomhive household is capable of such. 

If I was simply judging on the storytelling and entertainment aspect of the series, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone, as it should entrance even the most die-hard anime hater.

However, judging by the pentagram engraved on both Ciel's patched eye and Sebastian's hand(the symbol of their contract), the dark symbolism of crows and ravens, and the discussion of heaven and hell prevalent throughout the series, Black Butler doesn't try in the least to disguise this fact: Sebastian is a devil(devil/demon used interchangeably throughout this series) and Ciel is the boy who, quite literally, sells his soul to him.

So what does this mean for me, and for other Christians who enjoy this series?

Contracts with demons are not uncommon in either anime or culture in general. The idea is thought to have been perpetuated(if not originated) by the classic German legend(and play by Goethe) Faust, and continues in many popular ballets, movies,books, classical and contemporary music, and of course, anime(such a deal is a major driving force between the contract with Calcifer the fire demon and wizard Howl in Howl's Moving Castle.).

In fact, Faust began as a cautionary Christian tale. So what(if anything) makes Black Butler different? Is it bad for us?

That's what I'm still trying to figure out.

Angels and demons are becoming more and more common subject matters in popular culture, perhaps the new "vampires and werewolves." I think this stems from our innate need for the supernatural.

Supernatural, by the way, just means (duh) above natural. Beyond the ordinary. Connected to something beyond just what we can see with our eyes. And we're called to live supernatural lives, real lives, every day.

We aren't made for this earth, we were made to live on a completely different reality, and we can't help but respond to that. But instead of funneling this innate desire into its rightful place, a personal relationship with our creator, it's sometimes channeled into books, movies, anime instead.

But what if we don't go to that extreme? For me, Black Butler is just a really good anime, a piece of entertainment. This stems back to my earlier posts about violence in entertainment. It's just entertainment. But entertainment is what we spend our time on, what we love, what sings to us in our dreams, what shapes our beliefs and worldview whether we like it or not. It's important.

There's a good reason why Christian groups fervently diss magic/supernatural/demonic media. And it's obvious. 

We fight so, so hard against demonic influences and Satan and their influences in our everyday life. Why invite them in the back door when it comes to our entertainment?  We wage a perpetual war against them in our hearts and minds, and they just show up on our coffee table in the form of DVDs and manga volumes.

"Now, that's taking it a little too far. They're not really Satanic. They're called demons, but they aren't actually like real demons", you say. Maybe that's true. I don't know. And Sebastian isn't the only supernatural creature(so far, I count 1 demon and 1 Grim Reaper). And reading and watching doesn't equal embracing or following. I'm definitely not making any deals with anything, just as watching a violent movie doesn't necessarily turn someone into a gun-slinging maniac. Is it different at all? I don't know.

Note that I haven't finished this series, I've heard it gets darker as it goes on. I'll keep watching, and keep reading and researching about this. And I'll update you as I go on. In the meantime, I'd like to know your personal opinions about this. It would help!


1 comment:

  1. I finished the first season, and decided that was as far as I wanted to go. It just got to dark, and made me feel filthy. Granted, I loved the first season, up until like, the last three episodes.

    Sebastian and Grell shall forever be some of my favorite Anime men. Despite the fact Grell will protest the 'men' part. ^.^

    And, when I was babysitting a little boy a few weeks ago, he was getting fussy and wanted to eat, I had a towel from washing dishes, and suddenly decided to do Sebastian's 'Yes, My lord". ^.^ I got his accent perfect, and felt like I was just the BOM COM all day. XD


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