Last night I went to see Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic. I was obviously in the minority age-wise and totally unprepared for the type of audience attending this film.
To sum it up, I felt like I was a parent at a Justin Bieber concert that was being played on a screen for fans who couldn’t actually go to the live show. The first appearance of every major cast character in the movie was met with insane screams from hordes of tweens. In some cases, the screams reached lunatic asylum levels. In hindsight, I should’ve gone to the subbed version of the film that played on Monday. That way I could’ve at least been able to read what was happening because I sure as hell couldn’t hear half of it. I went to the dubbed version because I really love Michael Tatum as Sebastian, the demon butler. I was actually quite impressed by the rest of the English cast as well, when I could hear them. As an older fan, I’m glad to see the characters I like show up on screen, but I’m not going to breakout into fangirl hysterics over them. (Ah puberty…) I did notice a surprising amount of fans hadn’t even read the manga (I have) and had no clue what would happen, yet they still were screaming their heads off and unable to actually hear the characters explain shit in the film. Maybe this the new Rocky Horror? People go to the film showing to act like coke’d up wild banshees and then actually pay attention to the plot when they buy the Blu-ray and re-watch it at home? I don’t get it. I knew what would happen because I’m up to date on the manga, but I’d still prefer to be able to hear the film and see how it was interpreted for this medium.
I’ve been to other anime film showings before, but this was the first for a major one like this. These sorts of films only get 2 showings at maximum and are limited to a very small batch of cinemas throughout the country. Anime films (outside of Ghibli/Miyazaki) just aren’t popular in the US in general. The one exception that’s popped up lately has been Your Name, which was absolutely amazing and worth all the praise it got. That’s why my jaw dropped the moment I walked into a near full theater and luckily found a spot at the end of a row in the upper tier. I really hate sitting down towards the bottom of the theater and craning my neck upwards to see the screen. More people came in after the film started and it was so dark they just sat on the stairs to watch the film because they couldn’t find seats.
While the audience “participation”/reactions were less than favorable for viewing a new film, I had to admit I was glad to see such a turn out for it. I’m usually depressed at seeing such low turn outs for anime films because we so rarely get them. Greater turn outs mean more profits and hopefully show a growing audience in western countries. I won’t go into all the economics about it, but basically greater audiences = greater demand = (hopefully) better paying jobs for the people who are already paid terribly in an insanely fast paced, draining and demanding industry in Japan.
Anyway, on to the film itself.
It was fun. As I said, I did know the plot already, but it’s been a long time since I read it. This particular arc in the manga (Campania arc) is at least 3 years old. The general gist of it is: Ciel Phantomhive and his demon butler, Sebastian, are sent by the Queen to investigate something odd happening surrounding a secret organization called the Aurora Society. In simple terms, this turns out to be zombies on the Titanic. The bratty, pint-sized sleuth, Ciel infiltrates the Aurora Society group on the ship, Campania, and ends up having to try and save all the surrounding rich, self-righteous schmucks sailing with him from the undead. Lots of cast members that have appeared through the anime series and previous OVA arcs make cameos here and many of the story’s favorites are given a decent amount of screen time. There’s a lot of backstory in this arc I’d completely forgotten about and was really surprised the film included all of it. They gave lots of good characterization to cast favorites and fleshed out good minor characters. The flashbacks weren’t misplaced nor interrupted the general flow of the film. In fact, the movie pacing was one of its biggest strengths.
Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji is the original Japanese title) is a dark comedy loaded with sexual innuendo and over-the-top campy humor. One thing I’ve always appreciated about it is the ability to create deeply tragic characters out of complete anti-hero types in serious situations and create a true sense of drama, despite the shotacon.
There is one huge flaw with the film though. The animation. It sucked. Big time. Considering this is an anime film, that’s not a good thing. A-1 Productions is definitely capable of doing better than this. Considering the enormous list of good shows they’ve produced lately I’m utterly shocked by how fugly this film looked. The CG effects were cringe-worthy at best and there were too many scenes of off-model characters to count. It was too dark in scenes that needed more detail shown and failed miserably at the majority of the action sequences where it could’ve given the audience plenty of gorgeous sakuga. The whole film feels like a waste of animated potential in general. I don’t get why though considering how insanely popular the franchise is. Surely they’ve got the funds for it and usually anime films are given much more care than the rushed production times of an anime series. So why the hell did this look so shitty!?
Mediocre production values aside, I did still enjoy the film. It got everything right plot wise with the story arc and managed to make it engaging and entertaining.