It has been... 5 years(?) since I first picked up a copy of Kuroshitsuji (黒執事) in a manga store. Kuroshitsuji is about the dark peculiar world of Ciel Phantomhive, a young tortured noble Earl who entered a contract with a demon (who was summoned upon during a ritual) on the condition that he gets his revenge for the misfortune dawned on his family. In return, the demon gets to devour his soul. And whilst at it, the demon volunteered to be his flawless butler just for the heck of it--a result of centuries of boredom. Literally chasing episodes of the manga plus anime seasons 1 & 2, and later finding myself in love with the cynical character Alois Trancy, I was not disappointed with the rather sinister 'finale' of our protagonists in the anime series. Now, news is out that a new season of the anime has received green light and is currently in the production stages. I CAN'T FREAKING WAIT!
And so, it was really a no-brainer when they decided to do a live-action adaptation of this popular series. Note the phrase, 'based on'. When Japan decides to do it, rather than great O' Hollywood, we can all thank our gods for it. And then they announced that the pretty and capable Hiro Mizushima (水嶋 ヒロ) was cast as the demon-butler Sebastian Michaelis, I was sold (note: he's really a demon-devil, not just with some demonic characteristics); though I was primarily more interested in the character Ciel as the series is really all about the child-Earl.
If you don't know who Mizushima-kun is, I assume you are not familiar with Japanese culture and haven't been watching many j-dramas. In short, any manga-adapted drama / movie he was in, I have seen it all (namely 花ざかりの君たちへ, 絶対彼氏, メイちゃんの執事, ドロップ, and BECK); he is really the ideal human being for every swoon-worthy manga character there is. And if you are interested to follow this actor's works, you should really begin with Kamen Rider Kabuto (仮面ライダーカブト) then you can see why so many others are enamored of him. He is the hyde of the film world. But I digress. No wait, I absolutely can't stop gushing over Mizushima-kun. Hold on for more picture-spams of Hiro Mizushima!
Black Butler is set in an alternate world of Kuroshitsuji, 130 years from the manga, in a futuristic Japan. Our heroine is tasked with orders from the ever elusive Queen to solve a series of mummified-murder cases. The plot is original, and has very little to do with the manga or anime, but it stays true to its dark mysterious theme, and there are certainly references to the manga or anime. For example, I don't think it even takes long for a fan to know who the real villain in the movie is. I was palpably dismayed with the arc chosen--it is visibly simlilar to an early arc of the manga but with details changed for a fresher storyline. The performance of the 2 leads, especially seductive gazes and croons from 'Sebastian' are enough to set fans, such as yours truly, on fire (and hence this post). Hiro Mizushima delivered both the humor and menace Sebastian embodies, while adding in his own unique charm to become the perfect butler to his master (or mistress if you may), thus setting it apart from the manga and anime counterparts. The fighting scenes at the beginning (and at the end) were engaging and graceful. This is after all, one hell of a demon-butler fighting.
Can't say the same for Ayame Goriki (剛力 彩芽) who plays, instead of a kiddy boy with a petulant streak of trust issues, a slightly older female distant relative of Ciel Phantomhive, Kiyoharu Genpo, forced to disguise as a boy in order to remain heir to the enormous fortune of Phantom Corporation. She also remains a watchdog to the Queen helping to solve mysterious crimes on Her command while seeking vengeance at the same time.
(Dumb question, is it the same Queen or just a figure of speech? How can she still be alive after so many years?)
Ayame does however portray very well, the hurt and fear as a result of her early capture and torture, and the anger and helplessness that followed. And she is very cute to look at. In fact, she almost looks like a Ciel herself. However, the sexual tension between her and the butler is barely there, the push and pull of our 2 leads not fully explored, and so the banter is certainly missing a whole lot of degree. Instead, I feel like Sebastian is more interested in seducing us--the audience, and his cats, rather than his prized meal--Kiyoharu.
Not that I am complaining. Ahem.
I'm not exactly sure how audience new to the Kuroshitsuji world is handling it, because the film didn't fully explain the dark complex relationship of Kiyoharu and Sebastian until towards the very end, and then there was not enough of it. Or maybe I've underestimated their knowledge? The power of internet is here with us after all. The character Undertaker (played by a beautiful fashion model Louis Kurihara (栗原 類)) appeared for a short unsatisfying scene (where was his infamous 'hehehehehe'), and that's when I realized they failed to include many other important main characters. One can't help but think what if this was a normal length drama instead of a restrictive 2-hours film?
If I were to summarize, manga Kuroshitsuji is about the revenge journey of Ciel, while the anime is about both Sebastian AND Ciel, and finally this film is all about Sebastian grooming his 'Ciel' (to become his meal).
It is true when they say that a movie should not be a cosplay event for the manga or anime (notably xxxHOLIC the drama series--the execution of performance was an awkward mess even though the costumes, casting, setting, effect were top-notch), but surely they have to take into account the number of passionate fans for this series, that most likely only fans will watch the movie, and that it probably takes a lot more to gain new audience, so unless you want a flop in box office, you do not want to mess with avid fans who will eventually spread the words and influence others.
On the other hand, I feel it pays that as a movie-goer, one is able to separate the world of literature from the world of films. In that way, you will be able to enjoy the film, and make sure your money is (sort of) well spent. We have to recognize that there is no way anyone is going to produce word for word, scene for scene, from the books. And so, you might have heard or felt that they've got Sebastian's hair wrong, or that Mizushima-kun was wrongly cast (which I strongly disagree!); or they shouldn't have changed the gender, or the name of Ciel; they missed out the contract seal on Sebastian's hands blah blah blah... producers have their reasons for changing things, and we have to bear in mind, the time limitation of a film means a lot of things are bound to be rushed, cut or revised. We should welcome new content to avoid looking at the same old things. Is it necessary to satisfy our own visual needs while compromising our creative imagination? It really hurts my heart when I see the actors shedding sad tears over pressure (probably) due to negative public sentiments. By the way, I think the contract seal being dropped altogether is probably because the production team wants to avoid any (occult) controversies, if you know what I mean.
Overall, I enjoyed the performance of Mizushima-kun who was previously on hiatus from his acting career. So you can imagine the anticipation for his comeback. I am kinda disturbed that he had to drop his weight for the role (like, really Hiro? You are already not a big size to begin with!) but then again we are talking about a starved demon. With the way the film ended, there is a possiblity for a sequel of some sort. I'll take it only if Hiro Mizushima is in it. But really, drama perhaps, anyone?