Thanks to Funimation, I was able to go see the movie Black Butler: Book Of The Atlantic in theaters on June 12. Japanese feature films can be difficult to see in the United States and it usually takes a long time for them to come out on Blu-ray or DVD. I am eternally grateful to Funimation for bringing this film to a theater in my area.
Black Butler: Book Of The Atlantic is a film that premiered in Japan in January 2017 and adapts the Ship Voyage arc from the Black Butler manga. Many times, a feature film is a completely new story that is made purposely for the movie itself, such as Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale and many other anime movies. However, unlike these films, Book Of The Atlantic was not a new or extra story, but a vital one. It portrays major events that happen in the Black Butler plot. With that being said, this review is going to have many, many spoilers!
Here is a quick synopsis: Ciel and Sebastian go on a cruise liner to investigate an incident where a secret society is bringing people back from the dead. While they are on the ship, chaos breaks out because the reanimated corpses turn into zombies. Ciel and Sebastian have to fight off the zombies, protect Lizzy and her family (who happen to be on board the same ship), deal with some rambunctious grim reapers, and stop the ship from sinking.
The film was incredibly close to the original manga. Some parts were even drawn or displayed the same exact way they were in the manga panels. Obviously, the manga is in black, white, and gray while the movie is in color. But this is actually my one complaint. The animation. Although the animation wasn’t bad, it was on par with the regular anime series. While this isn’t really a negative thing, it isn’t a good thing either because I was hoping for the animation to be extraordinary considering it was a feature film. Altogether, the animation was crisp and clean, but there were parts where they threw in some sloppy-looking 3D parts (I have become so much more picky since I got into sakuga :’D), though they were minimal and usually only for background parts.
Personally, I prefer the manga’s art style. There is a certain gloomy elegance and sophistication to it that the anime doesn’t have. Yana-sensei’s art is incredible and you can really see how she improves throughout the course of the manga. Please check out ennadune’s blog post explaining why Black Butler is such a brilliant manga.
Lizzy’s Bad-Assery Revealed
There were parts, however, where the animation got much better and added a special grace to the characters. The first part was Lizzy’s backstory and the section where the Undertaker explained his evil plan. Since the part with Lizzy is my absolute favorite part of the movie (if not the whole series), I will go into further discussion about that now.
This part is my favorite because it reveals that Lizzy isn’t just some timid, frivolous girl, but actually a bad ass who goes against the expected gender roles of the time period. You can read my full analysis of Lizzy and the gender roles of the Victorian Era here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).
During my favorite sequence, Lizzy reveals that, because of her family’s tradition of being knights, she is actually a master swords woman. She also begins killing the zombies that are attacking her and Ciel.
In the original manga, while Lizzy is explaining her past, there are beautiful floral patterns in the background. Seeing them move and accompany Lizzy was gorgeous. One thing that took my breath away, though, was Lizzy’s movements. In the manga, her movements are not fully shown because they are cut off by the manga’s panels. However, in the movie, her movements while sword fighting were connected and… oh my god. They did a fantastic job. The animators made it look like Lizzy was ballet dancing while fighting the zombies. She was beautiful and destructive at the same time. The dancing movements hit me hard because I did ballet for years, but haven’t been able to recently.
Other than that, the animation was really gorgeous during this sequemce, making it even more impactful. You go, Lizzy!
Undertaker’s Identity Revealed
The other scene with great animation was Undertaker’s explanation. It turns out the Undertaker is a grim reaper and was responsible for creating the zombies. His backstory looked like it was made out of reels of film, which was amazing. An extra thing they added that wasn’t in the manga was a little creepy doll that accompanied the Undertaker while he spoke. The graphics used for the doll were perfect and poignant, making the scene even more remarkable than it originally was in the comic. The animation during the fight scenes with the Undertaker were good too. However, it seemed like the fight scene was drawn out a lot more in the movie and it got a little tedious after a while.
More Important Parts To The Story
I love the story in the movie. It does start out kind of slow, but every arc of Black Butler starts out that way. I personally don’t mind it, but if you are an impatient viewer, don’t give up right away. The story gets a much faster pace as the movie goes on.
The sequences with Lizzy and the Undertaker are important and impressive, but there was one other part of the movie that is essential. One sequence shows how Ciel and Sebastian met and how their relationship grew over time. It fills in a lot of questions that were never answered before, like how Sebastian got his name.
It also shows us how Ciel was when he was younger. He… he was such a spoiled brat. Most people would have smacked him for his behavior, but I honestly think it made him more adorable (Ciel is my #1 son, you see :D). Besides his snobbishness, the movie also reveals how psychologically damaged Ciel was after he was kidnapped. It is interesting (and heartbreaking) to see Ciel being vulnerable. It shows how strong he is as a person, though, of course, he has many other faults. It also shows how much he has grown since the series started.
To make this part even better, Ciel was incredibly cute and tiny when he was younger!
As for Sebastian, he wasn’t always such a capable butler. He makes a lot of mistakes when he first came into Ciel’s service, mostly because he isn’t used to human standards. We get a glimpse into some of Sebastian’s thoughts and reactions, which is interesting since he doesn’t always show emotion. We also get to see how he really feels about Ciel.
If you are a fan of the movie Titanic, or are interested in the actual historical Titanic, you may enjoy this film. The ship may be called the Campania, but it is obviously an allusion to the Titanic… just with zombies. It is a very interesting take on the tragic Titanic incident. I saw some comments online saying that the series is inaccurate because the Titanic sank in 1912, whereas the movie takes place in the 1880s. However, in the omake of the very first manga tankoban volume, Yana says that Black Butler takes place in Great Britain, but is in a parallel world. So, that covers that issue as well some other parts that may be called historically inaccurate.
Calling All Black Butler Fans: Watch This Movie
If you are a Black Butler fan, this movie is critical. The events in the film are essential to the main plot of Black Butler and drives the story throughout the rest of the manga. If you don’t see the movie, you will be very confused when more parts of the series are animated. Although Japanese anime movies can be hard to come across, I highly recommend- no, I implore you- to somehow watch this movie if you are a Black Butler fan that hasn’t read the manga. Hopefully, it will be screened in more theaters, or Funimation will stream it. Maybe they can release it soon since the movie is already dubbed. Another option is that there is going to be a musical in Japan adapting the same material. If you are a fan of Grell, he makes a comeback in this film too 😛
One last thing that I want to point out is the blood in this movie. Black Butler has always had some blood, but this movie has much more because of the zombies. This is just a quick note if you are squeamish.
Altogether, I give the movie a 9/10. My only complaint is the animation, but there were more than enough parts to make up for it. Although I didn’t go into depth about it in the review, there are also some really funny parts in the movie (The Phoenix!). I enjoyed the story (especially the Lizzy scene), and seeing my favorite characters and manga come to life.
And last, but not least… Look at my babies in this magazine!