You know they say that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes?
It‘s your Cinematic Record, being reviewed and judged by the Gods of Death.
It‘s the conclusion of the Jack the Ripper arc, and there will be blood. Even more blood than there has already been. And there has already been so. much. red.
**some character spoilers, but it's pretty much the first thing you find about this character anyway, so I'm not really giving away too much**
With the example of Madame Red, the author shows how adept she is at providing her characters with a Tragic Backstory™. It‘s a bit cliché and not totally unsurprising, but it actually gives Madame Red more depth and makes the reader feel for her. The Tragic Backstory™ will become par for the course, and this first glimpse is already tugging at the heartstrings. And can it be that there’s just the tiniest bit of foreshadowing, just the most tantalizing hint in what is left unsaid, for the even more tragic event that sat the whole story in motion?
The author doesn't leave much time to dwell on this question, because tonight it‘s butler versus butler in an epic battle to death.
Under the uncaring eye of a full moon, it’s icy black versus fiery red, cold calculation versus hot passion, mastery of movements versus the brute force of lust, Romeo versus Jul--- erm, okay, it’s Sebastian Michaelis versus Grell Sutcliff. Demon versus shinigami.
The German translation gets wonderfully Shakespearean here, punctuating Grell’s taste for drama, and the ensuing battle is a thing to behold.
Yeah, Grell. Far from being shy and clumsy, Grell (sometimes spelled Grelle) is a shinigami, a God of Death from Japanese mythology – or a Grim Reaper, as they are called in the English version. The mangaka adds a nice spin to the myth, turning the Reapers into a kind of bureaucratic organisation. Members of the Grim Reaper Dispatch are tasked with reviewing human lives, shown as Cinematic Records at the moment of death, and to decide if the person is worthy to go on living or has to die for good. To reap the souls they use their Death Scythes, costume made and often anachronistic tools. Grell comes equipped with a chainsaw, William T. Spears, a shinigami of higher rank who also appears on stage here, uses pruning shears. I especially appreciate the fact that all Grim Reapers are terrible nearsighted and get to wear costume made glasses.
Grim Reapers are the natural adversaries to demons, as both species go after human souls; Reapers to lie them to rest, demons to snatch them away and devour them.
The fight scenes between Sebastian and Grell are beautifully realised for the most part; there are just very few panels that I found to be confusing. The opponents are not only quite evenly matched – at first – Grell is also an outrageous flirt, much to Sebastian’s dismay. You can tell that Sebastian is just done with that shit. Not that Grell cares, because Grell has a major crush on the handsome devil.
Full colour Grell Sutcliff. I’m a little bit in love.¹
It’s this weird mix of blood & gore and hysteric, sometimes improper humour that made me love the anime so much and that also works very well on paper. In addition, the mangaka uses the symbol of chess to great effect, showing Ciel’s cold, calculating side, as well as Sebastian’s careful manipulations of the soul he plans to eat some day.
After an intense battle and a moving farewell, we get a cute chapter of fluff. Okay, it starts with a not so cute nightmare, and then it gets almost worst, as Elizabeth “call me Lizzy” Midford and her mum, Ciel’s aunt Frances, come to visit.² And you do not mess with Aunt Frances! The prim and proper lady won’t have the boys wearing their emo bangs, and she’s very adamant that Ciel proves his worth as Lizzy’s future husband. Apart from being fluff, the chapter shows a different side of Ciel, a side that still cares about the people dear to him, and provides another glimpse into what Sebastian thinks about his young master.
Also, Ciel is a Sagittarius! That could somewhat explain the whole "forgetting about the revenge plot when some other stuff comes along" kind of thing. Us sags are some easily distracted squirrels.
All in all, this was the strongest volume so far. (I read it in German, not in Spanish, but I'm too lazy to add the proper edition.)
Ciel is *not* a morning person.
¹ Considering Grell's part in the Ripper plot, it seems quite a marvel that the shinigami is generally well liked with the audience, and that the anime gets away with essentially playing the character for comic relief. Well, I’m just into redheards. And I bet the over-the-top personality, going from good-natured, if a bit vulgar flirt to murderous psychotic rage in the blink of an eye, plays a big part in the Red Reaper’s popularity. In a cast of characters that are extra, Grell is EXTRA-extra. But like with most characters here – and that’s even true for Elizabeth “call me Lizzy” Middleford – there’s more to Grell than it seems.
² I can hear Elizabeth’s voice in my head! I don’t want to hear Elizabeth’s voice in my head!