← Oh Bassy, too sexy for your gloves, aren‘t ya?
It‘s the INDIAN BUTLER ARC and there will be curry. Eventually.
In his capacity as Queen Victoria‘s watchdog, Ciel has been called to London to investigate attacks on English businessmen and soldiers who have recently returned from India. Their search leads Ciel and Sebastian¹ to the East End, where they team up with Lau. When they are attacked by angry Indian immigrants themselves, two new acquaintances come to the rescue: Prince Soma and his servant Agni, who are looking for Soma‘s nanny Mina – and now Soma just won‘t leave Ciel‘s side.
Frankly, this whole story arc is a bit stupid and boring. Not much happens. (To his credit, even Ciel is bored by the case. This game doesn‘t amuse him much.) This volume essentially serves to do three things:
1. to explain what Ciel‘s role as watchdog to the Queen and as one of the Aristocrats of Evil actually means;
2. to provide the first flashback to the traumatic events that let him summon Sebastian (who apparently wears hooker boots when no one is watching);
3. to introduce some new regulars: For one we have Ran-Mao, Lau‘s… whatever she is, another favourite of mine. She doesn‘t talk much, but when she does, she has a point, and she‘s generally bad-ass. Then there‘s Prince Soma Asman Gandal, son and heir to the King of Bengal – pretty, impulsive, spoiled Soma, even more of a brat than Ciel. Last but not least we‘ve got Agni, aka „The Right Hand of God“, a human imbued with superhuman strength. Soma and Agni aren‘t among my best liked characters, but I can see their significance.²
They serve as a mirror for Ciel and Sebastian: Ciel summoned Sebastian in a time of need, theirs is a relationship born out of hunger, hurt and despair. Agni turned to Soma out of gratitude, when the Prince saved the formerly brutal and selfish man from being hanged for his sins. Ciel created Sebastian, gave him his name and I assume also his form; Soma created Agni by letting him die a symbolic death and declaring him reborn, giving him a new name and occupation as well. Both butlers are loyal to a fault, but for very different reasons: for Sebastian, serving a master well is a demon’s aesthetics, for Agni it’s about love and faith.
Agni is also the only one who can compete with Sebastian’s capability as a butler, and even bests him in some regards. Much to Sebastian's chagrin, he even manages to put the Phantomhive staff to good use – through the sheer superpower of positive reinforcement.
I wasn’t too in love with some of the panels here. Sebastian’s movements are smooth, fluid, and gracious. You can really see this, especially when the two butlers are fencing. Agni is supposed to be wicked fast, so he’s often depicted rather blurred, and - I didn’t really like the look of it? But the full colour panels are exceptionally beautiful, and there are still many, many details to appreciate, like the intricate china and most of all the clothes. Oh, the pretty clothes. I love Victorian attire for men anyway, and then we have Lau’s Chinese robes and Soma’s Indian dresses (not to forget Bassy’s hooker boots)³… it’s all so very, very pretty. I also love how Ciel’s eye patch changes from casual to formal depending on occasion, and he apparently has a separate one for fencing lessons, too.
This adventure will continue for another volume of not-much-happening, but at least it’s nice to look at. And it still has it’s moments of humour…
(That's from the anime, obviously)
And we get a taste of Professor Sebas-chan:
¹ That’s pronounced Se-bust-chiun, btw, not in the American way.
² Btw, never look at character sheets. I've spoiled myself for one of the Big Twists that way. But at least, knowing what to look for, I can now see how carefully Yana Toboso set it all up.
³ Eh, I’m just jealous. I’ve never learned to walk in really high heels. Hell, I’m glad if I find shoes that fit (the disadvantage of having very long, but very slim feet)