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[Black Butler: Public School Arc]
AKA: 黒執事 寄宿学校編
Genre: Mystery/Horror/Fantasy
Length: Television series, 11 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on crunchyroll.
Content Rating: 16+ (Violence, Mature themes)
Related Series: Black Butler (36 episode TV series plus 7 OVAs); Black Butler: Book of Circus (10 episode TV series); Black Butler: Book of Murder (2 OVA episodes); Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (movie); a 2014 live-action film, Black Butler: Emerald Witch Arc (2025
Also Recommended: Akuma-kun; Princess Resurrection; Ge Ge Ge Kitaro; Moonphase
Notes: Based on manga by Yana Toboso, published by Square Enix

Black Butler: Public School Arc


Queen Victoria wants Ciel Phantomhive to find out what happened to a boy named Derrick Arden, who is supposedly still a student at Weston College, but nobody seems to have heard from him. Rest assured, a young man who's sold his soul to a demon will have no problem doing whatever it takes to find the lad- especially with the assistance of that very same demon.


When most people hear "public school" they think of free education programs provided to all citizens. But that's NOT what we have here. It's only "public" in the sense of not being Church-run. The elite boys of Weston College would, I'm sure, be appalled at being associated with the common riff-raff. This is an exclusive school for the training of England's future upper-crust leadership.

In another of those odd coincidences I often experience with anime, I was reading a collection of Rudyard Kipling stories around the time I started this, and one of those was "Stalky and Co.", which was obviously based on Kipling's own experiences as a student in just this sort of school. It's not a particularly accessible story- it's written in Kipling's most turgid, impenetrable style, and much of it is written in dialect, which makes it even worse- but it demonstrates that the boys attending these schools, despite their upper-class upbringings, may, surprisingly, have had much in common with John Belushi's character in Animal House. Here I'll note that the term "drudge" used for the school's prefects' underlings in Public School Arc's translation is a euphemism for the offensive term actually used in the English schools. (If you MUST know, Kipling's story is awash in it.)

Now we've all seen in Harry Potter how students in English boarding schools are sorted into various Houses according to their aptitudes (or into Hufflepuff, I suppose, if they didn't HAVE any particular aptitudes), and so it is at Weston as well. Weston has four Houses. Their names, specialties, and Prefects (the senior students in charge in each House) are:

"Scarlet Fox House" is said to be for the high born (though being bishonen seems to be the main qualification.) The prefect here is Edgar Redmond.

"Green Lion House" is for those who excel at martial arts and sports. The prefect is Herman Greenhill. (And if you start to detect a pattern here, the answer is YES.)

"Sapphire Owl House" is for those who excel academically. The prefect here is Lawrence Bluewer. (SEE?) Ciel himself ends up in Sapphire Owl when he begins his investigation, but it turns out that Ciel's dad, when he attended Weston, was also in Sapphire Owl. (And we get yet another piece of Ciel's father's past.)

And finally, there's "Violet Wolf House", for the artistically inclined. The prefect is, naturally, Gregory Violet. (This color-coding of names to Houses is so Clue-ish.) Back when I reviewed the original Black Butler, I noted that Elizabeth, Ciel's "fiancée (though he's never seemed that thrilled about it) seemed to have anticipated cosplay by about a century; here "Violet House" (or at least Gregory) seems to have done the same for Goth culture. Personally, I would think this would stand out a little too much in Victorian culture.

Speaking of Elizabeth, her brother Edward is in Green Lion House. I ended up feeling quite a bit of sympathy for Edward, though doing so requires putting yourself in the frame of mind of a male in Victorian times. It turns out that Elizabeth has bested her brother in ALL categories of physical prowess, and, to top it off, she backs CIEL over him when those two become rival players in the Big Game that becomes the centerpiece of this installment. (I'll get to that soon, don't worry.)

Anyway, Ciel begins his investigation, but to make inquiries of ones as exalted as the Prefects you need to ingratiate yourself into the hierarchy, which Ciel does his best to do- though you can tell being this obsequious is hard on him, and the Prefects still act evasive when the subject of Derrick comes up.

Well, when committing a felony STILL doesn't flush out Derrick, Ciel decides that becoming the MVP in the school's annual cricket game may help. And after COMMITTING a felony, simple cheating is just child's play to Ciel. Ciel pursues a variety of strategies to win; not ALL require technically breaking the rules, but quite a few DO, and inevitably someone will remark, "That's not cricket!" And, indeed, it's not. Sebastian, of course, also lends an (under)hand in Ciel's campaign of dirty tricks against the competition. And, indeed, this becomes the engaging (and amusing) centerpiece of the show.

All I can about the denouement is that there's a familiar villain behind it all, and I thought that villain's ambitions reminded me of recurring themes in the works of Sci-Fi writer Philip K. Dick.

In keeping with the lighter tone of this installment, Sebastian, in the final episode, gets to help out a Shakespearean performer AND help promote Ciel's business at the same time (the show sometimes forgets that he owns one), with what we'll only say is a spectacular entrance.

It's Black Butler, so there's SOME death of course, but MUCH less than usual, and the cricket match (and Ciel's determination to do whatever it took to win it) was great fun to watch, even if Ciel's opponents on the field might have felt otherwise. And since there's not mass death, there's NO GRELL (YAY!), so I rated this one has highly as I did the original series.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: Crunchy's new ratings give an age rating of 16, for "smoking, suicide, violence." It seems to be a generic rating for the whole Black Butler series though. There IS some violence in the final few episodes of this one, but compared to Book of Circus this is really quite restrained.

Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Black Butler: Public School Arc © 2024 Yana Toboso/Square Enix, Project Black Butler
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