Friday, May 3, 2013

Day One Hundred and Twenty-three - Black Butler: Season 1, Episode 1, "Uh, Houston... I think we have a syncing problem."

So a friend of mine asked me if I'd ever watched an anime that she likes. This particular title seemed to slant heavily on the bishy with undercurrents of yaoi, to my eye, what with the overly handsome demon butler waiting on the overly pretty, almost girlish, young master. Because of those initial assumptions, I'd pretty much stayed away from it. Those sorts of titles just aren't my thing, generally.

That being said, it was brought to my attention that it was on Netflix and I never want it to be said that I always judge a book (or, in this case, anime) by its cover, so I gave it a try.

Things turned out mostly like I expected.



Black Butler tells the tale of a demonic pact between the lord and master of an English merchant house and a, well, demon of mysterious origins who has apparently vowed to serve him.

It's all pretty vague purely based on the first episode, as the only bit of backstory that we're treated to is the initial pact where the young master with the improbable name of Ciel Phantomhive lies in a field of feathers, implicitly wounded and perhaps in the limbo state between life and death where he is questioned by a dark entity about whether or not he wants to stain his soul.

After that, the rest of the intro epi revolves around a typical day for the gentry as Ciel entertains a subordinate of his House's employ.

There's some basic upstairs/downstairs drama, as the day progresses, in which the servants generally screw everything up and it falls to the butler, Sebastian, to save the grounds, meal, and overall face of the Phantomhive family.

Things only get supernatural when the Italian representative of Ciel's foreign interests reveals to the audience that he's fleecing the boy and weird stuff begins messing with the conman's mind, apparently under the direction of the demonic Sebastian.

I think I'd be willing to give this series a chance after this first episode. It hints at things that seem interesting, even if it's bogged down by unnecessary silliness (such as the incompetent staff).

While it's not exactly a sterling example of a pilot, it doesn't necessarily need to be since it seems to be following the rubric of the first episode just throwing you in the middle of things, like some anime tend to do, before actually giving you real exposition to chew on... focusing more on establishing style, mood, and a few basic universe rules before presenting the viewer with plot-meat.

If I were to describe it, it would be as if the entire epi was a cold opener.

There is a downside to its presentation on Netflix, though... something that really makes it hard to enjoy due to the technical limitations imposed by what can only be a horrible mistake somewhere in the file transfer. The Japanese audio is out of sync... by several seconds.


It's hard enough to find anime on Netflix that even HAS the original Japanese audio track with English subtitles. For it to be flubbed like this? Ugh!

The English dub seems synced correctly, so it can be watched that way, but Black Butler's English voice cast doesn't exactly shine, particularly when it comes to the side characters of the chef, maid, and groundskeeper. They all sound too old, too comical, and their accents are horrendous.

Coupled with the fact that the original voice tracks are out of sync, the terrible English dub makes it a painful thing to watch in its current state.

I haven't gone past the first episode, so maybe that problem is taken care of from the second entry on, but it's a terrible thing when your pilot suffers from technical snafus. It leaves a horrible impression on folks who aren't already fans of the show and are just checking it out on a whim or recommendation (like I was).

Black Butler has an interesting premise that looks like it has the potential to intrigue, despite its bishy tendencies, but if the tracking errors persist, I'll have to drop it. I just cannot take its English dub as an alternative.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

UPDATE (5/19/13): In response to comments (thanks, Nadia 8D ), it has come to my attention that Black Butler's Japanese audio track issues have been fixed. I've witnessed this for myself (5/18/13). I feel that I was rightly upset when the problem was an issue and am very, very glad that it has been resolved.


  1. I do think that as you progress through the next few episodes, you will find the intrigue you're looking for. The characters do develop and have really interesting backgrounds and overall, I would say that the episodes range from serious to some light hearted moments every once in a while to help uplift it. From what I remember, the whole bishy thing doesn't really play out between Ciel and Sebastian. It's definitely fan service, though. However, that is not the point of the show and as I recall, isn't a huge theme (though it has been a few years since I've seen it!).

    If you do continue watching it and prefer the Japanese (which I always do), I recommend using to watch it as opposed to Netflix. I am aware that you won't be able to review the episodes further if you take that route, but maybe Netflix's syncing problems are fixed in the second episode.

  2. I'll keep my fingers crossed on the syncing issue~

    It sucks, considering that my main beef with anime on Netflix is that it often only has the crap English dubs. Finally finding a Japanese audio track and having it desync'd is depressing.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. I started watching it just now to see about the de-synced audio and it appears to be perfectly synced (I'm watching it on TV via my Roku). I watched the first five minutes and then skipped to random points to make sure, so it's possible that it's de-synced somewhere, but it sounds from your post as thought it was de-synced through out. Check it again, I think they fixed it.

    The reason I'm not watching the whole thing right now is because I found this post while trying to figure out why Black Butler is the only anime I've been able to find on Netflix with a Japanese language track. Is Black Butler intended as a test? Are there other anime titles out now with Japanese language tracks? Gonna go back to searching for answers.

  4. Nadia,

    First off, thanks for reading~

    Secondly, I just rechecked BB's first episode in Japanese and it is re-synched! Woohoo! Good catch~