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August 11, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Black Butler 2, Time and Again 1

I’ve got a fairly sizable pile of manga I’d like to get through, so today I’m reviewing two titles, which will (hopefully) be shorter than my usual reviews.  They’re both Yen Press books.  The first is Black Butler volume 2 (here’s my review of volume 1), then I’ll look at Time and Again volume 1.  Both books are $10.99 each.

Title: Black Butler
Author: Yana Toboso
Vintage: 2007 by Square Enix in Japan, May 2010 by Yen Press
Genre: Supernatural, comedy, action

The bulk of this volume covers the Jack the Ripper story line.  Ciel receives a request from the Queen to investigate a series of murders, and to uncover the identity of Jack the Ripper.  After a visit with the (fantastically entertaining) Undertaker to gather information, Sebastian does some exceptionally quick footwork and narrows down the list of suspects.  Garnering an invitation to a party via Madame Red, Ciel’s aunt, Ciel and Sebastian go undercover to root out the villain.  Ciel dresses up as a girl, which is…weird.  Sebastian goes as “her” tutor and throws on some spectacles, which is…sexy and awesome.  Clearly Toboso is playing to some fetishes here…and I’m totally fine with that.  As usual, Ciel lands himself in trouble and has to be rescued by his demonic butler.  Unfortunately their victory is short lived, as they did not find the real criminal.  Further investigation leads them to an unexpected, and very unfortunate, target.

Pardon me while I fangirl out over Sebastian in glasses.  I’m a bit of a megane freak, so this elicits a tiny bit of squealing from me.  This volume seriously caters to the fans by putting both Ciel and Sebastian into “costumes.”  It works like it’s supposed to.  Now that I’ve got the squealing out of my system, let’s get serious and talk about how disturbing and wrong this title can sometimes be.  I love Black Butler, but as a reviewer, I have to step back and look at this objectively.  Ciel is twelve, and there’s a bit of bizarre sexuality in these books.  For example, as Ciel gets dressed for the party, “off screen” innuendo is used as he is squeezed into his corset.  In the art for the series, Ciel is drawn to present an older image, to match his personality and his social status as the head of his house, but he’s still just a twelve-year-old boy.  I imagine this sort of thing may be a bit unsettling to some readers, so there’s your warning.  It would be hypocritical of me to complain about this sort of thing when it happens to young female characters (like, say, in Negima), and not mention it here.  So, it’s been mentioned.  Otherwise you are treated to Sebastian’s love of felines, and the great pleasure he takes in seeing his master forced to portray a young lady.  More of his personality also comes out during the murder investigation; he’s rather twisted, if that wasn’t already obvious.  It infuriates Ciel, but is deliciously entertaining for the reader.  The moments when Ciel and Sebastian play off each other on their own are some of my favorites.

Title: Time and Again
Author: Ji-un Yun
Vintage: 2006 by Daewon C.I. Inc. in Korea, December 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Supernatural, ghost stories

Time and Again is a collection of ghost stories set in 8th century Korea.  They mostly center on the exorcist Baek-On and his guard Ho-Yeon, as they travel the country exorcising or otherwise bringing spirits to rest.  They’re not in every story, but they are the main characters of the title.  As they travel the country, Baek-On and Ho-Yeon encounter many people and many spirits, and are called upon to deal with all manner of spiritual troubles.  Often the spirits they come across carry heavy grudges from a tragic past, but sometimes the living around them are far crueler.  For example, one story deals with a haunted garden, and a family hires Baek-On to rid them of the spirit of a daughter-in-law who supposedly killed herself after being punished for sleeping with a servant.  In reality, the mother framed and killed her, and the ghost wants revenge.  Baek-On asks for an exorbitant fee, then solves the matter in his  own way.

The art is beautiful (though not always polished), as I’m finding is the norm for most Korean manhwa I have checked out.  The dynamic between Baek-On and Ho-Yeon is entertaining, if not entirely developed.  Baek-On is an excellent exorcist, but is often drunk, lazy, and brutal in the way he dishes out his form of justice.  He seems to respect the dead, and is unwilling to aid those who cause the dead pain.  Ho-Yeon is caught up in Baek-On’s pace, dragging his drunken master around, rescuing him from those seeking revenge, and chiding him for some of his decisions (which is mostly ignored).  Several things are set up in this volume that could be continued later, including elements from Baek-On’s past, and (hopefully) the origin of Ho-Yeon’s sword Shin-Wol, which can take on the form of a human female.  The final chapter is cut off in the middle, and I wonder if it was like that in the original Korean printing, or a decision Yen Press made.  There’s a handful of extra pages with an afterword from Ji-un Yun, character descriptions, bonus comics, notes on the time period the story is set in, and translation notes.

Come back Friday for a review of Flower in a Storm volume 2 from Viz Media.




  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Comic Attack, Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #manga review @comicattack: @yenpress's Black Butler 2 & Time and Again 1 https://comicattack.net/2010/08/bblbb2_timeagain1/ quick takes […]

  2. I guess I would have to see the panel you are talking about to fully understand what happend with Ciel but I think I get the point you’re trying to make. But are you simply referring to how the characters are drawn or how they are portrayed throughout the story to be a little older yet are merely children.

    I was recently reading a comic and it clearly states the girl is 14 but the artist gives her the body of a 25 yr old woman in the tightest pair of jeans and cut off shirt I’ve ever seen and that was a bit disturbing if you ask me.

  3. Well…OK. Here’s the dialog, which is over an image of Ciel gasping, with his top off, and his hands up against the wall, with his back to Sebastian.
    Ciel: Se-Sebastian… *haah, haah, haah*
    Sebastian: Now, please place your hands on the wall, and…relax your muscles a bit further.
    Ciel: I can’t–! Take it anymore! *haah haah* …No! It hurts–!
    Sebastian: Do bear with it a little longer, sir. You will find your body becoming accustomed to it soon.
    Ciel: Ah! Coming–

    Then it cuts to what’s actually happening, and Sebastian is tying a corset around Ciel’s waist. This is a very commonly used tactic to make the viewer or reader think something dirty is going on, when it’s really not.
    Ciel is often drawn with a haughty air. He’s the head of his house, but he’s only 12. He’s drawn with a very mature appearance (he looks like a little kid; it’s more the way he carries himself, and his aura). Occasionally he’ll be drawn in a suggestive pose, particularly with Sebastian nearby.
    Like this image, for example (pardon the long link): http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_g_f-AK63UI0/S4U9oEah6GI/AAAAAAAAAIQ/-qWVLXf46E4/S1600-R/kuroshitsuji-pics.jpg

  4. […] on vol. 2 of Black Butler and vol. 1 of Time and Again (Comic Attack) Michael Buntag on vol. 6 of Black Lagoon (NonSensical Words) Sesho on vol. 2 of […]

  5. Billy

    Both sound like good reads, but if I had to go with just one, it would be BB. 😀

  6. […] Comic Book Bin, Chris Zimmerman reviews volume three of Jack Frost (Yen Press). Both Kristin Bomba (Comic Attack) and Charles Webb (Manga Life) check out Time and Again (Yen Press), volumes one and three, […]

  7. […] Comic Book Bin, Chris Zimmerman reviews volume three of Jack Frost (Yen Press). Both Kristin Bomba (Comic Attack) and Charles Webb (Manga Life) check out Time and Again (Yen Press), volumes one and three, […]

  8. […] new manhwa: Time and Again from Yen Press. This beautiful manhwa started at the end of 2009, and continues going strong. Full […]

  9. […] Time and Again volume 5, by Ji-un Yun. “This gorgeously illustrated historical fantasy/horror tale follows the adventures of a wandering exorcist and his bodyguard. When the person you promised to love forever dies, what would you do? When your life ends when your beloved has departed this world, what can take its place? With a glimpse of Beak-On’s past revealed, the cycle of hatred and love continues.” March 2011, $10.99. […]

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