I was not happy with Season/Book 3 and I was hoping that Korra Book 4 would be better. So far, it is. It is asking integral questions about authority and also how misshapen and totalitarian authority can be when power is not rightly exercised.
As fans has suspected Kuvira from Book 3 is the main antagonist of this Book. Like Ozai and also Hyoung-Ting, Unalaq and Amon (won’t include Zaheer as he was not trying to be leader rather just get rid of the Avatar), Kuvira has become corrupt with power. In so far that she is now exiled from the Metal City of Zang Fu (I think that was what it was called) and is trying to reunite the Earth Kingdom and being labeled as “The Great Uniter” by her supporters and enemies alike, both with admiration and disdain.
This is shown in Episode 1 titled “After all these Years” which is taking place after three years of the Book 3 climax. A lot has happened, Republic City has finally accepted Spirits and the Spirit Wilds are flourishing with a good coexistence (we also see the homeless guy that Korra met on the very first episode make good friends with many; funny that he is still homeless right though?) . Asami has become a person charged with a trans territory rail line construction which she successfully completes that allows Ba Sing Se and Republic City have constant travels. She is hit on by Prince Wu whose Aunt was Hyoung-Ting and though he is not as eccentric as his aunt he is as prideful and foolish. Mako is ordered to be his bodyguard and this is a job that he wants desperately to get out off though does properly (though by the penultimate moments of this episode we hear that Wu wants Mako too much to be his bodyguard and personal relations to be secured doesn’t allow Mako to get out of it).
The Air Nomad are now dressed differently. Their clothes now accentuate a wandering nomadic aerial mobile design as in acrobatic with gliders attached to their clothes like stunt performers. Kai has grown up and is in a long distant relationship with Jinora and Opal with Boilin. Boilin has become from comic relief to Earth Kingdom soldier, so has Varrick and Ju-li. Batar, Opal’s oldest brother is engaged with Kuvira, which is also a cause of family friction. Opal thinks Batar and Kuvira has betrayed her mom. If you guys recall Suyin was anti-monarchy all the way and now her own are beelining for it — not a good situation.
Opal and Kai has come to aid a kingdom that are being attacked by robbers. Ever since Zaheer killed Hyoung-Ting we saw Ba Sing Se in chaos and now still some remnants remain. Opal and Kai are not warmly greeted as the village leader wanted more recruits but they show themselves capable of administrative fair ways of solving a situation. This is antithetical to Kuvira who has a lot of authoritative power. She captures a bunch of bandits by putting metal around their arms eyes and feet then bundling them up as heavy sacks (how Nowatak and Torlak were shown to abuse wolves in Book One). Then when one of the bandits try to apologize she even seals her mouth with metal. Then she says the only way they can save themselves is by relinquishing this lifestyle and just opt to join her. The bandits, fearing for their lives, do as they are told. Kuvira smiles that despot’s smile of triumph.
Then she attempts to bully the village leader into signing a contract of protection (like Yakuza and Mafia and dirty politicians do) saying that she will help them with food, water and troops only if he supports her. There is a campaign for her also by many people who want her as new Earth Queen and not Prince Wu (leading to a humourous pie in the face in crowd where Mako saves the dude and reminds him, while he gasps, that he is allergic to bee stings not strawberry). The village leader rejects her offer.
There is a gulf between Opal and Boilin because of this. Opal is angry at her brother and Kuvira for ditching her mother, the matriarch of the steel clan and also going so far out away from all the clan stood for (and then suddenly hearing they are engaged made her angry). She does not like Boi8lin helping Kuvira but Boilin believes reuniting and helping the Earth Kingdom is his calling. Then Opal and Kai attempt to get supplies but they are stolen by robbers (bet Kuvira was behind that) prompting the village to sign the contract making Opal become more frustrated and Boilin more confused.
The end shocks everyone. Everyone thinks after three years Korra is finally making a full recovery reappearance to Republic City. Tonrak is surprised and says that Korra has been writing for six months from Republic City and that she is okay and doing well.
So, where is Korra?
Hair cut short. Using only one bending style. Earth. And Wearing green clothes of the Earth Kingdom she is fighting in a cage match of sorts with another woman but loses. The owner comes and angrily gives her due but of course says she lost him some. Then remarking that she loves “like that Avatar girl” and what happened to her. Korra truthfully answers she doesn’t know.
While in episode we see the ravages of power and totalitarian that Zaheer and even Amon was afraid of (yeah their execution was batshit crazy but not all their ideas were) we also see the vulnerabilities and caustic repercussions that comes through poverty. The fact that in three years no one is really helping these villages is sad.
Also while Kuvira is getting mentally and physically strong, psychologically preparing herself for power, authority and the confidence she is earning in getting a chance to be Queen — Korra has lost a lot of Avatar qualities and is now shown to be unstable and weak. I think this is why they decided to pair off two women in the end as a form of acceptable dichotomy. After all all the main villains has been male and she defeated all of them but none of them were once her protector and comrade but now this one is. This fight I think is going to be the most important and difficult fight that Korra will ever fight as both the Avatar and Korra.
This is where, if the series pulls it off, LOK is going to be more mature than TLA. Yes for once they got some stuff down after Book 2 right. Yes, more mature. Because Balance isn’t about I think learning any new bending or just making a tyrant pay for their crimes. It’s about Korra keeping her title, spirit, selfhood, body and soul intact, focused, preserved, synchronized and finally evolved. Because all the battle she is fought now has attacked her personhood in these ways and it has made her break — Kuvira may do more damage than all three guys combined. How will Korra survive this? Will she herself break the Avatar chain to show that people can make hope for the future without avatars? I am actually excited to see what happens.
That is why the episode 2 is rightly called “Korra Alone” (a nod to ATLA’s “Zuko Alone”) and like Zuko who decides to travel alone to reclaim his title and earn it as noble, just prince of the Fire Nation Korra too now reclaim herself and also earn her Avatar title. Korra’s body is so badly undone after the poison that she can’t walk and she can’t properly eat or sleep. Her mother becomes rightly worried and says though they had agreed not to interfere with her recuperation she is not getting better so she must go and visit Katara.
It is a grueling process of recovery with Katara. She gets frustrated but when after six months of physical therapy at least allows her to walk she decides to go off to Republic City because she wants to be Avatar again. Actually, she first loses with fire benders in a training (a nod to first season’s first episode where she was able to completely take each and every one out) then on her journeying she loses to common bending thieves (a far cry from Book One Korra who takes on Triple Threats and actually throws a fire bender throw a store’s glass window). Not to mention what also gets to her is that Tenzin thinks that she should not be ashamed of her convalescence but Korra isn’t used to feeling weak. Unlike Aang who fostered a sense of vulnerability losing his culture, kin, fellow benders (which Katara mentions as a sense of spirit uplifting so Korra can finish her therapy) Korra has been strong o entitled to strength so she cannot understand how weak feels.
This was the epiphany I was waiting for the entire Book 3 so I am happy Book 4 delved into it. Korra has been avoidant of her weakness in situations; she tries to forget Amon, Unalaq and even the Red Lotus but she can’t anymore. Korra must acknowledge that she is human and that she has both weakness and strength. She must acknowledge her spirituality. Of course, Korra doesn’t necessarily at first. After losing the fight with bandits she cuts off her hair to sever her ties to Avatar position and throws away her water tribe arm band and decides to fight in underground Earth Kingdom battles. She had tried to meditate in the Spirit World’s tree of time unable to reach Raava. The spirits, a cute yellow and green one especially, wants to help. But Korra refuses. Like Zuko she is used to feeling alone or doing things alone.
This episode was a masterpiece in showing Korra; of all the Books this one episode actually did a magnificent character sketch on Korra. Who and What she is and feels. Korra thinks by fighting she can reclaim herself and that is where she errs. The spirits have rightly realized that Korra’s problem is spiritual.
Korra’s mind now emits an old, poisoned still long-haired Korra all wild as she was in the end of season 3 and that Korra is winning the battle because she is strong and ruthless with a vengeance. Korra encounters her especially when she is weak or is in horrendous doubt about what to do. And she gets beat up a lot by this chaotic Korra projection.
The yellow and green spirit, disguised as a dog, comes to Korra and growls at the chaotic emittance making Korra realize that this is real. The spirit wants Korra to acknowledge that her problem is spiritual. Then he skillfully if not without a fight with chaos Korra leads her to a periphery between Spirit and Normal world where Korra succumbs to her wounds and collapses. Person who helps her get better as she awakens after some time is none other than an old Toph who affectionately says it’s good to see “Twinkle Toes” again.
This was a very well written episode. I am happy they finally acknowledged that Korra needs a spiritual overhaul. But one thing I think as a fan I notice is that Zaheer is not really her only “mad man” that enabled a weakened Korra. All her opponents till now has gotten through to Korra in a bad way. In this way I think LOK is more mature than TLA because Ozai did not feel so personal to Aang as all these villains were. Now I wanna see how Kuvira and Korra fight.
It was nice what Katara said to Korra during her therapy that she doesn’t know what is beyond the pain but wouldn’t it be interesting to know?
Korra now must become a balance of both her as a person and Avatar and to do that she must be united in mind, body and spirit. And maybe then in the end she might be the last Avatar. The world’s balance might be decided as a new era of people being people and the Avatar cycle coming to a fruitful and good end.
You know when I saw Fushigi Yuugi what made me like it? Yeah Miaka got a guy kinda easy, unrealistic there, but her love was never smooth sailing — Tamahome and her had lost of tame but crucial arguments and didn’t just go out on flirting first they knew each other as people before they fell in love. This was beautifully contrasted in Yui who just was attracted to Tamahome and she was the perfection “anti-otome” symbol of the show. This is also done in a Shounen anime where in Rurouni Kenshin Kaoru and Kenshin are also not on each others’ kimonos and the attraction “anti-otomo” symbol was Megumi who was very attracted to Kenshin but well it was always made clear that her feelings are like a little cough compared to the entire respiratory that was in between Kenshin and Kaoru.
Now Seth Adam Smith may be a Christian dude and we may not have much in common but his article actually made a lot of sense. Don’t trust me, read on:
Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen…
Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things—to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for family. Real love isn’t easy—and it’s nothing like the wedding day—but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.
Yeah, real love is not supposed to be just cuddles and kick (that’s a good title for an otome XD) it supposed to have something in it that can be worked out. All those animes of old 80s and 90s actually tried to “make love” as in more meaningful than sex or even kissing or seduction and it worked. Nowadays characters fall for each other because they are “pretty”, “hot” or “cute” Hell Rurouni Kenshin is a shounen anime and Kenshin is not the sexiest guy (though to me he is) in the show apparently Hiko, his teacher holds more candles and so does Aoshi and Sanosuke. Kaoru is considerably less attracted than Megumi even Yumi but their love makes heart throb. Miaka is less attractive than Yui and also Tamahome is not attractive than Hotohori or even the villain Nakago but their love is real and that what also made those works masterpieces.
So, I wish that today’s market also looks at these things. Yes I know that otome is also for fun but you see this mentality in all shows I mean seriously in both Log Horizon, Sword Art Online, etcetera that couples fall in love way too easily or the girl or guy character is a “type” that must be fallen in love with. I also saw this Blood-C where the antagonist was rooted for as a great person because he did so much for Saya. Hello, no, he did those things because he was selfish and wanted Saya to change — on the contrary Blood + had Haji and Saya going through a lot then thry became love not some selfish guy trying to change someone or kill others just to see if his love can be experimentally come true. Which is the lousiest. So fail Blood -C compared to Blood + and guess what many love stories nowadays fail even the sort of actual cuteness of Goku and ChiChi or Bulma and Vegeta.
So, yeah love, real love takes both effort and the cuddles so yeah writers write more substantial things again :)
Watched Free’s ending last week. It was enjoyable though nothing really new. Haruka Nanase did exactly what was expected of him. I am happy he did not forfeit swimming, though I hoped he approached it his way more. After having an epiphany abroad in Australia with Rin’s foster parents and Rin he decided to pursue swimming professionally. Now he knows the world is bigger. Now he does care about timings and competitions. I am happy he wasn’t resistant. Just displeased that he let go off his awkwardness with these elements of professional swimming so easily. I am not saying he should’ve quit but Haru’s originality is that he loves swimming for swimming so he should still focus on that and additionally include the professional factors. As he mentioned he is not like Rin. Which makes sense. Rin is always attempting to best at the usual way. Haruka does not. That is understandable. That is distinctive of them and that integrity should be kept.
Makoto and Haruka are back to being good though Makoto’s passivity is so annoying at times. Look green eyed pretty stop acting like a simpleton. You and Haru had a fight. You were attempting to be a good friend but Haru snapped at you it’s okay to be mad at him. So, be angry. Makoto’s impassive nature at this got me really annoyed. It is inhuman to make him Haruka’s emotional punching bag. Though Thank God Haruka realized that he acted like a bitch to Makoto and genuinely apologized. Makoto decided not to become a professional swimmer and went to university instead. That was okay though. The series does focus on Rin and Haruka and Haruka as the swimmers.
Apparently, as I learned from tumblr, missed it in episode, Rin swims for Australia now and Haruka Japan. Nagisa, Rei and Gou attract new members for the high school team after Makoto and Haru graduate and well they get 6th place in Nationals. It is the standard ending. All happy but not so bad.
The episode ends with the sign “For the Future” as Haruka and Rin face each other off in a swimming competition some time later. It is not a large time lapse they dont look older. It is probablyb just a year or so later.
How did I find the series? Well it was a good sequel. It got better than its 1st TV series and polished on Haruka’s character growth, mental breakdown and eventual confidence. It actually did focus on other characters’ confidences too. If 1st TV series theme was friendships and team spirit this Eternal Summer was focused on personal bonds and confidence. Though fans rightly were on annoyed (as seen in Tumblr) that Sousuke’s aftermath was not revealed much. We now know that Sousuke can’t swim professionally as he has injured his arm. His swimming dream ended but there is no mention of any other dreams.
For a show that shows a former swimsuit model getting a new dream as a teacher that was pretty unfair. Well, no one aside Goro Sensei got to know about Ama Sensei either. That was I think the only enigma they preserved or just ignored to address.
So, is this the end of Free? Will we see another TV series or movie to show how Haruka and Rin managed as professional swimmers. Or a new Free with a new cast that are in Iwatobi swim team with our old main cast as their teachers or mentors now? Well, Free ended pretty much to everyone’s tastes being satisfied. I do hope another series of it comes out with a bit more tricky, out of norm ideas.
I just saw the end of DRAMAtical Murder the TV series based on the yaoi game of the same name. If those of who don’t know DRAMAtical Murder (DM for short) is also produced by the same creators who made Togainu no Chi, Sweet Pool and the lesser know semi-furry themed yaoi game Lamento — yeah, it is made by the distinguished boys’ love producer NiTro+CHiraL. This post does have spoilers as most of my posts. Spoilers on DM and also other Nitro-CHiraL stuff.
(Ok I started writing this like some days ago but posted it now)
DRAMAtical Murder is the second time their series was made into an anime. And yeah, it was an improvement if Togainu no Chi. Not that I had the same complaints as the fans of TGNNC that it was not fair to the game, in my opinion, it was a good adaptation of a game that uses points of character elimination (as in character death) to actually progress with story. I am not really going to talk about DRAMAtical Murder in full in this post because a) I need pictures and b) I will make an in-depth review of the whole series and c) I will do an episode by episode review as well as I watched attentively the whole series.
Chiral is the artist who helps write, I assumed, most of the original framework for these yaoi stories and she does a great enough job. NiTro+CHiraL is known for his deep and riveting storytelling and DRAMAtical Murder was no exception. I will not lie I do want more layers in the story but given it is a yaoi visually based game with routes involved I do applaud its integrity to make somewhat impressionable stories if not altogether remembering. Its premises are always something that can twist the ordinary but not so overly shoujo or shounen; it has its own directory of both powers, minutiae of everyday life and a cast of characters that will pervade or not.
The problem of adapting is that it is by the book. Some people hate when loyalty to a medium is severed. I myself complain at times of the same thing. Yet the medium is not a novel. It is a route based game so certain deviations are put as in an anime adaptation you will see all the routes somehow balance one another. The storyline is almost verbatim to what people had experienced in the different routes in the game (minus of course NiTro+CHiraL’s infamous bad endings which are graphically violent, bloody and disturbing to say the least really scary shit). I feel that to fans it is a good treat of seeing their beloved characters in motion and doing things without that multiple choice menu meaning someone else is doing the actions for them and as it is animated it now has cinematic pace. Yet my nagging feeling is that is it always necessary?
Togainu no Chi had an ending that actually carried on the story a bit. People hated it because there was no conclusive coupling. I actually applauded there wasn’t because the decision would be too sudden and too misplaced: though they hinted some Rin/Akira tension mostly because of all the routes that was in my opinion and even on a good pace the best ending of them all but I am not complaining because I am satisfied because that was not conclusive either. And it was also deviated from Rin’s route. So, there was no real coupling and it just focused on Akira’s growth as a person. It was a bit dark and murky but given the circumstances I preferred it the way it was. Of course, people hated it. I for one was happy seeing Akira realizing his destiny at stopping Shiki and just going for it. Shiki himself, like some Voldemort character, has accepted Akira as his rival, though Nano was always his obsession rather than rival. It made sense to me as the series was more or less based on Akira just realizing what and who he is and going on from there.
DRAMAticak Murder follows the same themes only different storytelling and other minor or major differences. Firstly, you will immediately notice that its art and animation is not dark and gothic inducing as TGNNC and that it has brighter colours. It is more based on internet, web, digital applications and interfaces so it also has a neon tint and timncture in colouring. Also it does not have character elimination much. It actually allows any character to become more ruthless rather than just die of your choices or presented circumstances of said choices. So if your route character becomes evil you either suffer or become as debased as him so in that way the bad endings has a darker flare than TGNNC but I guess because of the way it is presented it was somewhat tolerable to me though it is as dark and twisted as TGNNC. If you have a good ending what I enjoyed is I think many other characters can move on with their lives too. I am happy that this is not self centered. I mean why should the main character be so valuable as to always affect others so exponentially. And because it has less character elimination you feel overall happy getting a good ending.
DRAMtical Murder TV series or anime was a more heavy experience than Togainu no Chi the anime. This was both good and bad but mostly it is good. TGNNC was a bit lacking in story narrative that is okay because it was NiTro+CHiraL’s first work so it can have a few scratches here and there. Watching TGNNC felt ok, but it was a very loose and elastic experience. You feel that there are plus points but that this anime needs more to be 12 episodes long and it isn’t. Rather I was more interested in seeing how Akira and Shiki settle scores in the end. That was my feeling for it; I have mixed feelings. With DM those were not so much there. They imp-roved on their story execution and each epiosde was loaded. Yes, for a 12 epiosde anime arc I will say loaded. It can do better but what it did was not so bad. It focused on Aoba Seragaki and also on the emotional turmoils and formations of the other characters a bit too. Each episode after epiosde six felt like a mini route or mini arc on helping both Aoba and a character that has a route and that is pretty good. This sort iof execution was missing in Togainu no Chi anime because well TGNNU was a bit more difficult to arc and branch as character selection in game that led to routes were I think pretty sudden death too. Though some trhings in DM may remain a mystery it is not so nagging. The anime covered pretty much all the bases.
Each character was given ample enough time for a 12 episode arc; each character had someone else they hated or disliked or even pursued which was detailed. There was no one really wanting because if you see the series in one go even you will notice that it gave every major and some minor event in DRAMAtical Murder the game credence and attention. That is a good feat for a 12 episode anime arc that played around with a yaoi game that had many routes. There were both slice of life activities, both character arcs and details about the main plot. The series is character driven more. It is not shounen or shoujo that each thing is easily cured by a fight or interaction so they did focus on some messy things and some communication/ In shounen you have elaborate fights, in shoujo you have elaborate interactions in DM you can a equal pacing of talking and some reveals. Some may say that makes DM boring and they might not like it. I understand this. It is not a regular anime. It is yaoi based anime that left all the sex and sweat off. Except for some tame shounen-ai moments you get nada and I appreciate that too. The anime is not aimed to be yaoi. It is meant to please fans, attract new viewers and probably just mix some ingredients together. If it was yaoi you would find it in the hentai section.
The minor characters in the anime are still minor characters here. One of the mot crucial minor characters here is Sei Seragaki. Sei’s existence is pretty much tied up to Aoba realizing some stuff for himself and he is mostly used as a plot device. I actually mention Sei because Sei is a character I really love. I think even the two fuckers Virus and Trip are given more exposition in the original game (if you get bad routes) than Sei. Sei is both a noble and a very good natured character. He wants the best for his younger twin brother Aoba and wants his end as he has suffered a lot and now wants freedom from it. Because his physical state is so bad he knows he will not survive thus asks Aoba to use his scrap of destruction (he had the scrap of creation) to destroy him. This is where I wanted severely for NiTro+CHiraL to deviate from the original script and just go ahead and keep Sei alive. Ren can do something else to keep on living so it is important to me that Sei should have been given a second chance at life. Instead, they followed it to much on the script only deviating that Virus and Trip (because I think in the original it was not) calls Aoba to inform him that Sei is in the hospital after a year has passed from the Endgame. I mean it took Ren a year to live in his new body as Sei has told him to use his but if Sei was so damaged I think it would have been suitable that his body die out. I know the soul can triumph where the body can’t and now Ren is no longer Aoba but a soul independent I think he can somehow get a new body. I am thoroughly displeased at Sei’s death as to me he was the best innocent there was; though he says he is responsible for helping Toue Konzerin for long I do believe he was always treated as a lab rat thus he is more a victim always than an perpetrator.
Sei’s death is very unsatisfactory to me. In Togainu no Chi many characters die due to your choices and though many find it sad I accepted it as a narrative route strategy . With Sei my acceptance is mired with vexation at best, it is quite thin. To kill of a character that may have potential for other things is surely very pathetic. It doesn’t fit either structurally or artistically with the entire story. In the end Aoba evolves himself and his power a lot. He becomes able to do both what he was designed to do and also pick up Sei’s quality (as Ren projected himself into an ALLMATE puppy). Ren then, not as Aoba’s consciousness anymore or Aoba anymore, due to the grand scheme of things became his own entity. So, in the end there is a lot happening to Aoba and people around him. Sei is not given a chance to evolve though his character is such that because of possibly neural pathways he shared with Aoba (as their hair was connected as birth making them conjoined to a degree) he may have a natural telepathic link with him. To ensure his death was final he decided to tell Aoba to destroy that link so that he can ensure that after his physical body dies nothing fragmentary even has a chance to stay behind. I find Sei interesting so I did not value his character profile as some moody guy who just wants to make his death final. It is stupid and quite arbitrary for him considering there can be more done for him.
In the end, DRAMAtical Murder is enjoyable. It is something if put more thought into can actually expand bigger. But no one really want to do that. So, it just became a copy of the game add hoc which is somewhat frustrating. I do think this yaoi or otome or harem franchises should grow a pair and evolve themselves. Tenchi Muyo did it long ago and I was so pleased that in Tenchi Muyo in Love 2 there was a form of conclusion or even aftersense. I think these animes need more screen time, more substantial writing, more everything…I could actually see some if not many rhyme battles happening in DM, many more plot twists, many more antagonists and a lot of even traveling other places but not they are happy with just adapting with the same formula as game. I won’t lie there were times I fan girl squealed and there were moments I liked but I do want more substance in my anime.
Make no mistake, Kuroshitsuji is Ciel’s story in every sense. Sebastian is a co-lead, certainly, but his role here is more or less written – it’s Ciel’s which continues to write itself as the story progresses. I’ve said this before, but Kuroshitsuji is primarily a tale of victimization. It splits the world into two camps, victims and those who exploit them, and in most cases it’s pretty easy to tell which group each character belongs to. And when characters try to claw their way from the first group into the second, we invariably get tragedy – tragedy like the story of the Noah’s Ark orphans. There can be no doubt that they were victims of society’s cruelty (this episode alone reveals the full extent) yet they made victims out of scores of other children thinking it was the toll required to stop being victims themselves
Another anime review of Kuroshitsuji Circus Hen by Lostinanime so I thought I would share :)
As usual this post will be MAJOR SPOILER inducing and will SPOILERS for all Kuroshitsuji media like 1st TV series, manga, and 2nd TV series with the new series which is actually an extension of the first TV series story-line in both manga and anime.
I know I didn’t do a whole series review. It will take time for me to do that. I was on vacation last week and I hadn’t properly seen the whole 10 episode series of this story arc yet. Those of you who know Kuroshitsuji know that Circus Hen or that Book of Circus is one of the most crucial story arcs in the Kuroshitsuji main manga and anime. The manga is not finished yet but this is one of the most riveting, dark, sad and alarmingly unpleasant story arcs in the main story line. I give Yana Toboso props for writing this arc because I think it was not easy for her. Also, this non-ease is illustrated by being introduced to so-called “antagonists” that many fans of the series and also manga had grown to love and also empathize with. Though we had this already with Madam Red I think it got exponentially bigger with the Noah’s Ark Circus troupe.
I am not really telling the story of Circus Hen because it is available in full form in Kuroshitsuji Wiki and also a good synopsis is available in Wikipedia. Let me just say the Circus Hen introduces some characters who unfortunately do not stay with us in the long run and some others who are better off dead and buried under tons and tons of brick. Others I know I will miss a lot like really a lot because they are the embodiment of a form of nobility you don’t inherit. Basically it is a mission Phantomhive is handed that elucidates and exposes that Ciel underwent when he was 10 and a weirdass fetishist guy called Baron Kelvin who wants something that only Ciel can give (apparently at the end he can’t). The Circus, Noah’s Ark Circus, is made up of people like Joker, Beast, Jumbo, Doll, Dagger, etc who are kidnapping children for Baron Kelvin. It also introduces another fetishist called the Doctor who is severely and disturbingly into body modification. All these characters save Snake die brutal deaths. Joker and Doll, in my opinion, really did not deserve them because they are really good people who got stuck with the bad lot. I know the others are not bad people either but the high wire trope were becoming too systematized into killing and hurting so it’s not that they deserved death (I am never gonna be a fit person to say anyone fictional or otherwise did though some atrocious individuals are unanimously agreed by fans that they are better off rotting) but I think as they died in battle with Phantomhive’s army (his other servants) it was just the situation that made their deaths acceptable enough. I do feel bad for both of them as to me both parties were used as pawns rather than individuals. That was the most painful bit for me. I think if all of them, Phatomhive’s army and the Circus troupe, got together they would know how similar they were.
I think there are 2 reasons why the first adaptation did not have this story included with the canon first TV series (not that 2nd series is not canon but the 1st is actually more manga involved and follows the Toboso’s original stories pretty much on the dot). First, it is technicality. Book of Circus is an arc that has more spoilers than many arcs, and it is very long (this series had 10 episodes devoted to it). If you want a viewing audience to want suspense at what happened or going to happen to Ciel Book of Circus is too telling in a way. It also elevated the Undertaker’s role more than previously shown (which I really liked) and depicted a lot that could not be shown in the first anime TV series. It would probably lengthen the 26 episode structure and I think as that is the standard anime set the producers decided why not. Also as the manga is not even finished now it wasn’t the right choice to put so much information in.
I think the second reason is more important. Book of Circus shows a very nasty and bad side of Ciel. In fact many people hated Ciel’s behaviour in Circus Hen where he is culpable for mass murder, emotional manipulation and blackmail of a more or less an innocent and does pretty much malicious things. In the first TV series Ciel was depicted almost as a textbook victim and a classic apathetic type individual who due to facing torture and losing so much (mostly his childhood innocence) was molded into more or less a cold, calculating coerced adult sort of creature who did not truly like himself or what he did but managed to survive on some form of idea concerning getting revenge. His childishness remained, however, as he never truly suspected the Queen, the person he followed, to be the very person responsible for the crimes committed against him.
Ciel is very aloof and cold in Circus Hen and no one really questions him because no one really knows him and Sebastian is not really a type to question; as a demon, like Ryuk the Shinigami in Death Note, his task is to be amused and help Ciel accomplish his goals. Those goals are limited but that is what Toboso unknowingly perhaps shows — demons are more limited creatures than humans. True, Sebastian is physically very strong and has lot of finesse and skill but as he is a demon he is always contract bound and has to be loyal to Ciel without much question. Ciel is very detached in Circus Hen and this is how Toboso shows the nature of his abused self and his fears and terrors. As I never read the manga I did not know that Ciel had a great aversion for blood due to being always around it and bathed in his own when he was sold as a “pet” to a perverse cult that enjoyed sadism performed on children. But in Circus Hen anime it is horribly shown that any form of bloodiness really upsets Ciel. Also it was mentioned by fans who read the manga that Ciel hated being touched also because what the cult did. And he also suffers from asthma. We see all of these in Circus Hen anime adaptation.
It is a good thing that Circus Hen was adapted later (for me it’s ok either way) because Circus Hen is actually a very weighty and dark arc in the series and as many fans disliked what Ciel did that reaction was a reason that people promoting the anime series would want it excluded so that when people see in development that Ciel does grow it would be easier to digest. Actually from what I read from fans in a forum Ciel does visually regret his actions in Circus Hen as in later chapters he is shown to be more quiet and reserved and somewhat shaken. I think the first TV series was also aimed with making Ciel and Sebastian more consistent in the usual anime fair from what I read on fans reaction on the manga it is not always like that in the anime as Ciel and Sebastian do act a bit more erratically there. Circus Hen adaptation did however bring some manga bones into the story because apparently Sebastian is always teasing Ciel and making even at times condescending remarks at him which is very absent in the 1st TV series and also 2nd TV series (with the 2nd series much had happened so Sebastian probably thought it wiser to keep his mouth shut).
But in this anime finale Ciel has another minor breakdown and Sebastian really can’t soothe him (it seems demons do not know basic human behaviour as shown at how Sebastian was a bad cook when he started working for Ciel as human taste alluded him so he had learn what it might be). The first breakdown in Ciel is deviating from what the Queen ordered him to do which also made fans and me to a certain degree angry and kinda disappointed — he decides to burn all the children kidnapped by the circus and Kelvin mansion as he could not see his old torture chamber replicated. This was done with the breaking point of Kelvin’s Doctor started replicating the torture he faced on another child (in an earlier episode of this series it was shown that she was a flower girl that was kidnapped; it was very sad seeing her cheerful and laughing face become well dull, automaton lifeless. I seriously wondered what happened to these poor children). Ciel could not bear it any longer. Seeing all of these brought the 13 year old back to his memories when he was tortured and almost left for dead when he was 10 by a cult who really were a bunch of fuckers that should rot in hell. Sebastian as a demon loves debilitation and destruction so he only mentions once that Ciel is deviating from what the Queen had ordered so but then Ciel persists in using his pentagram seal that he wants this and Sebastian is contract bound, well the demon puts the place on fire and does what he is told.
Ciel later after everything is over mentions that he was totally broken when was stabbed and tortured on the slab (the same thing that happened to the flower girl in Episode 9) pretty much indicating that this was his breaking point again. Ironically, Sebastian seems pretty non-creative or rather wants Ciel to gain his revenge a bit by engulfing the manor in flames the same way that Ciel’s own manor was engulfed in flames on his 10th birthday destroying his family and life. Probably, it was to make Ciel forget that he had lost so much but it was pretty generic way to destroy a manor.
This is one of the first times in the Kuroshitsuji media that Sebastian is shown to be useless to Ciel’s actual well being. Truthfully, it is subtly there in every crucial arc. Sebastian really does not know what’s best for Ciel and that is because he is a contract demon so it is not in his nature to know basic emotions and ethics; he may mock them but does not truly know them. Also wanting to eat a soul is never really the best for anyone; I think we can get a universal consensus on that. That is why demons can only approach really abused and depressed individuals who are so muddled that they are not in their right minds when they make contracts such as this. Of course both Ciel and Sebastian have major evolution in the 2nd TV series. Ciel becomes more astute, forgiving and well matured and finally as a demon he feels he can finally escape who he is and actually live a full life (not scream at Sebastian to come devour his soul which was kinda kiddy but yeah I think by doing this the show reminds us that Ciel is still a kid). Though Sebastian still is contract bound and I did not enjoy Ciel being so awful behaved and belligerently teasing Sebastian about it what I did like is that both of them had a definite evolution on who and what they are. It is true by the end of 2nd TV series Ciel had lost all those who was important to him in a way and I felt really sad at the sudden loss of others of him as well but given his life it was obvious that he could not be with them anymore. I think this was also there when he had finished his revenge so maybe Ciel knew that it was impossible for him to keep what he once had but ironically he could have it partly if not all but given that the Queen wanted him dead and all the trials that he faced it was really evident that being Earl Phantomhive was useless. Ciel may have had Elizabeth’s love forever and maybe have married her but yeah he could not keep his title as noble society was against Phantomhive.
Going back to Circus Hen, what fans really hated, as did I, that Ciel ordered Sebastian to kill Doll/Freckles. It is actually the worst thing Ciel ever did in his life. I think he realizes this later because by the 2nd TV series Ciel has become in many ways like Doll by the end. In the manga, I read in Kuroshitsuji Wiki, Ciel is more cruel to Doll. When she arrives seeing the mansion burning she tries to hold Ciel and asked what happened but Ciel pushes her away and I think meanly say that he had killed all her loved ones. In this anime, however, Ciel’s breakdown rage is omitted to show that Ciel is pretty numb and devastated that in his broken state when Doll in rage and sorrow charges head on with a dagger to attack him he just mentions Sebastian indicating that he wants her dead. Of course, he was in Sebastian’s arms all this time. And he admitted to Doll that his Smile persona was a lie and all the emotions associated with it but I deduce that he was partly lying. Like Alois/Jim in the 2nd TV series Ciel is still at that point where he can’t accept genuine affection from people as Toboso had once said about Alois/Jim that it is very hard for an abused and tortured person, downright scary, to see actual and genuine love and warmth. And in his really messed up state he asks Doll to be killed which is very cruel. I did wish that Doll had survived. I really liked her. Maybe, she is still alive? After all we never do see her dead as we see the others. Of course of the main circus crew Snake is the only one who is alive. In the manga Ciel says cruelly that he employs Snake as a butler in his household for a “pet” effect because he never tells Snake that the others are dead. In the anime they didn’t show this as of yet but fans mention that Ciel actually is hiding his real emotions (as usual). Due to his actions he had employed Snake as a form of reprieve because he was responsible of killing the others. A fan mentioned that this may be also he felt excruciating misery for killing Doll for Doll did genuinely care about him. Doll really reminded me of the demon Hannah who became so akin to human and fell deeply in love with Luca and Jim that she just wanted to be a family with them.
I really mourn for Doll and Joker for these characters really got to me. Joker said that he knew he was doing something wrong but he just couldn’t bear poverty and destitution anymore especially for his friends and other children at the workhouse. Nobles make an unfair and discrepant society and then use the manhandled to do their dirty work. Joker is more of a victim than Ciel but like Ciel and Jim they are more alike than each party care to know and acknowledge. Unfortunately, Joker does not really get what happened to Ciel but hearing the Baron finally reveal it, I think he did feel sorry for him but the situation is that that all parties are too acclimatized to their abuse. That is why I got mad that Ciel said indirectly that he killing Joker is nothing personal and that it was natural for him to want to protect what he loved. But the world exists for the sake of stealing and being stolen from, according to Ciel Phantomhive (:/), and that these two sorts of people can only exist, so, it is without any malice that Ciel says he steals their futures now. That is pretty pathetic coming for a guy who made revenge his only goal in life to reclaim some of the dignity he had lost. By saying that Ciel don’t you realize how stupid you are sounding? Then what will living for revenge even accomplish seeing that you are going to, according to your logic, lose your dignity again right for if you steal back something that can again be stolen then why sell your soul to a demon for something like that for even your satiation of it was short lived? Yeah, a kid in adult clothing, a poor tortured kid. By this time Joker is so demoralised that he hardly can question what Ciel has spoken. To be honest, Joker is so much like Ciel in the abused department that I can understand his despair and sadness very much. I think what angered me a lot, but was expected given the situations these individuals faced (and as Jim/Alois also faced), is that Ciel doesn’t recognize that both he and Joker are the same. They were both pawns who were used (Ciel still being used) as an entertainment or tool for those mirthless, lifeless pieces of shit nobles.
I think for Toboso Circus Hen was a treatise to what the abused, mentally, psychologically, emotionally and physically go through. They are so confused, upset and scarred that they do fail to recognize the humanity that they themselves have in others. As I said Toboso wrote beautifully this arc, this is to me the most beautiful arc of the series (aside the Jim/Alois storyline) because by the end of it Ciel has become aware what a flawed and broken individual he really is. Without such an epiphany it would be really difficult for him to start growing up. And as this arc was, as I learned from Kuroshitsuji Wiki or I think some other site, after the Curry Challenge episodes, we do see Ciel gestate a different kind of attitude by the end. In flashbacks, we also see the Jack the Ripper arc where Ciel faces Madam Red — I think aside fandom pleasing the flashback also served as a method to show the levels of Ciel hardening his heart. Sebastian is obviously fascinated that when he mentions that Ciel should not feel sad about Madam Red’s death but Ciel, shocking Sebastian, had said that he was not sad as Madam Red is just like a learning experience (:/) and that she got what was coming to basically. Sebastian becomes really delighted and we are shown a motif with Ciel in what feels like a British style of Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa anyway :)) and the voice over of Sebastian says that Ciel will trample over anyone and everyone,(we are shown pictures of a bloodied and fallen Elizabeth, his army even Prince Soma), to get to his goals and that is also what is beautiful (well to Sebastian) about him.
Ironically, by the 1st TV series and the 2nd TV Series end we see that Ciel did the opposite of everything Sebastian had anticipated. By that time the Great Fire of London was incorporated also to Ciel’s ascension out of the Queen’s trap and live for himself for once. And his aims became almost heroic and selfless because in the end he also did want to stop London from burning down. In the 2nd TV series Ciel does leave to start a new life not reminiscent of his one tied to a duplicitous monarchy. Thus he did everything in a bit of reverse of what he was blinded by at first. Ciel is by the end of the series more attuned to who is and what he wants: he wanted freedom from his abuses and the person in relation to those abuses. His title did still link to that terrible position in which he would always be targeted so he happily resigned it. The Phantomhive name which he wanted to restore actually became meaningless because now he wanted to live solely for his own individuality. That is one of the best charter progress for a person ensnared by abuse and revenge. Circus Hen is one of the aspects that enabled Ciel to think more differently about who and what he is because obviously he felt something strong both in resentment but also empathy about the troupe. They were lost souls like him and maybe that is why it was so hard to actually face them.
Going back, Ciel may have hidden most of his actual feelings concerning Madam Red because in her casket he had repeated affectionately what his father had once told her — that her hair like licorice burning in the sunshine (as seen in the 1st TV series). But going back to Circus Hen this dream of Madam Red is sort of instrumental to the coming events that Ciel will partake in. Ciel shows almost the same exterior regarding the death of the Circus and the children. However, this time he does make a more stable contribution for his actions. I think the anime added and rather elaborated what Toboso wrote because fans were also quite angry (well, I was really disappointed too) about what Ciel said concerning the death of the children. Well, we are shown he is affected by their deaths but as usual decides to be quiet about his feelings — yet looks on an young girl selling oranges whilst getting on a train and says to Sebastian to buy one. This train is going to the workhouse that Joker and the others felt compelled to protect. In the journey Ciel felt that the children would not recover from the strain that they experienced. He felt this as he was once in their position, and on the slab when he was brutally impaled, when he felt completely broken he made that contract with a demon. That was what he felt made him recover as he now had something, someone that his as he puts it “mine” and he was able to work through a recovery. Well, Sebastian was the only demon there. The children were young and would never be normal. Sebastian smiles and says that his deduction is arrogant. Ciel says that though he is arrogant, he is not arrogant enough to believe that he can save those children from what they endured.
Fans were still outraged by this. To be honest that is a pitiful deduction. It is, I think Toboso’s way of showing Ciel as still immature and a very traumatized child, because only a child will focus so deeply that the universe seems to revolve solely around them. Because fans made a right explanation — not all people need the demon contract to survive, not all people would need Ciel to recover and they could do these things on their own. Ciel was acting as a mutilated child when he spoke. Deep inside him his ideals of being noble hero were squashed against a psychological dilemma that didn’t rupture in time (that is why the OVA depicting him as Hamlet is spot on). Of course, the workhouse was not taken care of by Baron Kelvin and it fell to ruin. Seeing this really disturbs and shocks Ciel to the core.
This is when poor Ciel has another breakdown laughing maniacally he says to Sebastian that the troupe was protecting something that did not exist. Vile, stupid and struggling desperately to attain unattainable, that is what Ciel thinks humans are and says so to Sebastian. Who seemingly agrees, but not fully. Ciel’s hat’s ribbon becomes suddenly loose and flutters away in the wind. Sebastian also makes no real attempt to catch it. Both he and Ciel seem confused and befuddled. The black ribbon goes in the air and images of a happy Joker coming and bowing are shown then the rest of the troupe doing their specialties are shown happily together. Ciel looks on, in what feels a mixture mourning and amazement, the gravity of both makes his face cast a shadow, with his lips open, mouth slightly hanging, of something akin impenetrable gloom. Suddenly Doll comes first also dressed in her altered costume of white then all the Noah’s Ark Circus individuals become as they were without their body modifications. True beauty in what they originally were. And Doll also unspoiled by prosthetic tampering runs towards them and is accepted by her family. Sebastian agrees that humans are more complicated than demons. They possess ludicrous dreams, make endless excuses and do a lot of vile things to get what they want or desperately try to get what they want but somehow they can also recover, come back or do something more unexpected than before that is why they are also interesting. As the black ribbon flutters, which suggested the gravity of mourning and it was beautifully done truly, Circus Hen anime ends with Sebastian smiling as he realizes that humans are always interesting.
When Ciel had Sebastian kill Doll/Freckles The Undertaker was nearby. And he chastised Ciel in monologue for his actions. Saying that he has warned Ciel that he must take care of his soul, because everyone is given one. He had told Ciel not to abuse his power time again and again. But he has. And this will be detrimental to no one but Ciel. He will realize what he has lost only after it has been extinguished, when it crumbles and decays. And so The Undertaker rightfully stated that Ciel is his own demise, or rather the path leading to his own demise. Because he decides not to actually think before he does actions (as seen he is completely blank at the moment) and that is why he will lose more and more until he has nothing. Of course, at that moment Ciel did not recognize this. But the end of the 2nd TV series we see that when Ciel is turned into a demon he does realize that he had been undone by no one but himself. It was probably very painful for him to leave everyone behind but he had no other choice anymore. Yet, one think The Undertaker was wrong about that Ciel has now even both as a human and a demon got some enlightenment in his understanding of things. Probably he now knows that his soul is very important and when Sebastian and Ciel jump into the void he does want a more ideal and a more empathetic world and wants it more than anything. And he had seen it, slivers of it, in Jim who he ultimately accepted as an image of his own. An image he won’t ever erase. Jim may also have wanted him to be a demon not only as revenge on Clause and Sebastian choosing Ciel as a favourite dish but also to free Ciel from his contract. Jim is evidence of the great God Given adaptability of humans that demons truly lack.
In Circus Hen I felt really sad that Joker died. Joker is the irreducible protagonist/antagonist of this arc. I really understood why fans love him as I grew him to love him too. His death left a very deep impression on me as characters can do. I felt an inexplicable pain. Seeing his sadness, rage and also helplessness at being used as a pawn and being bled to death was so anguishing for me. Ironically, he is the true noble of all the series combined. Because he was loyal and tried his best to help people but he was guilt stricken at what he had to do because he reluctantly did those things. I think that is why he could not have a love with Beast (on side note: Sebastian having sex with Beast was pretty unexpected and how casually he does not take off much kind of shows that to Sebastian seduction and sex is purely business :P) because she can only think of running away. Joker could not run away. As it shows in his flashback that being in the manor Joker conceives that humans will always be dissatisfied because Dagger looked unhappy though they were not living the gutter anymore. But Dagger wanted to play but was lacking a leg to run about. But then Jumbo helped him up and they could run along and play. We see an intimate moment with Joker and Beast, almost close to touching hands distance, where Joker comments if he hand another arm he could carry her. This line is symbolic for Joker because that is what he is about; he has been carrying the burden and responsibility of all the people who relied on him. That is why he could not reciprocate Beats;s affections because she did not get this about him I assume. She was thinking that they should run away but Joker could not because he was already so intensely involved with his troupe, his family, running away would be a betrayal to them to handle the burdens by themselves. And he was not of a character to do so.
Joker is one of the most heroic characters in the series. I think Ciel becomes almost like him in the end. Joker is truly one of the most memorable characters in the series and I do love him a lot. I love his strength and his redemptive qualities. I love how beautifully deep down he is kind and contemplative, and socially aware. That is why sadly the nursery rhyme of Tom the piper of only being able to play over the hills and far away is associated with him and the Circus. They were not analytical (a fault Ciel too has) that what was happening to them, how their prosthetic were made from the children bones they had abducted how Kelvin gave jackshit about them and how if he had done more he might be able to have peace. I really think if Toboso continued his storyline it would have been beautiful because he is much like a cool protagonist, at times more than Ciel.
This arc really sheds a lot on human apathy and empathy, and it was also a critique of society and social injustice. Toboso really did well writing this arc as it was poignant and something that stays with you. Ciel made a huge mistake by listening to much to the Queen and the Noah’s Ark Circus’s demise is evidence of it. Now he has to pay the price, as The Undertaker stated, for thinking too callously and presumably rationally and not emotionally. And those acquainted with the Kuroshitsuji 1st and 2nd TV series know that he does. Yet he also matures from it. When he sees the black ribbon floating and the Circus troupe Ciel is seized a great sadness. Maybe he realizes then what he had done. After all isn’t his goals also as worthless as what the Circus had>? To protect a house is also his cause and so he too realizes what they would have realized later or more so if they had been introspective that they were being used so their ideals and dreams are better off put somewhere else.
I really loved the ending theme of Circus Hen anime. In some parts Ciel is animated almost with an adultish sort of body or what anime characters 17 and older have (maybe they did try to aesthetically make Ciel look more adult) but the ballad in darkness in a bathtub is a great touch. Over all as an extension of the first series I really loved Circus Hen. One prominent difference about this series compared to 2nd TV series is that it had less shounen-ai which is good in my opinion but it was still there. Not just copious amounts that disturbed the flow. It had all the makings of a great story arc. I do not why they took 4 years to animate it though as the 2nd TV series was in 2010 and we only got OVAs after that. One question:
What is Ciel and Sebastian’s outcome after the 2nd TV series? I am more interested on that. Though Toboso was involved in the 2nd TV series it wasn’t her original idea and according to the Kuroshitsuji Wiki she had mentioned that if the 2nd TV series happened not to pretend that the first didn’t happen and that is what the producers did. The 2nd Tv series is connected to the first and that is how it also progressed.
I am very curious and hopefully God let me watch what happens to Ciel afterwards. C’mon I really want to see what Ciel and Sebastian do after the 2nd TV series so people start animating it already! And hopefully we all get to see it soon! :D
Though I really do love Mulder and think he is beautiful. I do think that there is a ethnocentric and very White male thing on him. Scully is always undertone and made culpable by her skepticism which becomes so boring after two or three seasons that I give Gillian Anderson credit for sticking up with a stick character who has a lot more potential then she is given credit for. I love Scully because she is intelligent and very calm and well paced so it was like the writers wrote Mulder as themselves and gave a “Mary Sue” aura about him so that they can put Scully down. The bad part about X Files is that it is very bad at characterization you can put both characters on Top without maligning the other which X Files had failed to do. Though I love the series I cannot overlook its flaws which I think were based on synthetic arrogance and not the organic synergy the show promoted.