Character development is less in this second volume, pushed aside slightly in favor of plot. It seems almost a given that a faux Victorian gothic horror story will cover the Jack the Ripper tale, and sure enough, that is what Toboso does, though she seems to value the story less for its historical roots and more for its horrific possibilities. She uses the tale as a jumping-off point to begin exploring Earl Phantomhive’s past, especially the death of his parents. The investigation also allows her to start showing her readers that evil is more pervasive than just one simple butler. Several new characters are introduced in this volume, each with motives uncertain to both readers and to the Earl. By the end, things have taken a slightly predictable turn, but the abrupt ending should lead to more exciting action and revelations to come.
One of the best touches in Toboso’s second volume is the opening story. It is a humorous aside about Sebastian trying to get his work done while also dealing with the disasters caused by the other members of the Phantomhive staff. The chapter effectively introduces Sebastian, shows off his abilities, sets the scene at the Phantomhive residence, lays out the relationships, and tells a little bit of the previous volume’s plot, all in a light story that won’t seem repetitive to readers who have already read volume one, but that will help new readers get their bearings. From there the story takes a slightly slower turn, getting a touch soggy by the end, but it picks up dramatically on the last page, leaving readers eager for the next volume and the promised confrontation.
Toboso does not neglect humor, though. Wacky events and character behavior abound, even in the midst of gruesome or horrific moments. One particularly effective page uses her continual hints at homosexual relations between characters to good effect, though it is still subtle enough to keep the rating at an appropriate OT/16+. She also continues to find excuses to place the Earl in young women’s clothing, much to his distress, but to the amusement of the other characters (and readers). Fans of the first volume will snatch this one off the shelves, but it is also a decent jumping-off point for new readers. From here on out, though, the plot seems likely to take off, so be prepared for these volumes to move quickly.
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on October 18, 2011
Black Butler, Volume 2