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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Black Butler, Vol. 13 (Black Butler, #13) - Yana Toboso This is going to be a double whammy, since I got both Black Butler volumes XII and XIII at the same time, and want to make up for the huge amount of time I missed. University kind of does that to you. Whoops.So without further ado, here's my thoughts on volume XIII of Black Butler....I didn't like it. Unfortunately, both of these volumes took a turn for the mediocre, and I was noticing quite a few problems in storyline, characterisation, and heck, even some problems in artwork. Normally when I read Black Butler, I find myself drawn in and enjoying myself enough to acknowledge the problems, but not find them hugely detrimental to my reading experience. Volume XIII, though? Has them in abundance, I'm sad to say.First of all, I really detest how little time is given to Elizabeth's transformation in character. It's about a chapter and a half. She's put into a perilous situation by Ciel either breaking or twisting his leg, and zombies surrounding her. So, Lizzie pulls out two swords from a conveniently-placed ornament (similar to Elizabeth Swan in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl), and starts kicking some zombie backside. While it was nice to see Elizabeth being able to take care of herself and not squealing in fright, it's such a fleeting moment, and almost completely ruined by Elizabeth reverting to shrieking and crying shortly after.That chapter has this backstory about Elizabeth being subject to two different expectations, from two different people. Her aunt Angelina (Madam Red) tells her this: 'Favour poetry over philosophy, embroidery over cooking, dancing over chess. Be an innocent little angel.' Meanwhile, Elizabeth's mother wants her to carry on the family tradition of swordsmanship, even though Lizzie hates training for it. Even if her mother does push her a bit too hard, it's so that she can protect herself and her husband, apparently.As I said in my review of volume XII, Ciel remarks that he'd be scared to have a wife like Elizabeth's mother (his fencing instructor), due to her stern personality. Elizabeth takes that to heart as meaning he's frightened of women who are capable of proficiently using swords, I guess. It's a bit stupid, but Elizabeth is very young and naïve at the time. In fact, Elizabeth wears low-heeled shoes so that she won't appear taller than Ciel, even if she's just turned 15 and low-heeled pumps are a bit childish for her to be wearing. What.This kind of revelation ought to carry a lot more weight to it, and it really doesn't. It's laughed off when Elizabeth tearfully asks Ciel if he still likes her, and Ciel gets all flustered and replies that it doesn't matter. Oh, and when Elizabeth is carried out to the rescue boats, rather than utilising her skills against the zombies, Sebastian karate-chops her in the neck to induce a fainting spell. Since, you know... women can only handle that much excitement in one day.I'd be happier with this character revelation if it actually meant anything. It really doesn't. It's here today, gone tomorrow. Elizabeth hasn't changed, she's still reverted back to squealing and crowing on about how cute things are. Seriously, read the Easter chapter between the Campania and Weston College arcs. You'd expect this revelation to make her a little more confident, to realise Ciel likes her just the way she is, and to not be afraid of letting her true personality shine through. But nope! It's almost as if this whole thing never happened.Right, right, enough ranting about the bad character writing in regards to Lizzie. Now to bad character writing in regard to another character: Viscount Druitt. He's a fairly sinister, if incredibly dim villain early on in the manga, and he's used in the anime and manga simply for comic relief. Here, he's a member of the Aurora Society, a group who have this incredibly silly catchphrase and pose that they have to do in order to prove they're true members, sort of like a Masonic handshake. So long as you don't mind looking like a prat, you can get all the information you want! It's a gag that gets old extremely quickly. It was mildly amusing the first time, and now it's just excruciatingly jarring for the tone that's trying to be set.No, seriously. Ciel et al do the pose, and Viscount Druitt lets them in on his evil plan. Like any good villain, his speech on why the Aurora Society were involved in creating these zombies comes with with a delusion of grandeur and plans for world domination. This happens in two seconds flat. However, Druitt is just a pawn in the master plan thought up by... Undertaker, of all people. While Druitt wants to get rich selling the zombies to world militaries, Undertaker simply wanted to experiment and observe what happens when you reanimate the dead. But... for what reason? Just for curiosity's sake? That's it? Oh great. I don't think we are going to get any answers, since the manga then devolves into this big shounen fight scene, with Grell and Ronald in one corner, and Sebastian in the other. Both sides want to take in Undertaker for questioning, and both sides are determined not to lose. Yawn. Wake me up when it's over.Sebastian fights off Ronald, and whilst Grell is engaged in combat with Undertaker, she notices that he still has his scythe from the days when he was a Reaper. (This reveal was supposed to be a big surprise in the manga, but unfortunately it was ruined by the last few episodes of the anime.) Undertaker grabs Ciel, then stabs Sebastian to reveal his Cinematic Record, because he's always been curious as to why a demon like Sebastian would pretend to be a butler. (Reapers in Black Butler judge who goes to heaven or hell by taking a look at a film strip of the dead's life, after all.)This poses quite a few questions. Think back to volume 3, when Grell eviscerates Sebastian, because she's curious as to why a 'noxious beast' would pretend to be a butler. All she sees in Sebastian's Cinematic Record is a gag reel of two years' worth of Sebastian having to deal with the incompetent staff in the Phantomhive Manor. If Grell was only able to see the past two years, quite why Undertaker was able to go back even further is a bit confusing. Sure, he's powerful, but that powerful?What follows next are a series of chapters on Ciel and Sebastian's first few weeks together. Ciel is rescued, is reunited with his aunt, who reinstates him into society, and Sebastian uses his powers to fix up the burned-down Phantomhive manor and help get Ciel back on the right track to exacting his revenge.However, these flashbacks feel so unnecessary to me. Okay, one could argue that they are relevant, since I did complain about Black Butler's storyline completely veering off course in my previous review, but these flashbacks just feel... lumped in. It's as if Yana and her team (of artists, editors, etc.) were completely bored with writing and drawing the Campania arc, and then went: “Yeah, we're going to shove in some backstory, even though it doesn't quite fit right.” I suppose it was either now or never, since we only ever see tidbits of backstory every once in a blue moon throughout the other arcs, but it just wasn't the time.I will concede that the flashback chapters do have a few funny moments, though. In Volume XIII alone, we find out that the dog-hating Sebastian was indeed named after Ciel's old dog. Since he's bound by contract to be faithful, he can't exactly complain and ask for a new one. Also, Ciel gives him no end of sass, even though this butlering business is completely new to him. The food he serves is too greasy, he can't draw a bath properly, and he's not allowed to use his powers anymore. “Why, that bloody little knave.”Okay, I think that's enough rambling for now, so let's conclude, shall we? Even though this volume did keep me reading, and had some good comedy at points, it's really bogged down by the same problems as Volume XII – a clumsily put together story, along with characters whose motivations are confused. 2/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/manga-review-black-butler-kuroshitsuji-volume-xiii-by-yana-toboso/)