'Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic' Review: That's One Hell Of A 'Titanic' Spoof

black butler book of the atlantic funimation sebastian
Sebastian in Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic. (c) Funimation

Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic takes the manga’s Luxury Liner arc from volumes 11 through 14 and adapts it into feature film format, with the main voice talent from the Black Butler: Book of Circus anime returning to reprise their roles. It is a fantastic romp in the world of Black Butler, full of the humor, energy and elegant character design that marks Black Butler. It also spoofs Titanic and has loads of zombies because why not? Wouldn’t you?

We begin with a spoof of Titanic’s opening shots (not the framing story’s opening, but the actual story’s opening, with Kate Winslet’s perfect face coming up from under the arc of her fabulous hat as she looks up). Even the music is reminiscent of those famous scenes, brisk and lively. We even get a blonde scamp sneaking on board last-minute. Who, oh who might that lovable rogue be?

I actually found myself spending a lot of time figuring out who all these characters were. I was into Black Butler way back in the day, like in 2007, but the property soon lost me with the dizzying amount of media it produced: not only is the manga up to 25 volumes and still ongoing, it’s had three anime series, three OVAs (one of which is a two-parter), two drama CDs, a video game, a live-action film, four stage shows and now this. It’s a lot to keep up with.

Thus, I found my head spinning as I watched Book of the Atlantic. The characters are introduced very, very briskly, and if you don’t know who they are, then it may take you some time to get used to them. For example, that one guy with scales on his cheeks? No clue who that guy is. He’s somebody’s butler, maybe? He’s covered in snakes? He… speaks to snakes. He speaks through the snakes. He translates for the snakes? Welcome to Black Butler.

We quickly learn that Ciel and Sebastian are on the Titanic (er, Campania) to investigate the Aurora Society, a mysterious group that’s been shipping corpses at the docks Ciel owns and appears to be undertaking illegal human experiments. We meet Elizabeth, Ciel’s shrill and princess-curled fiancee with a heart of gold; Lord Grey and Sir Charles Phip, who are butlers to Her Royal Majesty, I think; Snake Guy, whose name I never caught; Lizzie’s family, the March and Marchioness of Something Or Other, and her big brother who hates Ciel for some reason; Von Druitt, a simpering noble; Lovable Rogue, who turns out to be a Reaper; and on and on.

Series favorites do return: Grell, Lovable Rogue’s superior and Sebastian’s biggest fangirl, makes a sizeable appearance, and Undertaker has a huge role to play as well. Between the Reapers, the zombies and Sebastian, there are plenty of opportunities for fun, sweeping fight scenes. More than one character gets an unexpected chance to shine, notably Elizabeth, whose Crowning Moment of Awesome almost makes me forgive her for the pitch of her whining, crying and sniffling for the rest of the movie.

It’s worth noting that the zombies are gross. I hate zombies as a general rule because they’re disgusting and repulsive. I physically feel shudders crawling up my skin whenever I watch zombie media. Black Butler is no exception. We even see zombie intestines flying around at some point and plenty of bisections and blood sprays, so if you’re weak to that kind of thing, or swarms of zombies really creep you out, beware.

The humor is in fine form: Grell is up to his usual parched antics around Sebastian (and in one priceless moment, he even gets Lovable Rogue to prop him up in that classic Titanic pose, arms outstretched, at the head of the ship. I have to admit, I choked with laughter). There’s also plenty of randomness (two words: “phoenix pose”) and a heaping of “please let’s just kill him” jokes that are good for a snicker or two.

As for the plot’s denouement, it’s fine. It leaves room for a follow-up film or series while closing the film’s story more than competently. We’re also privileged to see a lengthy flashback of Ciel and Sebastian’s first few months together that shows how their relationship grew and changed as they grew used to one another while still paying great attention to Sebastian’s demonic origins. There’s even a post-credits scene that loops in one character eagle-eyed fans might have been watching out for.

All in all, Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic is really, really fun. It has everything fans love about the series: fave characters, frilly Victorian character design, dramatic poses, humor ranging from zany to dark to back again, wild preternatural plot elements, a whole bunch of insane fights and plenty of Sebastian being one hell of a butler. While it makes no attempt to catch newcomers up to speed, if you’re willing to go with the flow and adept at putting pieces together on your own, Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic isn’t tough to follow. And did I mention that it’s fun?

Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic will screen on June 12 (with subtitles) and June 14 (dubbed) in select theaters. For more info and to purchase tickets, check out Funimation’s official movie page here. Will you be attending any of these special screenings? Dub or sub? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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