Top critical review
Not as good as the other volumes.
on 2 March 2013
Black Butler is a jack of all trades when it comes to manga. It's only been around for going on six years, but in that time it has factored in several tropey-as-all-hell plots: a food tournament, a circus, a locked room murder mystery, a sinking ship infested with zombies, and now a mysterious boarding school. Volume 9 is set squarely in the murder mystery arc, and it's not too bad, to be honest.
The manga starts off with Ciel being paid a visit by Charles Grey and Charles Phipps, Queen Victoria's butlers in this universe. Ciel is surprised to learn that his actions from the past volume have tarnished his name at court, and for some reason, Her Majesty will only forgive him if he hosts a party for a German guest. Oh, and he also ends up inviting Arthur Conan Doyle.
...Yeah, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of my favourite writers ever, is in this arc of the manga. And for the most part, he's portrayed well and fits nicely into the universe. Also, what other perfect way to get a murder mystery going than to have one of the greatest mystery writers ever at your party?
So basically, a host of rather forgettable characters show up at Ciel's manor: an opera singer and her stage manager, a shy shipbroker, Charles Grey, and some other guy involved in industry, I don't know.
Arthur Conan Doyle just awkwardly stands in the corner until Ciel decides to come over and talk to him. Apparently, after writing A Study in Scarlet, ACD had no inclination whatsoever to write any more Sherlock Holmes cases, and in fact is given a confidence boost by a thirteen year old boy with a demon butler. Huh.
After the German guest is found murdered, everyone goes into a state of panic. And the next morning... Sebastian is found murdered. As is the shipbroker. Oh no, it's getting like Umineko no Naku Koro Ni. And to make things worse, no-one can leave the manor because of a storm raging outside. (Considering the godawful weather we've been currently having in the UK, this felt rather topical to me.)
The manga still has the little flairs of comedy, the pretty artwork (in fact, Sebastian (the times in which he's alive, that is) looks prettier than usual in this volume), and a fairly intriguing mystery going on at the moment.
However, the mystery aspect only really kicks into high gear around the second half of the manga, and the new characters feel so disposable and trite. Yana Toboso usually manages to make incredibly overwrought, cliché storylines work in the Black Butler universe, but the murder mystery just really doesn't feel right here. The mystery itself involves a locked room, one master key, and all the other keys being locked away, and only the servants know where they are. So after a while the characters go from: "THERE IS ONLY ONE KEY TO THAT ROOM" to "THERE IS A LATCH IN THAT ROOM" to "WHAT IF SOMEONE USED A NEEDLE AND THREAD TO FIDDLE WITH THE LATCH" to "S*** WHERE ARE THE KEYS". I'm sure it'll get better by next volume, but I'm going to give this volume a 3.5/5.