Black Butler, also known as Kuroshitsuji in Japan, is a favourite series of mine. Originally a manga, the title is so popular that it has also received an anime, film, game, and as the following review is about to example, multiple figures! Reapers, zombies, werewolves and witches beware, for the young master, Ciel Phantomhive, has arrived!
Ciel Phantomhive is a young boy who lost his parents in an arson attack that destroyed his family’s manor house. He lives in a brutal Victorian age where death, horror and the supernatural roam in abundance. Kidnapped and forced into being a Satan sacrifice, Ciel narrowly escaped death after a demon came and formed a contact with him. The price for this saviour is Ciel’s very soul. He is an arrogant, fearless and slightly twisted, young boy who also acts as Queen Victoria’s watchdog. His role, as well as being the owner of a confectionery and toy company, is to investigate any otherworldly activates that threaten her majesty’s kingdom.
Sculpt and Colour
Released late March 2015, the figure was sculpted by Tsukuru Shirahige, the same sculptor of many popular Yu-Gi-Oh! and Evangelion figures. Kotobukiya have created two versions of this figure. Although the actual figures are exactly the same, the Exclusive Bonus Edition includes an antique flower book (a picture featuring the characters from the Book of Circus series, and an encased flower and ribbon arrangement), whereas the Standard Edition does not. This review will be of the Standard Edition.
Now let’s take a closer look at this figure! Some fans were in an uproar over the design of Ciel’s hair, with comments such as ‘mop-like’ taking centre stage. The hair has been correctly coloured a dark navy-blue, with long layers curving around his face and falling over his eyepatch. Slight indentations protrude from the moulding to imitate strands of hair. Certainly the shaping isn’t the sharpest I’ve seen on a figure, with tips of hair being a little too rounded, but I wouldn’t go as far as to compare the hair to a mop. The design seems quite accurate, even going as far as to include the wayward strands that crossover just above the bridge of his nose.
Ciel’s left eye has been created with a high level of detail. With the pupil being a cool teal blue, the eyelashes applied to the exact number of three and darkened, flesh coloured lines engraved above the socket, this facial feature is extremely accurate to Ciel’s character. Likewise the black eye-patch holds true to the Black Butler series, with the straps tied neatly in a bow at the back of the figure’s head. That seems to be where the facial resemblance ends, however. Fans were very displeased with the design of Ciel’s mouth, saying that it was either too pouty or needed more shading. The disappointment for me is what this mouth does to the facial expression. Ciel looks drained, lost even, as he gazes out at nothing in particular. Such an expression goes against the young Phantomhive’s personality. He is arrogant, brave, demanding, and sometimes a little childish, but this teenager is far from being a helpless boy. The head is completed by two blue dots on each earlobe to depict earing studs.
The outfit resembles male lolita, with bows, frills and ribbons applied to a theme of grey, black, silver, white and blue. His top begins with a high, black frilled collar, held in place by a striped ribbon displaying a blue rose. This blue rose and ribbon design is in fact replicated (although with a darker ribbon) in the antique flower book of the Exclusive Bonus Edition. The black frills protrude from the opening of his tailcoat, resembling the outfit of a wealthy 18th century aristocrat, and Ciel is nothing if not a wealthy noble. The coat has a thick, low-cut collar in blue and grey, matching the think blue cuffs on his elbow-length sleeves. It finishes with six silver buttons, a long tail, and a large blue bow tied at the lower back. The black frills of his shirt poke out from the sleeves and tails of his coat. Indeed the metaphor ‘riding coattails’ is pushed quite literally in the figure’s design. Ciel is ‘riding’ on the success delivered to him by his demon butler, Sebastian. Without this help from the underworld, Ciel certainly wouldn’t be the noble gentleman his clothes portray him to be.
The watchdog’s lower body is clothed with a pair of grey shorts and black leggings. His calf-high boots are decorated in black, grey and blue bows. This combination of high heeled, cutesy lolita with stocky riding boots makes for unusual, and quite expensive-looking, footwear. Short blue gloves, which again point to the character’s noble upbringing (not to mention the fact that Ciel is never the one who gets his hands dirty… that’s Sebastian’s job), are embellished with a ring on each hand. On the thumb of his left hand, Ciel wears a silver ring with an emerald-cut stone. The ring is a family heirloom that has been passes down for generations. On the middle finger of Ciel’s right hand is a gold signet ring with the Phantomhive crest. It was the only thing that survived in the fire that killed his parents. Sadly neither pieces of jewellery have been applied to the figure with much detail, although the rings are at least recognisable through shape and colour. Expecting a high level of detail on such small items is perhaps asking for too much, however.
Equally as eye-catching as our protagonist is the large black horse he leisurely sits on. Designed like a chess piece, more specifically the knight, this horse rears up in an impressive pose. Rearing can be linked to a whole mishmash of emotions, including fear, aggression and pain. The horse is an extension of Ciel himself, with pain and fear being primary emotions attached to his parents’ death. Aggression, on the other hand, is the consequential result of these otherwise helpless feelings. Revenge, spawned from the hatred he feels towards anyone who wrongs him, is Ciel’s one and only goal. To be represented as a black chess piece is best suited to Phantomhive’s character. Ciel may be a knight who protects his queen, but he certainly isn’t a white one.
Playful decorations have also been applied to this inanimate beast. A purple ribbon has been attached to the side of its head, and a string of beads wraps around its chest. These additions make it look less like a horse about to gallop into battle, and more like a prized pony in a dressage competition. The accessories are almost childish, and indeed if it were not for the chess piece base, one could easily mistake it for a carousel horse. The connotation of spinning and madness is certainly not misplaced on a Black Butler figure. It is also worth noting that, although my figure’s horse was in good condition, others have found their figure’s horse to have flaky paint and a bumpy surface. It seems quality can vary vastly from figure to figure…
This brings me to another, rather large, nit-pick about this figure. There are two small posts on this figure, one on the tip of the horse’s tail and another at the top of the horse’s tail. The purpose of these posts is to hold Ciel in place as he sits nonchalantly on the horse’s back. This is done by pressing the posts into the holes on the underside of Ciel’s boots. I cannot, for the life of me, get both of Ciel’s feet onto these posts at the same time. The space between the legs is not wide enough for both feet to be correctly placed, no matter what position you place Ciel in. Not everyone who bought this figure has this problem, and so I assume this is another unpredictable quality fault. You have to be very lucky it seems, to get a Ciel Phantomhive figure with no faults at all!
Alternative Parts and Bonus Items
There are no bonus items in the Standard Edition (although the Exclusive Bonus Edition includes an antique flower book), but there are a couple freestanding parts that have to be manually placed onto the figure (same with the Exclusive Bonus Edition).
Cane – A brown cane, adorned with a silver-coloured skull and blue sash, can be slipped into a hole in Ciel’s left hand. This ornate cane subtly depicts the dark, gothic undertones found in Ciel’s character. The length of the cane does catch awkwardly against the horse and its beads. Fans have also voiced their issues with the cane’s position. As my Ciel figure does not sit by the help of both posts on the horse (figure fault), the problem with the cane may be due to Ciel’s position. Either way this problem is shared by other fans who own the figure.
Knight Chess Piece – A tiny, horse-headed chess piece can be pushed into Ciel’s right hand. Being a simplified version of the knight chess piece Ciel sits on, the watchdog holds what he himself is being represented as. The chess piece symbolises calculation, of a game that Ciel both participates in as a player, and as a piece to be played with. The item is a bit delicate, and it can be a tad fiddly getting it to stay in Ciel’s hand, so make sure to keep your figure still after placing it!
Packaging and Box Art
In comparison to most 1/8 scale figures, Ciel’s box is quite small due to his sitting position. The front of the box displays a large plastic screen in which you can view the figure without removing it from the box. The shape of the screen has been cut to represent an ornate window. Indeed a gold, gothic-designed border has been drawn around the box’s edge, which creates a sense of importance and grandeur. Shiny silver trimmings hang from above the box’s border. Stars, diamonds and teardrops hang from beads that connect to thin air. The effect is one of mystery, supernatural even with its magical, fortune-telling connotations. Blue roses also decorate the box in bunches. The blue is in tune with Ciel’s own character colour scheme. It provokes a sense of artificiality, of an English rose that shouldn’t exist, much like Ciel himself. In reality, the last heir to the Phantomhive estate should have left this earth long ago…
Ciel’s name scrolls along the bottom of the box in bold silver. Katakana is displayed below it, and above it is Kanji with the ‘Book of Circus’ series text. This design of blue roses, gold borders and silver highlights is continued on both the right and left side of the box, each having their own smaller arch window in which to view the figure.
The back of the box is coloured in teal blues and aqua greens. A print of material, designed to look like delicate netting with butterflies and flowers, embellishes the background to give you a sophisticated sense of English countryside. More silver, this time in the form of a half-moon and a star, hangs from the corner to create a sinister, night-time atmosphere. Silver vines curl around a picture frame, while below it chess pieces of pawns and a knight tumble to the chessboard beneath. Ciel knows how to play his opponent, when to play his next move and when to sacrifice a pawn, but he would be deluded to think that such moves would separate him from the chaos of the game. The back of the box highlights the beauty of the figure with a close-up, front and back shot.
‘No, I won’t abandon hate. If I did, then nothing would be left of me.’
I imagine many fans have a love-hate relationship with this figure. Kotobukiya was clearly ambitious with Ciel Phantomhive, but that ambition wasn’t followed up by the quality checks he so desperately needed. The pose is fantastic, but if you don’t perfectly work out the dimensions and sizes, ‘fantastic’ can suddenly turn into ‘messy’. The reason I bought this figure, and I’m sure many people bought it for the same reason, is because, out of all the Black Butler figures currently on the market, this figure looked the most like Ciel Phantomhive. I’m a big Black Butler fan, but I wasn’t about to spend money on a figure that only shared a poor resemblance to the real thing. Likewise the figure was unique and interesting to look at. It plucked real messages and connotations from the series, and seemed to display them beautifully in the form of PVC.
The figure certainly displays layers of symbolism, but I can’t honestly say that it delivers whole-heartedly in other areas. It’s pretty to look at, but the face is disappointing. It’s unique, but the pose is unstable. It’s not difficult to pair any positive with a negative. It’s nice, full of potential, but definitely not the best example of Kotobukiya craftsmanship. My only hope is that the accompanying Sebastian figure bares better. For those diehard Black Butler fans, you’ll be happy to know that both the Bonus and Standard Edition of Ciel are still available to buy from online stores.
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