What. The. Fuck.
See that weirdo licking chess pieces in the picture above? Honestly, I could just leave this post at that picture – it really sums up Kuroshitsuji II so well.
(TL;DR version at bottom of page)
Excuse me. Sorry – it should’ve summed up K-II so well, except… it didn’t! The first episode would trick you into thinking that this sequel is basically an entirely different story altogether, with the only thread connecting the two being the fact that its about a Victorian-era rich kid and his demonic butler… and with a healthy dose of creepy shoutacon just to make it all go down a little more smoothly. And, that would’ve honestly been for the better, as Alois, he of the chess piece-licking tendencies, is such a fucking freak that he really could’ve carried the show all by himself. In fact, he also would’ve done a fantastic job of illustrating one of the massive problems with the original season – Ciel just really isn’t that great of a character; in fact, he’s pretty bland and dull. Definitely not the kind of character who can carry a show.
Actually, let me revise that slightly – Alois starring in his own show would’ve hinted that Ciel wasn’t a very good lead in his own show. But bringing Ciel back and having him share the screen with Alois makes it painfully clear how poorly constructed a character he is. While Ciel looks quietly pissed off, Alois is spinning around with psychotic grins plastered on his face, merrily gouging people’s eyes out and licking people’s ears. That’s some pretty stiff competition.
Bringing Ciel back also makes Kuroshitsuji II more or less completely fucking retarded. The first season wasn’t that hot; I’ve commented before about how the highs were great, but the lows were horrific and also vastly outweighed the high points in that season. The finale redeemed the entire endeavor somewhat, as it ended on a very strong note. K-II basically takes that strong note, chucks it out the window, throws a roman candle on top of it, and then pisses on the ashes. No, really. And they do it in such a head-bangingly horrible fashion, too. So you thought Ciel’s soul got nom’d at the end of the first season and about half the cast died? LULZ JK!!1 Look, now Ciel’s on a date with the shrieky Elizabeth, and they’re looking for a stag! And Sebastian is sparkling! So much fun!!!
Again, though, K-II basically does what the first season did before it – a whole lot of shit, with a few diamonds scattered throughout it. I’m slightly tempted to say that it has more good points than the previous iteration, but I’m not willing to fully commit to that since its been a while since I saw the first season and I have absolutely no desire to revisit it. Any improvements I attribute fully to the presence of completely insane Alois, who does a great job of bringing the crazy. No wonder Ciel tries to kill him! He realized who was the better character!
K-II also did a great job of not just bringing back the rampant misogyny of the first season, but turning up by a factor of about… hmm… five. We’ve got another woman-turned-criminal because of love or babies or something. Not only that, though, this time the woman gets to be subjected to being called a sow the entire time she’s running around lighting people on fire. Oh, and the people she originally attacks? All women. Lovely. There’s also a former prostitute who gets needlessly shot in the head.
The most brutal on-screen violence, though, is reserved for Hannah, Alois’s maid, who gets her eye gouged out by Alois. She also gets strangled, is pinned to a tree via chainsaw through her chest, and is regularly hit and thrown to the ground by other characters in non-combat situations.
As for the rest of the women: Ran Mao remains basically a fanservice doll, Elizabeth is still obnoxious and useless, and Lady Red is still dead (the character last season who got a chainsaw buried in her chest). Other female characters just exist to shake their boobs around more or less.
Actually, I saw a criticism by someone of the fact that people complained about female fanservice in K-II, saying that the folks who complained about cleavage were the same ones thrilling to shirtless shots of male characters. Guess what? Men as a general population have not been subjected to thousands of years of oppression, and they continue to dominate the world’s society. So, nope, its actually not even remotely the same. Nice try, though – good job tearing a page straight from the books of the male empowerment movements. Maybe you can go climb on your roof and refuse to come down until a woman agrees to make you dinner for your next trick. I hear that one works pretty well.
I will say this, though – Hannah might get tossed around and abused a bunch, but she ends up having basically outsmarted everyone else in the damn show. So while the misogyny is much more palpable in K-II, at the same time it does a great job of making Hannah pretty kick-ass ultimately. However, that doesn’t really wipe out the fact that the only male character subjected to brutality on-screen is Alois, and this in a show where the core cast is all male.
Let me make a comparison – the violence in Queen’s Blade is not inherently misogynistic (although the show is), because the cast is largely female, so of course it will be female characters who get harmed (the key word here is ‘inherently’; we could have a longer argument about whether or not it is actually misogynistic, but I’m not really interested in doing so). The violence in a show such as Ga-Rei-Zero is not inherently misogynistic because there is equal opportunity brutality taking place – female and male characters are fighting each other, and hurting each other in fairly equal amounts. K-II, on the other hand, has only one regularly appearing female character, and yet she takes more damage than anyone else in the show, and more than everyone else in the show combined. She also is the only character who is regularly abused on-screen. Other characters do get hurt, yes, but it happens off-screen – when Alois is killed, for example, the shot shifts to a distant view and we only see that he has been mortally wounded when the camera closes in and shows blood running down his torso and legs, the injury not visible from the vantage point.
Speaking of Alois, I may as well take K-II to task for the disturbing fanservice involving both Alois and Ciel. I honestly can’t analyze this as well as I can the misogyny, mainly because it just made my skin crawl. I really dislike lolicon stuff, and I also find myself equally repulsed by shoutacon content in shows. You want to show a demon butler with his shirt off to make the audience squeal? Fine. But all the creepy innuendo involving our underage protagonist and antagonist, all the moments where the camera lingers while panning over them while they are being dressed by their butlers, all the moments when the camera zooms in on these barely pubescent bodies… its creepy, and its gross. I don’t care that they aren’t real – its still the sexualization of children, and its deeply unsettling.
I come away from K-II feeling about the same way after I finished Kuroshitsuji: deeply divided. Again, the good content is very good, but the bad content is beyond atrocious. There really is no middle ground here, no wholly inoffensive and bland moments. And yet, like I said before, the entire premise of the show is simply stupid. While I could manage to suspend disbelief by the fourth or fifth episode and accept the stupidity of the very grounding of the show, after it all ended that sensation of “Wait, this was dumb.” lingered strongly. Which is too bad, since K-II’s second half was actually overall legitimately good (overall because Grell plays a larger role in the second half, and he sucks, and also because scene-killing moments were still happening with a devastatingly high frequency – you can’t really play dark, serious music and then throw sparkles all over a bishounen butler in the same scene if you’re not doing a comedy to begin with). And having a success rate of seven out of twelve episodes (the first episode was good) certainly pegs it pretty high above the first season’s rate (uh… eight or nine of twenty-four).
All of which is to say… you should watch this if you’re interested in watching any Kuroshitsuji and haven’t seen anything yet. Just ignore the first season, this’ll take less time and the stupidity factor is less if you haven’t seen the conclusion to the first season. It also has a better pay-off rate, as I said. The only other reasons to watch this is if you really dig Kuroshitsuji (I’ll try not to pass too harsh a judgment on you), or if you just have nothing else to do. Alois is such a freakasaurus rex that it’ll make it somewhat worth your time. But K-II is more or less a repeat of the first season’s squandering of potential. The second half is decent, and the final three episodes are quite good (moron moments aside), but it really isn’t worth slogging through the dumb crap nor is it ultimately worth having to see one of the worst characters ever during the good episodes. So, no, not exactly a ringing endorsement you’re seeing here. I remain thoroughly baffled by the popularity of this series.
TL;DR version: Alois overwhelms Ciel as a character, which weakens the show overall, there’s lots of creepy-ass shoutacon fanservice, and K-II hates on women even more than the previous season managed to.
EDIT: For more on how K-II sucks about it’s women click here, as Caddy C gets more in-depth about some of the other female characters in the show.