Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Reading Challenge: A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read

Manga is a genre that I have very limited experience in and, according to the New York Times, Black Butler is a bestseller, so . . .

Set in an alternative Victorian London, BB follows the exploits of Sebastian, the eponymous butler, to Ciel Phantomhive, a business magnate who specialises in children's games. Volume 1 contains four chapters which act as different stories. In these tales, Ciel entertains with the help of Sebastian and then tolerates a visit from his fiancee following dance tuition from his Butler. The last two chapters are part 1 and 2 of the same story, meatier than the first episodes and having more action. Ciel is kidnapped and Sebastian comes to fetch him with the family silver primed and ready for use against assailants.

I didn't do any research on what are recommended books for those new to manga and perhaps that was an error. Initially I approached the reading as if it were a standard book and found the style jerky and confusing. The setting is an alternative Victorian London but even so there are lots of anachronisms which the historian in me stumbled over. The story goes straight in with very little scene setting. The first two chapters are a bit fluffy with lightweight plots. When I started reading the book with a more cinematic approach, it became easier. While I haven't read manga before, I watched a couple of manga films years ago, one of which was Akira, and I remember needing to let go of the need to have characters and events explained and just flow with the story. I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first as a result. The storyline of Ciel's kidnap and rescue had a faster pace and greater action which meant I felt more swept up and less inclined to dwell on things I didn't quite understand. There's also a bit of backstory as to how Ciel acquired Sebastian as a butler and what the ultimate price for this loyalty will be.

Favourite bits? Ciel's fiancee decking Sebastian out in a bonnet; the aforementioned use of cutlery to dispatch a number of henchmen.

As with any genre, the more you read the more the style and subtleties of that genre sink in. Will I be reading any more in this series? In the short-term, no. Would I be interested in reading more manga? Yes, but after a bit of research on what would be the best starting point for a newbie like myself. I'd be interested in re-reading BB after getting some more experience under my belt to see if that extra knowledge and familiarity with the genre meant I could enjoy it more.

I'm sure that when I signed up to Netflix late last year, the TV series of Black Butler was available. Having checked today, I can't find it. Maybe it will materialise again and if so then I would like to give it a watch.

6 out of 10 butlers

Undertaking the #popsugarreadingchallenge and tempted by this book, but already have your bestseller from a genre you don't normally read covered? These are other categories in the Reading Challenge this book could apply to:
A book with pictures
A book by an author from a country you've never visited (Japan)
The first book in a series you haven't read before
A book with an eccentric character

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