Book Review: Black Butler Vol. XIII by Yana Toboso

 The 13th volume of Black Butler seems to suffer from the bad luck of being number 13.

It picks up indirectly from the end of volume 12, where Elizabeth revealed she was deadly proficient at fencing. At the start of this one, Toboso has a flashback where the reader learns about how Elizabeth became so good at fencing and also of her vow to protect Ciel. This is interesting and reveals some of the concepts and expectations of ladies in Polite Society in Victorian London. The reader is then taken back to the story at hand and, after talking with the grim reapers and seeing to Elizabeth being safely put aboard a lifeboat, Ciel and Sebastian rushes off to finish investigating what is going on. However, there’s a surprise when the Undertaker appears and proceeds to reveal some very interesting things about himself…

There’s a lot of  exposition and some surprises about some previously much loved characters (for those who may not have watched the anime) however the pacing is not brilliant due to this exposition I think and seems to slow it down a little, something I have noticed in previous volumes. This is not to say that it lasts for very long and the action picks up again very quickly with a fight between Sebastian and the grim reapers for the Undertaker. Just as that starts, the last chapter suddenly breaks off from that to focus on the story between Ciel and Sebastian and how they met.

The last chapter is very interesting but it makes for a very difficult book to follow as it seems to jump around the timeline, have slow exposition and a lot of information being conveyed in very few pages. Whilst I understand that Toboso has a limited number of pages per a chapter per a volume, I think she could have let the story breathe a little and let it take its time.

At the end, Toboso also writes an authors note then a little comic about how she met her editor, her talks with her editor and also the learning process she underwent about the layout of comic books, stories and how to draw them (including an anecdote on discovering that she had been using a pen incorrectly). Might sound boring but I was amused by it and it was fun to read.

It is to this end that I say that I might need to re-read and redo this review as it might be one of those volumes that needs to be re-read in order to be able to fully understand the story (it happens sometimes with me). It is fun but maybe the structuring needs a little reconsideration but the story is sound, the new information is fun to discover, especially if they concern character motivations behind  certain actions, and continues to make this ongoing series a joy to read. Bring on volume 14!