Set in Victorian England, Black Butler follows the story of 12-year-old Ciel Phantomhive and his demon butler Sebasastian. Like many anime’s this one has had several seasons, a few specials, OVA’s (Original Video Animation), and movies.
Also like other anime, there is a difference between the release order of the show and the canon order, or the order that fans think that it should be watched.
Before we get on with the list, it is important to define what is and is not canon. In anime, ‘canon’ means something that actually happened in the story, as opposed to something that was shown, or created by a fan or an outside source other than the writers/creators of the anime and manga.
As you may know, the show Black Butler is based on an anime of the same name, and so what is considered ‘canon’ in the show are things that were written by the authors in the manga.
Because of this, while every season of Black Butler is considered ‘canon’ not every episode is. This could be because the creators of the show added a few filler episodes to pad out the story, or they changed some storylines within the show to make a new narrative.
When going through the release and watch order we will say what is and is not considered canon so don’t worry.
Some fans only like watching the official canon episodes, specials, and movies of their anime, but if you want even more content then there’s nothing stopping you from watching it all.
With that in mind, here is the show’s release order, canon order, and a brief plot synopsis of all the important moments to help you decide if you should give the Black Butler anime a go.
Black Butler Release Order
- Season 1: Black Butler – 39 Episodes (2-6, 13-15 canon)
- Kuroshitsuji Recap (Japanese for Black Butler)
- Black Butler Special
- Season 2: Black Butler – 12 Episodes (none are canon)
- Black Butler II Special
- Season 3: Black Butler: Book of Circus – 10 Episodes (all canon)
- OVA – Black Butler: Book of Murder
- Movie – Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic
Black Butler Canon Order
Season 1: Black Butler (Episodes: 2-6, 13-15)
On the night of Ciel Phantomhive’s 10th birthday, his parents are killed when a huge fire engulfed their mansion, and Ciel is captured by a mysterious organization.
A month later Ciel returns to the mansion with a mysterious new butler in tow, Sebastian Michaels.
While on the outside Sebastian may seem like the best butler in the world, able to perform all of his tasks quickly and perfectly, little do people know that he is actually a demon.
While kidnapped, Ciel entered into a contract with Sebastian, promising the demon his soul so long as he helps him take revenge on those who have wronged him and his family.
Until this task has been completed, Ciel is Sebastionas master and he must do all he can to protect the child, while also helping him on his quest.
At the same time, Ciel also fulfills his role as the ‘Queens Watchdog’, a position held by his family for generations. He is sent off to do investigations for the queen to protect her and the country from harm.
- Season 3: Black Butler: Book of Circus
Ciel receives two tickets for him and his butler to go visit the Noah’s Ark Travelling Circus that has made its way to London. This isn’t a trip for fun though.
There have been reports of children mysteriously going missing from all the towns the circus visits. The Queen orders her watchdog Ciel to go investigate the circus and hopefully find these missing children.
Disguised as new circus members, the pair enter the circus to investigate the mysterious members of the group, and to find out whether there is something more sinister lurking underneath the grandeur of the circus.
- Black Butler: Book of Murder
In early 1889, on the Queen’s orders, Ciel Phantomhive hosts a large banquet attended by several members of the upper-class of Victorian Society, as well as struggling writer Arthur Conan Doyle.
At some point during the evening, it is discovered that there has been a murder in the building, and Ciel is considered the prime suspect by his guests.
As a storm rages outside and the death toll in the manor climbs ever higher, it quickly becomes obvious that the survivors must work together in order to find out who is causing this violence before they too are killed.
Not even Ceil’s invulnerable butler Sebastion seems to be safe from the nightmare taking place in the manor.
- Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic
In 1889, Ciel, his butler Sebastian, and a new servant Snake board the luxury passenger ship Campania, alongside the noble Midford family. They’re not going for rest and relaxation though, they have work to do.
There have been reports of illegal human experimentation on the ship, with there even being some accounts of dead people coming back to life, though in a form that is not quite human.
With the secret Aurora Society and a questionable doctor at the heart of this mystery, Ciel must uncover the truth before they get back to dry land.
Black Butler is an anime that sticks largely to the story set out in the manga it is based on, with a few extra side plots added for filler episodes in the TV show and some of the specials.
It is a great choice of anime if you like darker stories, though it still has some humor to it and many characters that you with love, or love to hate.