The historical supernatural anime series Black Butler first premiered in October of 2008 and rapidly became known for its dark and unique premise, gaining a sizable fanbase in the process. In fact, its success grew so large that it eventually generated three seasons, two OVAs, a movie, three musicals and even a Nintendo DS game.
However, while its popularity seems to have slowed down in the past decade, the manga continues to thrive in terms of sales. As such, the story has maintained a cult following and is still going strong since its initial publication back in September of 2006.
Despite the anime's messy timeline, the numbers speak for themselves, and fans are curious about the potential for a fourth season.
The Plot & Origin of Black Butler
Created by Yana Toboso, the series is published by Monthly GFantasy, with the anime being adapted by A-1 Pictures Studios. The story follows Ciel Phantomhive, a 13-year-old earl living in Victorian-era London. On Ciel's tenth birthday, the Phantomhive manor is attacked and set ablaze, killing both of Ciel's parents and leaving him to be kidnapped, then sold to members of a demon-worshipping cult.
Upon experiencing excruciating abuse at the hands of said members, one night during a sacrificial ceremony, Ciel ends up meeting and forming a contract with a demon, who he later names Sebastian Michaelis. The contract states that Sebastian will assist Ciel in accomplishing his goal; to seek revenge on those who have wronged him in exchange for his soul.
Sebastian takes on the disguise of Ciel's butler to always be by his side as the two embark on a journey to satisfy Ciel's vengeance. To do so, he becomes Earl of the Phantomhive manor and takes on his father's position as Queen Victoria's watchdog. This role tasks Ciel with investigating important cases that have the potential to disrupt England and the crown, and which often involve dirty or immoral methods to get the job done.
Will There Be a Season 4 of Black Butler?
With its massive success, it's understandable that fans are still hoping for another season, although the series has been subjected to poor treatment. Season 1 aired with 24 episodes, but only a third of the season contained canon material, meaning two-thirds of the season is filler, including an anime-only ending. The production company likely didn't expect the significant popularity and was eager to seize this opportunity.
Unfortunately, with the manga being adapted early on, this meant there wasn't a sufficient number of manga chapters for another season. Instead, the Season 2 that fans later got is infamously known as being a terrible and lackluster sequel. The second season took fan-favorite elements of the first season and disposed of them, delivering completely original content with new, unlikeable main characters, and was consequentially poorly received.
However, Black Butler's popularity remained, and instead of giving the series a Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood treatment by starting over and making a more faithful adaptation, fans received Black Butler: Book of Circus as Season 3. Despite being labeled as a third season, Book of Circus is a 10-episode adaptation of the Circus arc from the manga, taking place following episode 15 of the anime's first season. The third season garnered fairly positive reviews and so the franchise continued. Next came Black Butler: Book of Murder -- two-hour-long OVAs that adapt the succeeding Phantomhive Manor Murders arc. Finally, we have Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic, a movie adapting the Luxury Liner arc.
While the final three entries in the Black Butler franchise are canon, the timeline becomes convoluted, as all take place back in Season 1 and all come in different mediums. Moreover, Book of Murder and Book of the Atlantic are not labeled as Seasons 4 and 5 respectively, making it easy to confuse these additions as merely non-canon filler material.
To elaborate, anime OVAs are almost never canon, whereas movies are a bit more of a gamble. The peculiar decision to separate different arcs into different mediums makes the franchise messy and difficult for many to follow. As such, the possibility of a Season 4 currently seems unlikely, and fans are probably better off following the manga.