“On the other hand, I’d been a loner caught up in the culture all by myself for fourteen years. Like the one kid in the hood who watches anime, I was the Chinese kid in Bay Hill doing the Bankhead.”

—Eddie Huang

I found Black Butler when I was a kid. My friends and I were on the cusp of weebhood. Always joking about Ishimondo and how we were the weird kids hanging out in the corner while everyone else talked about boys and shopping. They liked Ouran, Soul Eater, Mirai Nikki, but it didn’t speak to me.

Like all the western kids, I found the anime first. It hits the points I needed it to, had that dark appeal all the emos vibe with, but you gotta be honest: It didn’t make any sense. It required mad guesswork to understand characters’ motivations, and not in the good way. My eyes were darting all over the screen wondering how the fuck some tea in a dude’s basement was connected to eating souls, why Claude was such a drama queen, why we were pulling swords out of hoes’ throats. I just interpreted everything as metaphors and moved the hell on.

I knew about the manga, knew the anime diverged from it, but didn’t take it serious until years later. Something compelled me to check up on it and next thing you know, I’d read everything my mans Yana had written up to that point. Ain’t stopped since. Looking back, I understood why it struck as hard as it did. Ciel’s experiences left him cynical, cruel, uninterested in people beyond what benefits they offered him. He was focused on that paper, keeping a distance from the people he loved most ‘cuz he knew there was no future to look forward to but you knew he’s still a kid, the way he acts sometimes. I was edgy, weird, sardonic, but immature. I let pessimism shape my worldview ‘cuz that was all I knew once I got smart enough to understand what was up with me. Maybe I hadn’t been through the shit Ciel had been through but I understood. Having these insane experiences no one else around you knows about knowing they’d never understand, carrying the memories no matter how badly you want to forget, knowing it changed the way your head works, the way you see the world, for the worse – it was indescribable how much it resonated with me.

I ascribed my own narrative to Black Butler when it wasn’t really there, but it made sense. Ciel’s brand was a physical manifestation of what he’d been through but he stayed casual about it. I knew what that was like: what felt like an inescapable hell when it was happening had lost all its power years down the line. I learned to accept it as a fact of my life rather than an indicator that I was some doomed tortured poet. Yana Toboso never hides that Ciel is still suffering, never shies away from depicting trauma the rawest, realest way possible, but the kid doesn’t stew in his own misery 24/7. He proceeds with his life. It was an important lesson for the fool I was. OK, shit happened. OK, it was awful. OK, it's an injustice. But does your ass want to remember, let it get you down, keep you from advancing, or to be as normal as you can be and succeed in the rest of your life?