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Karneval Review

Posted on the 01 August 2014 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

KarnevalTitle: Karneval
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher: Manglobe (JP), Funimation (US)
Original Creator: Touya Mikanagi
Director: Eiji Suganuma
Series Composition: Touko Machida
Music Composer: Keiji Inai
Official Release Date: June 6, 2014

So, here’s the deal with Karneval. I genuinely enjoyed the first couple of episodes, but then the first major story arc kicked in and about halfway through it, most of my excitement fizzled away as I realized that I wasn’t really invested in these characters or the drama revolving around them for that matter. As a result, that same level of enjoyment never really came back. The further the show went on, the less sense the story seemed to make and the less I cared about the characters. Don’t’ get me wrong, I don’t hate the show – I’ve seen worse – but I harbor no great love for it either.

Karneval starts out simply enough. A boy name Nai is saved by a thief, Gareki, who promises to help Nai look for Karoku, an important person to Nai who mysteriously disappeared one day, leaving behind puddles of blood and an old Circus ID. Nai and Gareki eventually hook up with the Circus, a government agency whose members fight Varuga, weird monster-human things, in the hopes of eventually taking down the evil organization Kafka.  Though Nai, Gareki, and friends proceed to then spend the majority of the series doing just about everything except looking for Karoku, that plotline picks right back up again at the end when Karoku suddenly demands rescue. In an attempt to end as exciting and thrilling as possible, Karneval then crams in all the fighting, explosions, top hats, betrayal, and sentimental farewells it can.

Karneval Review

The biggest problem with Karneval’s story is that for everything going on, nothing really felt like it mattered. Take Kafka, for instance. They are established as the main villains from just about the first episode, but we hardly see them at all. We hear characters talk about them and even get the odd glimpse or two at some of the people who hold a bit of power in the group, but they never really feel like villains. The funny thing is that with Kafka taking a bit of a backseat the majority of the show, you’d think you’d see more of the Varuga that are supposedly being drawn to Circus in greater numbers after Nai was taken under their wing. But you don’t. Again, you hear people talking about how greater numbers of Varugas are being taken out, but you hardly ever see them. As a resul,t it was hard to feel any sense of urgency or concern regarding the majority of Circus’ run-ins with the majority of villains they did fight.

Also, in lieu of spending time of more interesting things like Kafka or the Varuga, Karneval sometimes chose to focus on the mind-numbingly mundane. Do I really need almost an entire episode devoted to Circus chasing around a malfunctioning rabbit robot, or one about a kid trying to reunite with his mother? No, I don’t. I understand that these episodes were meant to show off the budding friendship between our protagonists or simply show our characters having a bit of down time, but I feel like these things could have been shown in smaller amounts more effectively. These parts of the story are probably why the finale felt so packed. I mean, it felt like it was trying to make up for any of the excitement that was missing from other parts of the show, with mixed results. While I enjoyed the finale more than I did a lot of Karneval, it had an undeniably rushed feel to it. The reveal about Karoku only left me confused. Uro’s vague mumblings were equally as useless. The fact that all the major Kafka people got away left it feeling unresolved, but it would have felt too easy had they actually been caught. And then Gareki’s departure, while sweet, also didn’t have much of an impact either.


This brings me to another topic of mild frustration: the characters. Let’s start with Nai. Aside from the whole he’s-actually-an-animal thing (which was a bit silly if you ask me), I actually liked Nai a lot. He was a sweetie pie and his friendship with Gareki was pretty cute to watch. His struggle to understand his more human aspects, like emotions, was also interesting to watch and added a bit more to his character. As for Gareki, he was pretty okay. I have a soft spot for his type of character – the bad boy who really has a heart of gold but is afraid to open up – so seeing his relationship with Nai develop was kind of sweet. On the other hand, as someone who actually got an arc, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t care much for it as a result of its relative predictability and the fact that none of the drama really clicked with me.

Though there are technically two other main characters, I hesitate to label them as such considering we hardly learn anything worthwhile about them, and they both go through zero development. Out of the two, the one who probably brought down the show for me the most was Yogi. Part of this I am automatically blaming on his voice because it’s one of the most annoying I’ve ever listened to, but the rest is to blame on the general blandness of  his character. Sure there was that thing with his psychotic break, but that was brushed aside pretty quickly as an allergic reaction (one of Circus’s many ridiculous explanations about their members and their powers). He never really went beyond an overly cheerful guy who cares a great deal about his friends, and after a while, he really started to grate on my nerves. Tsukumo, on the other hand, was alright I suppose. We literally never learn anything about her beyond the fact she also cares a lot for her friends and is the quiet, caring type. She’s also cute. And her bit at the end with Gareki’s going away gift was sweet, but other than that I, honestly, don’t have much else to say about her because she made even less of an impression on me than Yogi did.


The side cast was literally a colorful bunch, with the vast majority of them being bishies of varying hair and eye color. As expected, Kafka’s members (and Karoku) are pretty much  a joke, but Circus’s members, with their extra screen time, are a bit more likeable. On the other hand, if the stuff the main guys were doing didn’t make tons of sense, then the crap Circus’s higher-ups were hinting have close to zero impact on the story at all. Again, there’s a lot of hinting, but no time to actually deliver, another major with Karneval in general.

In terms of how the show looked, I will say that the eyes were consistently my favorite part. I, personally, really liked the multi-colored irises, something that went hand in hand with the overall colorfulness of the show. Though not really connected to the show itself, the art decorating the box set and DVD/Blu-ray cases is also really quite pretty. Unfortunately, movement was often stiff and looked a bit silly at times, though that awkwardness was, thankfully, mostly absent from the major fight scenes.


Though I never expected to fall in love with the show, I do find myself just a tad disappointed by how it turned out. It’s not a good show, but it does have its moments where the small nuggets of investment I had in the characters tugged at my heartstrings a bit or made me want to know more. Like I said earlier, I harbor no great hate for the show, and truth be told, there were actually enough interesting elements for me to think about picking up the manga to see if it’s any better, but beyond that I don’t plan to ever revisit the show. If you’re really bored and want a show with lots of bishies and decent amounts of drama, I guess you could watch Karneval, but you could also watch a number of other, better shows populated by good looking characters that have better, more interesting drama. In other words, invest your time in something else.

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I'm a shy, lazy, easily impressed person who loves anime and manga. I've been seriously watching since about the summer of the sixth grade and have been in love since. I'm pretty much an amateur when it comes to anime and am somewhat still in that starry-eyed phase, but as I continue to watch more, I have become more critical, I suppose one could say.
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