Based on the manga of the same name, Karneval is a show about a government agency trying to take down monsters may seem a little un-unique, but Karneval actually has the kind of flash that can only be found in an anime. The extra bit of style coming from the fact that the agency in question is called Circus and in addition to destroying the evil Varugas, they serve the public with Carnivale style celebrations in which all their agents take part. Is this enough to keep interest for the entire series, or is Karneval a performance that leaves something to be desired?
From the get go, Karneval opens into a young man, Nai, remembering his past with a very good friend of his only to get pulled back out of his memories to find himself in cuffs, a prisoner in a house to a very perticular lady. Luckily however, he happens to be saved thanks to a thief, Gareki, making his way through the house and finding Nai’s bracelet the only thing really of any worth. Though because the bracelet belows to Nai’s friend, he tells Gareki that he can have it if they ask the friend for permission first, all he has to do is free him and find his friend. A interesting beginning to a show, as viewers should easily tell that this wont be as easy as Gareki thinks and secures that no matter what the two will be sticking together.
While escaping however and trying to find Nai’s friend, Karoku, the two end up in the custody of government agency of Circus, a special group that uses amazing powers to fight off the inhuman Varugas and put on shows and parades for the citizens to show that they are keeping everything safe. As it turns out Karoku’s bracelet is a dated Circus piece of equipment that was given to agents and offer their help as well to locating him, both to help find a former or lost agent and because Nai has a tendency to attract Varugas. It’s nice to see in the show that pretty much every person has their own agenda in things, each using the others on some level to aid themselves, which adds a nice level of complexity to the characters that is often missing in a lot of shows.
After everyone is working together, the show starts focusing on the different locations that Circus begins searching to find evidence of the source of the Varugas, a group known as Kafka. With Nai in tow they tend to have no issues finding the Varugas that guard or happen to be at the places they investigate, so it makes sense that focus of the show is more of hints of corruption or Kafka influence that Circus can’t seem to find, as several things seem to happen under their nose. Since the series is so short and visiting each of the places they go tends always take more than a single episode it works much better that the major focus isn’t the action of clearing a location, but what is discovered from them and what is going on in the background.
Eventually exploring the origins of both Gareki and Nai, Circus is forced to assault a previously untouchable location, due to a lack of evidence in order to do so through the proper channels. While the action is pretty fantastic, showing off all the things that each of the agents is able to do, it leads to Gareki and Nai finding the final location of Karuko. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of anything wrapped up at the end of the series, as even though Gareki, Nai, and Circus were all using each other to try a forward their own goals, everything is left partially completed. With so much left undone, it is little more than a reminder of what everyone had been trying to do, not even feeling like a cliff hanger, instead feeling like one has stopped reading a book at a chapter partway though, which is an unfortunate state that can happen with anime adapted from an ongoing manga.
The look of the show is one of the best aspects, almost all of the characters are well designed, with the exception of two agents that wear almost the exact same thing. Even better is that a lot of the characters have several different looks, from what they wear on missions, to what they wear for the shows Circus performs, as well as the Varugas that Circus faces also looking very different and unique, avoiding over use of generic enemies for the agents to re-fight. The combat between them is also very well done, as their attacks are specific to the character, such as Yogi’s vine attacks. Even the animals in the world of Karneval have their own personalities and styles, which all adds together to make everything look so well together.
Performances by the voice actors do a great job reflecting all the different characters through the show, particularly being noticeable with Yogi and his completely over the top nature especially surrounding Nyanperona, the mascot he performs as. Both the original Japanese and English dub embody the different characters, from Nai’s innocence and Gareki’s entire character arc, to the rest of the cast of which there are a decent amount across the series. It was also interesting to see Vic Magnogna as the voice of Karuko, since he is much of the main focus of the series, but still only a small role, though hearing him play anything besides an overly dramatic blonde teenager is refreshing.
While fantastic pieces of music are a little far in between in Karneval, there are some in the series. One of the most stand out pieces was the piano composition at the beginning of episode 6, which is able to fit the theme of Circus and the emotion of the scene. There are a number of episodes that start off in a similar vein, with a scene and with good music before the opening theme, but it’s hard to compete with the one in episode 6. The opening theme “Henai no Rondo” by GRANRODEO fits well in the series with the theme of warmth that Nai attributes to friendship and love, while the ending theme “REASON” by KAmiYU utilizes the themes of emotions as well as being ones self.
While this release does have a very limited number of special features, mainly only having the usual commentary, trailers, and textless opening and ending themes, Karneval does have some additional videos in the form of promotional videos that were used for the original TV release and a special video that covers the style of the different characters. Breaking it down by character and looking at what each character is like and how the entire group works as a whole, being more like a family than an organization. This adds a nice little final look at the characters that gives some insight into their personalities.
While there are a lot of really great things in Karneval, it does somewhat suffer from a story that has a lot to explore but doesn’t really go anywhere, which tends to be the problem with ongoing manga series adapted into anime. Outside of the story though the music really adds to the emotion of the scenes and the characters are all so well done, in both design and voice acting that they are all so much more realistic.
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