Beyond The Fantastic: Thoughts on Karneval (カーニヴァル)
(Pictures Above Via MyAnimeList)
(Manga 2007- ongoing, Anime 2013)
By: Tōya Mikanagi
For this post, I am strictly focusing on the anime rather than the manga series. Yet after watching the anime, it convinced me that I should read the manga series. I’ve read many reviews on Karneval (or カーニヴァル in Japanese), and the majority had mixed feelings about it. Thus entering into the series, I had very low expectations, but when I completed it, I surprisingly enjoyed the whole series.
Karneval is about a boy named, Nai, which we later learn is actually a “niji,” a small, cute forest creature with a cell structure of a human. One day, Nai’s friend, Karoku, disappears from the island where they both lived. Nai wanders off to the shore to go find him. He sees a trail of blood leading to the ocean and Karoku’s bracelet on the ground. The bracelet is the only clue Nai has to go find Karoku and it seems to be linked to the organization, Circus. Nai leaves the island, but gets kidnapped by a Varuga named Mine. He gets rescued by a thief named Gareki, who enters Mine’s mansion with the intention of stealing some of her jewelry. Soon after, Nai and Gareki become a target of interest between two powerful organizations, Kafka and Circus. Kafka is an organization that experiments on humans in order to develop the next stage of evolution for mankind. Circus is a national defense team that protects the general public from creatures called Varugas. Circus’ ultimate goal is to bring Kafka to justice because they believe that Kafka is responsible for abusing and illegally experimenting on humans to create Varugas. Nai and Gareki joins Circus because they believe Karoku’s disappearance is somehow related to Kafka.
When you hear the words, circus or carnival, what do you think of? When I hear those words, I have two different interpretations. The first interpretation is that the circus and carnival is a bright place: it is magical and beyond reality with lots of colors, lights, and glittery performances. Yet, I also think that the circus and carnival has a darker connotation. If you take for example, American Horror Story: Freak Show, this season focuses on the circus as a place that evokes fear and grotesqueness. The anime, Karneval, combines both types of perspective on the circus and carnival. For instance, the grotesqueness in Karneval is the Varuga, which could be described as a demon or fiend that kills innocent people as well as causes fear for people. However, the magical and entrancing is shown through the various cute, and mystical creatures that Circus encounters. In addition, the colors used for the background and the characters’ physical appearances convey a feeling of brightness and enchantment. Each episode is like a fashion show because the characters wear some extravagant costumes. In episode twelve, the crew members of Circus AirShip One and Two were dressed in fancy black suits and ties and colorful dresses as if they were performing a circus act while rescuing Karoku.
Karneval is a manga series that targets the josei demographic as the main audience. Hence, the reason why many characters are bishōnen. Although Nai and Gareki have developed story lines, I didn’t find the two main protagonists appealing. They weren’t as hilarious and charismatic as the Circus members which appealed to my eyes more as oppose to the serious persona of Gareki and the heartwarming personality of Nai. My favorite Karneval character is Yogi. Yogi has an optimistic, cheery attitude, and gets nervous when fighting. He also shows a strong brotherly affection to Nai and Gareki. In Yogi’s first appearance, he gives a self-introduction as the cat mascot, “Nyanperona.” As “Nyanperona,” Yogi passes around candy to children and inspires the kids’ hopes and dreams. Yogi also has depth in his character; in which he has a split personality. When the allergy patch on Yogi’s left cheek comes off, Yogi acts extremely violent and destructive, opposite from his normal self. (Later on in the manga series, readers will learn more about Yogi’s past and the reasons why he transforms.) Overall, for each episode, I looked forward to watching Yogi’s hilarious antics and funny remarks.
I also found the captains of Circus Airship One and Two, to be charming and amusing characters. Hirato and Tsukitachi hold a lot of responsibility as captains, but they seem a bit easy-going and nonchalant when it comes to doing dangerous missions. They also have interesting powers; in which both can bring a group of banshee out of their hats.
For thirteen episodes, the story line is pretty slow to develop, but it picks up in the last three episodes. I kind of wish there is another season though because the ending leaves you with many questions (but if you want to find out what happens next, you should read the manga.) For sure, the anime was a great introduction to the whole Karneval series for me. When I get the chance, I will read the manga series.
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