Karneval Review

This is review number two hundred and sixteen. This anime is part of the Spring 2013 lineup. There are a lot of anime in a Spring lineup and catching up to them is hell sometimes. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Karneval. I recently finished UtaPri so I shut down for a good hour after watching an episode of this anime. It’s another thirteen episode anime about hot guys and hot guys liking one another but not enough that they’d f*ck each other. It’s a nice anime for people who enjoy bishies in their bland stories. Let’s read on.

Story

This anime is about a boy named Nai who is looking for a person named Karoku. He is a bit of a simple minded boy though that clearly cannot survive the harsh world on his own. One day, he meets a guy named Gareki and asked him to take Nai to Karoku. Gareki doesn’t really want to but after seeing the priceless bracelet Nai has on, he thought that the kid can bring him so needed money. So the two set out for their journey but soon met a mysterious organization called “Circus” that hunts down criminals. They are currently trying to find evidence to stop a group of evil people to create monsters using illegal drugs. Gareki and Nai would soon be caught in the hunt as the mysterious organization seems to have a deep interest on both of them.

Taking the Pants Off

Karneval is an odd anime. I thought it’s a Shounen anime but it’s actually tagged as a Josei anime which means it’s an anime for girls. I thought this’ll be like another “Pandora’s Hearts” that uses a single theme to build the concept around. That particular show relied on the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland. I thought Karneval would just be heavily themed around a Carnival. While that is an accurate thing, the approach of this anime is quite different. The main appeal of the show is the huge amount of really pretty guys in really pretty cool outfits. It seems to downplay its story so the pretty guys in pretty outfits can shine through. I certainly understand the appeal if your aim is to make female audiences fangirl shamelessly but there are certain things that could’ve been improved as well. The anime’s story is pretty decent but it’s pretty clear that the show doesn’t want to prioritize on it much. Basically, this is just another show full of hot guys designed to make you silently squeal as you watch it. There’s nothing wrong with that but not aiming for your full potential is something I am not a fan of.

This anime started out on the wrong foot, in my opinion. It seems to be more focused on introducing all the characters of the show before establishing the story. Most anime would try to eat up two or three episodes to establish the plot of the show that’ll build up as the anime progresses. Karneval’s approach is different and the progression certainly feels a bit tilted. I was personally trying to figure out the story first but the anime was never keen to focus on it. There is a large cast in this show. I think there are a total of nine with seven of them playing pivotal roles in the anime so the progression was certainly spread thin as the show focuses on each of them and their relation to the overall plot. It’s the same overall plot that the anime was never planning to properly establish. It’s a bit tricky but there is a saving grace for the anime. It has a lot of this:

karneval20

The picture above is Gareki blushing as if he was an undeniable “uke” of the anime. The term uke means “passive” and it’s a term in yaoi for the submissive partner while the dominant one is working him over. This is really the appeal of the anime. It’s indirectly Shounen Ai with all of hot guys and playful banters. As a guy, I can honestly say that I don’t see the appeal but my very heated Fujoshi friend immediately pointed out to me that for a girl, this sort of sh*t does wonders for them. So a stable plot progression takes a backseat to subtle Shounen Ai elements which oddly get a girl fired up. Please keep in mind, I am over generalizing when I say any girl will like this show but yeah, that’s the point of this show. It’s all about subtle familiar yaoi tropes.

The anime does have a plot so it can have a direction. The show has two plot points. The first one is the relationship of Gareki and Nai. This wasn’t as pronounce in the anime than it was in the manga, but the relationship of this simple minded yet innocent boy and the cold hearted bastard with a soft spot for him was one of its deeper plots. It’s more of a personal journey for the two of them as they experience different things and their relationship is often the rock that they lean on when times get rough. Nai loves Karoku but he also seems to be fond of Gareki. It came to a point where Nai is conflicted with staying with Gareki because someone was threatening to harm his companion. Gareki also seems to be troubled because he seems to slowly change whenever he hangs with Nai but he can’t seem to leave him. He is concerned because he has lived all his young life relying on no one and even having this stupid motto of people being only “nobody, prey or enemy” for him. Despite the personal conflicts the two have, they always seem to worry over the other and their relationship ever so blossoms.

I made that sound like an awesome plot point but keep in mind, the progression of the story is very lukewarm and under whelming. It doesn’t seem to ignite interest in the audience simply because the pacing seems to go through the motions. I personally had a hard time connecting to the characters and the story because the anime was focusing on too much while accomplishing very little. This particular plot point though was very deeply fleshed out in the manga. That’s right, I checked the manga and every possible subplot that could’ve enhanced the first plot point was oddly written out of the anime. To be fair, the manga was precise on introducing all the characters and the anime doesn’t have that luxury because of time constraints so it definitely had to cut out some portions. There were more hugging and heavy fujoshi fanservice in this plot point that was omitted by the anime though. It’s a shame.

The second plot point is about the mysterious organization called Circus and their pursuit of the organization called Kafka. Circus is a group of people with special powers that is trying to find evidence of crime so they can go after Kafka that is responsible for creating monsters called Varuga. These Varuga are once humans that got their cells altered and they become super humans but mostly deformed monstrosities that hurt innocent people. Kafka has been doing this for so long and they always seem to cover up any of their traces left behind and tie any loose ends before Circus can catch up. Circus often captures the Varugas but they either don’t have anything important about Kafka or they would rather die that spill it. Circus is obviously desperate and that’s why when the opportunity to use Nai and Gareki arises, they immediately pounce on it. Nai seems to attract Varugas and so Circus plans to let them tag along certain missions hoping that someone of importance can get caught in their bait. Of course, Nai immediately agreed once he knew that Circus has ties to the bracelet that Nai treasured once owned by Karoku. This plot point is mostly just about the certain missions the members of Circus tackle that Nai and Garkei tags along to. Since they’re such heat magnets, it’s always assured that trouble will find them one way or another.

One of the problems in this anime is the lack of explanation for Circus. I find it iffy that they just appeared and no one really explained what the hell they are. They’re an organization and that’s really it. Bits and pieces regarding them are slowly introduced as you keep watching the anime. They fail to explain that they are actually a secret organization that hunts down criminals and they all possess the ability to fly. Their base is a flying spaceship and to avoid being detected by the public, they are in the guise of a circus. That’s right. The secret crime fighting organization known as Circus plans to keep their secret intact by ingenuously being a circus. There are so many layers to this that it blows my mind. There also seems to be various groups within Circus because it’s such a huge organization and they have ties to the government. They also seem to answer to some mysterious council that barks criticism at them behind the scenes. I don’t mind the anime blowing over the story for some needed “seme and uke” moment but glossing over the explanation regarding this group is odd. They’re very important to the plot yet the anime didn’t even explain exactly what they are. It’s really annoying and it does ruin the experience as bit since you’re piecing together information regarding this group. It’s not fun at all and it distracts the focus away from the “seme and uke” potential of the show.

The second plot point does get a decent build up but it is still very underwhelming. It’s also very disjointed with how it progresses regarding certain missions the characters are in. There is no stable progression and it only gets enough intrigue to keep viewers watching but not enough to truly build for a climactic moment. The point is very clear that the characters are the main concern of the show and focusing on seven of them regarding this plot point spreads in every thinly. Getting use to the strange pacing of the anime will take some time but it does eventually even itself out. Once you understand the status quo regarding Circus with the different branches and the different ranks of the members as well as the standing of the enemies regarding the plot point then the story is be very easy to follow. As you can see though, that takes too much effort for some.

Now I am a bit concerned at the heavy focus in the characters instead of the story and I can only assume that the show will have another season. As of this writing, the studio has not yet announced another season but things were told pretty openly and it does hint another season. If not, then we have ourselves a very rare case of a mangalure. There are anime that was designed to get viewers interested enough and tempt them to read the manga. To some degree, the show’s lure does work. I’m sure others would be enticed by the show. Here’s hoping for another season though because, with so many Shounen Ai teasing, the show cannot end without any hot guy locking lips with another. I’m kidding but seriously, this show needs another season for the integrity of the story and the characters.

The anime spend a lot of time focusing on the characters yet they aren’t really that interesting. Beside the fact that they’re pretty people in colorful outfits, they still lack a decent build up. The anime relied too much on the stereotypes of the characters and the pretty faces hoping it’s enough to make them interesting. Well, everything else in the anime is shallow so it’s not really a surprise. The show focused on them way too much though and accomplished little. Nai and Gareki don’t really get their deserved character development. There are scenes where they have their monologues and self-introspections but it doesn’t really get them anywhere. Nai will forever be the cute boy with a cute personality while Gareki will always be the tsundere with a handsome face. To be fair, their personalities are good enough to make them interesting in the story but there is potential that was clearly not met. The pairing does look good together. Nai would always push himself towards Gareki and the tsundere can’t do much but look away. He can’t seem to hate on Nai because he always imagine him as this cute little creature that makes him blush.

The rest of the cast is one dimensional as well. There are a lot of them and it did get overwhelming at the start when you’re still figuring out the story of the anime yet it introduces way too many characters all at once. They don’t really seem much but they function well in the story. The different members of Circus all have bright personalities that make them stand out and this is coupled by their pretty faces. The various interactions among also looks pretty great from a distance because they always seem to be so playful and harmless like little kittens playing with each other. My Fujoshi friend though is very disappointed with the anime because it downplayed a lot of the various relationships within the characters. In the manga, the playful interactions are more sincere and more Shounen Ai-ish than the anime displayed. Certain relationships are so infectious that you can’t help but see potential at every possible pairing the manga presented. This was diluted in the anime and subplots regarding their feelings for each other are either cut or toned down. I’m guessing that the anime crammed way too much and the relationships do seem to distract the story so they cut it. It’s a shame though. The cute relationship of the characters made it easier to connect with them and get to know them better yet the anime decided it wasn’t important.

The antagonists are also pretty one dimensional. Well, they aren’t featured at much but they’re role in the anime is pretty clear. They’re evil and they should be stop. Majority of the times focused on them though are pretty wasted. They just look handsome all the time and that’s basically all they do. I think they would’ve meant a lot more if they actually did something evil instead of being discreet about their criminal nature. Even the henchman and the low level monsters don’t have much of an impact because they don’t really come off as a threat simply because of the lackluster progression of the story. This is why building the story is important because every other element is affected. They do look handsome and I guess that’s the payoff the anime wanted. I would’ve preferred a more cunning villain though that the ones presented in the anime.

I sincerely hope this anime have another season. It is pretty entertaining to a degree and there is really some great potential waiting to be tapped here. The studio seemed to just want a mangalure though and that that’s a shame. Manglobe is pretty well known for creating mangalure anime. I remember how they short ended Deadman Wonderland simply because they wanted to build intrigue to the manga. I hate mangalure anime. They build you up, cut you off and then make you feel wanting for more. For someone like me who doesn’t ever want to try any manga, I am a bit angered by this. There’s still so much to do with this anime so I am hopeful for another season.

Sight and Sound

This is really where the anime truly shined. The overly feminine design of the characters while sporting the familiar bishie look is the main hook of the anime. You have very slender and sexy male characters dressed in very bright and highly stylish attires that seems to be the perfect combination to attract female fans. I’ll tip my hat for the mangaka, Touya Mikinagi. This person really knows how to make really attractive characters. The nice body build and the expressive faces was a great way to make the characters stand out. The detail works on the characters are also a nice touch. You can really tell what Gareki is like by simply glancing at his amazing body and that’s a great plus for the anime since they have weak personalities. I do admire the touches done by Toshie Kawamura though. The great style Toshie did on Precure was nicely applied on the characters. The bright outfits and the great use of single colors make the characters even more appealing. Toshie added very colorful designs that captured the circus theme of the anime and it worked wonderfully on the characters. From their bright hair color to their eye catching outfits, Toshie really gave life to the characters where the script heavily failed them. You won’t get tired looking at the characters because of how great they look and how flashy they are at almost every scene they are in. The female characters are also nicely designed. I am a huge fan of Tsukumo with her colorful dresses and big boobs. The mangaka was smart by also making sure the girls are nicely detailed. The rest of the girls all have nice design to them though they don’t appear much in the show.

The monsters are also nicely designed. They don’t appear much as well but they look like pretty cool creatures you want to beat up in an RPG game. The Varugas are also nicely designed. They have a menacing appearance while still looking stylish and I certainly appreciate that. They could’ve used more carnage and bloody scenes to fully enhance their deadliness but they did well on the limited potential of the story.

The animation is pretty great. The playful banter of the characters was nicely captured by the anime and the subtle yaoi elements were nicely translated at every scene. All the hugging and all the blushing gave the scenes the added suggestiveness the anime thrived on. The fight scenes are also pretty awesome. There aren’t a lot of them but the clever use of camera angles and the smooth transitions made them very flashy. The way the characters fight was really nice even though it’s fast paced. The use of different effects and interaction with the background was also a nice touch. They’re so good that I am a bit irked the anime didn’t feature more of them. They really just want the handsome guys to stay handsome which is a shame.

The anime’s OP is “Henai no Rondo” by GRANRODEO. This is a really nice rock song with the singer having a really dreamy voice. I am a huge fan of the guitar instrumentals of the song that gives it a really wonderful sound. The verse and the chorus sound wonderful as the song retains a nice balance. The manly voice of the singer also nicely captures the spirit of the anime along with the oddly masculine yet romantic lyrics of the song. The OP sequence features all the characters, both good and bad, and a nice montage of the events of the anime. The handsome appeal of the characters is nicely captured in the OP so check it out if you have doubts about the anime.

The anime’s ED is “REASON” by KAmiYU. I love the blending of this duo. They are a voice actor duo that releases some songs and they’re appeal is nicely put forth in the song. It’s a bit too sugary for my taste but I must admit that it is very catchy. The verse had a nice energy that finishes off the chorus. It’s pretty awesome. The ED sequence is simply still poses of the characters as the camera pan up featuring all of them in all their visually striking glory.

Overall Score

6/10 “The anime had too many wasted potential. The odd focus on the visuals rather than the story was also bad choice since I can easily name ten anime that did the same approach. I can assure you they’re as forgettable as this show.”

The anime have hot guys. That’s really it. If you want to watch a show full of hot guys then just stare at the screenshots I took. I’m sure it’s enough to convince you how appealing the characters are and I actually like that part of the anime. Downplaying the story and short changing the characters are something I don’t appreciate though. If you enjoy high quality visuals in your anime then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you enjoy subtle Shounen Ai in your anime then you’ll love this show. If you love a good story then this show will disappoint. Gareki is sexy though, I’ll give you that.

10 thoughts on “Karneval Review

  1. Rather well written. That being said, I wouldn’t be caught dead watching that kind of show, so it must have taken a little convincing. XD

    Ironically, your first point hit the nail on the coffin. The story was foremost about essentially ‘fanservice’, so naturally the rest seems to be weak. In a way, there isn’t that deep a difference between the good and bad sides because it lacks a solid foundation to have that intellectual depth.

  2. I found this show to be a “light watch”, which surprised me a little considering the nightmarish contortionist villain in the first episode. It was trying to be both happy and scary I think but mostly turned out happy in my opinion. I had the idea that “Circus” wasn’t trying to hide behind the guise of entertainment but rather they were trying to make the people feel better after “disrupting the peace.” I hope that’s the case because that is definitely the theme in this anime that really appeals to someone like me who enjoys performing to make people happy and my inner idealist ate it up. I did start reading the manga after watching this–it really did feel like an ad for the manga rather than a self-standing story–and as an asexual aromantic who’s more likely to fangasm over strong platonic relationships I appreciate this kind of faux shounen/shoujo ai thing because there’s a good chance no romantic relations will actually develop.

    I agreed with this review pretty thoroughly, I just thought I’d add a few other reasons of appeal besides pretty visuals and sound. I was thoroughly entranced by the way they coloured Tsukumo’s eyes and the flashy adorableness of Nyanperona so I would still say the art is the best thing going for this show. Plus, that OP is divine.

  3. I’m curious whether it’s worth reading the manga after seeing the show? I completely agree with your review, so now I’m just wavering if I want to spend even more time on this…and if it’s worth it, Any thoughts? Maybe someone has read the manga here?

    • I do think the anime fumbled a bit on adapting the manga, so I think there’s a good reason to give it a try. I can’t vouch for it though since I’m no manga fan. Perhaps you can try the forums at manga sites. I often read them to know if the readers are satisfied with what they’re reading. It’s spoiler filled though, so read at your own risk.

Thoughts~

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