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[Karakuri Circus]
AKA: からくりサーカス
Genre: Shonen Action/Fantasy
Length: Television series, 24 minutes
Distributor: Currently available streaming on Amazon Prime and Hidive.
Content Rating: R (Strong violence, mild fanservice.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Ushio and Tora; Heat Guy J
Notes: Based on manga by Kazuhiro Fujita (of Ushio and Tora fame), published by Shogakukan.

Karakuri Circus


Masaru Saiga is a kid who has inherited a fortune after his father's death, but can hardly enjoy it; he's being chased by mysterious, apparently not-quite-human assailants. Fleeing these, with his only possession a large case given to him by his grandfather, he meets a burly (but kindhearted) man named Narumi Kato, and shortly afterwards a circus acrobat who calls herself Shirogane; both these adults do their best to protect Masaru despite (at first) getting on each other's nerves. But with a beginning like this, how can a threat to all humans on Earth not be far behind?


I loved the rock ballad used in the opener for the first third of this show's 36 episodes; performed by the creatively named Bump of Chicken (whose songs I've heard in some other shows), it's got a driving beat, and will most likely be the part of this show that will stick with me the longest.

I also liked the concept of star-crossed lovers in a previous life getting a second chance in a new one, though the show certainly took its time finally getting those two together. For the man involved, I guess he's a simple case of reincarnation (we really don't get that much of his backstory); but for the woman involved, it seems to be a case of reincarnation PLUS quite a bit of this-and-that.

This show is FILLED with this-and-that. In fact, it's got the most complicated plot I've seen since The Skull Man. The original events that started it all are detailed in Episode 10, including the origin of ZONAPHA Syndrome. (I assume that's an acronym, since it's always in all-caps. Curiously, it was apparently ALWAYS called EXACTLY that even when first introduced, in what seems to be the Middle Ages.) We also get, in the same episode, the origin of the Automatons, robots who will be the chief minions of the show's main villain. Granted, our villain has been around a long time (in various guises), but he still must have been building these things 24/7 all that time, since he's able to field armies of thousands of them by the time of the show's events.

But Ep. 10 is just a very basic primer. Events that happened afterwards in the storyline have introduced myriad complications, especially ones involving identity; we've had involuntary mind transfers (by alchemy and/or "science"), and the construction of robot replicas of people, and it's easy to understand, given this muddle of who's-REALLY-who, why two innocent people are mistaken for evil ones by the show's other Good Guys. (In one case it seemed to me that this could have been cleared up quickly with an X-ray of the suspect, but this doesn't occur to anyone, even though the setting at this point is in a hospital.) A plot as complex as this show's leaves plenty of opportunities for lapses in logic and internal contradictions. I spent considerable time trying to construct a family tree just for Masaru, but family trees in THIS show aren't just tangled, they'll occasionally wander completely off the page and re-connect somewhere else. Masaru's tree has the further complication of adoptions (sometimes of ADULTS) added in. As near as I can figure, Shirogane is (sort of) Masaru's aunt, though not by blood.

Young Masaru is stalwart enough; he does a credible job of resistance, given that he's a person of particular interest to the show's central villain. But his facial expressions are sometimes exaggerated to the point of being grotesque. This show goes over-the-top a lot, and wallows in maudlin sentimentality frequently as well, but I never quite cared about Masaru as much as the show obviously wanted me to. As is common in shonen shows, we're given some backstory on the secondary characters so that we can be melodramatically moved when they're slain, but to be honest I was more broken up over the destruction of one of the Automatons than I was over any of the human deaths.

Speaking of deaths, if there was ever an explanation given for why the Shiroganes, when damaged enough, turn into crystals, I must have missed it. I also missed an explanation for why our leading young woman, who uses Shirogane as her personal name, can withstand multiple impalements with knives, spears, and etc. (some self-inflicted) without crystallizing like the others of her kind. (Perhaps she has more mojo than they do.) Her REAL name is Eleonore, by the way, and in addition to having at least two other people inside her, she's got something of a martyr complex.

Our leading adult male, Narumi, looks like he stepped out of a samurai show, or a video game- in other words, he's the very stereotype of a shonen action hero appearance-wise. The show gives him a very protective attitude toward children. His relationship with Shirogane (Eleonore) is tentative, and turbulent, throughout the show (yes, we've all seen this cliché before.) I did kind of enjoy the convenience-store confrontation between them (I really wish there had been more humor in the show like this.) I DIDN'T like the attitude he took toward her later- he apparently takes being a martyr with less grace than SHE does. Yes, I understood his point, but I didn't agree with how he translated that into his treatment of her.

Didn't I say there were some more contradictions in the plot? Try THESE:

-We're told that it would take "3 hours" for a character to don a spacesuit. But later on they put it on in a matter of minutes.

-A character is told that if they perform a certain act, everyone will be cured. Yet that character was performing exactly that same act earlier, and NOBODY was cured.

-And one that seems at least a moral contradiction: there are apparently some folks who hate the Automata (and the master of the Automata) so much that... they JOIN the Automata, and their master. (???)

It's often confusing, and full of plot holes; but it's also sprawling "eye candy". I certainly enjoyed this more than such shonen shows as Get Backers (and liked it a HELL of a lot more than Terraformars.) For the shonen fans, there are plenty of battles against colorful adversaries. There are a few interesting plot twists, and I REALLY wanted to see two people FINALLY become a couple- and may have gotten my wish. Hey, even some of the AUTOMATA may get their wish.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: Amazon doesn't commit on the rating for this one (TV-NR). There's some brief nudity, but it's chock-full of violence, with humans getting sliced, diced, and most of all stabbed and/or impaled throughout. Let's call it R (16+) for mature themes and graphic violence.

Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Amazon Prime.
Review Status: Partial (36/Shon)
Karakuri Circus © 2018 Studio VOLN
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