First Impressions – Karneval

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For a series that packed as much into a first episode as Karneval did, it’s surprising how little of an impression it left on me.

I really want to like Manglobe series.  They tend to take on idiosyncratic projects that don’t appear to have obvious commercial appeal, and they can be fearlessly idiosyncratic themselves in sticking to unorthodox storytelling methods.  I root for them, but they have an alarming track record when it comes to sales (The Unlimited, at least, appears to be a modest success for them) and Karneval seemed like a show that might have some breakthrough potential, at least in the DVD side of the market.

It still might – I’m certainly not going to make any decisions based on one episode considering how many cast members haven’t even appeared.  But while this isn’t based on an otome game project as Amnesia was, that was the first thing the Karneval premiere reminded me of (they do share the same series writer, Machida Touko) though I rather hope that ends up being superficial.  This is obviously a show aiming for the female demographic with its gallery of bishonen in foppish costumes and gothic look, but as a manga adaptation it’s sure to provide a more linear story than that show had (and hopefully considerably more spark).

Casting Hiro Shimono as tiny blond waif Nai may be the most ridiculous extreme yet we’ve seen of 30 and 40-something guys ineffectively playing teenagers – if indeed Nai is even supposed to be in his teens yet.  It’s spectacularly misguided casting, a disaster – not Hiro-Hiro’s fault of course, but a stunning lack of imagination and judgment.  This is a big cast and eventually I’ll numb to the sheer wrongness of it, but it’s not a good start.  Kamiya Hiroshi is a little better in that at least this teen (Gareki) is supposed to be a bit of a tough so Kamiya-san doesn’t put on his cutesy voice for it.  The cast is pretty much all big industry names – we hear from Ono Daisuke as magical Circus agent Hirato and Endou Aya as his assistant Tsukumo in the premiere, and they (especially Ono) probably fare better than anyone else.

As to what’s actually going on in the story, we’re pretty much dropped into the middle of it and it’s a bit of a jumble.  Nai is being held prisoner at a mansion and wearing the bracelet of someone called Karoku, Garecki breaks in to rob the place and frees him.  There’s also a train being hijacked by disgruntled former employees of a tycoon they take hostage, which is where Hirato and Tsukomo come in.  There’s an apparently evil dude played by Suwabe Junichi, and Nai and Garecki each appear to have an exceptional talent.  None of it is poorly executed but basically, for one episode anyway, it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying relatively little.  We get a taste of Mamoru Miyano at the end and there’s evidence Circus may be a rather wacky sort of place – which would help deflate the somewhat self-serious air of the premiere – and the manga seems quite well-regarded by people who should know.  So Karneval, for all that it didn’t do that much for me here, will get a bit of a longer leash than most shows would.

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  1. K

    Quite honestly the first few chapters of the manga are not very good so from what I've seen of the RAW I am happy they rushed through them. The series gets a bit better when Miyano Mamoru's character is introduced.

    That being said I think a lot of fans overrate this series. From what people said about the manga I was hoping for something a lot better. It's fun and it has its moments but it's pretty typical story wise. Even worse there are way too many characters (and the manga-ka keeps adding more not developing the ones she has). The 4 leads: Nai, Gareki, Yogi, and Aya Endou's character (whose name escapes me) are all likeable though.

    Not sure what this anime adaption is going to do with 1 cour. There was actually a perfect spot to end a first season in the manga but I can't see them getting there with only 13 episodes unless they rush everything terribly. So yeah if you don't raise your expectations too high you might enjoy it, just don't expect greatness. lol

    And I agree about Nai's seiyuu. this is one of those times they should have went with a female voice. But apparently the manga-ka liked the drama CDs so much that they stuck with the same cast for better or worse. Miyano Mamoru is perfectly cast as Yogi though.

  2. K

    Duh i just noticed you posted Aya's Endou's character above: Tsukomo

  3. l

    This was disappointing. It wouldn't be so bad if Nai simply … uhm, didn't exist.
    Every time he spoke I swear I felt an aneurysm forming in my head.

  4. E

    Psst, you got some names wrong: Garecki should be Gareki, and Tsukomo should be Tsukumo.

  5. B

    "This is obviously a show aiming for the female demographic with its gallery of bishonen in foppish costumes and gothic look"
    It doesn't get any better right? 😛 Ha!

    Nai's character would be the deal breaker for the audience, specifically the males. I found it funny, for once, I'd allow a female seiyuu to voice Nai to get Hiro Shimono the role. Damn, Japan, you surprise me. I'll defend Nai though that his mannerisms and character are there for a reason; however, I can't spill it, or you'll remove my comment!
    When I read the manga, things went fast, and the mood wasn't as creepy/dark such as that one scene when the long armed lady devoured the security guard. The sound effects during that scene was leering. I loved it.

    I loved the animation and music. It has a whimsical, circus-esque feel, and having Miyano voice as Yogi was God sent. I can't wait to see Yogi-bear. <3

  6. i

    Hopefully this will be the first Manglobe show I don't drop at least once.

    Bishounen filled action without too sparkly a design (like Kuroshitsuji) are usually much better than their counterparts from LNs so I think this will be good. Depends on Manglobe really as the manga is a strong source.

  7. r

    Hmm… I like the art. But too many bishounen is *cough* too much even for a girl like me. I tend to see such shows having a BL vibe which I immediately drop since I'm not into those genres.

    When I watched the preview in youtube I thought it would be great… yep my bad for expecting too much. The first thing that came to my mind after watching ep 1 is "Eh? Is that it?" Nothing much. But I'll still give it a try since you mentioned Mamoru Miyano will have his appearance next ep. He just became my fave seiyu because of Taichi! Haha!

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