Multiple shounen anime are produced per year, but the genre has developed quite a bit since the mid-2000s. Be it the shift from traditional animation to CGI or the influx of more character-driven series like My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan, modern shounen tend to not pivot around bulging heroes who use their fists to introduce villains to a world of pain.
Based on Kazuhiro Fujita's manga, Karakuri Circus was published between 1997 and 2006. This adaptation has been a long time coming, but Studio VOLN has done a decent job of modernizing this relatively ancient series. Unfortunately, traditional animation seems unlikely to ever make a comeback; nevertheless, Karakuri Circus is a welcome blast from the past! The heir to a massive fortune, the young Masaru hightails it to the nearest circus to seek out Shirogane, a tightrope walker who should be able to protect the kid from any greedy individuals. Along the way, he meets Narumi Katou, who ends up acting like the child's guardian.
Karakuri Circus' main gimmick is the use of puppets in battles. Shirogane and many of the villains control gigantic wooden creatures to duke it out and the fight scenes are fluid and endearingly over-the-top! For those who love Karakuri Circus' old school shounen action, here are six similar anime worth watching.
Similar Anime to Karakuri Circus / Similar Anime to Le Cirque de Karakuri
1. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2016 – September 2016
Hirohiko Araki published the first volume of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure in 1987 and the ongoing manga is currently on its eighth part. Due to its longevity, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure serves as an unintentional illustration of shounen's development over the last three decades. As of the moment, the fifth part's anime adaptation is on the air, but there are more suitable recommendations for this list.
While Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency should be watched by anyone interested in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Stardust Crusaders marked a turning point in the franchise's legacy. Despite being the third part of the manga, Hirohiko Araki introduced the concept of stands in Stardust Crusaders. Basically, certain individuals can summon a manifestation of their inner fighting spirit, who also possesses various special abilities. Stands are arguably JoJo's greatest concept, and the powers can get quite creative!
After an immortal vampire rises from the dead, Stardust Crusaders' heroes must journey across the world to metaphorically put a stake through Dio's heart. Along the way, they are challenged by numerous goons with their own unique skills. Stands allow for far more versatility than puppets, but they are visually similar and Karakuri Circus' direct fights match up to Stardust Crusaders' battles. Both anime see the central heroes striving to protect someone dear to them; however, rather than being the hunted, JoJo's heroes are the ones doing the hunting.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders PV
2. Ushio to Tora (Ushio and Tora)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: July 2012 – December 2012
Based on another one of Kazuhiro Fujita's comics, Ushio to Tora's anime was also handled by Studio VOLN. Written and animated by the same mangaka and company, this is arguably the most obvious recommendation on this list. Blending comedy and supernatural elements with shounen battles, Ushio to Tora is a must-watch for fans of older action series.
The son of an eccentric temple priest, Ushio Aotsuki is a middle schooler who frequently gets into trouble; simply put, the dude elevates stubbornness to an art form! While his father is away for work, Ushio breaks into the basement and finds a youkai, Tora, trapped by a weapon known as the Beast Spear. Notoriously dangerous, Ushio ignores Tora's pleas for freedom, but the kid is left with no choice but to depend on the youkai due to a sudden invasion of evil spirits. Forced to work together, Ushio and Tora's journey will take them to some hairy places!
Taking into account the person behind both series, it should come as no surprise that Ushio to Tora and Karakuri Circus boast similar art styles. The former injects a tad more humor into proceedings than the latter, but both shows prioritize action and Ushio to Tora never fails to deliver in this department! By controlling the Beast Spear, Ushio unleashes an inner power which nearly turns him into a demon; however, most battles require the boy and youkai to join forces!
Ushio to Tora Trailer
3. Hunter x Hunter
- Episodes: 148
- Aired: October 2011 – September 2014
Hunter x Hunter is a masterpiece, and such a term is not declared lightly. Beneath the puppets and CGI, Karakuri Circus sticks rather close to the typical conventions associated with shounen: the innocent child protagonist, the straightforward action hero, and arcs clearly pitting good vs evil. Please note, this description is not mean to be taken as a negative, tropes exist for a reason.
At first glance, Hunter x Hunter feels almost like an archetypal representative of the genre. The son of a legendary hunter who wants to follow in his father's footsteps, Gon is the wide-eyed protagonist with seemingly infinite potential and a heart of gold. Launching with the Hunter Exam arc, Madhouse's anime lulls audiences into a false sense of security, but things do not stay comfortable for very long.
Subverting the genre while producing astonishingly deep character-driven storylines, Hunter x Hunter stands out amongst its contemporaries. Deconstructions play on a viewer's expectations, and there has yet to be a manga or anime that measures up to Hunter x Hunter. Packed with fascinating characters and beautifully animated fight scenes, this is a must watch for anime fans!
Hunter x Hunter Trailer
Any Anime Like Le Cirque de Karakuri / Any Anime Like Karakuri Circus?
4. Shaman King
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: July 2001 – September 2002
Animated by Xebec, Shaman King is a classic shounen that was popular during the early 2000s. 4Kids' English Dub aired on Fox Kids, Jetix, and Cartoon Network; for many people, Shaman King served as an entry point into anime. Airing close to two decades ago, has the series aged well? Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes!
Every five hundred years, Tokyo becomes the stage of a tournament pitting countless dangerous opponents against each other. Armed with ancient spirits, shaman warriors engage in fierce battles to crown the new king, who can then summon the Great Spirit and reshape the world in their image. Possessing a sixth sense and linked with a samurai ghost, You Asakura is among those chosen to take part in the tournament!
Substituting spirits with puppets, Shaman King and Karakuri Circus could readily pass for a double bill. Both anime focus on humans who can use supernatural entities to take part in deadly battles and the storylines center around power-hungry people striving to take over an inheritance or become the new Shaman King.
5. Aguu: Tensai Ningyou (Aguu: Genius Dolls)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2018 – September 2018
A Japanese-Chinese collaboration, Aguu: Genius Dolls boasts a genuinely intriguing premise; unfortunately, the first couple of episodes are rather chaotic and struggle to properly explain the anime's crucial concept. When a genius comes along, they are kidnapped and their talents placed into Aguu dolls, which are then sold to the highest bidder. Circumventing their own lack of expertise, Tailors use these figures to become fake geniuses.
Enrolled at the same ballet school and on friendly terms, Ai and Machi are separated by a gulf in ability. Gradually, Ai learns Machi's overwhelming talent is due to the girl possessing an Aguu, this leads to the friends going their separate ways. Unwittingly dragged into a worldwide conspiracy by the other Tailors, Machi's life is put in serious risk, forcing Ai to try and save her friend by joining a group of heroes known as the Saviours.
In this world, talent and power are inherited; as a consequence, shady individuals are constantly seeking to get their hands on a person's Aguu. Even though the premise sounds ideal for a psychological thriller, Aguu: Genius Dolls is a straightforward supernatural action anime about heroes and villains with nifty powers. Studio Deen's animation takes some getting used to, but this is a fun series and a solid companion piece to Karakuri Circus.
Aguu: Tensai Ningyou PV
6. Dantalian no Shoka (The Mystic Archives of Dantalian)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2011 – October 2011
After the death of his grandfather, Lord Hugh Anthony Disward is offered the opportunity of inheriting the family's mansion and everything within; however, the estate expects the protagonist to act as the sole guardian of the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian and a girl named Dalian. Wisely, Huey accepts these requirements and quickly settles into his new life among the rich and famous. The end.
Okay, obviously, Dantalian no Shoka throws a couple of startling twists at the main character. The family's library houses many Phantom Books, instruments possessing great power that constantly attract the attention of the wrong people. In order to protect himself, Dalian, and the whole world, Huey sets out to find these books and solve any mysteries linked to them.
Unless hitting someone over the head with a dictionary, books might not sound like particularly useful weapons, but Dantalian no Shoka's magical novels unlock various superpowers. Episodic in nature, the individual stories boil down to Huey attempting to stop a villain from getting their hands on a specific Phantom Book. Infused with a gothic art style, fights are fast-paced and memorable!
Dantalian no Shoka PV
Harboring back to shounen anime of yesteryear, Karakuri Circus takes viewers on a wild adventure littered with powerful puppets and shadow organizations striving to ruin the protagonist's day. While waiting for the next installment, these six anime should be more than capable of scratching the itch left by Studio VOLN's anime!
Is there any other anime that you would recommend for fans of Karakuri Circus? If so, please leave us a comment below with your recommendations.