More Than an Empty Shell
- Episodes : 13+
- Genre : Adventure, Mystery, Shounen
- Airing Date : October 2018 to Ongoing
- Studios : Studio VOLN
Karakuri Circus (Le Cirque de Karakuri) Introduction and Story
Studio VOLN is back with another long overdue adaptation of a Kazuhiro Fujita's manga from the '90s! As a spiritual successor to the enjoyable Ushio to Tora, Karakuri Circus attempts to hit many of the same notes as Fujita's previous series. A shounen anime soaked in mystery and the supernatural, Karakuri Circus takes place in a world torn by an ongoing war between sentient puppets known as the Automata and the Shirogane who yearn to kill them. Following the death of his wealthy and well-connected father, the young Masaru suddenly finds himself targeted for extermination by strange beings who are definitely not human! Remembering his grandfather's advice to seek out the nearest circus if his life happened to be in danger, Masaru manages to survive with the help of Narumi, a martial artist with a deadly disease. Introducing multiple organizations with their own reasons for pursuing Masaru while fleshing out an engrossing conspiracy that encompasses the lives of countless people, Karakuri Circus is a thrilling action series with a macabre edge!
1. Shounen of Yesteryear
As a shounen series about murderous puppets, Karakuri Circus lives and dies by its action. Luckily, the anime contains more than its fair share of exhilarating and unique battles. While a handful of exceptions do exist, fighters tend to employ massive puppets to duel; essentially, these monstrosities act as Karakuri Circus' equivalent to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's stands. Taking into account Fujita's manga began serialization in 1997, Karakuri Circus feels like a shounen series from a bygone era, one reminiscent of Yu Yu Hakusho and Hirohiko Araki's previously mentioned manga. Putting aside a handful of CGI scenes, Studio VOLN's animation compliments the manga's old school roots. Visceral and shockingly brutal, battles are genuine fights to the death and nobody feels safe!
2. The Effects of Battle
Karakuri Circus is not solely enamored with action. In fact, many episodes barely even contain a terrifying puppet! The anime packs quite an expansive cast into its first cour, but the main characters undergo a considerable amount of growth. Along with Narumi, Masaru is accompanied by Shirogane, a French watcher who controls the puppet Arlequin. Initially, Shirogane attempts to maintain her distance from Narumi, but their friendship steadily evolves as they strive to protect Masaru. Shounen anime often love to reset at the end of a saga, but Karakuri Circus constantly alters the rules of the game. Characters are torn apart and forced to work with their enemies, while others are required to face harsh truths that question their very existence. Introduced as a weak-willed child with a habit of crying at the drop of a hat, Masaru quickly transforms into a hardened warrior! Crucially, these developments feel earned.
3. A Grim History
Karakuri Circus dedicates a significant amount of time to establishing the conflict between the Shirogane and Automata, with this struggle dominating the cour's second half. Born out of a man's obsession with a woman who did not love him, Lady Francine was the first puppet to ever be created and the Automata's primary goal is to make her laugh. While somewhat convoluted, Karakuri Circus' lore is fascinating and disturbing! Revealed in the form of an extended flashback spread over two episodes, the anime starts to truly pick up the pace around this point. Following a couple of intense but smaller battles, Karakuri Circus ends with an impressively large scale conflict between the Shirogane and Automata, one that effectively sets the stage for the next cour.
Karakuri Circus' pacing can feel disjointed. Regardless of the arc, Ushio to Tora's eponymous pair always take center stage, but Karakuri Circus lacks a definitive central protagonist. The opening episodes present Narumi, Shirogane, and Masaru as a fixed unit; however, the story seems to refuse to allow them to stay together! At times, seemingly major characters disappear for multiple chapters, only to be superseded by a whole gaggle of secondary faces who seldom last more than a week. While this makes for an unpredictable watch, a viewer's interest may vary substantially from one episode to the next.
Despite debuting towards the end of 2018, Karakuri Circus is a blast from the past! Along with being an entertaining series in its own right, Studio VOLN's anime harbors back to a simpler time when shounen series amounted to muscular protagonists punching deadly monsters in the face while delivering motivational speeches!
Do you agree with our review? Is Karakuri Circus worth watching? Please let us know in the comments below!