First Impressions: Karneval by Touya Mikanagi

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Nai–a young man who travels in search of another by the name of Karoku, a lone bracelet his only lead. Gareki–a willful young man who earns his daily bread by thieving and picking pockets. Thrown together at an eerie mansion, where they are entrapped and framed, Nai and Gareki are soon hunted down as criminals by national security forces. As they are driven into a corner, before them appears the most powerful defense agency in the country, “Circus”–!!

(Source: Goodreads)


Karneval may be a josei manga but the first chapter read like a really soft shounen. By that I mean there was a lot of explosions, characteristic to shounen series, but there was also a very clueless and almost feminine male protagonist (Nai) being saved by a cool older (but not too much) type character (Gareki).

This type of characterization isn’t really that odd. In fact, it’s quite common in series like these that are written by female authors that kind of straddle the line between shounen and shoujo. For example, this dynamic can be seen in Yana Toboso’s Black Butler (aka Kuroshitsuji) series where the feminine male lead (Ciel) has this cool older male (Sebastian). But does it work? So far, Nai’s and Gareki’s interaction consisted only of brief dialogue where they came to an agreement that Gareki will rescue Nai if he tells him about Karoku’s Circus ID bracelet that he was carrying.

The relationship between Nai and Karoku is almost purposely portrayed the way it is to suggest a very subtle intimacy between the two. Nai, being the younger and more feminine of the two, is dependent on Karoku who disappeared leaving only the ID bracelet which will eventually lead Nai to Circus.

Now this whole idea of Circus really confused me. Circus was referred to as a ‘National Supreme Defense Force’ to which the Lady Mine character belonged, but she seemed too surprised to see the bracelet in Nai’s possession and she also referred to Circus as ‘their’ instead of ‘our’. This then leads me to believe that she was only posing as a member of Circus and, in fact, was no way related to the organisation. Then there is the matter of Gareki’s allegiance. Is he a member of Circus? Is he some kind of thief? The two characters that appeared near the end are almost definitely Circus members because of the nature of their dialogue. But what was the purpose of showing them when they did?

Lastly was Lady Mine’s fate. Naturally she was some sort of monster in disguise which I’m sure we will learn about in the coming chapters. However, she was conveniently disposed of by a mysterious hooded figure, therefore saving Nai and Gareki. That she was killed off right after the two assumed Circus members discussed a report on ‘the woman’ who was being “moved on right away” could suggest that she was in fact in league with Circus, just not the original branch but rather some rogue group involved in some secret plot.

So far, Karneval has me interested. What initially interested me was the circus theme that the series employed so to see it referenced so heavily in the first chapter is reassuring. There was also a good balance between introduction and mystery. The reader was made familiar with some terms while at the same time introducing questions as to the direction of the plot and subplot. From this I’d say the first chapter was solid and I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming chapters.

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