Mad science meets Cirque du Soleil on the Isle of Dr. Moreau.
Story/Art: Touya Mikanagi
Translation/Adaptation: Su Mon Han
What They Say
Stopping by his hometown of Karasuna, Gareki runs into his old friend Tsubame, who asks him to help uncover the truth behind a string of murders that have recently been plaguing the town. Though the crew assumes that the murders were the doing of their mutant quarry, they catch Tsubame’s younger brother, Yotaka, red-handed at the scene of the latest crime. Ordering the bewildered Nai and Gareki to escape, Yogi prepares to do battle with Yotaka, but this is one fight that can only end in heartbreak for Gareki…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This second omnibus of Karneval keeps up the quick pace of the first but doesn’t rush its audience. Circus and their never ending pursuit of Kafka and the varuga leads down some dark paths. Gareki’s past acquaintances fell afoul of those that would corrupt humans. Gareki was an orphan who was taken in by caring people fled them to find ways to make money to pay off the grandfather’s hospital bills. That method led him down a path to criminal activity, but his ‘siblings’ found themselves likewise indebted and struggling. As with most things varuga the ending to that chapter of Gareki’s life is bittersweet.
Oddly enough, it was the chapter following the conclusion of Gareki’s opening chapter that started to change my opinion on the characters and series as a whole. The humorous stage play chapter where Nai and Gareki are encouraged to help out in the performance was some much-needed character development time for the cast. The mission which occurs right after that builds up Yogi’s character, who up until was nothing more than the overly familiar perky guy. That’s when we finally start to get a handle on the magical mad science at work in every part of this series.
Kafka has been set up as the ultimate bad guys here, but it’s clear that the difference between them and Circus may only be skin deep. From the powers that Circus employ in fighting varuga and their shifty behavior, to the mysterious Koroku and his position in Kafka, the lines between good and evil aren’t exactly clear. Circus definitely don’t want innocents harmed by varuga, but they seem to have no problems conducting potentially dangerous experiments on their own members. There are also hints that their members are easily corruptible.
Gareki has his development front-loaded in this volume, but Nai’s is more gradual. He’s slowly becoming more human. Everything for him is a learning experience, and by the end of the volume he’s beginning to ask himself difficult questions about emotions and experiences. He’s developing fast, and his uniqueness puts him in a precarious position in Circus. A bit of reverse psychology keeps him out of the hands of the scientists, but each dangerous mission he accompanies the Circus agents on puts him in harms way. Likewise, his creator Koroku may not exactly be innocent in all things especially since he’s in the care of the Kafka group, but it’s clear that whatever his motives are they likely aren’t routed in nefarious thoughts.
The extras in this volume include a few color pages, character profiles along with a brief reminder of whom everyone is. From those color pages you can see the artist toned down the coloring technique which was causing the artwork to look blurry. There are a few short gag comics involving the cast and an illustrated account of a drama CD recording session which seems like a commonplace extra for series which reach a certain popularity level.
I had some series issues with the first volume of Karneval. Beyond the barely explained world, breakneck pace, and nonsensical setting its characters weren’t grabbing me right away. While there’s no major changes to the set-up in this hefty second omnibus, everything starts to gel. This volume spans several story arcs which continue to develop Nai, Gareki, and their keepers in Circus. For some missions it’s a matter of life and death, for others it’s a diversion to keep the situation from becoming too much for the young leads to bare. The background of the world continues to gain flesh as well. There’s still a sinister edge hanging over Circus and their organization, especially with Dr. Akari and the other higher ups only telling the boys what they need to know when they need to know it. The character interactions are starting to become more interesting, as do their motivations.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B +
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A –
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 21st, 2015