Nai is searching for someone important to him, with only a bracelet as a clue. Gareki is a loner who steals to get by day to day. The two paths cross in a strange mansion where they are set up, and soon become wanted criminals by military security operatives. When Nai and Gareki find themselves desperate in a hopeless predicament, they encounter none other than the country's most powerful defense organization known as "Circus." Together, this mismatched pair join Circus to find what they're looking for.
Nai (voiced by Sean Michael Teague/Hiro Shimono) is an overly naïve young boy whom lives a simple and sheltered life in a forest with a man named Karoku, which we never actually get to see. After some time of Karoku not coming home, Nai is worried that something has happened to him, and or the first time in his life, Nai decides to venture out to look for him. Once outside, Nai finds a blood trail, which after following it, leads to the beach. Where the blood trail ends lays a bracelet, that belongs to something called "Circus." This bracelet leads him to a deserted mansion where he is attacked by a "Varuga." A monster that was once a human or animal.
Gareki (voiced by Greg Ayres/Hiroshi Kamiya) is a loner whom lives on the street, pickpocketing and stealing to make it to the next day. Deciding he's had enough of robbing common people, he decides to step his game up and begin robbing mansions. While robbing a random mansion, he happens upon Nai, whom is being attacked by the aforementioned Varuga. Thinking Nai could be useful to him in his schemes, Gareki steps in and saves the day, asking for his bracelet as payment. Together they form a bond and Gareki agrees to help Nai on his quest to find his lost friend, but before long, however, "Circus" steps in and apprehends them, taking them back to their headquarters.
Soon we find out what Circus is, they're a defense organization that works for the government. They perform raids to capture or take out Varuga's and to solve crimes that the Security forces cannot handle. At their headquarters, Hirato (voiced by Ian Sinclair/Daisuke Ono) and Yogi (voiced by Christopher Bevins/Mamoru Miyano) explain Circus' overall goal... to take out a group known as Kafka, A hidden organization that does illegal genetic research, which results in the experimentation that leads to the Vuruga's creation. Nai also finds out more about the bracelet he found, the bracelets are given to a member of Circus, that are instilled with a unique power that can only be activated by its owner. Once activated, the owner's power increases dramatically and they're able to use Kai energy like attacks.
After finding out that Karoku is being held captive by Kafka, Nai decides to join Circus. Gareki however, is more hesitant, that is until he finds the one thing he's been looking for... companionship. Circus, now joined by Nai and Gareki, set out to put a stop to Kafka's evil organization once and for all.
+ Stunning animation visuals.
+ Greg Ayres' performance as Gareki. In a show full of dull, insipid characters, Gareki stands out. He's pretty much the only character that gets any real development, and Ayres nails the role. The dub overall is OK, and at first I found Ayres was miscast, but Ayres really stood out by the end.
+ After the initial portion of the series that introduces us to the characters, we get 4 or 5 episodic one off stories. These are easily the best episodes of the series. They're pretty entertaining.
- I'm not the biggest fan of fansvice shows in general, but I'm even less of a fan when those shows sacrifice their plots for it. Karneval shoehorns fan service into this show shamelessly and with no point.
- The first half of the series is spent entirely on introducing and establishing our lead characters for the show. While this isn't always necessarily a bad thing, in Karneval's case, it is. Karneval is full of boring, cookie cutter characters with very little development, if any at all, and this makes for a pretty boring start to the series. Due to this focus, the progression of the story is entirely under whelming
- Kafka as a whole. If you have 6 or so episodes focused on introducing characters, then you have 4 or 5 standalone episodes spread throughout. In a 13 episode show, that doesn't leave a whole lot for the main plot point that the story tries to build up. Kafka gets very little time to shine and for the most part you don't find them intimidating due to their lack of build up.
- Nai. Nai. Nai. This kid is one of the biggest wastes of protagonists I've seen. He is 100% worthless and he will annoy you to no end.
- The majority of the recurring characters are entirely forgettable.
- Karneval is very clearly for one group of fans, and that is for women. If you're a guy, pass this one up.
Video and Audio:
If there is anything this series has going for it, it's the stunning production values. The animation is undeniably beautiful. Just about every character is uniquely drawn, and the series draws from a very unique color palette with rich and vivid colors.
As for audio the series has two tracks. The first is an English dub in a English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, and the second is the original Japanese TrueHD 2.0 Stereo track. As per usual I watched this in the English dub, while sampling a few episodes in the original Japanese. Overall the dub was alright, not one of FUNimation's better efforts and I felt the Japanese track was superior. The mix was subtle for the most part, but amped up appropriately when the scenes called for it, never drowning out the events that were happening onscreen. There were no signs of audio dropouts or distortions throughout.
- Episode 1 commentary with The ADR director, Christopher Bevins, whom also plays Yogi. Greg Ayres, whom plays one of the two leads, Gareki, and J. Michael Tatum, who lends his voice to the leader of Circus, Tsukitachi and was also the lead adaptive writer for the series.
- Episode 13 commentary with Christopher Bevins, Sean Michael Teague, whom plays the lead character, Nai, and Ian Sinclair, whom played Hirato.
- Karneval fasion with J. Michael Tatum.
- 3 minutes of Japanese promotional videos.
- U.S. Trailer.
- Standard FUNimation trailers for shows such as Deadman Wonderland, Fairy Tail, Red Data Girl, Psycho-Pass, Black Butler, Attack on Titan, Hetalia, Michiko & Hatchin, and The Devil is a Part Timer.
- The limited Edition comes with two separate amaray cases all housed in a gorgeous looking chipboard art box that perfectly suits the show.
There is no way to beat around the bush here, Karneval is an awful show. While normally I'm not the biggest supporter of fan service titles, I'm even less of a fan of those that sacrifice their plots for it's fanservice like this series does. Most of the characters are either annoying or boring, and The series has a thin plot that is chalk full of clichés. With that said, the series CAN be fun at times. If you're a girl or are just into male fanservice, then I'd recommend this, but to the common anime fan... Skip it, there are much better series' out there to fill your time with.