Manga Reviews

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Karakuri Circus

Karakuri Circus by Fujita Kazuhiro
Scanslated by: BlackOut, Manga-Sketchbook
IRC Channel: #blackout @, #manga-sketchbook @

Topic: Fighting, Comedy

Our hero is a 18 year-old named Narumi Kato. His father used to work in the export industry so he lived in China for a time, and became skilled at kung-fu. Unfortunately, one day he collapsed and learned that he suffers from the same rare disease as his grandfather, "Zonapha Syndrome." In essence, he becomes extremely sensitive towards the feelings of people around him. The upshot of this is that, unless he can make people laugh, he'll have an attack and be unable to breathe.

One day, when advertising the circus, he sees a young boy named Masaru Saiga being abducted by strange men in black. Since Masaru was one of the few people Narumi could actually convince to laugh, Narumi jumps in to save him. However, despite all his attacks, he cannot leave a scratch on the abductors. Grabbing the boy, he jumps onto a train to get away. It turns out that Masaru is the heir to the vast fortune of the Saiga family, which runs an electronics empire. His father recently died in a mysterious accident and strange people have been following him ever since. Masaru begs Narumi to take him to the circus, where someone named 'Shirogane' is supposed to take care of him.

At the circus, the men reappear but Shirogane pulls a puppet out of the suitcase that Masaru was carrying, and defeats the pursuers, who are also puppets. Narumi slowly begins to realize that he's entered a very odd world where there are puppet masters, capable of controlling puppets with incredible precision, and these puppets possess superhuman abilities. Narumi, driven by his need to be near someone that he can make laugh, has now been sucked into this world and the enemies that come along with protecting Masaru.

The plot for Karakuri Circus seems very typical at first but quickly deviates from the norm. The storyline is well done, and the idea of combat puppets is simultaneously innovative and entertaining. It's also nice to see the protagonists actually have difficulty with opponents, sometimes to the point where they have to elist the aid of other "evil" people.

The main characters are well designed and their actions are hilarious. Both Shirogane and Narumi have differing reasons for wanting to protect Masaru, and this often puts them at odds with one another. Meanwhile Masaru is desperate to keep them from fighting and the poor kid gets caught up in several confrontations. Later on, there are a few romantic implications but up to the point I've read, they haven't developed yet.

The character art is very distinctive, I can't think of any other series drawn like it. It's very highly detailed, especially when concerning the puppets, but the characters themselves are hit or miss. The chracter art grew on me, but I realize there are probably many people who wouldn't like this style. The background art is usually low resolution or non-existant, relying instead on plenty of speed lines. This doesn't detract as much as one would expect, as it brings the characters into greater focus, but it does leave the series looking a little uglier than some others. Overall, I highly enjoyed this series for its plot and it's characters. If you're looking for something beautiful, you might look elsewhere, but this is a very deep entertaining manga.

Rating: 9.0/10.0 -- Reviewer's Choice


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