Karakuri Circus
Episode 20

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 20 of
Karakuri Circus ?

I'm beginning to suspect that Karakuri Circus is going so buck-wild with plot twists and character reveals specifically to torment me, the poor sod who has to figure out some way to recap it all each week. It might sound presumptuous to accuse the producers of this anime adaptation of holding a personal grudge against me, but if “Black Sun” demonstrates anything, it's that Kazuhiro Fujita is suspiciously enamored with the notion of men whose vindictive natures see them devoting hundreds of years' worth of spite to the cause of screwing with people in the most ludicrous ways imaginable.

My point is that this is going to be another recap-heavy review, because I guess Karakuri Circus' plot just wasn't convoluted enough already.

Masaru, Guy, and Shoji continue their standoff, with the latter two still fully committed to murdering the young Masaru in cold blood; so certain are they that Sadayoshi Saiga is hiding out somewhere in his noggin. Their commitment to filicide has always felt mystifying given that, even with his remembrance of past events, Masaru's connection to Sadayoshi has remained tenuous at best. This week's flashbacks complicate the narrative even further by revealing how Shoji wound up as a legless half-man floating in a tank. It turns out that he straight-up dissolved his own body parts in an acid fight against Sadayoshi, which ended with Shoji getting dismembered in a terrible crash and Sadayoshi's body completely vanishing.

Of course, we learn in only a few minutes that Sadayoshi isn't dead by any means, which makes the amount of time spent on a poorly-animated action flashback feel even more wasteful, and it doesn't help given how needlessly protracted this “Is Masaru Possessed by the Digital Brain Scan of His Evil Father?” story has felt. Yes, after waiting on the sidelines for who knows how long, an anonymous background character steps out of the shadows and pulls off a fake face to reveal the disturbing visage of Sadayoshi Saiga – he admits that he never transferred his consciousness into Masaru, and he's been watching with glee the entire time that Shoji has been so keen to horribly murder his young grandson.

But wait, it gets even better! We get yet another flashback, which drops the biggest and silliest twist yet: Sadayoshi Saiga, aka Dean Maistre, aka Commander Faceless, has actually been none other than Bai Jin the entire time! Before he died of old age, he created that one shirogane dog that showed up briefly out of nowhere ages ago and commanded it to snatch a boy from the nearby village that he could use as a vessel for reincarnation, which worked perfectly. So then a tiny little evil Bai Jin boy met Angelina, took on the name of Dean Maistre, and worked his way into the ranks of the shirogane, harboring his centuries worth of hatred the entire time. This explains his fixation on Angelina and Éléonore, who carry the exact same face as the human Francine he was so obsessed with when he was young. Also, he's a spooky automaton now for some reason.

This reveal is so goofy and absurd that it circles back around to being almost predictable. Of course Bai Jin used a magical dog to reincarnate himself into the body of a boy that eventually grew up to turn himself into an evil robot that would pretend to download his memories into the brain of his illegitimate son! It isn't all that different from how Francine had her evil robot double somehow manifest a soul that could be absorbed into magical water and transferred into the mind of baby Éléonore, who herself ends up getting kidnapped by the man who's both her jilted ex-lover-turned-kidnapper from a past life and the man who created her as an artificial replacement for the first lady he kidnapped and inadvertently killed.

Having laid out this perfectly sensible backstory, Sadayoshi tells Masaru that he will either have to give up his brain and body or come rescue Éléonore himself. After cradling his dying grandfather in his arms, Masaru vows vengeance once more. The ending scenes for Shoji were decently emotional, which makes sense since we spent much more time with him than we did Bai Yin in the first flashback arc. In a way, I appreciate how far Karakuri Circus is going to serve as a weird indictment of male entitlement; after all, the main villain of this whole saga is a man who has caused literal centuries worth of ruin and destruction over getting turned down one time. All that's left now is to see how this story plays out, and whether the show will pull any more stunts like “Black Sun”. I'm thinking we ought to just make a betting pool of which characters are secretly the reincarnation of other main protagonists, or whether they've become evil robot clones of themselves. By the end of this show, I wouldn't be surprised if literally every single character turned out to be Bai Jin in disguise.

Rating: C+

Karakuri Circus is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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