by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Karakuri Circus ?
With the Narumi, Éléonore, and Masaru storylines being so fragmented over the past couple of months, I've been wondering how Karakuri Circus would bring them back together once everything coalesced again. As “Silver Goddess” demonstrates, it turns out the show's strategy is “smash everything together like there hasn't been a weeks-long-gap in between main characters even being mentioned, and then immediately send them off in their own directions again.” It's a bold strategy, and I don't think I'm surprising anybody when I say that Karakuri Circus isn't particularly graceful in its execution, but I'll give the show credit for keeping its momentum in top-gear, coherence be damned.
Anyway, Saiga/Faceless/Bai Jin has not only absconded with Éléonore, he's unleashed an army of giant floating “goddesses” all over the world too, infecting untold numbers of people with ZONOPHA syndrome. I might be tempted to ask how this guy even managed to finance and construct these technological marvels to send all over the planet at a moment's notice, but I'm wise to Karakuri Circus' tricks by now. Faceless is the #1 Bad Dude, he's got a seemingly infinite army of automatons and flying death machines, and he's out to destroy all of humankind with his made-up disease. Cool, I'm on board now, I guess.
The circus family shows up, and Lise gets upgraded to major supporting character status out of nowhere, demanding to go with Guy to help Masaru take down Faceless' army. This all has to do with the evil beast master that showed up for a minute or two in the previous episode, but it feels like even Karakuri Circus is getting tired of having to explain all of the backstory that's been cut from the manga, because Lise's explanation of her motives boils down to “I have a tragic past involving my dead sister and some tigers or something, just go with it”. Either way, Masaru and Lise fly off and essentially vanish for the rest of the episode, while Guy gets into a brief fight with a lascivious and prideful automaton named Cupidia.
This is around when I started wondering just when the hell Narumi was going to get reintegrated back into this story, seeing as it's been weeks since we've gotten an update on his whereabouts. Funny enough, he actually showed up exactly when that thought crossed my mind, arriving in the nick of time to save Guy by punching a hole right through his chest. It's strange how the show treats Cupidia like an especially important threat who will be a character in his own right—Guy even takes a beat to reflect on the irony of his death—when the bot gets murdered within literally a couple minutes of his introduction.
Maybe he'll come back again later on, like the three members of Les Quatre Pionniers. I'll admit, it was amusing to see the existential crisis that ensued when Faceless admitted that he only brought them back because he considers them to be exceptionally pathetic. I'm also a sucker for a Bad Guy Redemption Arc, which Karakuri Circus has proven to have something of an obsession with, so I'm assuming the episode's final scene is hinting at Éléonore recruiting the Pionniers to her side to fight Faceless on her own. It'd be a cheap route for the story to take, but I welcome any opportunity for Éléonore to have something to do again, since she's effectively been sidelined for the past ten episodes.
There's also a whole bunch of business with Guy, Narumi, and Mingxia returning to the ZONOPHA laboratory to defend the orphans from the evil robot clowns, but it's honestly becoming exhausting recapping all the plot that gets vomited out each week, and I get the feeling the show is feeling much the same way. The best episodes over the past twenty-one weeks have been when Karakuri Circus gets to really dive in to its soap-opera themes of love and hate that span centuries and lifetimes, saving and ruining lives in equal measure. Things get much creakier when we have to blow through all of these evil robot battles, which are starting to become indistinguishable from each other. I want Narumi and Mingxia and all of the sad orphans to be okay, but I sure as heck wouldn't mind if it didn't take the show five weeks to get all of its main characters together in the same room again.
Karakuri Circus is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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