Karakuri Circus
Episode 23

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 23 of
Karakuri Circus ?

“The Demon's Return” is an action-heavy episode, the most that Karakuri Circus has felt like a traditional battle series perhaps even since it began. This series' limited strengths most definitely do not lie in either action direction or polished animation, so normally I would approach all these fisticuffs with a wary eye. However, “The Demon's Return” ended up surprising me with its decent quality, despite its struggles to catch up in the character development department.

Far and away the biggest issue with this episode is that its two central fights involve characters we can barely be bothered to care about. Between them, Eiyro gets the better deal; he's been around for long enough that we can root for him on the basis of home team loyalty, if nothing else. Pantalone is also a villain who was given enough screen-time to establish him as a legitimate threat. It's a surprisingly lengthy and well-animated fight overall, which addresses my longstanding complaint that none of Karakuri Circus' fights last long enough to properly enjoy the puppet-on-automaton action.

There's still some of the show's usual shakiness to reckon with, though. We learn via flashback about the whole reason for using puppets to fight the automatons; because the automatons are designed to move at superhuman speeds when their audience consists of humans, the puppets act as proxies that limit the robots' capabilities so they can be defeated. This is questionable logic to say the least, and if anything it makes the use of puppets less cool than when it was just the inexplicable result of a centuries-long obsession pursued by the reincarnated souls of tormented alchemists.

I'm also not a fan of the last-minute reveal of Eiyro's blood being infused with Aqua Vitae, which makes it a perfect last-minute weapon to use against Pantalone. The show had admittedly set this up already, back when Eiyro was healed with George's blood, but I'm getting more and more frustrated with how Karakuri Circus keeps revealing all of these important plot points by flashing back to that same, seemingly eternal meeting with one former shirogane whose name I can't even remember.

Speaking of George, his fight is much less interesting for a number of reasons. The spinning balls are inherently less engaging from a visual standpoint, and George just isn't a character I care about one way or the other. He gets a hamfisted bit about being utterly shaken to his core when the children had him play piano for them last week, which was a little sweet I guess, but I can't help but feel like there was more to this fellow that's been cut out of this adaptation. It's not an awful sequence or anything, and I felt a little bad when he turned to crystal after winning the day, but it's nowhere near the top of the most affecting deaths in Karakuri Circus so far.

Outside of that, there isn't much else to report this week. Mostly this is meant to be setup for the actual battle for Harry that will presumably land next week, now that Guy and Narumi are both in the thick of it with the army of automatons that Faceless has amassed. I'll be glad to see our heroes win a larger victory against their foes, though I still can't help but wonder if we needed to spend so much time on this storyline, given all the material Karakuri Circus has had to cut and shuffle around these past six months.

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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