by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Karakuri Circus ?
Alas, the time has come to draw the curtain on Karakuri Circus. Not the show itself—this beast still has twelve weeks of insanity to burn through, which I can only imagine will manage to cover no fewer than a thousand manga chapters. This is the end of my coverage of the series though, which makes this the perfect time to reckon with both the end of the Harry plotline and my overall feelings on the show. It's a good thing too, because I'm not sure I'd be able to fill out a whole review on just the contents of the episode.
This isn't a bad episode, mind you; the story has actually settled into a reliably decent groove recently, all things considered. “Escape” is a perfectly serviceable slice of puppet-flavored action. Much of the episode is devoted to Narumi and Mingxia taking on the automatons-of-the-week, Drill September and Blom Blom Low. It's another surprisingly fun and involved fight, like the one we got with Pantalone and Eiryo last week. Mingxia gets a cute moment of romantically tinged friendship that serves as a blaring red death flag, and when she gets horribly maimed by the automatons, Narumi goes into overdrive, using his artificial limbs to deliver a superhuman beat down (complete with a rocket punch!). Mingxia isn't even dead after all this, which means she'll probably stick around to battle Éléonore for Narumi's affections in the future.
I'd say this is the most like a traditional battle manga Karakuri Circus has ever felt, which is a mixed bag from where I sit. The focus on action-heavy encounters with one-off villains is inherently less interesting to me, and it has needlessly drawn out the length of a storyline that easily could have been wrapped up in a couple of weeks. That being said, even though the pacing remains a little bonkers, the story has become much more consistent than the haphazard nadir of its Midnight Circus episodes. I now feel like I have a decent grasp on what's going on, why it's happening, and who all is supposed to be a critical player in the proceedings. It's sad that the bar for Karakuri Circus has been set so low, but things do seem to be on an upward swing.
Consider Pantalone's redemption arc, which has been the most interesting plot element of this entire silly “Harry” arc. The clown has taken Éléonore's orders to heart; he stands down and then begrudgingly decides to help Eiryo, Narumi, and the others escape. When Eiryo arrives in his inexplicable Clown Train to gather everyone up and flee Faceless' horde, Narumi goes so far as to snag Pantalone and bring him along too. Narumi gives the usual guff about “not getting the wrong idea” and that he's “only doing it to get answers”, but anyone who's ever watched an anime like this probably has a good idea of where things are headed.
It's the kind of dramatic payoff needed to tie all the business with Francine and her Doll-ppelganger together with Masaru and Éléonore's modern story threads. All season long, Karakuri Circus has seriously struggled to marry its many disparate themes and plotlines into a cohesive whole, but only now does it seem to be pulling things together successfully. I would have cared about the Midnight Circus stuff much more if I'd known who the hell Angelina was, and how her story was inextricably linked to the fates of both Doll Francine and Éléonore. Masaru's conflict with his grandfather would have landed with much more impact if the connections between Bai Jin/Sadayoshi/Faceless' alter egos were more apparent. I don't know how much more or less convoluted the manga's treatment of the story was, but secondhand evidence would suggest that Karakuri Circus's particular brand of crazy at least has more context behind it in printed form.
With a full cour of episodes left to go, it's impossible for me to say whether Karakuri Circus will end up being a worthwhile story to have followed for so long. Do I regret watching the first twenty-four episodes? No, I don't think so. This has been an unpredictable and frustrating ride, but it's the weird and goofy heart of this story that initially drew me to it, and that heart is still beating strong underneath a mountain of melodramatic cheese and gobbledygook about puppets. There was a time where I might have said that I would drop Karakuri Circus in a heartbeat if I weren't covering it for the site. But now that my time reviewing the show is done, I think I might actually see things through to the end on my own time. Call it the sunk cost fallacy or Stockholm Syndrome, but I've come to admire this insane epic of love lost and evil robot puppets found. Here's to hoping the show can stick its landing eventually.
Karakuri Circus is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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