Karakuri Circus
Episode 7

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Karakuri Circus ?

Having no legal way to access the entirety of “Karakuri Circus'” manga, I cannot verify the veracity of claims I've seen online that the Karakuri Circus anime has reached in only seven episodes what the manga took around a hundred chapters to cover, but I would certainly believe it. The Karakuri Circus we have at the end of “Demonic” is very different from what we got in the first arc – Narumi is now on a much darker, completely separate narrative track that's slowly stripping his humanity away, piece by piece, so he can avenge the victims of ZONOPHA syndrome; at this point, he doesn't even remember Masaru, Shirogane, or anything that occurred before episode 6. Meanwhile, Masaru and Shirogane are on a less-defined path, simply doing their best to survive their new life as performers as the Saiga clan sends more conveniently circus-themed assassins after their heads. Apparently, the Nakamachi Circus members got entire story arcs devoted to fleshing out their characters in the manga, and Narumi was given much more to do on his journey to becoming a shirogane (which is more of a job title than a name, as it turns out).

I haven't had too many issues with the anime's compressed storytelling before, and while I understand how Karakuri Circus may feel less developed and satisfying to fans of the source material, I think the show is doing a solid job of adapting 43 volumes of manga into only 36 episodes, at least so far. The bravura fight sequence that starts off the episode does a good job establishing Narumi's new status-quo, providing us with one of the series' best animation set pieces while also revealing how Narumi is starting to lose himself as he indulges in his rage and the Aqua Vitae's healing powers to positively demolish the automaton army that arrived last week. Some of the medium-shots and close-ups during the fight were a tight, but for the most part the episode's opening made good on last week's cliffhanger, giving Narumi an interesting arc to occupy his time while he's separated from Masaru and Shirogane. He may finally be free from ZONOPHA syndrome, but Narumi was born to entertain children, and it's a little heartbreaking to see him recognize that he must become more monstrous to protect them from the real monsters. Now Narumi is the tragic kind of clown that gets to slice up goop-filled robots with his healing factor and fancy puppet arm – he's Karakuri Circus' very own death-dealing Pagliacci .

Most of the episode is devoted to catching up with Masaru and Shirogane, and it starts about as perfectly as possible, with Shirogane decked out in full “Whiteface” clown regalia, making friends with a cowgirl knife-thrower. Of course, it turns out that Shirogane's new friend Vilma is also one of Saiga's assassin's, so the cuteness is deflated the moment that Vilma sneaks into Nakamachi Circus' camp and begins to throw daggers right at Masaru's face. The would-be assassin's job is made even more complicated when she realizes that not only is Shirogane Masaru's protector, but also that Masaru reminds Vilma of her own tragically deceased little brother, who just so happened to die of ZONOPHA SYNDROME in the same hospital Narumi found himself in.

This half of “Demonic” is where Karakuri Circus once again struggles to keep its plates balanced as it blazes through the plot – the coincidental connections that Vilma shares with our heroes feel a little too easy, and her fight with Shirogane feels less like a tense battle and more like an opportunity for the show to drop in some information it should have covered sooner. Namely, we learn that Shirogane is also a wielder of the healing powers given by Aqua Vitae, which becomes apparent when she takes literally dozens of Vilma's knives to her body, including one that gets lodged at least five inches deep into her skull. Perhaps all the talk about Narumi becoming a little-“s” shirogane should have clued me into this already, but it seems like a sloppy way to introduce such a significant aspect of big-“S” Shirogane's character. This turn is especially odd because Shirogane getting injured was such a critical plot point back at the Karakuri Castle – it was specifically why Narumi “died” in the fire protecting Masaru, yet her having Aqua Vitae in her blood would suggest that this situation was completely contrived.

Vilma's “redemption” came across as similarly tacked-on. I get that the distinction between mortal enemy and newfound bestie is often meaningless in shonen anime, but it still feels odd to have Vilma go from “desperately attempting to murder our heroes with knives” to “quirky new member of Nakamachi Circus!” in the span of only a couple minutes. I'm not completely put off by these new developments; given how silly this entire universe is, I'm willing to roll with the thinner characterization if it serves the overall story. I'm still enjoying Karakuri Circus, and I doubt that the adaptation changes will be much of a problem for me going forward, but I can't deny that these narrative shortcuts make me wonder how much more satisfying the more evenly-paced version of this tale must be. Hopefully, trimming so much fat off the front-end of the plot will allow the rest of Karakuri Circus' episodes to give the source material the time and attention it deserves.

Rating: B-

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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