by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Karakuri Circus ?
Oh how I wish that the story implied by the screencap for this episode was the story that this episode provided. Don't get me wrong – I'm here for the Evil Robot Clowns on a Plane romp that Karakuri Circus delivers, but I'm such a sucker for the prospect of spending time with Shirogane and Masaru's comfy circus life, especially since we haven't gotten to know the other members of Nakamachi Circus very well at all, and I think the circus-half of the show's plot would benefit from giving all of its characters more time to shine.
We begin with a perfectly adorable opening scene, where Shirogane, who has just won some prize money from a beauty pageant, gladly refers to the circus and its members as her “family”, and the whole gang bursts out to show off their silly skills. This moment doesn't feel as earned as it might have had we spent more time with Shirogane and Masaru as they bonded with their crew, but as a functional emotional beat, it does the job well enough. Masaru does bond a little with the resident Nakamachi animal tamer Lise, who shares her charmingly tragic backstory (her sister was eaten by a tiger), so hopefully this means that Karakuri Circus will be checking in on these characters more often as it moves along.
For the most part, this is the Narumi/Guy Power Hour, as the bulk of the episode focuses on their plane trip to Shanghai and the resulting carnage that breaks out when a significant percentage of the plane's passengers are revealed to be bloodthirsty automatons hell-bent on taking out the shirogane. It's a little absurd, honestly – though an explosion initially threatens to crash the plane outright, it's quickly stabilized to allow for a traditional fight sequence, and the interior of the plane seems to balloon to the size of a small warehouse once the fighting breaks out. The episode also gets in a couple of cheap shots when it randomly introduces some children for the robots to threaten, but it doesn't amount to much; the scene is really there to help characterize Guy, who is impervious to pain and therefore fulfills the tired old trope of “being just as much of a machine as the enemy”.
While the finer points of the episode's narrative and characterization are sloppy, Karakuri Circus tends to work better in broad strokes, and the broad strokes of episode 8 boil down to “Narumi and Guy fight a bunch of creepy robot clowns on a plane”, which is a perfectly acceptable premise for this week's extended action sequence. The animation is limited as usual, but the fight is more creatively staged and dynamic than many of the other too-brief conflicts from before. The look of the automata-of-the-week is appropriately creepy and fun too; for all the flak I've given the show for wasting awesomely designed characters on less-than-stellar fights, I'm happy to see an episode dedicated to making the automata as threatening and destructive as possible. Guy's willingness to break his bones and throw himself in harm's way may be in service of a fairly boring trope, but it also provides a good opportunity to let the automata threaten our heroes in a manner that's more immediate than simply being mooks for Narumi and Shirogane to dismantle.
Narumi's plane and the surviving automata also just so happen to make landfall right in front of the Nakamachi Circus' premiere performance, which brings Narumi and Masaru/Shirogane's story literally crashing back together much sooner than I'd anticipated (another byproduct of the adaptation's rushed pacing). Given his amnesia and his current mission, Narumi doesn't stick around long to reunite with his One True Clown Family, but I have faith that everyone's paths will permanently converge sooner rather than later. I appreciate the new direction that Karakuri Circus' narrative has taken in giving the gang their own unique paths to follow, but I believe the story will be stronger once all of our heroes are together again and ready to take on the Night Circus' sinister machinations.
Karakuri Circus is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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