It almost makes me forget about the appallingly horrific English dub of the Karneval anime. Almost.
Yen Press announced that they would be officially licensing one of my all-time favorite mangas in August of 2014, with the translation due to release at the end of March 2015. Karneval, a story about an organization known as Circus and how two unlikely allies (a naive little boy named Nai and the street-savvy thief Gareki) find themselves engulfed in the strange and often dangerous world that comes with it.
The official synopsis goes a little something like this:
Armed with only an abandoned bracelet as a clue, Nai searches for someone dear to him. After a run in with a pick-pocket named Gareki, the two find themselves involved in a government set-up that leaves them wanted criminals. Desperate and on-the-run, Nai and Gareki turn to the country’s most powerful defense organization–“Circus”–for help.
Of course, this description barely gives the series justice, but it does set things up. I had been chomping at the bit to get my hands on this book ever since the announcement was made, and was determined to see it sitting on my doorstep the day it came out. Naturally, life happened and it was April 1st before I even realized that the release date had flown by me. I’m actually grateful that I failed to order the volume off of Amazon, because I got the double satisfaction of picking up Karneval at a local comic book shop during Free Comic Book Day, and it’s all about supporting those local businesses!
As I mention in the title, the most striking feature of the first volume is its beauty. Touya Mikanagi had always produced lovely illustrations, and seeing them in print is exciting. Her art is top notch. I was also excited about the size of this omnibus release–clocking in at just over 400 pages and covering 12 Scores (chapters), this is quite a thick tome. Along with the full color front and back, there are several beautifully colored illustrations and table of contents in the front of the book.
There are a lot of reasons I’m thrilled that this manga is getting the attention I’ve always felt it deserves. Firstly, an official release means I can happily support a series I love financially, if even a little. Secondly, officially cleaned and translated pages! I’ve learned that this can be a novelty in the English manga reader’s world, especially with less known series. Also, now I have a physical book to shove into my friends’ hands and demand they read immediately, instead of informing them of a website link and hoping they make it there eventually.
Karneval was captivating, which means I rapidly devoured the anime, and, when that ran out, turned to the world wide web to find as much manga as I could read. A fast-paced storyline, complex and widely diverse characters, and an interesting premise concerning the fight between good and evil made Karneval an easy favorite.
The colorful cast of characters ensures that everyone will find someone to love. From heart-of-gold (but don’t let him hear you say that) thief Gareki, naive and enthusiastic Nai, wonderfully optimistic and childlike Yogi, quiet and dedicated Tsukumo, and stoically cryptic Hirato, the Second Ship provides a vast range of characters to fall for (full disclosure: the cosplay options are ENDLESS). And that barely scratches the surface regarding the main players. Circus focuses on defeating an evil organization after Nai and Gareki, one that manipulates human genes to form grotesque super monsters called Varuga, meaning the inhabitants of the Second Ship are trained fighters who engage in dangerous battles, utilizing individualized weapons and special moves to overcome the enemy. And when they work as a team–well–it’s one of the reasons I love the series so much.
There’s an amazing sense of belonging and family, and several plot points focus on finding your place and growing into yourself. A lot is going on in these characters’ lives, and Mikanagi does a wonderful job of exploring each character’s emotions and growth arcs. Humor and love blend together in scenes wrought with silliness, but an overtone of severity is also present, as the series does deal with some heavy–and heavily debated–topics.
If you’ve been looking for an amazing series to absolutely fall in love with, here it is. Go forth. Read. Watch (just not the dub). Be happy.
The second volume is set to release on July 21st, 2015. It is currently available for preorder on Amazon, which lists the page count at another 400 pages.