Gareki is just trying to earn some money as a thief when he encounters Nai, an innocent boy about to be literally devoured by a women who is actually some sort of monster. They escape but are tracked down by Circus, a government group that in between putting on various performances protect the public from Varuga (man eating monsters).
This must be a thing at the moment, my reviewing series that are finished but are not resolved. Overall, Karneval is entertaining, bright and colourful, and mostly without substance. It likes to allude to a more compelling narrative and deeper themes but in its short run time utterly fails to develop any of them and instead we are left with a range of good looking characters fighting monsters in between dealing with various personal issues.
Now, I’m not saying that every anime needs to have some overall deeper meaning, however Karneval sets itself up to appear like it should have something more to it. You’ve got secret organisations, monsters, government involvement, medical experimentation and everything you would need for a rich and deep plot and yet what we get is a buddy story between Gareki and Nai (although without the buddy element for a good half the show because Gareki is an emotionally stunted punk – amusing though).
Both Nai and Gareki get some backstory during the run time though even then we are left with questions about them. It’s a shame because they are both quite interesting but because of the lack of deatil and short length of time we meet them for, they end up feeling a little too generic and fill in the blank.
Where Karneval shines is it’s visuals and atmosphere. Whether they are going for a bright circus theme or a dark abandoned village, it nails the aesthetics of the scene. The accompanying music works and the character clothing and designs are distinct and visually appealing. And while that is pleasant enough, if the story was a train wreck it still wouldn’t be watchable. Fortunately, while the story doesn’t develop anywhere near as much as I’d like, and it doesn’t finish, it actually is kind of fun following these characters around even if it really feels like the two main characters are just getting dragged from one situation to the next.
In terms of the support cast, they all play a role and some of them are quite interesting, but again the show fails to really develop any of them. We get hints that they could be complex and interesting with great back stories and then we learn next to nothing about them. It’s quite frustrating but I shouldn’t penalize the show for what it isn’t just because I wanted more.
As I said at the start, this is entertaining to watch. You’ll get some nice action sequences, some very cute expressions from Nai, and a glimpse at a much larger world. With it’s short run time you can knock it over quickly but I was just left wanting to know more about everything and feeling a bit disappointed by what I got.