Blu-ray Review: Karneval – The Complete Series

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Do you like Karnevals? or maybe even the Circus? Well if you like either of those then this Anime release of Karneval may interested you; but don’t be fooled by its title as it’s not all clowning around in the Circus; so what exactly is Karneval and what did we think of this Blu-ray release by Manga Entertainment? Well find out in our Blu-ray Review.

Synopsis:

Circus is a super-powered security force of entertainers who keep villains off the streets by serving up justice with a side of razzle-dazzle. Despite their best efforts, a sinister organization named Kafka is gaining power throughout the world using grotesque monsters to carry out their plots. When Circus saves a mysterious boy from Kafka’s grasp, the kid gets swept up in the crime-fighting spectacle – but why was Kafka after him in the first place?

Our View:

Karneval is a pretty peculiar series; it has the detailed animation, the art-style, the unique colours and the storyline to be a highly engaging and entertaining series but unfortunately it never pulls through and ends on a relatively stale cliff-hanger. Even now when I look back I’m still relatively confused at as to what transpired within the series as other than the fateful encounter between our main protagonists Gareki and Nai nothing seems to happen until it all abruptly comes to an end.

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It feels like the series director, Eiji Suganuma, forgot that the series was only meant to be thirteen episodes long and so left the story on a cliff-hanger so that it could be continued elsewhere; whether it be the original ongoing manga or a second series. Personally I don’t know, this is just my own assumption, but if you looking for a story with a start, middle and end then you won’t exactly find it here although don’t worry there is an ending it’s just not as decisive, or as informative, of what you would have expected.

Let’s start at the beginning, Karneval follows the exploits of Circus; a government-styled organization with magical abilities that take on criminal gangs and bring them to justice; in this case Kafka. However while the series sees Circus’s attempt to uncover Kafka’s plans and bring them to justice the storyline focuses on two particular characters, Gareki and Nai, and their developing relationship both of whom become acquainted with Circus after they were attacked by Kafka agents. For a relatively unknown reason Kafka want to capture Nai and as precaution Circus place Nai and Gareki into a form of “Witness Protection” but even them this is just a pretext as Circus ultimately send them out on errands with their agents in hopes of drawing out Kafka into the open.

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This is pretty much a rough idea of what to expect from Karneval; each passing episode is just another attempt at Circus trying to find more evidence on Kafka’s dodgy dealings but unfortunately it never seems to go anywhere and its over before you truly realise it. Mind you there is more to the story than this; for instance Nai is attempting to find his old friend Karoku, a person who is currently being held by Kafka in a secret location, and as such Gareki and Nai work alongside Circus to try and find clues to his location although you’d be forgiven for missing this piece of information as it’s not brought up that often.

There are other interesting points of discussion as well, such as Kafka’s real motives and the secrets behind Nai himself but unfortunately non are covered in depth; It feels like you are being dragged along a with no intended destination or goal with the outcome leaving you with less than what you began with. The only element of the story which does makes any progression is the bond between Nai and Gareki, and then later Circus Division 2 Members Tsukumo and Yogi, but even then you hardly notice any of it due to Gareki’s laid back ‘tough guy’ attitude. Basically don’t expect too much; but even then you still may be disappointed.

Extras:

As with most two disc sets all of the bonus content, with the exception of the English Cast Commentary, is included on the second disc with bonus content including original Japanese promotional materials, text less songs and an English Exclusive featurette featuring J.Michael Tatum.

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By now we’ve come to expect a basic selection of bonus content being included with our anime releases and it’s no different here fortunately the disappointment is not found with the ‘variety’ of content but how it has been portrayed. For instance two English Cast Commentaries are provided but they are disappointingly dull and uninformative as most of the cast tend to throw banter against each other rather than talking about the show. ,Mind you when they eventually get round to talking about the episode the only thing they discuss is “how uniquely colourful the series is”. Most Commentaries tend to be informative and interesting but these were not; although if you aren’t interested in this kind of thing then you won’t be missing out.

The real interesting piece of bonus content on this set is the Karneval Fashion with J.Michael Tatum featurette; a 15 minute segment which sees the popular voice actor J.Michael Tatum, who voices Tsukitachi in the series, dissecting the show and providing an informative view of the characters, organizations and animation style. Basically this single feature will explain what to expect from the Karneval series which can be considered a good thing if you are unsure of it; however it does contain plenty of spoilers, this being said it does provide some closure if you are still feeling puzzled after watching the series – so it’s all good.

The final selection of bonus content is none-other than the inclusion of original Japanese promotional materials, text less songs and the original US Trailer; it’s nothing entirely special but at least they are included as these could have easily been overlooked and removed from the disc.

Specs:

Media: BD50 & BD25
Region: B
Running Time: 3:33:18 (Disc 1), 1:34:48 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Karneval is a thirteen episode long series that sees two complete strangers, Nai and Gareki, come together and find refuge within the childish arms of Circus; a government run organization designed to stop crime and keep up public appearances by running circus performances. Meanwhile Kafka, a criminal organization, are secretly plotting their own plan of attack with Karoku, a man who Nai once called friend, being secretly kept out of the way. Many things happen within Karneval , whether it be fights with Kafka or childhood friends in danger, but none of it really matters as at the centre of the series is the bond that Nai and Gareki share; a bond which asks the question – “where do I belong”.

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Karneval is a strange series; the storyline is relatively undesirable and doesn’t seem to go anyway and when you do start to care it throws everything out of the window to adruptly end it. Ironically Karneval’s only saving grace, in my opinion, is that it is aesthetically pleasing to look – the detailed animation, the colours, the music and the characters are all unique and interesting but without a relatively engaging storyline it all just falls apart and becomes one dreary story that ends on a whim.

When it comes to this Blu-ray release by Manga Entertainment UK then there is nothing to complain about as everything seems to check out accordingly. For instance we’ve got the easy to navigate Blu-ray menu, correct chapter-points and clear readable text on the subtitles. The same postivies can be said for the visual and audio quality of the release; both are outstanding and offer the best viewing experience for fans of the series. It’s also worth mentioning that the subtitles are not locked to the Japanese audio track either, so those who want to watch it in Raw Japanese format or what to watch it with subtitles in English can do so – something which is not always available on UK Blu-ray releases.

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When you get right down to it It sounds like I hated my experience with Karneval, but that’s not the case, the quality of this release is spot on it’s just that series itself had everything it needed to be a truly entertaining but instead opts it to throw it anything and provide a half-cooked story that never full matures and ends before its truly got going; or alternatively ask questions but never provides conclusive answers. Of course if you like the Karneval franchise then this release is an obvious purchase, but if you’ve seen the trailer and think “hey that looks pretty action-packed” you may want to re-consider; like I said its not terrible its just not conclusive enough to be fully entertaining.

Score: review-stars-3

Karneval – The Complete Series will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 8th September 2014

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

2 Responses to Blu-ray Review: Karneval – The Complete Series

  1. timeoftheday says:

    Good review. 🙂 It’s disappointing that this series doesn’t amount to anything. I’d been keeping an eye on it since the character design was so colourful, and wondering if I should watch beyond the confusing first episode. Probably won’t pick up the DVD now..

  2. Pingback: Blu-ray Review: Karneval – The Complete Series | AnimeBlurayUK » webindex24.ch - News aus dem Web

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