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Manga: Karakuri Circus
A manga by Kazuhiro Fujita (the same guy who did Ushio and Tora), placed in relatively modern-day Japan. The manga employs an unusual "choice-based" style, where it shows the two decisions a character can make at a pivotal point in a pair of boxes, a fancy arrow pointing to the decision made. The first decision is by Narumi, a sick Kung-Fu champ who decides that his job, passing out circus flyers, is more important than helping a young boy FIND the circus. He changes his mind when a group of well-dressed thugs attempt to kidnap the boy, as he rushes to save the day (still in his bear costume for work).

Then he finds out that the men after the kid, Masaru, are not men...they're dolls. Their masters are the would-be heads of a large financial empire, of which Masaru is the heir. Rescued by a mysterious silver-haired doll user named Shirogane, Masaru goes forth the find out just why the dolls and their users are after him.

Of no relation to Karakuri Odette. Or to Karakuridouji Ultimo....although the main characters act and even look quite similar...

This manga has plenty of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Narumi decides to go help an injured Masaru bathe. Unfortunately, Shirogane already had the same idea....
  • All-Loving Hero: Is Masaru even capable of hating people anymore? Sure, he gets mad, but Jesus did too. Plus he forgives a man who nearly got everyone he knew (a small group, but still) killed for the sake of money...and then saves his life. For two different men like that.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Masaru becomes this, hijacking the bad guys's massive battle dolls, and mimicking the exact right motions to control them - after one glimpse Even moreso at the later arc where he revealed that he inherited the memories of the Big Bad of the series with an ability that can dismantle the complex mechanical parts of the automatons and the puppets in a matter of seconds..
  • Artificial Humans: Some of the puppets come off as this.
  • Artificial Limbs: Arlequin wields a detached left arm as a weapon. It turn's out that it's not his - his is attached to Narumi. During the Battle of Sahara, all Narumi's remaining limbs were replaced by the puppets parts from other fallen Shirogane.
  • Badass: Narumi, Shirogane, later Masaru... the list goes on for a while.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Narumi and Shirogane, Later Narumi and Masaru in the final arc
  • Battle Couple: Narumi and Shirogane are leaning towards this before Narumi gets whisked away by a flood, loses his memories, and is believed dead.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted, although rarely hard. One exception would be Beast, a tiger who upon introduction kills a ton of people, the second being a woman.
  • Berserk Button: Hurt a kid in front of Narumi. I dare you.
    • And not just him. A lot of characters have soft spots for the kids. Nori and Hiro don't much like Masaru at first (because he monopolizes Shirogane's attention) but they despise a man who tells his ex-wife to leave the kids and return to him. As both of them were at one point abandoned, this makes sense.
  • Big Bad: Bai Jin aka the man with black Robe aka Saiga Sadayoshi aka Commander Faceless.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Oh yeah.
  • Break the Haughty: A few times, with Uncle Zenji and the like. Professor Maruki (the zoologist who discredit's Drum's tail-needle and Beast's ferocity) turns out to be not so bad after all.
  • Character Development: Plenty.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: This series is full of them.
    • Saiga Sadayoshi(Masaru's father)'s personal notebook that Masaru found during his kidnapping in the mansion
    • Arlequin's missing arm, and the detached arm that it used as weapon
    • The traffic accident of Saiga Sadayoshi and the puppet that stuck on the wheel
    • The similarity of the outlook between Francine, Francine puppet, Angelica and Shirogane/Eleanor
    • Guy's locket and his "mother"
    • Masaru's grandfather Saiga Souji
    • The teacher that Narumi saved in France
    • Vilma's knifes that she used in her fight with Shirogane/Eleanor
  • The Comically Serious: Narumi, much to his detriment.
  • Cool Big Sis: Shirogane to Masaru, and to an extent the circus brothers.
  • Cool Old Guy: Nakamachi. Even when offered a ton of money with no apparent strings, he still promises to repay it. He seems to have quickly learned his lesson after the disastrous theft attempt.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Guy. There's no way this is just Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: Some cross between this and Artificial Human.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Shirogane may be one.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Masaru and Shirogane cross it when Narumi dies. Narumi crosses it when he "realizes" that he let Masaru die. Or so it seems.
  • The Determinator: Every single protagonist.
  • Deus ex Machina: The title of the last arc in the series
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat?: Of the "how do these clothes look?" variety. Masaru freezes up entirely, even though the girls in question are not the type to get offended that way.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: When the Nakamichi Circus is doing their park performance, Shirogane is performing as the Snake King...cue the instant squees from the girls.
    • Also Liselette
  • Face of a Thug: Narumi, among others.
  • Face Palm: Seems the norm when trying to deal with Guy.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Taranda. Able to tame cats, dogs and her pet lion Drum.
  • Gentle Giant: Narumi is a massive kempoist with a rough attitude and temper - but he would never harm somebody unless they deserved it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Narumi, although it's not as bad as it looks.
  • Heroic BSOD: Narumi, In the Sahara Desert when he discovered that the Francine Puppet at there was a fake, making all of previous Heroic Sacrifices of his comrades were in vain.
    • Masaru, When he discovered that he was actually a vessel for his father, Saiga Sadayoshi's Mind Transfer trick
  • He Who Fights Monsters: All Shirogane. Their purpose is to destroy all the automatons but they always lament themselves that they are no any better than the automatons that they fought.
    • Taken to extreme with Narumi when the automatons compare him to the demon.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Often.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Shirogane is more average sized, but compared to Narumi...
  • Hypocritical Humor: Nakamachi and his boys are good at this one.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The plot kicks off by explaining the bizarre circumstances around Narumi's we later find that it's a sort of curse passed on from the maker of horrible dolls, to try and bring a smile to his (fake) love's face; it makes breathing agony until he can make someone laugh. Unfortunately, Narumi is not a funny guy.
  • Grievous Harm With A Body Part: Shirogane's puppet, Arlequin, uses a detached left arm to fight with. this is assumed to be his, right until you see his missing arm attached to Narumi.
  • Happily Adopted: Hiro and Nori were presumably left behind by their parents, so the Nakamichi Circus took them in.
  • Infant Immortality: Played with until the French village gets attacked by the evil circus.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Even Jerk may be too harsh; Narumi is a little rough around the edges.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Poor Masaru.
    • Although it's subverted after Masaru saves the bullies from a couple of bounty hunters. And when Masaru leaves and helps pay a big debt to a former bully, said bully is shocked and just wanted for the two to be friends.
  • Knife Nut: Vilma
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Narumi a bit, moreso after Guy resurrects him. He became even worse after the Battle of Sahara
  • Lock and Load Montage: A quick one (only for Narumi) before he and Shirogane go on to rescue Masaru.
  • Made of Iron: Narumi, for one. He can use hard qigong to break the blade weapon and bend the iron bar. He also breaks a fricking car!
  • Mama Bear: Shirogane to Masaru. True, she tasked with protecting him, but that's not all of it. See Papa Wolf.
  • Manly Tears or Tender Tears: When listening to Masaru's sob story, Narumi turns around and pretend not to be interested...because he's on the verge of tears.
    • A gangster who Masaru accidentally splashes in the public bath bursts into these when he sees Masaru's scars.
    "It's hard being a kid with a cruel dad, isn't it?!" *blubbers*
  • Marionette Master: People from Kuroga, All Shirogane, the Big Bad and Masaru
  • Meaningful Name: Shirogane means silver in japanese, Also Bai Yin is silver in Chinese.
    • Masaru means win in Japanese. Saiga Sadayoshi stated he named his son Masaru because he likes winning. This is the first time when he show his true color to Saiga Souji.
  • Nightmare Face: Certain automatons. Honorable mention goes to Paulman and Anzelmas' henchman, whose skin peels and wrinkles away from his mouth to expose teeth and a blood-draining implement underneath.
  • Nose Bleed: Happens often.
  • No Sense of Humor: Narumi.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Narumi again, when an automaton girl tries to force him to "love" her. Maybe if it was Shirogane...
  • Official Couple: Narumi and Shirogane/Eleanor, Saiga Souji and Angelica, Bai Yin and Francine. The latter two couples are Togetherin Death
  • Oh Crap moments, especially when Narumi realizes he's been fighting machines the whole time - this epiphany happens TWICE; Narumi STILL beats the crap out of anybody who gets in his way; when everyone realizes that there's a bomb under the mansion, along with millions of gallons of gasoline, etc; that moment when Masaru realizes that the arm around his shoulders is JUST an arm; when Masaru finds out that the entire time he's just been bait for his biological father so that the mechanical warriors can be destroyed; when Masaru's uncles sees him falling out the window and realizes the entire fortune is going with him; and finally the look on the assassin's face when Masaru LANDS in front of him. This series is RIFE with Oh Crap moments.
  • Panthera Awesome: Taranda's pet lion drum, and the savage tiger Beast.
  • Papa Wolf: Narumi to Masaru. In conjunction with Shirogane's Mama Bear, it seems like the two are his adoptive parents.
  • Philosopher's Stone: The Soft Stone. Also serves as MacGuffin.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: The reason's that Francine Puppet want to smile is to became closer to human and understand his master. She was able to smile during her demise
  • Poke the Poodle: The circus owner that tries to sabotage Shirogane's group in an effort to get her working for him again. It's rather pathetic.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Narumi, who inherited Bai Yin's memories from Aqua Vitae with Shirogane/Eleanor, who was the blood relative with real Francine and also inherited her memories from her via Aqua Vitae. Did I mentioned that they both also look alike with their counterpart??
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Narumi several times, often when children are involved. Especially after several children are put in the final ward at the Zonapha hospital.
  • She's Got Legs: After going over Ushio and Tora, it definitely seems like Mr. Kazuhiro is a leg man...
  • Shown Their Work: All Kempo moves that Narumi used are actually the real movesets in Xing Yi Quan. Especially the Five Element Fists, You can easily spot which of them are Splitting Fist, Drilling Fist, Crossing Fist, Crushing Fist and Cannon Fist respectively.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Does it EVER.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Shirogane seems cold and harsh at first, but she's really not.
  • Takingthe Bullet: More like spikes. Done by Russian Shirogane Dimitri to Narumi. Narumi also done this to Rockefeller.
  • Tearjerker: The end of chapter 9.
    • And then right again in the next chapter, when Masaru takes his shirt off. Not even going into his life story...
    • Fusae....
  • Took a Level in Badass: MASARU. Oh my GOD, Masaru. Especially after Volume 22.
    • And Narumi, from a weakling kid to a brawny martial artist.
  • Tuck and Cover: Which ends badly for Narumi - his arm is chopped off - but he survives. Loses his memory though.
  • Tranquil Fury: Guy, He described that there are two types of anger. One is exploding violently like a volcano and another is burning silently like a furnace. He is the latter one.
  • Trickster Mentor: Guy to Narumi. Later to Masaru.
  • True Companions: Narumi develops both romantic and filial feelings (respectively) for Shirogane and Masaru; when the latter two take off later on, they form a similar connection with the circus men and animal tamer.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Narumi when facing the automatons.
  • When She Smiles: Implied, and occasionally shown, with Shirogane. Narumi may also fall under this, because when he relaxes his normally scary visage, he can even be handsome.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Or at least 200 years. A particularly tragic example.
    • Not to mention what happened to those people before they were "cured". Death by erosion is pretty horrifying.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: One can wonder why Masaru's siblings feel the need to send in elaborate, conspicuous, and highly destructive mechanical puppets to do a job that would be much more easily done with a sniper rifle...
  • Would Hurt a Child: Far, far too many people. Often end up in Kick the Dog territory.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Vilma, most of the protagonists with Narumi leading.
  • You Gotta Have Silver Hair: All Shirogane. Apparently this is the side effect of the Aqua Vitae. For unknown reasons Narumi's transformation is much more slower than anyone else. His hair start to turn into silver during his visit to China. At the start of the Battle of Sahara, only his left bang is silver. After his remaining limb changed to the puppet parts, majority of his hair became silver. When he finally escaped from the Desert, All of his hair changed into silver color like the rest of the Shirogane. The strange thing is, only his right eye is turned into silver
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Narumi and Guy
  • Younger Than She Looks: When one meets Taranda Liselette (a brilliant animal tamer) one would assume she's around Shirogane's age...she's actually 14.
    • Also Narumi, he was mistaken for a 28 years old adult by another Shirogane Steve Rockefeller when in fact he is only 19 years old at the time.

InuYashaMagazine/Shonen SundayKatteni Kaizo
Kanpeki Na KanojoMangaKarakuridouji Ultimo

alternative title(s): Karakuri Circus
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