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Manga / Karakuri Circus

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Karakuri Circus is 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 to find out just why the dolls and their users are after him.


A 36-episode anime started in October 2018.

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....
  • A.I. Breaker: Automatas in general can move with a speed that faster than a human's eyes can see. However they also "programmed" to performed circus act to its audiences. Since they defined all humans are audiences, therefore they cannot move too fast in order for the audiences to witness their performances. A human with weapons such as guns and tanks will be no longer considered as audiences and thus they can move with the maximum speed and attack them with impunity. Shirogane's weaponize puppets is used to exploit this flaws since they cannot differentiate them between puppets for performance or weapons and thus prevent them to achieve their maximum movement speeds. This is also why martial artists such as Narumi and Liang-Ming Xia is also able to fight Automatas with equal footing because by fighting bare-handed, both of them still considered as audiences
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  • 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.
  • 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..
  • 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. 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.
  • Bifauxnen: Shirogane as the Snake King.
  • Big Bad: Bai Jin aka the man with black Robe aka Saiga Sadayoshi aka Commander Faceless.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Oh yeah.
  • Book-Ends:The first chapter begins with Narumi Kato work as a costumed bear for the circus to entertain young passersby, and the final chapter ends with Masaru Saiga now a young man living in some European country and working as a costumed dog for a cafe to entertain young passersby but he does his best to protect many innocent people thanks to the martial arts skills he learned from Narumi.
  • Break the Haughty: A few times, with Uncle Zenji and the like. Professor Maruki (the zoologist who discredits Drum's tail-needle and Beast's ferocity) turns out to be not so bad after all.
  • Character Development: Plenty.
  • Chekhov's Gun / Chekhov's Gunman : This series is full of them.
    • Saiga Sadayoshi(Masaru's father)'s personal notebook that Masaru found during his kidnapping in the mansion
    • Masaru's grandfather Saiga Souji
    • The hospital staff and the kids in the Hospital Arc
    • The teacher that Narumi saved in France
    • The clown character that appears in every interlude of the story. Turns out he is also one the Shirogane that is responsible for financing every Shirogane's activities all around the world, and the scientific rival of the Big Bad
    • Vilma's knifes that she used in her fight with Shirogane/Eleanor
  • Circus of Fear: The Midnight Circus and later The New Midnight Circus
  • 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.
  • Curtain Call:In the omake of the final volume, every character of the series takes one last bow to the readers in the circus before they disappear in the final splash page.
  • 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. Which also Foreshadowing on how the series end.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: These series foreshadowing plot is almost on par with One Piece.
    • The traffic accident of Saiga Sadayoshi and the puppet that stuck on the wheel
    • Guy's locket and his "mother"
    • Arlequin's missing arm, and the detached arm that it used as weapon
    • The similarity of the outlook between Francine, Francine puppet, Angelica and Shirogane/Eleanor
    • The wooden gear that Narumi found in the Midnight Circus after he destroy Fake Francine puppet in the Sahara
    • Masaru unable to remember his father Sadayoshi Saiga's face despite he is having an excellent memory
  • 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 better than the automatons that they fought.
    • Taken to extreme with Narumi when the automatons compare him to the demon.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Often.
  • Hope Spot: After all the dust has settled in the mansion explosion, it seems like both Narumi and Masaru have made it through. However... When Masaru turns his head back, he sees only Narumi's left arm remains.
    • In Sahara battle, when Narumi is about to deal the last blow to Puppet!Francine, the puppet uttered out the series biggest Wham Line.
  • 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: Averted with the attack of Midnight Circus.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Even though "jerk" may be too harsh. Narumi is a little rough around the edges, and while he claims It's All About Me, he will and has gone through hell for Masaru.
  • 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 blade weapons and bend iron bars. He also breaks a fricking car!
  • Mama Bear: Shirogane to Masaru. True, she's 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 he shows his true colors 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 Together in Death
  • 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 why Francine Puppet wants to smile is to become closer to humans and to understand her 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 blood relatives with the real Francine and also inherited her memories from her via Aqua Vitae. Did I mentioned that they both also look like their counterparts?
  • Restraining Bolt: Evil automata possess Super Speed, but have the primary directive to bring terror to humans, so that the "audience" (unarmed people) can see and fear them. This means that they cannot use their full speed against unarmed people: instead, they must move slowly enough to be seen by the average human. Additionally, puppets and bare hands don't count as "weapons" - which means that automata can't use their full speed against puppeteers and martial artists.
    • "Les Quatres Pionniers" have another, even more important directive: to obey Puppet Francine. When Lucille uses a puppet with Francine's appearance and orders them to kneel, they immediately do - despite the fact that the real Puppet Francine is right there in the same room. It takes them several minutes to overcome their mental block.
  • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: All Kempo moves that Narumi used are actually the real movesets in XingYi 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 Rockenfeld.
  • The Reveal: These are some pivotal point in this series. Beware the incoming spoilers!
    • The reason of Eleanor introduced herself as Shirogane instead of her own name, turn out Shirogane is a world organization that formed to destroy the Automatons.
    • The identity of the Big Bad in this series. He got 3 identities in this manga series.
      • His original identity is Bai Jin, the younger brother of Bai Yin the creator of the automatons that created the Midnight Circus.
      • His second identity is Dean Maister/Sadayoshi Saiga, the friend of Angelina Saiga, also the father of Masaru.
      • His third identity is Commander Faceless, the Shirogane that responsible to manufacture Shirogane-0 and "died" after meeting with Narumi in the battle of Sahara.
    • The relation between Francine the original, Angelina Saiga and Eleanor and why they have the same look. This because of they are blood related. Angelina is the mother of Eleanor and Francine the original is Angelina's grandaunt
  • 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. And he took even more when his limbs were replaced.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line: Both Masaru and Narumi received one.
    • During Masaru explored the ruins of his father's mansion and found out his father's voice recording.
    Sadayoshi Saiga (in voice recording): You are not Masaru. You are me.
    • When Narumi is about to deal the final blow to Puppet!Francine after a lot of hardships and sacrifices..
    Puppet!Francine : I am not Francine.
  • 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 Rockenfeld when in fact he is only 19 years old at the time.


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