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Manga / Karneval

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"I only ever have three choices: enemy, nobody, or prey."

A fifteen-year-old boy named Gareki, who gets by on stealing from rich people's mansions, one day comes across a strange young lad named Nai. Nai had been searching for somebody important to him with only an abandoned, blood-covered bracelet as a clue, but wound up being captured by a cruel, abnormal woman because of his otherworldly naivety.

The two are set-up within her mansion wherein Nai is held captive and where the rest of Gareki's crew is slaughtered, and soon become wanted criminals sought out by military security operatives. Just as Nai and Gareki find themselves in a desperate predicament, they encounter none other than the Second Ship of the nation's most powerful defense organization, Circus, with its deceptive captain Hirato, its fighters, the cheerful Yogi and dedicated Tsukumo, and its odd black mechanical sheep.


As they learn more of Nai's past and its relation to Kafuka, a dark and hidden organization involved in illegal genetic research that vehemently opposes the government, the two continue to meet allies, friends and enemies alike through Circus, and eventually become wrapped up in the defense organization's mysterious affairs.

A fantasy manga series by Mikanagi Touya, which originally started serialization in the manga magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum and was published by Ichijinsha in early 2008. There are currently 10 volumes out, with several drama CDs released in Japan. An anime adaptation by Manglobe started airing on April 4th, 2013.


Karneval provides examples of:

  • Accidental Kiss: An innocent variant happens between Nai and one of the sheep in an omake from volume 2.
  • Action Girl:
    • Tsukumo, Eva, and Kiichi so far. They're part of Circus, after all.
    • Since she started attending Kuronomei Academy, it looks like Tsubame is well on her way to Action Girl status as well.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Tsubame. But she pushes past it later.
  • Art Evolution: Rather subtle, considering how distinctive the manga-ka's art style already is, but it's particularly noticeable with Nai throughout the chapters, where in contrast to the first, his face looks much younger and more "innocent." Gareki and Yogi's character designs are also refined as well.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The manga can get quite dark and violent, but you'd never know it just from looking at the covers.
  • Attempted Rape: Disturbingly enough this happens to Nai in the very first chapter, at the hands of the much older Valga woman, Mine.
  • Author Appeal: Characters often appear in torn clothing and bandages on the covers.
  • Badass Crew: Both Circus Ships possess this.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit / Sharp-Dressed Man:
    • Most male members of Circus, particularly Hirato.
    • Uro also qualifies.
  • The Bait: Nai (and Gareki) in the beginning, but less so as it goes on.
  • Bandage Babe: While with Kafka, Karoku consistently appears with bandages around his head and torso.
  • Band of Brothers: Second Ship.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Eva, and occasionally Gareki and Yogi. Tsukumo once as a mermaid for a play
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Yotaka towards Tsubame, though he's not really "older," being her twin.
    • Yogi toward all his younger companions.
    • Gareki will deny it, but he also shows signs of this toward Nai.
    • Karoku towards Nai.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Yogi (and even Hirato) can later be seen acting as this to Nai, Gareki and others. Gareki's more than likely to deny this (or any attachment to the crew of the Second Ship, really).
  • Bio-Augmentation: Kafka's trade—and they have no qualms about testing their research on humans. In many cases, the victims aren't even aware that they were made to be a part of ugly experimentation.
  • Body Horror: The Varuga
  • Bound and Gagged:
    • Nai is tied up in his first appearance, having been captured by the valga Mine.
    • After capturing Tsukumo in Rinoll, Kagiri and Kiharu tie her to a chair and tape her mouth shut. She escapes pretty easily, though.
    • When they're mistaken for kidnappers, Yogi and Gareki are confronted by Yanari's bodyguards as well as Hirato, who hasn't bothered to clear up the misunderstanding. He allows Yogi to escape with Yanari but captures Gareki and ties him up as part of the "show," much to the latter's intense annoyance.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: What happens to Yotaka when he is turned into a Varuga...
  • Bridal Carry: Inverted in chapter 11 when Eva carries Gareki this way after the latter has been wounded. He is not pleased .
  • Catchphrase: Every member of Circus has a Catch Speech
  • Chekhov's Gun: The patch Yogi wears on his face might count as one.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Kiichi appears with Tsukitachi a few chapters before she's introduced.
    • Uro appears in chapter 3 as Parunedo's underling but doesn't reveal his full-fledged Dragon status until much later.
  • Chivalrous Pervert:
    • Jiki.
    • Hirato might be worse, as is shown in a humorous extra.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Eleska toward Karoku.
  • Clothing Damage: Goes along with Bandage Babe on the manga tankoubon covers — though only men have thus far being shown in this fashion. Tsukumo was featured on the volume 6 cover while in rather revealing (but undamaged) clothes.
  • Cool Big Sis: Eva seems to be one to some extent, although the guys are pretty scared of her.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Karoku's boss.
  • Crapsaccharine World: All the sparkly, colorful characters and artwork does a great job in hiding how gritty the setting really is.
  • Cute Machines: The sheep and rabbit security bots.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Oh, so many...
    • Gareki was sold to human traffickers by his parents.
    • Tsubame and Yotaka grew up in poverty and practically had to make it on their own after their elder sister died.
    • Nolly, the fusion varuga, had her parents brutally killed by varuga when she was a toddler.
    • Tsukumo was the daughter of a rich and influential family, but had to constantly live in the shadow of her more talented older brother. When that brother died saving her from kidnappers the surrounding adults blamed it on her and Tsukumo was put through constant emotional abuse as a result.
    • Yogi has the most traumatic one by far: He was the successor of Rimhakka, the country from which Kafka's cradle cells originated. When Kafka found an interest in the traits of his people, who had been granted powers due to their connection with the cells, Yogi had to watch first-hand as his closest friends and family were literally torn to shreds, while being strapped to one of the Kafka scientists' surgical tables. Following that he was experimented on and, in his shock and confusion, accidentally killed every single person within the facility. He was ten.
    • Miumarie, Yogi's sister, woke up limbless in a field with no memories of who or where she was. Adopted by merchants, nightmares kept her from sleep and she was raised believing she was only good for entertainment. She was then sold as a maid to a household where the master sexually harassed her and the servants bullied her. The Rimhakka siblings can't get a break, can they?
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gareki, Hirato, and Tsukumo when a certain someone (read: Yogi) is irritating them.
  • Destination Defenestration: In chapter 33, during the siege at Smoky Mansion, Eva knocks Uro through the window. That he doesn't die suggests something sinister about his biology...
  • Distress Ball: Tsukumo. She's usually competent, but when the plot calls for someone to be rescued, well...
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. When a woman attempts to force herself on Nai in the first chapter, it's not played for comedy, she's characterized as a horrible person, and she soon winds up killed off. It's not that much different than how a male in her role would have been treated.
  • Eye Scream: One chapter had a Varuga that went around collecting people's eyes (i.e. ripping them out of people's heads). He tries to do the same to Nai, but the latter is saved by a sheep.
  • Fanservice: Of both male (see above) and female variety, though Eva wears particularly revealing clothes.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: One of Gareki's skin tight black shirts is an obvious offender underneath the red jacket, as can be viewed in chapter 12.
  • Freudian Trio: Trios are important in Karneval — the main trio has Nai as Id, Yogi as Ego, and Gareki as Superego. In Circus, the Second Ship has Yogi as Id, Tsukumo as Ego, and Hirato as Superego, while in the First Ship, Kiichi is Id, Tsukitachi is Ego, and Jiki is Superego (although the latter two cases can switch), and the adults in charge are Tsukitachi as Id, Hirato as Ego and Akari as Superego.
  • Funbag Airbag: How Nai first meets Eva.
  • For Science!: Kafka's motive behind ruining countless lives.
  • The Glomp: Gareki is often the unwilling recipient of this.
  • Gratuitous German
  • Group Hug: A touching one between Yogi, Gareki and Nai. Considering Gareki's feelings towards open affection, however, he looks annoyed.
  • Hand Gagging:
    • Hirato does this to Gareki after "capturing" him when he and Yogi are mistaken for kidnappers, in order to keep Gareki from revealing that they know each other.
    • Yogi does this to Gareki when he wakes him to follow Tsubame.
  • Hates Being Touched: Gareki tends to react violently whenever touched (but it might just be a personal bias against Yogi, who is the principal offender).
  • Holding Hands: This is important to Nai to express friendship and as a calming device.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Eleska.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Yotaka.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Though not as forthright as most examples, Gareki manages to bring the stabler Yogi back in chapter 19.
  • It's All About Me: Eleska.
  • I Want Them Alive!: When Circus storms Smoky Mansion to rescue Karoku, Eva and Tsukumo take on Uro and defeat him without killing him, which he mocks them for until Eva reveals that they were ordered to capture him alive.
  • I Will Find You: Said by Gareki in chapter 52 after Nai has gone missing with Karoku. This resolution says a lot about his character.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: Most of the Circus members wear their impractical performing outfits in battle as well. Eva's outfit in particular comes to mind.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Nai gets this a lot, being a particularly naive child, but the most prominent example is his recounting of having found Karoku's bracelet in a "puddle of red water" leading up to the sea.
  • Invocation: Each Circus member has to come up with a personal dramatic line which they'll use in combat. Yogi made the mistake of leaving it up to Hirato...
  • Jerkass: Gareki can be one, Akari can also, and Hirato can especially be one, but...
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gareki obviously has a weak spot for Nai's innocence (though it won't spare the poor kid getting bonked in the head), Hirato seems to effectively hide how much he cares for his crew and how often he makes certain of Nai (and Gareki)'s safety, and Akari is harshly vocal about Hirato's apparent callousness toward his crew and the people essentially under his care.
  • Josei
  • Killer Rabbit: Peka, the cat varuga, who turns into an enormous beast that devours humans.
  • The Lancer: Yogi to Hirato, Gareki to Nai. However, Gareki seems to share the main character role with Nai, as a good deal of narrative focus goes into Gareki's thoughts and circumstances.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: After being saved from the Smoky Mansion, Karoku wakes up with no memory of his relationship to Nai.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: If it's not there yet, it's definitely on its way.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Azana and Uro.
  • Love at First Sight: Eleska for Karoku.
  • Love Confession: A side character, Isosa from the Life Research department declares her love for Murano in the Sheep side story.
  • Love Hungry: Eleska wants Karoku to fall so deeply in love with her that he becomes desperate and can't live without her. Unlikely.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Hirato, although he seems to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and Karoku. However, only the entity taking Karoku's form qualifies. The real Karoku is not.
  • Mercy Kill: Circus see it as their duty to kill the Varuga both to protect humans and put the Varuga out of their misery.
  • Mood Whiplash: "I've killed someone..."
  • Morality Pet: Nai acts as one for Gareki who, while not entirely an Antihero, does tend to come off as a bit of a selfish Jerkass, particularly at the beginning of the series.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Although most of the male cast could qualify to the point of having a Cast Full of Pretty Boys, Gareki is especially seen in cut up or revealing outfits that should not look as hot as they do when he's wearing them.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Eva, so much. Tsukumo, too, though more innocently.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: All the Karneval members have special introductions they say as they draw their weapons. Yogi likes to also use his to announce himself as Nyanperona.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: Kafka.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The creation of Nai, a unique Niji-human hybrid. There is a notebook left behind but it's badly damaged and furthermore, written in codes.
  • Parental Abandonment: Gareki's parents sold him to a slave trader when he was eight years old.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Tsubaki for Gareki, and her younger siblings Yotaka and Tsubame.
    • Most likely Karoku for Nai as well, before he became an apparent Aloof Big Brother and worse by the start of the story.
    • It turns out Akari is one, too...
  • Power Crystal: Eva fights with these.
  • Psycho Serum: Taken by people who become Valga, sometimes unwittingly and other times not.
  • Punched Across the Room: Happens to Yogi frequently.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • The niji, including Nai in animal form.
    • What say you of the black sheep, or of the bunny from chapter 15?