“If your former compatriots hadn’t managed to dig up the treasure chest themselves, Kafka would never have been born.”

As Circus continues to pursue Kafka, analysis of Karoku’s half-burnt research notes reveals little, but Akari believes that the level of expertise displayed therein indicates a mind trained at one of Circus’s own facilities. He references a “Schism” within the organization and requests classified information about those who were involved. Meanwhile, Hirato suspects an information leak from within Akari’s own department and sets about finding the source.

While Hirato and Tsukumo investigate a lead on suspicious corporate activities, Gareki and Nai have an outing in the lovely city of Vantonam, courtesy of Yogi. They have an adventure (of course) and make a new friend, which unexpectedly leads to a strong hint regarding Karoku’s whereabouts: the Smoky Mansion. The Mansion, however, belongs to a powerful corporation which Circus does not want to antagonize without solid proof. The crew of Ships 1 and 2 must make a decision, and act quickly.

This third omnibus of Karneval includes volumes 5 and 6 of the series, in which the world-building and characters introduced in the previous volumes continue to develop thoroughly and believably as the plot advances at a quick pace. Enough new hints were dropped about mysterious organizations Circus and Kafka that it doesn’t seem tiresome to have so many unknown factors, but stays interesting (see quote above). Akari and his division have their own problems to deal with, and we get to see a bit more of Circus’s more covert activities, as well as their position as enforcers of a strict martial law. Gareki and Nai, who at first seemed to be stereotypes (snarky streetwise teen and innocent child with a mysterious past), change over time as a direct reaction to their changing circumstances and relationships: Nai learns how to empathize with others and how to make important decisions on his own (he is also learning to read, albeit slowly). Gareki is grumpily giving his trust and affection to Nai and the crew of Ship 2, to the point that he is able to ask for help from Yogi and Hirato. Because he can no longer see them as marks, however, he also feels that he can’t take advantage of their hospitality anymore. Yogi is becoming increasingly attached to the two civilian boys, while feeling his responsibility towards them as both a grownup and as a Circus agent; his odd split-personality “allergy” is left unexplained here, except that the Medical division seems to have a way to control it through different medication patches.

The solid world-building of Karneval is an unexpected pleasure. Generally, works as visually and thematically flashy as Karneval (which features one mysterious organization fighting another mysterious organization via unexplained technology) tend to leave a lot of details untold and focus strictly on the main characters. Here, however, we see interactions among the varied factions in the world that give it a rich texture: corporate conflict, disagreements among Circus officials, important work being carried out by extraneous characters. The world of Karneval exists outside of Ship 2 and both influences and is influenced by the events we, the readers, see. Events that might seem to be fillers or one-offs will tie neatly back into the main plot at a later point, which is reassuring because none of the big secrets—Karoku’s identity, Kafka’s purpose, Circus’s objectives, or Nai’s existence—have been explained yet, but a number of hints have been given. The author’s attention to detail so far is like a promise that the plot to come will be as well constructed as it has been.

Visually, the artwork continues to be on the fancy side with beautiful characters and attention paid to the details of fashion and design. This volume includes an important battle and therefore some violence, but nothing horrific or gory.

Karneval is engrossing, with unexpectedly solid world-building and plot from what at first glance looked like a fluffy, cotton candy type fantasy read. It is essentially a unisex read for shojo and shonen readers alike who enjoy a slowly building mystery with some dramatic development and enjoyable action sequences, but one which will probably skew towards a shojo readership because of the “pretty” look of the artwork.

Karneval, vol. 3
by Touya Mikanagi
ISBN: 9780316263481
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: OT (Older Teen)

  • Saeyong Kim

    Past Reviewer

    Saeyong Kim is currently studying in the MLIS program at the University of British Columbia, where she also took a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature. She wants to take all the fascinating courses and never graduate, almost as much as she wants to hurry up and become a real librarian (almost). She loves anime and manga, is introducing herself to comics (via Sandman, a wonderful first comic if there ever was one – Watchmen may be next), and her to-read list of children’s literature never gets shorter, which is a good thing. She is also learning to play games on Playstation 3.

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