Karneval, Vol. 1

By Touya Mikanagi. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Ichijinsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Zero-Sum. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Karneval is, I believe, one of those titles that is expected to coast by on style alone for the first few volumes, while it lovingly sets up its plot. And to be fair, it has quite a lot of style. There was never a point in reading this omnibus where I was bored and slipping ahead, though there were perhaps a few times when I desperately wanted an organizational chart or a “here’s how this world works”. But that’s not how immersion goes. In the meantime we have a pretty young boy and his grumpy yet also pretty friend/babysitter/audience identification character, running afoul of the bad guys and being rescued by a crack squad of eccentric superheroes who pose as a circus when they’re not causing major property damage or freaking people out.


I believe that’s Nai on the cover there – I say “I believe” as he’s staring out at the reader confidently, something the Nai in the books would never do. I said Gareki was for the audience, and he’s desperately needed – in fact, I think he’s the main reason I enjoyed this title as much as I did. He stomps through the whole thing carrying Nai around as if he’s in a manga version of Midnight Run, and also manages to be the one member of the cast with no superpowers that we know of, though he gets by well enough with explosives. As for Nai, I actually thought the revelation about who he really is what the best part of the volume – it actually makes his moeblob tendencies make sense in context, even if it ends up giving us more questions than answers.

As for the rest of the cast, there are several men whose characterization seems to involve looking cool and making passes at each other, though I suspect the genuine BL content in this series will be zero. And they are pretty damn cool, if also ridiculous to a large degree – something I’ve come to expect from Zero-Sum titles. There are also a few women in the cast, who range from stoic to overly affectionate to full-on tsundere, but honestly none of them get as much attention as the guys this time around – hope that changes later on. Oh, and we also meet a set of twins and childhood friends who have “I am here to be tragic and motivate our hero” written all over them, which the cliffhanger seems to agree with me on.

There’s a healthy dose of humor here as well (the nurses’ reaction to their obnoxious doctor boss was probably my favorite), which also helps the medicine go down well. There’s nothing here that’s revolutionary or new, but for a manga that knows what its target audience wants, Karneval delivers quite nicely. Don’t try to think too hard about what’s going on, just sit back and enjoy the snarking, acting cool, and one-liners. Recommended for fans of Zero-Sum.

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