Manga Review - Karneval Vol. 1
Karneval (カーニヴァル or K∀RNEVAL) is a manga series written and illustrated by Touya Mikanagi. Although aimed at the shojo demographic, there is nothing particularly feminine about it. There is no boy love or long and drawn out lovey dovey nonsense to speak of. There is, however, some beautifully drawn art, stylistic action sequences and a good helping of humour which should keep even the most manly of manga fans interested.
"When innocent country boy Nai sets foot into the sordid cutthroat realm of the city, he might as well have painted a target on his own back. Kidnappers, murderers and desperados abound, waiting to take advantage of a boy guileless enough to believe blood is merely "red water". When he is framed for a murder, it is the bandit Gareki who bails him out. Being a shrewd and sharp-eyed thief, however, Gareki's motives are less than pure. Nai is looking for a friend who has disappeared and left behind something particularly intriguing - an I.D bracelet from the organisation named "Circus", the country's supreme defense agency. While Gareki has his sights set firmly on the bracelet, "Circus" in turn, has shifted its eye onto the duo as well..."
The first thing you'll notice about Karneval is that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Not until you've read the first few chapters anyway. We are introduced to Nai, or Naive as I like think of him. He is an innocent and ingenuous boy who has no idea about the outside world or what danger he finds himself in when Lady Milne gets her evil claws on him. This for me began the frustration of Nai, he is just so child like that his naivety borders on ignorance. That said, due to the dangers that he faces and the people that he encounters, he quickly grows into a much more palatable character.
Even though you are unwittingly thrust into the world of Karneval, Maikanagi-san manages to flesh out a very rich universe that I can just sense will get bigger and even more elaborate. Terms such as "The Circus", "Kafka" and "Varuga" are all bandied around as though the reader should know what they mean. To begin with, you don't. I feel as though this is to ensure that the opening acts flow at a reasonable pace and as a result, you don't feel too bogged down in the minutiae of who is who and what is what. After a couple of quick introductions you soon understand who Circus and Kafka are and what role they will play in the forthcoming story.
The art is generally of a good quality with character designs being the most impressive feature. All of the characters are distinguishable from one another and are reasonably unique. What is noticeable are the amount of costume changes during the course of just a few chapters. Out characters aren't relegated to a single costume throughout the entire story. I appreciate this feature more than I thought I ever would. Before reading Karneval, I never really noticed how weird it is for guys like Naruto and Edward Elric to own only one outfit. Surely they'd get a bit smelly! The background art is sadly lacklustre but may improve in the following volumes. At times it can take a couple of volumes before a series makes enough sales to justify the use of assistants who illustrate the majority of backgrounds. Even with the lack of backgrounds the character art is more than good enough to give it a pass mark overall.
Karneval is one of those series that I would have missed out one if not released locally by our pals at Madman. Personally, I feel as though Karneval fills a void that lay somewhere between books like the shonen Naruto and shojo Vampire Knight. It's not a girly girl tale and its not full of meaningless action, it sits somewhere in the middle and after only one volume, I can already tell that its going to get even better.