Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chibi Vampire: The Manga Formerly Known as Karin

I'm not complaining about the choice to change the name of "Karin" to "Chibi Vampire" for its American release. If it wasn't for that, I probably would have never read the books. I find it hard to pass up a cute vampire story however, so here we are.

Chibi Vampire is a 14-volume manga series written by Yuna Kagesaki and released by TokyoPop (so that means it's out of print now). Luckily, Amazon's to the rescue. Here is the link to all the books in the series through a variety of Amazon sellers:


Sorry about the lack of a picture, it's a search page link so no pictures. Here's one of the first cover:

This series is cute and features a fantastic male lead that is so not a douchebag it's refreshing to say the least.

The eponymous Karin is a reverse vampire whose blood fills to overflowing whenever she is around someone unhappy and must bite and inject her blood instead of stealing it from the owner.

All the vampires in this story are attracted to people with blood of a certain sort and whenever that blood is drained or injected as the case may be, instead of rising as undead horrors, whatever malady attracted the vampire to them in the first place (unhappiness, liars, stress, loneliness, etc) is temporarily vanished (pretty much like someone who's been heart-broken in Ni no Kuni: Rise of the White Witch, except here it's only temporary).

I really enjoyed most things in this series, but Kenta Usui really stands out as not being a douchebag male lead, in spite of having a rather uninspired character design (which nevertheless provides some humor throughout the series as most characters make fun of his beady eyes):
I know I've said that already, but it's pretty absurd how bad male characters usually are in anime and manga like this. Either they're a jerk that the female leads fall for (because of his jerkiness of course, err...I mean his sensitive core that he doesn't share with everyone...because he's such a jerk), they're kind-hearted but hopelessly inept and clumsy, or he's a raging pervert that people say is kind-hearted in spite of his raging perviness.

Here we have an upstanding citizen of a character that may not always make the right choices, but he definitely works hard and doesn't expect good fortune to magickally come his way. It's refreshing.

Actually though, Karin is inept and clumsy and her embarrassments are off the chart. So although we have a relatively well-adjusted male lead, the female lead makes up for it. She gets embarrassed over practically everything, but apparently this is a moe? She's a cute girl in personality, actions and appearance, and it is a little frustrating some of the situations she gets thrown into because of her embarrassment, but I suppose that's one of the driving plot points.
The images above are both from the anime, which I have not gotten a chance to see (and probably won't as it's a whopping $140 on Amazon.com), but the character designs are basically unchanged.

Her relationship with her family is interesting and it's nice to see the stress placed on them to take care of the aberrant Karin and how this affects her interactions with them.

After the first story arc is completed (satisfactorily, by the way), the series starts to lose its way, but by this time you've probably become addicted to the characters and are very interested in how they are going to move forward. An apparently planned prophecy comes forward to explain the aberrant and external conflict ensues to throw a monkey wrench into everything.

I say, apparently planned because the mangaka stated at the end that she had planned the end from the beginning, but it seems sudden and not really hinted at all in the first story arc of the series. By the end, your emotional investment does pay off and you are rewarded with both happy and sad endings.

As an aside, there are side stories released as novels. I've read through the first four and have access to one more so I plan on reading that as well, but as side stories they can't ever really do anything to advance the plot, and their plots rarely show up as more than a cameo or an aside in the manga. They're all interesting once you're hooked on the characters, but I felt their formulaic add-a-character-or-two-with-their-own-issues-for-a-plot-that-the-characters-of-the-manga-can-experience-without-moving-forward-their-own-plot tiring by the end of the fourth.

In fact, by the third, I was somewhat surprised that it was still being used. Apparently, there are 8 or 9 of these novels (similarly out-of-print, but an Amazon search will turn up most).

I really enjoyed these characters, and even the secondary vampire characters making up her family. Anju shines especially (and clearly on purpose), but by the end of the series the connection between them all is as apparent as it is between any family and was very touching.

Anju

Everything from Karin's relationship with her childhood friend, Maki, the burgeoning relationship between Kenta and Karin, Karin's family relationship, Kenta's family relationship, the economical duress experienced by Kenta especially, all of it; it was very well done. Impressive even. The relationships were great.

There was a lot of room left open for a sequel, but this apparently isn't even being discussed. Not that I have faith that they could pull it off. I think most creators do very well with their first run, but the longer they try to pump a creation the less it becomes. I would love to see additions to this tale, or even the tale retold with some of my pet peeves taken care of and I may go try to explore and see if there are any good fanfictions of it, but I truly enjoyed my time with Chibi Vampire and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys manga, especially supernatural romantic comedy/drama manga.

B+

Note: Images belong to their respective owners are not in any way property of myself. If I get around to some fan-art, I'll be sure to post though!