9 Days of Vampires (or “How I learned to love Chibi Vampire/Karin all over again”)

Okay, I’m officially vampire’d out for a while. I’ve been on a 9-day binge of anime, manga, and light novels focusing on vampires. It was part of an effort to catch up on unwatched fansubs and DVDs. The last nine days have been like this:

Friday – Dance in the Vampire Bund manga 1
Saturday – DitVB manga 2-4
Sunday – DitVB manga 5-6
Monday – DitVB anime 1-5, Chibi Vampire novel 1
Tuesday – CV novel 2-3, CV manga 4
Wednesday – CV novel 4
Thursday – CV novel 5, CV manga 5-8
Friday – CV manga 9-14, Karin Airmail scanlations, Karin anime 1-10
Saturday – Karin anime 11-24, DitVB anime 6

Busy, busy, busy. So yeah, I finally caught up on Dance in the Vampire Bund and I’m now waiting for weekly fansub releases and the official manga releases. I also managed to catch up on Chibi Vampire/Karin, a series that I liked, but put on the back-burner for so long I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back to it again. I’ve already posted my opinions on the Dance in the Vampire Bund anime so far (and my opinions of the manga are much higher), so I’d like to take an opportunity to talk about Chibi Vampire/Karin this time.

So Karin was brought over by Tokyopop as Chibi Vampire, hence all the silly name/name stuff I’ve been doing up to now. The manga and light novels used the new name to avoid confusion with another of their properties, Kamichama Karin. The anime, however, retained the original name in its distribution by Geneon (and later FUNimation under Geneon’s license). It comes in three wonderful flavors: Original Manga, Side-Story Light Novel, and Some Stuff Was Changed Anime.

This series focuses on the Maaka family, a family of vampires who migrated to Japan long ago after being driven from their old country along with several other vampire clans. Their original name was Marker, and the father and mother of the family, Henry and Calera, as well Henry’s mother, Elda, have kept this name. The children, however, were born in Japan and integrate with human society until their vampiric awakening, and so they use the name Maaka. The children are the older brother Ren, the younger sister Anju, and the middle child, our lovely heroine Karin. Karin, however, isn’t like other vampires. Instead of sucking blood, she produces too much and has to inject it into someone else by biting them. She also doesn’t have any of the usual weaknesses of vampires, allowing her to roam during the day, opposite the nocturnal nature of the rest of her family. She also has none of their strengths, possessing only normal smell, hearing, and night vision, is unable to manipulate bats, and can’t wipe the memories of humans (which makes biting them problematic). However, the problem with having to inject blood only occurs once a month. After a boy named Kenta Usui appears, things begin to change. Something about Kenta triggers Karin’s blood rushes far earlier than expected, causing problems for her. After she finds out that her “blood affinity” is for misfortune, she begins her goal of trying to make Kenta happy so that she won’t react to him and her life can go back to normal. Standard comedy series hijinks occur.

Initially, I followed the series through the release of the first three volumes in English. However, my time to read manga sort of dwindled in the face of other things, namely other hobbies. I loved the series, but I just kept buying it without reading it. I eventually finished buying the manga and light novels last year, as well as the complete collection of the anime upon its release. Having taken the time to read it all, I have a new-found respect for the series that far surpasses how much I liked it before.

Manga – This is, without a doubt, the best version of the series. If you only check it out in one aspect, make this it. The manga is absolutely amazing. It has a little bit of everything, but most importantly, it actually focuses on the characters. There’s a lot of coverage of the relationships between Karin and those around her, and it’s quite interesting. It runs 14 volumes (and a side-story chapter that’s mostly unrelated to the main story (“Karin Airmail”)) and all of them are officially available in English (except, unfortunately, Karin Airmail). This is, of course, the main story and is the most complete of all Karin works. Oh, and if you see Tokyopop’s volume 1 in stores with a reverse printed cover (as seen above), don’t flip out. There was some weird printing error and the cover is printed in left-to-right format, but the content inside is still in the original right-to-left Japanese format.

Light Novel – The light novels are written by a different author but illustrated by the series creator. They are written as side-stories that occur during gaps in the manga. They’re also canon. There isn’t much coverage of them in the manga, but there are direct references made to volumes 1 and 4 and they had direct approval from the series creator before publication. In fact, she really seemed to enjoy them, given the little 4koma strips in the back of the manga volumes. They’re pretty good stories, but they seem quite drawn out sometimes, and they’re oddly GRIMDARK. Kidnap is a common theme, and in the very first light novel, Karin herself almost gets RAPED and KILLED. I mean, holy crap. Grimdark. Anyway, they’re pretty good. There are nine total volumes, but only five were released officially by Tokyopop before dropping the series during their restructuring in 2008. However, the series is resuming publication this year in April with volume six. Recommended if you want more Karin adventures.

Anime – Now the anime is pretty good. I’ll give it some credit. I have to take issue, however, with how much content was changed, especially during the latter half of the series. It’s better to think of the anime as a “re-imagining” or “retelling” than as a straight adaptation. It covers events through volume 5 or so, as well as a few events from much later in the series (some of which were oddly carried out by different characters entirely) and as a result, it never really makes it through much of Karin and Kenta’s relationship. Some of the original content is pretty exciting, though. Elda stays around after she wakes up for the rest of the series and has a few pretty epic fight scenes. Karin herself gets a pretty damn epic scene in the last episode. My biggest gripe with the anime is the Sinclair family, namely the one character we see for most of the series: Winner Sinclair. For a guy named Winner, he’s kind of a douchebagel for most of the show. He does, however, offer some pretty awesome Engrish moments.

Anyway, it’s a great series and I’d recommend a watch after you read the whole manga, if at all possible. The manga makes a much better impression and the anime serves better as a new take on it than as a Karin anime in general. Oh, and I do not recommend watching the dub. I watched the first few minutes of it and decided that valley girl Karin wasn’t for me. I watched the rest of it subbed, not even so much as hearing another character’s voice in English. It was fine, though. Karin sounded great, I wasn’t confident in their ability to not mess up Anju and Boogie-kun, and Winner’s crazy accent made his Japanese sound hilarious. Recommended, but again, preferably after the manga.

So yeah, anyway, I love the series all over again, and it’s definitely taking a top spot in my list of “Greatest Anime & Manga Series of All Time.” Highly recommended for anyone that hasn’t given it a shot.

Oh, and since this is officially kicking my Toradora Portable! localization support from the top of the page (though I’m planning on adding it to the sidebar soon), I’m going to plug that as well. Please give it your support.

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