Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 23rd 2006
Karin failed most of her tests due to her absences, so she's looking at lots of retakes, but even more of a concern is what to do about Kenta, the new student who seems to make her blood act up whenever he's around. While she puzzles out how to make Kenta happy without the situation degenerating into a sappy shojo manga, Kenta has concerns of his own. He's so poor that he's been skipping lunches, he's troubled by his mother's oddly energetic behavior, and he's trying to decide for himself whether or not Karin is a vampire. Both are thrown for a loop when Karin's younger sister Anju decides to push the matter along, a situation which results not only in Karin's secret coming out, but her family getting directly involved, too! What fate awaits Kenta when he learns of Karin's true nature?
One of the odder takes on vampire lore continues in a manga series that's now clearly leaning towards being a vampire-themed romantic comedy/drama. The premise is the biggest selling point: Karin is a vampire who produces too much blood rather than hungering for it, which means that she injects blood into people when she bites them rather than draining them. If she doesn't do it on a regular basis then she suffers from explosive nosebleeds when the extra blood wells up in her. Further, instead of making her “victims” feel weak, her bite has the unusual side effect of temporarily energizing them and making them feel like the person they want to be. This is partly because she takes away the stress of suffering from misfortune, which both draws her to a person and excites her (all vampires in this world have a particular unique taste, it seems). She is also an oddity among her vampire family in that she lacks certain common vampire traits, such as being able to wipe a person's memory, but can eat and enjoy normal foods and go out in the daytime without a problem. Regretfully, her weakness and basic incompetence at being a vampire means that her family – in particular her younger sister Anju – has to look out for her.
Since Kenta has a pretty hefty load of misfortune weighting him down, being around him a lot (at school and at job) is, of course, problematic, which is what much of the plot so far has been predicated upon. Given the events of the first volume, the second volume goes through the expected plot developments: Kenta more or less figures out what Karin is, Anju steps in and forces Karin's hand at revealing herself, and then Kenta gets dragged off by Karin's family for the anticipated trustworthiness test. And oh, yes, Karin finally gets around to making lunches for Kenta, despite her desire to avoid the situation turning into a “shojo manga cliché.” But that, of course, is the whole point: the story is constantly playing with typical shojo manga clichés and putting new spins on them. That's much of what maintains it as an interesting read despite the very predictable plotting.
Although it still has distinct comedic elements, this volume plays out more seriously than the first volume did. It also throws in a minor subplot involving a runaway who crosses paths with Karin on a couple of occasions, but where that might be going, and how relevant it may be to the main plotline, is unclear at this time. It is also a subplot that does not appear in the anime version.
Manga-ka Yuna Kagesaki uses common manga stylistic elements in her character designs, so much so that some of her characters are dead ringers for characters from other manga titles; Kenta is practically the twin of Seiji from Midori Days, for instance. Karin's look is more distinctive, and Anju has a classic “goth loli” look, but the only designs which truly stand out are Karin's almost cartoonish-looking parents. Despite the more generic traits, characters are still drawn cleanly and clearly enough that it's unlikely a reader will confuse them. Backgrounds, when present, have respectable detail, but that isn't often. Fan service is also almost totally lacking this time around.
In bringing the series originally titled Karin to the States, Tokyopop changed its name to Chibi Vampire. This move was doubtless precipitated both by the inclination to use a more marketable and descriptive name and to differentiate it from Kamichama Karin, an entirely unrelated magical girl manga series they are also releasing. Otherwise Tokyopop has remained as faithful as possible to the original. Their translation retains the Japanese sound effects, most of the original honorifics, and even some original Japanese terms like “onii-san.” It also provides a very nice color cover whose dark binding and background colors fit well with the faux-Gothic theme.
As with the first volume, included at the end are several four-panel bonus strips and page shots featuring Kagesaki in kinda-sorta “behind-the-scenes” material. Several concern the novelization of Karin, which was apparently done by a different writer and expands the concepts and characters in the manga beyond what Kagesaki had originally envisioned, but to her approval.
Despite its predictability, the second volume of Chibi Vampire is no less engrossing than the first. It will not disappoint those who read and liked the first volume and is likely to leave readers wanting more. Given that it's only the second volume in the series and eight volumes have already been released in Japan as of this writing, that's a good sign.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Writing puts enough of a new twist on standard plotting to keep it fresh and interesting.
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