Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 21st 2008
Life is starting to become more comfortable for Karin. She and Kenta have finally confessed their feelings and resolved the issues that temporarily separated them, allowing them to finally act like a real couple, and in the half-vampire Yuriya Tachibana she has found somewhat of a kindred spirit: another abnormal vampire who can safely walk the day world. That Yuriya also disapproves of her relationship with Kenta is only a minor concern in these blissful days - days which come to an abrupt end when Elda awakens again! As scornful as she is of humans and forming relationships with them, how will she react when she not only learns about Yuriya's existence and Karin's love for Kenta, but also the secret that Karin has been hiding from her grandmother about her real nature? Even worse, what doom might Elda's dire revelation about the progeny of humans and vampires bring to the young lovers' relationship?
While Karin, the anime version, has finally resumed its American release after a long absence, the manga version has continued to steadily chug along, advancing its take on the story of the curiously defective teen vampire in a decidedly different direction than the anime ever goes. With the main arc about the troubles between Kenta and Karin having finally come to at least a temporary resolution, something else is needed to generate further complications. That needed element comes in the form of Yuriya.
First introduced in volume 8 and revealed to be a half-vampire in volume 9, Yuriya is a character exclusive to the manga. Although she does seem to be involved in some kind of half-hearted scheming, Yuriya is less a direct instigator of trouble than an indirect catalyst, a means to create situations which allow for further expansions of the series' unique take on vampire lore. Her presence provides an excuse for Elda to bring up one of the big heretofore-unrevealed complications to a vampire/human relationship and creates the circumstances for the big reveal scene that Karin managed to avoid the last time Elda popped up (back in volume 5), a scene which any longtime reader has probably been expecting. That scene results in the contemplation of some issues about Karin that are certainly logical extensions of Karin's peculiar defectiveness but tread into a territory that the story has not previously explored. They definitely raise some intriguing concerns that will seem so obvious by the end of the volume that many fans may kick themselves for not having considered them before.
Yuriya is actually not that interesting a character on her own, though, thus the return of the anything-but-dull Elda is quite timely. She displays a decidedly harder and more ruthless edge here than she ever does in the anime, and the backstory of hers shown in the bonus chapter is dramatically different than the tale she tells Karin in episode 16 of the anime version. Even the heavier and more serious overtones her presence bring to the story do not entirely quash the story's sense of fun, however; the humorous side of this Comedy/Horror still has its chances to shine through, albeit infrequently.
Over the course of the manga's run manga-ka Yuna Kagesaki has made a habit of including a bonus chapter every other volume, with these side chapters used to elaborate on the backstory of an important character. In the past these have generally been just fleshing-out tales, but in this case the story “The Unknown Land and Elda's Sadness” carries greater significance. In describing how Elda came to flee Europe for Japan and hook up with her husband-to-be James, the chapter not only explains more about Elda's attitude towards humans but also elaborates further on a previously-unrevealed mystery in the vampire lore of the world Kagesaki has created, a mystery which may have a direct relevance to the main plot. The much shorter second follow-up story, which focuses on Yuriya, firmly refocuses the content to its more humorous side, as do a few pages of other short bits, including one which suggests the real reason why R.E.N. is so hard on Karin. (And again, it makes perfect sense once you think about it.) A few four-panel strips and a Next Volume preview further round out the volume, while a brief story background and character profiles open up the volume, as per the norm.
Kagesaki's distinctive artistic style has remained consistent over the course of the series, and that proves true in this volume, too. Compared to the work of many other manga-ka, the artistry here looks a bit bigger and, while not necessarily dark, makes ample used of heavy shading, especially in clothing. Careful use of facial expression always makes it abundantly clear to the reader whether Karin or Elda is being depicted despite their nearly identical features, and Kagesaki works in some nice detail in clothing and hair styles. This may not be the cleanest or prettiest manga artistry out there, but it has its own appeal. This volume does offer a few instances of ill-defined nudity and a hair more violence than the norm, but does not use either extensively.
Tokyopop's production offers a dark but nicely-colored cover and untranslated sound effects. The volumes they produced may be a bit on the short side compared to the norm for manga releases, but this one offers content that is no less entertaining or satisfying for those who have been following the series so far. Kagesaki has, so far, managed to keep enough fresh twists drifting in to maintain an interesting story, and has done so again here. Not spectacular, but definitely good enough.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ More intriguing developments, further revelations about vampire lore.
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