Reviewby Theron Martin,
Chibi Vampire: Bites
The universe of Karin/Chibi Vampire from all three of its release formats (manga, anime, and novels) gets examined in great detail in this collection of supplementary material. Included here are detailed character profiles, location descriptions, specifics on vampire lore, a novel sampler, and assorted sketches and fan poll results.
When the U.S. release of Chibi Vampire (aka Karin in Japan) ended in late 2009, the ending was as definitive as fans could have hoped for. Even so, this release, which is also known as the “Official Art Book,” is the second volume of supplementary material to pop up since then, and perhaps even moreso than the previously-reviewed Airmail, this volume struggles to justify its comparatively high ($12.99) retail price.
Without question, the volume is packed with details about various aspects of the franchise, as nearly every one of its first 165 pages is brimming with descriptions, polls, and/or illustrations; the remaining 27 pages are an extended preview of Aion, manga-ka Yuna Kagesaki's newest effort. Those who have only followed the franchise through one or two of its release formats will find a plethora of information present here to get them caught up on what they have missed elsewhere, though the story details are scattered throughout this volume in assorted tidbits. Nothing that is shown here will reveal anything new to anyone who has kept up with all of the franchise's stories, but this release's biggest value comes in bringing all of it together in one place. Want a breakdown of important characters in the novels vs. the anime vs. the manga and how things differ between the anime and manga? You can find it here. Want details on the various locations around the city of Shihaba? Present. Want to know background details about both the Marker and Usui families? Also here, although not in their entirety. Want to know what scenes and characters ranked high in fan polls in categories like Favorite, Most Embarassing, In Trouble, and In Love scenes? This will suit your tastes.
Some of the entries resemble Extras one might typically find on a DVD or in the supplementary material in a regular manga release. Clusters of design sketches for both main and supporting characters are spaced in throughout the volume, which also contains two flowcharts – one for the novels and anime and one for the manga – detailing all of the character relationships. A map of Shihaba opens the section on setting locations, while the section which discusses various vampire blood tastes includes both a flowchart and a table to help readers determine which vampires are and are not attracted to the blood types of certain characters. Also present is a short excerpt from one of the novels. Far less typical are the collections of hypothetical side conversations involving nameless characters who are not directly involved in the main storylines but might have heard or witnessed something about the main characters; these are, by far, the volume's freshest offerings. Another section reprints fan anecdotes about their own most embarrassing moments and nosebleeds.
For all the wealth of content present, though, there's one huge problem about the timing of this release: it does not cover the whole franchise. The U.S. release of the entire franchise except for the eighth and (as-yet-unreleased) ninth novels predate this volume, but it was apparently released in Japan right after the anime series concluded and between the releases of the eighth and ninth manga volumes (i.e. mid-2006), as it only covers details up through volume eight of the manga, the fifth novel, and the entire anime series. A work like this being released now and yet not covering the final six manga volumes – and thus the story's resolution and revelation of the truth behind all of its big secrets – is a massive deficiency which seriously undercuts the value and relevancy of this volume for up-to-date fans.
Tokyopop does its usual strong job with the cover, though its newsprint-link paper quality leaves a bit to be desired, and all of the illustrations are standard Kagesaki fare. The excerpt from Aion shows some promise in its story even though its character designs show too little separation from the style used in Chibi Vampire. The novel excerpt is a complete throwaway, though.
The ultimate question, then, is whether or not this volume is a justifiable purchase for Karin / Chibi Vampire completists. The maps, charts, setting details, and character profiles are handy, and the side commentary can be interesting to read, but the poor timing hurts too much and the ratio of filler to worthy material is much too high. It ultimately may be a much more valuable and useful read for someone who has only skimmed the surface of the franchise so far (for example, someone who has only watched the anime) and is interested in knowing more before delving further into the franchise.
Overall : C
+ Collects details from all aspects of the franchise, useful maps and charts.
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