by Theron Martin,

Chibi Vampire

GN 14

Chibi Vampire GN 14
While Calera and Anju do some further research into the Psyche using James's journal, Henry, Ren, and Kenta (and independently Elda) speed in the direction of Brownlick Mansion, where they believe Karin to be held. Along the way Kenta continues to be guided by an image of Karin that only he can see, one who calls herself Sophia, can touch him, and appears differently to one other who does see her at one point. Meanwhile, Karin discovers that yet another requirement (beyond just dying and having her blood drained for the sake of vampirekind) is being foisted upon her, one which helps make Yuriya realize that, no matter how she may feel about her uncle or Karin and Kenta's relationship, the situation is just too unfair. Climactic conflicts abound as Karin gets rescued, but that alone will not free her from her fate as the Font of Psyche. Ultimately that is something that only Kenta can do, but what will that mean for his future with Karin and how will that affect the rest of the Marker clan?

In the end notes, manga-ka Yuna Kagesaki comments that she had the conclusion and basic story for the series planned out from the beginning, and that shows in this final volume. This is not a hastily tacked-on resolution or a stretch job to fill up space; it paces out exactly right, with about half of this extra-long volume being used to bring the major conflict to a climax and most of the rest used to fully resolve the Kenta/Karin relationship and deal with its consequences. It even wraps up with a few pages showing What Happens After. Along the way it throws in enough meatiness to give a full depth of emotion to the final relationship developments, resulting in a conclusion that should be highly satisfying to long-time fans even though one heartbreaking final twist also gives it a somewhat melancholy feel.

The final few chapters do offer a few twists and surprises, although in each case the twists are logical results of long-established circumstances and character behavior patterns. The true identity of the image of Karin whom only Kenta can see is revealed, and it more or less is what readers might anticipate it to be given what was revealed in volume 13, although its full nature is a little more complicated and its origin is the volume's weakest point. The additional requirement made of Karin should not be too surprising, given the nature of the Font of Psyche, but that could probably also count as a twist. Ren's ultimate role in the attack on the Brownlicks takes an amusingly unexpected but still fully in-character direction (and with appropriate consequences!), as does one matter involving Anju's stuffed animals. Other regular characters undertake generally typical behaviors, too, although Maki only has a minimal appearance.

This being the final volume, the big issue, of course, is its handling of the conclusion. Kagesaki may be conveniently overlooking a detail or two concerning her established unique vampire lore, but that does not lessen the impact of Kenta and Karin reuniting or the final decision the Markers make concerning their long-term relationship. Although the latter is, in many ways, terribly sad, it is the decision which had to be made and the only one that makes any real sense. Its consequences, and the final disposition of Sophia, linger into the What Happens After part. Kagesaki handles that content with suitable aplomb, resulting in some of the best writing in the entire series.

Kagesaki's artistry, while not bad and certainly visually distinct, has never been her strongest point, and that does not change here. A couple of key action scenes are hard to follow, especially ones involving the bats, and character designs are not always as sharp as they could be. Nicely-colored cover art partly makes up for that, though, and Kagesaki can certainly not be accused of mimicking anyone else's style.

As with all other volumes in the series, Tokyopop leaves the sound effects untranslated, which is a minor problem in a couple of places. Wrapping up the volume are the traditional behind-the-scenes four-panel strips and a less traditional four page “20 years later” installment which fleshes out the series' final scenes just a little more. Following both is a 20 page preview of the upcoming Deadman Wonderland manga series.

With this volume one of the most unusual and distinctive of all manga vampire stories draws to a close. Rarely before has such a fresh take on vampire lore been done, and that will certainly be missed. Teen romances – even ones heavily tinged with the supernatural – seldom have too long a life expectancy before they start dragging, and this one wisely wraps up before that can happen. As teen human/vampire romances go it will probably always be overshadowed by Twilight and the Angel-focused seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but it makes a nice alternative.

Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B-

+ Just about every major story thread resolution which doesn't involve Maki.
Reasons behind Sophia's existence, some action scenes are visually hard to follow.

Story & Art: Yuna Kagesaki

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