Reviewby Theron Martin,
Cultural Festival time is approaching, and Kenta's scary eyes make him a perfect addition to the haunted house his and Karin's class have decided to make. A minor earthquake heralds the arrival of big trouble, however, and that trouble comes in the form of Elda Marker, Karin's grandmother and, except for longer hair and a bust several cup sizes smaller, her virtual twin. Keeping the secret of both her reverse-vampire nature and love for Kenta from her rambunctious grandma proves quite a challenge, but even bigger problems arise when Elda decides to crash the Cultural Festival seeking “young blood.” Later, the approach of Christmas puts both Karin and Kenta in costume to sell Christmas cakes while her parents foray north to attend an annual meeting of vampires.
The bonus story “James' Lie and Calera's Pride” describes the tumultuous initial meeting of Karin's parents.
No, you're not seeing some dark-and-light variation of Karin when you look at the main cover, although manga-ka Yuna Kagesaki admits on a bonus page that she had exactly that impression in mind when she designed Elda Marker. Her arrival temporarily juices up the storytelling by providing all sorts of new opportunities for conflict and comical hijinks, especially once it becomes clear that vampires can take the stereotypical mother-in-law/daughter-in-law antagonism to whole new levels. Her presence in the story also provides a convenient excuse to explain vampire immortality under this series' interpretation: although they are ageless, a vampire can die of natural causes if he loses the will to live or sleeps so long that he dries up. Unfortunately she only lasts in the picture for the first three chapters and the bonus story.
The other regular chapter, which involves the annual vampire conference, provides a different opportunity to explore vampire culture further. Complaints vampires make about how the diet of current humans affects the taste of their blood certainly amuse, but more interesting are the serious issues that vampires face, such as a distressingly low birth rate and how much Karin's parents stand out for having three kids. (Considering that real-world Japan has for years harbored concerns about its very low birth rate, one has to wonder if it was intended as a subtle bit of social commentary.) By comparison, the rest of the chapter is just run-of-the-mill seasonal and relationship fare, albeit with a bit of genuine feeling to it. The bonus story describing how Karin's grandfather James brought her mother Calera into the family travels down a predictable path but does explains how the power dynamics between Karin's parents developed. Notably, scenes of Karin with a nosebleed are entirely absent in this volume, and fan service is limited.
The artistry remains consistent with previous volumes: a somewhat cartoonish look which achieves its own unique visual style, detail on backgrounds where necessary, distinctive character designs, and lots of shading. That Elda looks the same as Karin except for the much longer hair and differences in bust size can be a bit disconcerting, as it is hard to reconcile how old she's supposed to be with her teenage look. The nicest surprises are the dashing look of James and the cutesier look of the younger Calera in the bonus story, which also features some great scene selections; the shot of Calera hitching up her dress to give Henry a dropping boot to the head is the best individual panel of the series to date.
The volume opens with a story summary and brief character intros and ends with a bonus page featuring Elda and a Next Volume preview. As with previous volumes, also tacked on are several pages of four-panel strips by Ms. Kagesaki, this time detailing the abysmal quality of the high school she attended, her lack of personal experience with school cultural festivals, and how she was so devoted to drawing manga that she pretty much ignored everything else. Tokyopop's production of the title offers a darkly-colored cover and untranslated sound effects.
Although none of the content here shines, it provides another volume of solid entertainment value in expanding on its unique vampire lore and extending its vampire variation on a typical teen romantic comedy. The main complaint against this installment is its length; even including the four-panel strips it only counts 167 pages and includes only four chapters of regular storytelling. It also includes some stories that are not in the animated version. Still, anyone who has followed the series to this point should not be disappointed.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Juicy new character, more insight into the series' unique vampire lore.
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