Reviewby Theron Martin,
A man has come to town who not only looks astonishingly similar to Kenta, but also seems to be seeking him and his mother. Is he the father Kenta has always refused to talk about? His appearance, and that of a detective sent by Fumio's mother, dredge up unpleasant memories for both Kenta and Fumio and give Karin an opportunity to learn more about Kenta's past. It also causes a crisis, and not just for the Usui family, as the troubles welling up in Kenta lead to Karin's worst nosebleed yet. When her family takes a stand on her continued relationship with Kenta, how will she be able to go on without the one person in her life that means the most to her? And how will Kenta react when he learns why she has problems around him?
Although generally a more light-hearted romantic comedy, the manga known in Japan as Karin has shown in previous volumes that it can, at times, muster a serious dramatic side. That side takes over completely in this volume as the content finally delves into the long-anticipated backstory of Kenta and his mother Fumio, explaining why their situation is the way it is, why Kenta has behaved the way he has in some past scenes, and how their past has suddenly collided with their present. It still musters its comic moments (the behavior of the detective in particular) and has further doses of the typical timidity in admitting feelings common to manga teen romances, but on the whole these chapters are concerned with much weightier matters.
At times the story takes on a soap opera-like feel, and little of what manga-ka Yuna Kagesaki has scripted does anything fresh or original; the ending scene in particular is one that has probably appeared in some variation in dozens of other manga. The revelations about Kenta and Fumio's past, and how they affect current events, give at least some depth to a series that has normally slid by on fluff, however, and answered long-standing questions about why Kenta and Fumio are in desperate circumstances and exactly how old Fumio really isn't. It also deals with sharper and trickier matters than the series has in the past, such as teen motherhood, abortion, and relatives refusing to acknowledge the product of an illegitimate birth, though this could hardly be considered an in-depth examination of any of those. Comic relief prevents the content from getting heavy for long, which in this case may actually be to the series' detriment.
With this volume the series also entirely diverges from its animated version, as no substantial amount of Kenta and Fumio's backstory ever came out in it, nor did any equivalent to the scene at the end of this volume take place. This will be an upside for those who did not care for the “vampire hunter” storyline in the anime, but the downside is that the manga now drags out the “I can't admit my feelings” aspect of the story to a tiresome degree.
Character designs maintain the cartoonish styling that has been the norm for the series so far, with Kenta's father looking just enough different to distinguish himself as a separate character. This volume makes heavier use of dark shading and computerized patterns than some previous volumes, but overall it conforms to the slightly-above-mediocre standards it established in earlier volumes.
Tokyopop continues its standard practice of not translating sound effects, which at times in this volume can be an obstruction to full understanding and appreciation of the content. They do include brief character profiles and a story summary in the front and several pages of four-panel strips by Kagesaki in the back which deal with various behind-the-scenes production matters. The well-colored pictures of Karin and Fumio on the black and maroon cover make for a nice advertising picture, but as with the past volume, this one offers only 167 pages of true content. (Any advertising claim that it is 192 pages is patently false, as it does not come close to that length even with advertisement pages added in.)
This vampire teen romantic comedy with a twist takes a seriously dramatic turn as it delves into the backstory of two key characters and confronts the biggest crisis yet to Karin and Kenta's relationship. It ends with a cliffhanger likely to inspire readers to come back for the next one, although the earlier content probably would have been sufficient. It will not dazzle, but is unlikely to disappoint.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Lots of heavy drama and important revelations.
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