Karin Maaka is a vampire, except not quite. She's attending school, walking around in broad daylight, doesn't seem to be having problems with garlic and other things that makes her a bit of an oddity in the vampire family. And there's another thing, an embarrassing secret. She's a blood maker. Instead of needing to feed on blood, Karin actually produces blood that she injects into people when she bites them. And if she waits too long, then embarrassing things will happen.
Wow, and here I thought Ryoga Hibiki had some kickass nosebleeds. Karin, if she waits too long in... er, getting it off her chest, practically becomes a fountain of red paint.
And that's the main topic of today's story.... almost.
Incidentally, the whole vampire schtick is actually one of the elements that sets Karin above most of the "normal" dating/romance shows I've been partial to over the last couple of years. (Most of them has been through synchro sessions, which should tell you all about the average quality of said genre.) The.... ah, Maaka family is quite an interesting bunch, seemingly consisting of Groovy Ghoulies leftovers as far as her parents go. And, of course, she has siblings in a womanizing older brother and a quiet, introverted little sister.
Karin is maybe a LITTLE bit too close to the traditional female love interest, which might detract from the show for many of you out there. Bubbly, slightly ditzy personality. Spazzy and domestic too (though on the latter, I guess the explanation comes from the rest of the family not really eating all that much, which leaves her pretty much fending for herself in that area.) And fanboys out there, rejoice; the anime has for some reason seen fit to upgrade her breasts several cup sizes, something that becomes blatantly obvious in the later episodes (as well as each and every opening animation.) I'm not saying the show is particularly dirty, just.... well, occationally fanservicey, mostly in the last half.
But what is a romantic anime without a love interest. Enter Usui Kenta, who just moved in together with his mother. At odds with the usually perverted, clumsy or stupid male leads (or all of the above), he's actually quite capable and dependable, which is nice to see for a change. Naturally, it doesn't take him long to learn Karin's secret, and, naturally, he doesn't see any problems with helping her to keep it a secret. He's fairly tall, though, and would probably come across as somewhat scary to most people at first glance, which -- again -- is a nice contrast to the regular spineless wimp you normally get in roles like this. He even seems to do well in school. Sadly, his private life -- mostly concerning his mother -- doesn't go quite as well, though, and causes him no small amount of stress and... well, not outright depression, but fairly regular bouts of sadness.
Which is to become the root of Karin and Usui's relationship; when Karin learns her preference in blood. You see, all vampires has a certain preference in blood. Her mother's, for instance, is liars and deceivers. So, naturally, blood from a person who spends most of his or hers life lying to themselves or others will work better on her. I'm sure you can see where this is going in regard to Karin, right? Indeed, her preferance is sadness and stress, which starts the whole thing off when Karin finds out and realizes she has to keep Usui happy at school, lest things get really inconvenient (not to mention embarrassing) fast.
Maybe the whole vampire/nosebleed angle is why Karin doesn't get really tiresome really fast. The relationship between the two is actually quite..... normal, and Karin manages to avoid falling into the typical traps in shows like this: using cheap gags and boob grabs. Like I mentioned, the show isn't particularly dirty, and it earns plus points just for that. What's more, unlike most romance shows, the relationship between Karin and Usui does take nearly the entire show to develop, instead of just being resolved in the first couple of episodes and then relying on misunderstandings and dumb coincidences to keep things going until the end of the show. In other words, the natural flow of events keeps things running smoothly and nothing feel forced at any point.
But what is a romantic comedy without rivals, and this is where Karin shoots itself in the foot by introducing Winner Sinclair; a true buffoon if I ever saw one. I did say that Karin and Usui's relationship proceeds normally throughout the entire show, and I stand by those words. This is mainly because the show itself makes it blatantly obvious that Winner will never be anything more than an irritating distraction. First and foremost, he's a VAMPIRE HUNTER, which makes it all the more ironic when he takes ONE look at Karin, and proceeds to profess his love in horrible, horrible Engrish, spoken in a manner that would make William Shatner weep tears of joy. Even throughout the rest of the show, he speaks partially Japanese and partially Engrish in a combination that will piss off most of the audience and make it very, very clear that he's not there to win anyone over, or even come anywhere NEAR that goal. Thankfully, his role in this anime wasn't as big as I feared when he first made his appearance, but he is still a complete waste of screentime at pretty much almost the entire show, simply for not being funny in the slightest. It took the show's ENDING for me to return my feelings for that characters to a somewhat neutral position.
Art and animationwise, Karin's actually quite a sweet show. As I mentioned, Karin's quite a... *cough* ...boobastic girl, and she's not quite the only one. Given the slightly charicaturical nature of the art, this isn't really all that big of a deal. Animation generally flows well, and makes for some rather nice looking action scenes every now and then, in particular near the end. Bonus points also go to character designs for not coming across as generic at all, though that might partially have to do with the fact that half of the most prominently featured cast are vampires. Usui Kenta on the other hand has seemingly inherited Lisa Simpson's hairdo, and while he looks quite less scarier than his manga self, doesn't -- as I mentioned -- look like your typical anime romantic lead. Aurally, the show isn't particularly notable. The intro theme is fairly boring, and the ending theme is just a little bit better. (Probably because it stole Bubble Bobble's bass line.) In-series music is mostly forgettable. Voice acting is generally decent, mostly in Karin's case, actually, who seems to do her role well. As for Winner Sinclair.... the less I think about HIS manner of speech, the better. Be thankful he's not as much in the show as you might fear.
I like this show, and I will definitely be trying to track down the manga. (Which is being released by Tokyopop as "Chibi Vampire" for some unexplainable reason.) As for this series, I do recommend it, as long as you take my warnings to heart. It's a worthwhile show, especially for the romantics out there (despite a rather corny ending) with some likable characters (mostly) and a fairly decent if slightly cliche'd storyline. The appearance and character of Winner does drag it down significantly, as does the rather large amount of angst appearing right out of nowhere near the end, though let it be said that it could have been even worse than this. A LOT worse. As it stands, I recommend you to try it out.
I'm actually pulling off one star for one seriously annoying character addition and for all the angsting near the end. If you think I'm making a big deal out of this, add one star and enjoy the show still. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There are some fights, and, as this is a vampire show, some stabbings with poles and neckbiting. As far as I know, though, this show has no onscreen deaths. And most of the blood in this show comes out of Karin's nose (which is actually a substantial amount).
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Karin © 2006 J.C. Staff / WOWOW
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