October is a time to face one's fears, and I think this October is a good time to face one of my own: my fear of lousy vampire manga. I've come across far too many in my decade of manga blogging. Can today's review hope to break that curse?
CHIBI VAMPIRE (Karin), by Yuna Kagesaki. First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2006.
Karin Maaka is a little different from the rest of her family. She's a cheerful girl who sleeps by night and attends work and school during the day. That might not sound strange to you, but that's very strange when you come from a family of vampires like Karin does.
Honestly, aside from the fangs and a bit of discomfort every month, Karin is pretty much like any other girl (much to her family's despair). Then Kenta Usui walks into her life and everything changes. Her family's form of vampirism is triggered by strong human emotion, with each member triggered by one particular form. In Karin's case it is unhappiness, and Usui has it in spades. Her power causes her not to suck blood but spew it from her nose unless she can inject it into a human through biting. Karin could solve her problem and allieviate her crush's troubles, but she's genuinely smitten with him and doesn't want to reveal her secret or turn him into a thrall. What's a reverse vampire to do in a situation like this?
I have to admit that Chibi Vampire does provide some clever twists on vampire romance, even if it clearly owes a lot to the 1980s shojo classic Tokimeki Tonight. Karin isn't an angsty, seductive creature - she's just a normal, charming, sweet-tempered girl with a few odd quirks. She's a fairly standard shojo heroine (even if this was originally published in a shonen magazine). I also enjoyed the notion of her creating blood instead of stealing it and tying it fairly seamlessly to the tired old gag about horny nosebleeds. It's certainly a more comfortable fit than Kagesaki's attempts to tie vampirism and menstruation together.
It's a good thing that Karin herself is charming because the rest of her family is pretty dull. Her parents are straight out of a sitcom, with her mother being overbearing and her father being a pushover. Her siblings are a little better, between her slutty older brother Ren and her mature-for-her-age younger sister Anju. Alas, her love interest is no better. We're told he's unhappy and he's certainly got a few causes to be that way, but we get no sense of that from Usui's internal monologue (which makes Karin's attraction all the more inexplicable).
Alas, this is one of those plots where everyone's problem could be solved in five minutes but no one allows it to happen. Karin could very easy bite Usui, removing his unhappiness with her vampiric blood injection, and erase his memory for good measure. She's too smitten to dare do such a thing, even if this means having her nose gush blood like a broken hydrant on the regular. Others could intervene, but they let things slide because it will make things "interesting." It feels like a bad sign that the mangaka is already having to find excuses to stretch things out in the first volume.
The art is pleasant enough, if rather generic. Kagesaki's approach to their art is very workmanlike, from the character designs to the backgrounds to the panel layouts. It's telling that the most distinct visual quality Chibi Vampire possesses are the goofy, pointy hairstyles that Karin and her family possess. Even the (mostly forgotten) anime adaptation did things like turning Karin's nosebleeds into symbolic red flowers or cause a blood rainbow!
There are a few omakes, with one about how the mangaka came up with this manga in the first place and another about Anju's creepy doll collection.
The translation is...well, it's your standard free-and-fancy Tokyopop-style one. I don't object to it for the most part, but I'm pretty sure that nobody was calling Usui's mom a MILF in the original Japanese.
This series is published by Viz, and previously published by Tokyopop. This series is complete in Japan with 14 volumes available. The physical volumes are currently out of print; the series is available digitally via Viz.
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