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"Karin: The Complete Series": Unvampire Show Sires Smiles

by on June 4, 2009

A short summary of Karin sounds like something Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force might tell Meatwad:

“She’s a unvampire! Her bite injects blood in you, and you feel better because of it.”

However, from that seemingly silly premise comes a surprisingly endearing romantic comedy. Karin Maaka would seem to be your usual Japanese school girl, except that she and her family are vampires. However, as I said, she’s not your usual vampire. She’s an unvampire who literally gives blood to her victims, the result is they feel energized by her donation. The problem is she doesn’t want to run around biting people, especially since unlike her parents and her lecherous older brother she keeps a normal schedule, goes to high school, and thus is out during the day. So she ends up trying to hold in her craving to give blood. However, whenever she senses misfortune in someone (i.e., someone who could use an emotional boost from her blood) her blood production spikes, and not biting someone can result in a nosebleed. Outside of a few traumatic incidences that are gradually explained during the course of the series, she rarely has trouble with this. Sure, she feels compelled to bite the occasional person on the way home from school, but her not-yet-fully-matured vampire sister, Anju, can usually wipe the memory of anyone Karin bites.

That effective if awkward status-quo is thrown into panic when a new student comes to class: the perpetually down-on-his-luck Kenta Usui. Between his mom’s penchant for constantly losing jobs due her bosses constantly sexually harassing her (that itself being an interesting side thread in the series,) and Kenta’s brutal work schedule, he’d not even been fed decently, let alone in a position to feel fortunate, right? So, Karin’s life becomes a lot more interesting. She bites Kenta’s mom, turning her personality sunny even though she’s still having no luck with jobs. Karin eventually has to fess up to Kenta about what’s going on as they both work in the same restaurant, and the apartment complex Kenta lives in is at the bottom of the hill where Karin’s house is. Her parents stress and worry about this situation, but ultimately come around on it. Thus, out of this slowly comes a friendship: Karin makes Kenta bento box lunches to keep him from feeling down in school, Kenta helps clean up/and cover when Karin has an insane nosebleed. Again, a new status-quo is formed…

…which is thrown into panic by the arrival of the ironically named Winner Sinclair, a young vampire hunter who has come to Japan to hunt the Marker family down. And, well, the series ends up being a series of different fires caused by different additional characters, and that are being constantly put out until a massive climax where Karin is forced to choose between being herself or being a real vampire: the blood sucking kind. I won’t spoil the denouement, but I will say it was satisfying though a little schmaltzy.

I’ll be straight: I wasn’t expecting much from Karin. I’d only ever caught bits and pieces before, and the OP may be one of the most unrepresentative of a show’s content I’ve seen in a while. However, it was quite entertaining, and it never feels slow. If anything, the episodes seem to breeze by. It manages to balance the episodic with a solid continuity and a surprisingly rich mythology. It doesn’t necessarily delineate every detail of how vampirism in this series works, but it didn’t leave me feeling like there were loose threads either. The characterization is at points a little one-dimensional: snooty, demanding moms and over-protective fathers never seem to be short supply in any medium, and the gothic lolita fashion and tsundere attitude of Anju are old hat by this point, though when the series came out in 2005, it was probably somewhat unique. But the characterization is never bad either. Even Winner Sinclair, who really had the potential to just come off annoying by the nature of his character archetype, ends up somewhat sympathetic by the time all is said and done.

On the technical side, Karin keeps things just as solid. While there weren’t any real wow moments in the animation, I was never once jarred by any glaring errors either. No shotty compositing, no random cheats, no awkward tweens or poses—just simple, solid delivery. Considering even some top-notch, high-budget series have over-reached at points, resulting in moments where the suspension of disbelief is ruined, the fact that Karin kept everything at a specific level of quality may actually be noteworthy. Now, the voice acting work from both casts requires you enjoying your typical “high-strung, perpetually nerve-wracked” schoolgirl voice amongst other VA clichés. If you don’t buy into Karin’s English VA, the Japanese isn’t going to be much if any better. Still, it was just fine to listen to as a seasoned anime viewer, and the music underpinning the vocal work was subtle but effective. The DVDs were also nicely done, though, as typical of Geneon series, even the Funimation reissues are light on extras.

Now, the loads of blood rules Karin out for kids, but teens through adults would probably get a good laugh out of it, and if anything it might give parents addled by their teen’s obsession with Twilight or Vampire Knight something to watch together. I could end on some trite pun about this being a vampire show that doesn’t suck, but really, Karin is a welcome infusion of humor with a sweet tinge of romance and a dash of action. Like one of Karin’s lunches, Karin: The Complete Series is a series any person would want to sink there teeth into.

…Ah, so much for dodging vampire puns.

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