Continuing with the anime fansubs I’ve been watching lately:
Karin: This is the second series that I am not sure why I watch(ed) it. Another manga adaptation, which happens far more frequently in Japan than it does here. You don’t need to take your shoes off (well, not more than one) to count the comic-to-movie or TV show adapations over the last quarter-century here, but in Japan, that many at once on TV isn’t unusual. Since the manga has just been imported to the US, it’s entirely possible that the show will be too far behind. Unlike Melancholy, I won’t be lining up to buy this one, even if I did watch 22 episodes of fansubs.
It’s not that it is a totally awful show. The art isn’t anything to give awards over, and the character design is a bit uninspired at times, but that’s probably due to the manga artist, not the anime, if the cover of the graphic novel is anything to go by. It starts off the first episode with a gothic horror sequence, involving a vampire biting — between kids, and in broad daylight, at that. Then it develops as a romantic comedy with a lot horror touches. The situation of the leads, Usui Kenta and Makaa Karin, keeps getting more and more complicated and interwined, slowly dragging in everyone around them. Then it all finally comes tumbling down like a house of cards and suddenly you’re watching a shoujo romance (a “tearjerker”). Angst-o-rama.
Warning! Minor spoilers ahead!!!
Karin is a teenage vampire in the first year of high school, but a nearly unprecedented mutant version. Instead of needing to suck blood, she generates her own–very rapidly. If she doesn’t bite people to transfuse her blood to them, she’ll have insanely huge nosebleeds. On top of her bizarre nature, just about everything we know about vampires is wrong. Running water doesn’t bother them at all. Garlic is a problem, but it’s because a vampire’s sense of smell is much better than a human’s — so onions are a problem too. Crosses? Bah. Vampires are all athiests anyway! And as for a stake through the heart, well that would kill you wouldn’t it? Sunlight is an issue though, it will burn a vampire to death fairly quickly.
Except that, since she’s a mutant, Karin can’t see in the dark, likes the sunlight, and isn’t any more bothered by onions and garlic than normal people. If it weren’t for fangs and that pesky blood generation thing, she’d be a perfectly normal human. Oh, and her last drawback is the most serious: she lacks the mental control ability that vampires use to make people forget being bitten.
Fortunately, her devoted younger sister Anju covers for her. Anju is enigmatic; she’s very quiet and reserved. Despite being only 11, she’s usually one step ahead of the adults in the house, if not two ahead of the not-to-bright Karin. She’s quirky though: Anju always carries a stuffed doll (Bge-kun) with a hatchet attached to one hand. She animates and speaks through it constantly (either conciously or not). Bge-kun is often insulting or uncomplimentary, and what makes him confusing is that Karin has fallen into the habit of talking back to it as if it were real. (For the longest time, I thought it was.)
The last twist to the vampire mythos is that human blood has “flavors” and every vampire has a preferred flavor that they can sense and hunger for. The flavors are uniformly linked to negative traits (such as lying, or stress) and vampire bloodsucking removes the trait temporarily. (Edit: That’s incorrect, the emotions/traits aren’t always negative. Elda, Karin’s grandmother, absorbs love.) Karin’s flavor is unknown to start, as well as the fact that her blood increases faster when she encounters it. She soon finds herself encountering it constantly, thanks to the new transfer student, Usui Kenta.
Usui is “good kid from the bad side of the tracks.” Actually, it’s not that he lives in a bad neighborhood (uh, then why are there bars on the windows?), it’s just that his dad took off when he was very, very young, leaving his mom to fend for both of them. They live in extreme poverty, because mom has problems holding a job (not her fault), and is often depressed. As a result, Usui hates his father, resents his mom for still being in love with him, and has a serious problem with anything that might break up a home or force someone to move.
Usui’s mom is unusual; she’s very young looking (appears to be in her 20′s), and she may be magically endowed with sexual attraction; middle-aged men are driven into a frenzy by her presence. Inevitably, she ends up being sexually harassed by co-workers (or customers) and not being particularly assertive, she ends up literally with her back to the wall and no choice but to strike out or submit–so she invariably strikes out and gets fired.
Because they’re so poor, Usui has to work lots of hours after school to make money for the family, and skip lunches too. He seems to have inherited a warped version of his mother’s abilities; his eyes look very strange, making it appear that he’s always scowling, and he can be quite intimidating at times. (Though apparently not to vampires.) While it’s sometimes an advantage, it’s also off-putting to potential friends. Overall, his misfortune makes him profoundly unhappy.
Warning! The major spoilers start here!!!
Guess what? Karin’s flavor is misfortune/unhappiness. And Usui (and his mom) sends her blood racing into overdrive — not a good thing, in this case. Circumstance leads to connection, connection leads to discovery, and discovery leads to joint deception. Usui, because of his feelings on wrecked homes, becomes a willing ally in covering up for Karin, especially since she can’t wipe anyone’s memory. In return (and partly in self defense) Karin makes him lunches every day. Of course, this means that they spend a lot of time together, which sets the tongues to wagging, especially her friend Maki’s.
Karin’s an unusually ethical vampire; she separates the world into “food people” and “friend people” (like Maki, and later Usui) and she won’t touch the latter; she becomes very upset when her brother decides to nibble on Usui’s mom. Karin was very upset to find out that she’d bitten Usui’s mother before finding out who she was. It flipped mom’s personality — early on, she is depressed, even suicidal. After the bite, she’s energetic and happy; Usui is worried at first, but relaxes when he finds out there’s no permanent harm done. It’s not explicitly stated at any point, but it is obvious that he talks Karin into using her to dump her excess blood, as in later episodes his mother constantly sports fang marks and is relentlessly upbeat. However, Karin still refuses to bite Usui, despite the urging of her family, and his offer.
Until Usui came along, Karin’s younger sister Anju has been wiping people’s memories for her; she’s very devoted to Karin, but the time is rapidly approaching when Anju will “awaken” to her own vampire abilities, after which time she can’t go outdoors in daytime any longer. Since Karin will be alone and vulnerable at that point, having Usui as a partner is a solution that her parents come to support, although her elder brother is profoundly unhappy about it. Ren is often a jerk and considers his sisters total pains in the ass, but he’s very protective of them, all the same.
Of course, Karin is the last to realize that she’s fallen in love with Usui; it always works like that, doesn’t it? It’s a very slow motion romance, and I think the similarity (in that regard) to Ah! My Goddess is what drew me in to start. Unfortunately, there are a lot of snakes in paradise.
. . .My angst-breaker tripped and I asked myself, “Yes, why in the hell am I watching this, anyway?”