Karin Complete Series Set (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 25, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Being a teenage vampire girl in modern Japan can't be easy, even less so if you're the kind of vampire that does the opposite of sucking blood.
What They Say
Karin Maaka leads an ordinary life in spite of the fact that she is from a family of vampires. Unlike the rest of her family, she has no problem with bright lights, sleeps in a bed instead of a coffin, and loves to eat garlic. She is such an abnormal vampire that she doesn't even suck blood - she makes it! Everything begins to unravel when she gets uncontrollable urges every time she gets near her classmate, Kenta Usui. Will she hold back the urge to purge or give in to her need to bleed?!
Contains episodes 1-24.
The audio mixes for Karin's two language tracks are fairly straightforward 192 kbps encoded pieces. Neither language track really exhibits much in the way of placement or overall directionality but they come across pretty well for a generally dialogue based show. The series has a fairly full mix to it but it's always the music and some of the sound effects that come across the best. The scene change animation and sound tied to it has some of the best moments overall in terms of standout pieces. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout the episodes however and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2005 and early 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection is made up of the same discs as Geneon released in single form so there are no differences in the encoding or overall disc count. Like a lot of shows from the middle of the decade, Karin is filled with lots of bold and bright colors it comes across as very clean and appealing. The reds stand out particularly well with no bleeding or chroma noise associated with it. Some of the darker scenes with the blues and blacks at night show some noise and mild blocking but it's fairly minimal throughout. The lack of aliasing and cross coloration helps give the show a very smooth feel, particularly during the various zoom and pan sequences.
Karin gets a simple thin cardboard box for this edition, a far cry from the heavy chipboard box we got from the single volume releases, but it has some nice artwork to it. The front cover has Karin leaning over in a cute everyday outfit while the background is made up of red splotches of blood and some red flower petals. The framing adds a nice texture to it overall and it has a very good dark quality to it while providing for some of the lightness of it all as well. The back cover is similarly dark but it doesn't have much of the light material as the visual of Karin in the lower right corner is her at her vampiric best, which isn't saying too much! There's a lot of text here on top of a pretty spooky style background with bats and branches. There's a brief summary of the premise and a good listing of the discs features and extras as well as a rather clean listing of the principle staff. There's even a really nice quote at the top about the show. It's a decent slipcover overall to hold the three thinpaks but it's not as good as the original box the full singles got.
Inside we have the three thinpaks and they did them up nicely by using the same artwork as the singles with the front and back making sure that all six covers are available as we have the different pairings of the cast and some of them in different outfits, including a swimsuit special as well. The original reverse side covers are here as well which makes this even more special and well done so that fans of the show really don't miss anything from the original release artwork outside of the differences in the box. No show related inserts are included with this release however.
Geneon has some decent if rather basic menus for this release but ones with no audio to it which feels really out of place considering their releases over the years. The main menus use a variety of artwork from the previous covers as it ranges through the cast of characters with different groupings for each volume. The backgrounds are made up of lots of pinks and reds with flower petal designs. A few shots from the show are included here as well. The navigation is good as it provides for individual episode access and other basic setup features that I like, particularly in keeping the setup and extras separated. Access times are nice and fast but the disc did not read our players' language presets. It instead defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The extras are pretty basic with just the clean opening and closing sequences spread out across the release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name which has been released in the US under the name Chibi Vampire, Karin is a twenty-four episode series that puts a mild but cute twist on the vampire genre. Vampires in a comedy show aren't unusual but the premise behind Karin brings in some nice twists in how she interacts with others as well as the actual effects of the vampirism.
I originally came into this series after reading the first novel but not the manga series, so there was already some familiarity with the concept. The show revolves around high school student Karin Maaka, a bright and bubbly type who once in awhile has the need to feed. The entire aspect of her being a vampire is something that embarrasses her in general but more so because she's not a normal vampire. Her parents, who moved here from Europe, are an amusing couple named Henry and Carrerra Marker. Karin has adapted their last named to Maaka so that she can blend in easily enough. Her family is also made up of an older brother named Ren who is a full fledged vampire now and a younger sister named Anju.
Anju fits into the goth-loli mold pretty nicely in terms of design but her character isn't quite like her parents or older siblings. She's not yet a full vampire so she's still able to come out during cloudy days and in the early evenings. Karin on the other hand is a full vampire but she's able to be out during the day. While that's highly unusual in and of itself, she stands out even more because she doesn't suck blood from people but rather injects her blood in others. Sometimes called an un-vampire or a reverse vampire, when Karin gets around certain people she has a blood affinity for, it drives her to latch on with her fangs and inject the overdose of blood that her body generates.
Karin's been able to keep things under wraps for quite awhile now and has a decent school life where she's sometimes seeming anemic in order to cover her problem. All of that changes though when a new transfer student named Kenta Usui arrives in the school. Kenta's driven her blood affinity like no other before, so much so that simply thinking about him gets her going at times. Kenta of course has no idea why and can't figure out why she's avoiding him and being so weird around him. Various encounters and misunderstood situations cause plenty of problems between the two of them in a traditional storytelling method but they manage to eke out some really good moments as the two start to understand each other and figure out a way to manage the problem.
The reverse vampire aspect is one that's appealing in general since it puts Karin in the same situation as boys get sometimes in having "misunderstood" nosebleeds. The cultural aspect of that alone is amusing but it's also the entire blood affinity aspect. Just like food preferences, each vampire is drawn to a different kind of blood. But unlike vampires that simply drink and have no effect on the victim or just making them thralls, the incident causes a sort of relief for the victim. Ren for example is attracted to stressful people, so the women he hits up become victims who afterwards find all their stress relieved. That of course makes them unappealing to him in the long run but also keeps the vampire from continually feeding off of the same person.
Where the show lost me some is when it introduced the character of Winner Sinclair. The same age as the rest of the main cast, he's a foreign transfer student who arrives in the city to hunt down vampires as he's an official Vampire Hunter. Winner is the kind of really dorky and oblivious character who also ends up making this a romantic triangle. While we had some nice, funny and interesting moments when it was just Karin and Kenta trying to figure things out, Winner adds an element I don't care for as it's more a distraction than anything else. Naturally, his story fits into things in the long run as the main arcs come to a head, and we do get the obvious “childhood romance” that was more in his mind than anything else between him and Karin, but so much of the time in the first half is spent on misunderstandings that it gets to be very frustrating.
Another arc that comes into play later in the series that's a bit awkward, but again fits into the larger thread about Karin and the special issues surrounding her situation, is her grandmother. Elda has her own special concerns about Karin and what she means to the family and vampires in general, but also because of her lengthy life there are ties to the Sinclair family as well which brings a bit more of that overall story arc into the main one. Elda’s not a bad character, but with her looking like Karin's twin there's a bunch of misunderstanding episodes brought into the show that, similar to Winner's introduction, just feels a bit too forced and awkward.
That said, even with these problems that I have with the show, I really enjoyed Karin overall. What makes it work is the relationship between Karin and Kenta as it moves from Karin doing her best to keep her distance from him because of how her body reacts to him to the two of them getting into quite the serious relationship. There's a really nice kind of honesty to it as it plays out as the misunderstandings they have early on are well done and it's played just right. It goes over the top in some ways, mostly with her blood spurts, but it's a fun change of pace from how these things usually play out. These two characters really do sell the show and the nature of their relationship plays out slowly but well as they have to deal with the likes of Winner and Elda as well as the problems of a whole family of vampires that aren't too keen at first about their unusual daughter getting involved with a human that knows their secret.
When I originally watched this show, it was fun to get four episodes every six to eight weeks and to take in one of the first dubs done by the Singapore company as Geneon was trying to cut costs. When the series ended up being caught in the release problems after Geneon shut down, I was afraid I'd not get to see the end of it. That break certainly was problematic in the flow of the story, so taking it all in with this one collection over a couple of days gives it a different feel. There's a lot to like with this show and the way it plays out as the characters are fun and I liked the tweaks they made to a standard storyline to give it something a little more. Karin and Kenta completely make the show worthwhile and there's a lot of other little moments along the way to like as well. While it's not a big standout series, it's one of those that you see yourself returning to every few years to enjoy again. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 580
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2