Karin Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Karin

Karin Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     May 23, 2007
Release Date: May 29, 2007

Karin Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

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 1-4.

The Review!
Being a high school aged vampire is bad enough but it's even worse when you're not the usual kind of vampire.

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. Being such a recent show and one 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.

Using different artwork than the Japanese release, the front cover has a very vibrant piece where Karin is falling forward as Kenta turns to watch her. The layout of the characters and their poses is awkward and really accents the thin designs too much. That said, the bright colors and overall cuteness factor does work to make it an eye-catching cover. The back cover is set into the usual three sections. The top has a decent summary of the premise while the middle provides shots from the show along with episode titles. The discs features and extras are clearly listed and easy to read. Production information rounds out the bottom in a clean format and the inclusion of a solid technical grid makes it very easy to see what the disc is setup like. The cover does have artwork on the reverse side which includes the regular edition design of the first Japanese release on one side while the other panel has the artwork from the second Japanese release. The included insert has a cute piece of artwork of Karin and Anju together with Boogy while the reverse side is a sheet of paper that lists the release months for future volumes.

The first volume is being released in a disc+box form as well as just a standalone disc. The box is made of a solid heavy chipboard that has a good sturdy feel to it. Going with darker themes and using artwork from the Japanese release, the two main panels features some solid pieces of Karin. One side has her in a the nun outfit with the cross floating in front of her while the other puts her in full vampire mode with bats flying in the background. The spine uses the Japanese artwork for the first volume along with the logo while the top panel has a very cute shot of her wearing her pajamas.

Geneon has again set up a decent looking menu but one with no audio to it which feels really out of place considering their releases over the years. The main menu is a cute design of Karin covering her nose as she's blushing while Kenta is looking on from behind. The background is 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 only extra included on this volume is a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name (but called Chibi Vampire in the US), 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.

Coming into this series after reading the first novel but not the manga series, 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.

The quirky aspects from the show tend to focus around the younger sister of Anju. While she does fit the goth-loli mold pretty well, she's cutely accented by the doll she carries around called Boogy. The little bugger has an axe in his hands at all time and is continually sarcastic and biting in his comments. He fits in well with Anju's style as she's a bit more manipulative in general and overall quite quiet. Though it's not a clear cut older sibling adoration, it's clear that Anju loves her sister as she tends to follow her about during the bloodthirsty periods of Karin's life and cleans up the mess afterwards by removing the incident from peoples memories. The family in total has plenty of quirks and they bring some nice comedic elements to the show that doesn't dominate.

The design of the show is filled with lots of bright colors and vibrant pieces but also a bit of the real world. This comes mostly in the backgrounds and helps to cement the show a bit more as places like the school and the restaurant where Karin works is realistic. Karin's house has a straightforward design to it but it's nicely accented to add that European feeling to it. The animation is general is pretty solid with some very nicely fluid scenes throughout. The character designs are cute and enjoyable overall. Karin in particular was a concern for me since the illustrations in the novel made her hair look horrible but they smoothed it out pretty well here. I really liked the way they worked with Kenta though as his wide-eyed stare is commented on once or twice as others aren't sure how to take him.

Though we listened to this in Japanese the first time through, we did take it in again in English later on. The series was done by Odex and comes across pretty well. The best comes from the leads, particularly with Karin who managed to achieve just the right balance of frantic and cute. The cast is fairly well varied though there is some overlap between actors due to the smaller pool that Odex seems to have at the moment. Nothing comes across as horribly bad however unlike some that we heard in Shonen Onmyoji but it doesn't exactly make me want to watch it in English for the remaining volumes.

In Summary:
Karin is a cute concept that's well executed here and has enough to gain fans but these episodes didn't bring me anything that says that the next volume must be watched as quickly as possible. It's an enjoyable show with a good mixture of light elements and potential romantic comedy with some fun vampire oriented twists. With animation by J.C. Staff that continues to show how solid they are it's a great looking piece of work. There's plenty of room to grow here as the series doesn't seem intent on trying to run with the same gag over and over with the progress that's made here. Karin has plenty of things going for it but it hasn't hit that must-see level yet.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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