Written by Richard Brown
Conservative Vampires! Inversed Vampires! Possessed plushies! Chronic embarrassment! Love! Industrial amounts of blood! If that mix appeals, you may like this anime. The only question is, is it actually any good? Read on.
The Basic Plot
In an unnamed city in Japan, a family of vampires suck blood in small, socially responsible, amounts. Their eldest daughter is freakish even among her kind. Karin is a kind of reverse vampire, producing blood instead of sucking it, often causing nosebleeds that colour the scenery like a slasher movie. Otherwise she’s a sweet, slightly dense, teenager. Things change with the arrival of a transfer student called Kenta, whose mere presence makes her blood build up. He discovers her secret, cleans up the blood, and is slowly drawn into her world.
Boy Meets Odd Girl in Anime, Again
As you can gather, Karin is an enjoyable romantic comedy, following the lead character’s attempts to resist the effects Kenta has on her, giving rise to the inevitable. The series is fairly predictable in how it plays out, but it makes the best of what its got and doesn’t make the predictable mistakes. Karin’s projectile nosebleeds are used sparingly, and the series actually advances her relationship with Kenta. This makes a refreshing change from the likes of Love Hina, or Ah! My Goddess, which often get repetitive. The anime is by turns laugh out loud funny, sweet, and occasionally dark. The series has some cross-gender appeal, as Women will find much to like in a story about a young girl vampire and her confused, highly embarrassing first love, while men will enjoy the comedy aspects. At this point it becomes impossible not to mention the Fanservice aspect to the show, which I shall genteelly refer to as Karin’s build. While the series does not the cross the line from funny to exploitative, fan service being mainly limited to the opening sequence, it does feel out of place.
The comedy is the strongest aspect of the show, with the more dramatic scenes serving mainly to hold things together. This succeeds thanks to an effective cast of misfits, and it often seems that Karin and Kenta are most normal of the bunch. Karin functions as a fairly normal schoolgirl with a tendency towards chronic embarrassment, despite her birth. Kenta, the poor boy from the poor family, starts out bemused and largely remains so, but well meaning, always referring to Karin in a formal manner. However, on first impression, he suffers from being a bit familiar for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Karin’s slightly stupid internal monologue and her attempts to deal with Kenta represent a significant but not the sole source of humour, as each character has their moment. Karin’s younger, more mature, and rather more gothic sister Anju provides contrast, and her possessed doll Bge-Kun. Elder brother Ken is based off the suave vampire stereotype, but also stars in the funniest single episode of the show, depicting his time in a boys boarding school. Kenta’s Mum is very funny, as she goes through a sudden and positive personality change early in the series. Unfortunately, the one duff note in this is Karin’s other suitor, the incompetent vampire slayer Winner Sinclair. With a mix of cosmic self-confidence and a puppy dog fixation on Karin, he remains love/hate character for the whole of the series.
Another positive to the show is its take on the vampire myth, bloodsuckers being really clich‚ these days, and Karin’s status as a blood producer is faintly satirical. While Karin bumbles though life, her family worry about her, and the more serious aspects of the show revolve around how they deal with her condition and infatuation. The anime’s idea of “socially responsible” vampires, which live as human until their powers develop, works quite well. This helps bind the anime together, and is the closest thing it gets to having an intellectual side, with most of the plotting alternating between cheesy and melodramatic. For the most part, the characters are just deep enough to be serious when the situation calls for it, and daft enough to be funny, but there isn’t anything that leaps out as clever. It’s more a case that the anime avoids obvious pitfalls and works in a solid, but fairly conservative way. This is best represented by Karin herself, a sweet girl from the standard anime templates, but one who is characterised and handled well, never becoming a secondary character in her own show. To be honest, the mere fact that the series actually progresses is worth a point on its own.
Karin is a fun little series. Not deep or original, but one that manages to entertain consistently with something for everyone. The series avoids a few of the more common flaws in the genre, but doesn’t really do anything new. However, there are no significant problems, and the humour makes up for its deficiencies.