Karin

US Distributor: FUNimation
Production Studio: J.C. Staff
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More Info: Anime News Network

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Karin Boxart KarinHigh school is a glamorous time in many peoples’ lives. Who can forget their first kiss, the senior prom, the first time they drained a person’s blood for sustenance… wait, what? All right, so the last part only applies to goths and vampires, and only the vampires can be the subject of an interesting high school story. Vampires are still difficult, though, with the rules of the race and what not. To find a convenient work around that still manages to fill the mold, the crew at JC Staff created Karin – the most un-vampiric vampire the world has ever seen.

Sometime in this century, the Maakas, a family of vampires, moved to Tokyo. They survived by drinking small amounts of blood from the larger populous. However, the eldest Maaka daughter, Karin, has a dirty little secret. Karin isn’t like most vampires; she loves sunny days, eats normal food, and tends to keep a normal schedule of high school, followed by work. Most of all, she doesn’t drink blood. Karin is what one would call an “unvampire.” Rather than drink blood, she produces it in mass quantities. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem, since it often just leads to poor Karin passing out and missing a few classes. In worse cases, she can get away from the school before all hell breaks loose, and her blood spills forth in a fountain of nasal crimson. However, everything changes and the occasional overflow becomes a common occurrence when Kenta Usui transfers into the school. Suddenly, Karin’s overflows become more common, and life becomes less convenient. Things finally reach their boiling point when Usui catches poor Karin during one of her nosebleeds. Now, the two have to keep Karin’s secret under wraps, while dealing with school, a job, and Karin’s overbearing family.

Does this sound familiar? It should, since UltraManiac, Please Teacher!, The World of Narue, and a number of other romantic comedies follow a similar format. Instead of angels, space aliens, or magicians, the lucky topic of Karin happens to be vampires. The progression is predictable, and the characters are familiar. The series enters a certain special level of absurdity as things progress, and people begin to find out that Karin is a vampire, before shrugging it off entirely. Of course, the same could be said about pretty much any of the characters, who don’t have any concern that the cute girl talking to them has a decent-sized set of fangs. The overall apathy toward Karin’s vampirism adds an odd layer of humor that completely ruins the dramatic aspect of the show but, at the same time, makes the whole package more enjoyable to watch.

For a series about vampires, one would expect either a cast of dark, brooding figures or, thanks to the Twilight infatuation, a cast full of sparkly douchebags that make men groan and women latch on for dear life. Okay, the second description is somewhat right: Karin’s older brother fits into the “sparkly, pretty, hateful, must stalk” category. The rest of the cast fits into either of two categories: adorable or absurd to the point of caricature. The females tend to be the cute ones, while the guys are either creepy as sin, or too funny-looking to hate. They all seem to follow the convenient archetypes, for the most part. Karin is the typical happy-go-lucky girl with a crybaby streak, Usui is the general good guy, and so on. The notable exception to the rule is, sadly, the character with the least amount of screen time. Elda Marker, Karin’s grandmother, is a cynical, world-weary woman who was burned by humans in the past. She’s snarky, sarcastic, and not afraid to belittle everyone around her. Unfortunately, she’s only present in five of the series’ 24 episodes, so her presence is almost wasted among the rest of the cast.

Karin is anime junk food. It’s light, it’s fluffy, and it’s great to enjoy over a rainy weekend. However, a number of things hold it back from being truly satisfying. The vampire angle gives it a few new twists, but when stacked up against similar titles of its ilk, it is difficult to recommend Karin above the rest.