Yuna Kagesaki’s 14 volume shonen series Karin ran in Japan from 2003 to 2008. A nine volume light novel series ran concurrently with it, and midway through the manga a 24 volume anime series was adapted from it. In the US the manga and light novels were released by Tokyopop which renamed both to Chibi Vampire. It later lost both licenses (and went out of business). Several years later, Viz Media relicensed the manga, but just did a digital only release of the original Tokyopop editions.
Chibi Vampire was marketed by Tokyopop as a “supernatural comedy” but fortunately it is so much more than that, and at it’s core it’s a dramatic romance more than anything. It centers on Karin a vampire who isn’t like the rest of her family. Instead of having to drink blood on a regular basis, she has to inject it into others or she suffers from rather explosive nosebleeds. On top of that, she lacks all the other traits a vampire. She can go out the sunlight, she loves garlic, she loves to swim, she can still taste human food, etc. So she still lives in the world of humans, only seeing her family in the short hours between dusk and when she has to go to bed. The only exception is her little sister, who is not fully awakened as a vampire yet and so she too mostly lives in the world of humans though she’s more sensitive the sunlight than Karin is.
Despite his somewhat scary eyes, new transfer student Kenta Usui is a fairly nice guy and after they clear up some initial misunderstandings, the two are drawn to one another. Unfortunately Kenta is very “misfortunate”, which turns out to be Karin’s preferred blood type so he drives her funky reverse vampire nature into overdrive. It doesn’t take too long for him to stumble upon her secret after he helps her work through one of her nosebleeds. Rather than erasing his memory, though, her family decides they need somebody on their side to help her during the daylight since they can’t.
While the series does have some comedic elements, I don’t consider it a comedy series. It makes me cry far too often to be a comedy, because in many ways is a rather sad story. You have Karin who loves her family and vice versa, but they barely get to see each other because she’s “different.” Both often ponder what could be wrong with her and how to fix her, as well as worry over what the effects of constant nosebleeds will have on her body.
Of course, Kenta has issues of his own that lead to his miserable state, and I’m sure most readers will quickly realize it has to be more than the just that he’s the son of a single mother and that they don’t have a lot of money. Even the side characters, such as Karin’s lecherous brother and seemingly cold younger sister have a wonderful depth to their natures that is often times alluded to in the most subtle of ways.
To me, Chibi Vampire is an amazingly well-done story of relationships between family, falling in love for the first time, dealing with being unusual, and most of all the lengths people will go to for those they love. Every relationship of the story is richly layered, from the central one between Karin and Kenta to those between Karin and her various family members, Kenta and his mom, etc.
The whole setup of the vampires and the story is also a nice change from the norm. Yes they still drink blood and have the whole sunlight issue, but even beyond Karen’s unusual nature the vampires in Chibi Vampire are presented a little differently. For one thing, being a vampire is simply an inherited trait. They don’t turn anybody ever. For another, vampires drinking a human’s blood, or in Karen’s case injecting, it is often a good thing. Each vampire has a specific preference in terms of the blood they like, for example the blood of a liar or the blood of somebody who stressed. When a vampire drinks that person’s blood, it kind of draws out that trait. So liars start telling the truth, stressed people become relaxed and so forth. In a way it helps them become who they wish they were, if only for short while.
Oddly enough, the series is considered a shonen series even though it’s a romance and as a whole would normally seem to lend itself to being a shojo series. Fan service is fairly minimal other than the occasional panty shot and Karen’s rather large chest. I almost wonder if the only reason is a shonen series is because it was written by a guy, something I never would’ve clued into if I hadn’t actually looked it up online.
One of my favorite things about the series is just that it moves me so much. As the story progresses there are certain story elements that just had me bawling my eyes out and I love it! Even on rereads, I still pick up on hints of what’s to come and knowing how it’s going in kind of just makes it all even more moving and wonderful. I’ve read it through at least half a dozen times and I cry my way through a handful of tissues every single time!
So I do highly recommend the Chibi Vampire manga series. I have also read most if not all of the light novels, which are kind of fun because they complement the manga and they do reference events in each. I didn’t love them as much as the manga series but if you can find them at a decent price I would go ahead and pick them up for the extra flavor they can add. Each one let’s you know where it falls in terms of the manga volumes, making it easy to determine the reading order.
The print edition of Chibi Vampire is out of print but again, easy to find as I suspect TokyoPop overprinted everything. You can also read all of the novels via Kindle thanks to Viz Media doing a license rescue with digital only release. The light novels are also out of print, with most being easy to find as well.