An anime DVD boxed set.
Karin is one of those unmistakably quirky but loveable Geneon properties that many anime fans (such as myself) feared would go down with the ship. Fortunately, Funimation has been diligent in their efforts of tossing out the lifeboats for countless such titles by re-releasing them to the North American market in all their original glory.
Released across 6 DVDs, the Funimation version of Karin consists of three thin packs (each containing two discs) within a tasteful cardboard slipcase. The show comes in at a 580-minute runtime and wears a fairly conservative 13+ rating. There is no real nudity to report (save for some covered-up body models in the opening) and the language is friendly to viewers of all ages. Sure there are a few juvenilely creepy vampire moments, but in all, this is definitely a title that will charm members of all age demographics.
The story goes something like this: Karin Maaka may seem like a perfectly normal teeny-bopper/ high school student with all of the usual dilemmas to keep her occupied: Dating, zits, anemia and the desire to bite into people's necks.
Sure that last one isn't that uncommon among the teenage set, keep in mind that our title character is in fact the middle child in a family of futuristic vampires who've made Japan their home.
As if being a vampire wasn't enough, Karin is a reverse vampire (or an "un-vampire" as the case may be). This means that she doesn't rely upon sucking the blood of others to live but rather makes her own supply just like the rest of us. Before you start to wonder if you are in fact a vampire as well, her condition is unique in that she makes too much of the red-stuff and has to bite others to get rid of some of her own.
Here's the catch, Karin literally has to get rid of her excess corpuscles or risk volatile nose-bleeds as her body rids itself of the extra blood. The good news is that her victims don't suffer from the bite/ injection but actually feel revitalized and refreshed (a trick that I'm forced to reply upon Red Bull to duplicate).
Another interesting facet of her "condition" is that the mood of those surrounding her has a distinct effect on her body's blood affinity. In other words, Karin's body starts working in overdrive in blood production when she's around miserable people (good thing she doesn't live around here). As such, the poor girl is often found doing all she can to try to better the moods of those around her.
Following in the footsteps of such classic shows as The Addam's Family or The Munsters, a lot of Karin's appeal comes from the fact that her family life is, for all facts and circumstances, surprisingly normal. Karin shares room and board with a brother, Ren and sister Anju with some fairly stereotypical parents (think protective father and quick-to-butt-in mother).
While her family may play the more traditional vampire role, Karin herself (don't forget she is an un-vampire) lacks some of the typical traits such as vulnerability to sunlight, night vision, and the ability to erase memories. Yes she has the fangs but that only inhibits her on class-picture day.
The show itself just plain works, partially because Karin is a lovable lead character and partially because the whole vampire angle adds a nice element of mystery to the typical high-school comedy genre.
The show is as much High School Musical as it is Twilight and that's not a bad thing. The heavy load of hiding the fact that she and hers are technically members of the "living dead", teen romance, high school shenanigans, and a whole lot of coming of age in the modern world spruces things up.
Perhaps its greatest strength is how tastefully and humorously the context manages to parallel Karin's unique blood dilemma to the budding menstrual cycles of all girls of similar age. As such many of the situations and tense moments have an inherent scale of relatability and realism.
Karin's biggest weakness comes in the form of the art and animation, which isn't anything spectacular. Not that either actually take away from a viewer's ability to enjoy the smooth pacing and just plain fun prose, the backgrounds and character models are nothing spectacular either. The fan-service that managed to cause a bit of a reputation in the manga source-material has pretty much been eliminated entirely in the transition to anime (again except for the opening sequence, which hints toward much more risqué material than the show ever delivers).
The sound track is a mixed bag as well with upbeat pop numbers and smooth instrumentals that perfectly accent the teeny-theme of the show but the English dub isn't one of the strongest out there. Like the visuals, the dub work is passable but not quite the butter-smooth masterwork that is so common with Funimation properties.
In all, this is a fun show that manages to capture the small moments of teenage life and blend them with a fictional backdrop nearly perfectly. Because the writers initially decided to add a unique twist on the vampire theme, Karin ends up being one of those rare shows that will hold viewer interest regardless of their personal genre tastes. The humor works and the drama never becomes so heavy that it drags the well-constructed prose down.
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An anime DVD boxed set.
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An anime DVD boxed set.