Vampire lore, as well as lore about any classic horror monster, is usually seen by more contemporary writers as rife for revision. And I support this theory. After all, after the Dracula story is done millions of times, it ceases to be scary unless someone can take the idea and make it their own. Sometimes, they don’t go for horror and instead come up with different variations of the same idea. Some are action stories where vampires are forces of nature who love their guns (FYI read Hellsing). Some are poorly done comedies where the vampires are bumbling imbeciles that don’t even deserve the audience’s pity (FYI don’t ever see Dark Shadows or Hotel Transylvania). And some take the concept of vampires and have them fall in love with a human (Twilight isn’t about vampires, since there is nothing vampire-esque about them, so please, no comments about that here).
This manga is about the last one. Karin in a normal girl who lives in a castle and goes to school like every good manga teenager does. The castle? It belongs to her family, which is comprised of vampires. Karin is the middle child. Her older brother, who is already a completely turned vampire, spends a majority of his nights seducing women and drinking their blood. Her younger sister has not yet turned, so she can go out during cloudier days, but she is also going through a personal dilemma about abandoning her sister. Her parents are not much better, as her father is an over-protective bumbler and her mother is cold and sadistic (to Karin’s father, not everyone). Oh, and Karin is a vampire, just one who exhibits none of their traits (she loves garlic, has to eat actual food, can go out in daylight). The one trait she does posses, however, is in an inverted form. She does not desire to drink blood, but she actually builds up large amounts of it that she ends up expelling if not injected into someone.
A student named Kenta transfers into her school and she has no idea what to do, since being around him causes her to build up more blood than normally. What it is is her attraction to a certain type of blood, that of miserable people. Vampires in this story are attracted to the blood of specific types of people (Karin’s brother is attracted to the blood of stressed people, her sister to jealous people) and upon sucking their blood, the feelings they possessed that attracted the vampires to them will disappear, but the vampires will instantly lose interest in them. And Kenta’s life is miserable, living with a single mother, being told that by his grandmother that he was a mistake since he was five, having to work to provide most of the income for his home, and his mother’s constant loss of jobs over sexual harassment claims. However, he also feels strongly for Karin and wants the best for her. So begins this tale of teenage love between a vampire girl and a human boy.
Art-wise, it doesn’t look bad. Unfortunately, I mean that in the sense that you can tell what is what. The art is excessively bland here. It’s vanilla and unoffensive. And attempting to describe how bland the art is it too much work, so I’ll move on.
This should fall into the decent, but forgettable pile. It isn’t, however. What saves it is Yuna Kagesaki’s storytelling abilities. She decidedly chose to put the romance in the foreground (a risky move for a shonen manga) while the background is focused on the vampires, how they live, and how Karin fits in with it all. The romance is, actually, surprisingly sweet. Karin struggles with the urge to drink Kenta’s blood because she fears that she will lose her feelings for him, while Kenta is transforming into her knight in shining armor. Them figuring out how she can survive daily life is a good read in-and-of itself, but the vampire lore elevates it. I don’t want to spoil it because I actually want people to read this, but Karin does serve a purpose for vampires and Kenta is fighting so hard for her because they all hate him, just for being human. Even if, by her own account in her omakes, she obsesses mostly over the blood appearing in her manga (or in wanting a Karin body pillow to sleep with……..Those omakes make her sound weird), she knows how to craft a supernatural romance.
Overall, while the art is underwhelming, the story makes up for it. By focusing on the romance before the lore material, it may piss off people looking for a pure vampire story, but it also emphasizes what we need to care about and makes the vampire elements more powerful as they take over later on. After all, if Roberto Benigni taught the world anything with La vita è bella, it’s that we need to follow our characters through good times so that we will care more when the bad news arrives.
Chibi Vampire was originally published by Tokyopop, who let the license expire. The manga, fortunately, has been rescued by Viz Media and is being released, albeit electronically and not in print.