My progress through a SEED marathon (for some reason, I find it easy to re-watch) was halted by a sudden whim: I wanted to revisit Karin. I’m glad I remembered the merits of this modest and genial romantic comedy. Karin provokes much moe (and it helps that the story’s told largely from her point of view), Kenta is not an entirely two-dimensional male lead (well, he is, but you know what I mean!) and nearly every stentorian declaration that comes out of Winner’s mouth (surely he’s the antithesis of D?) extracts a guffaw from me.
Speaking more dispassionately, it’s a show with good characters, and a lot of what passes for its plot is somehow organic. It’s not that it doesn’t feel contrived, but most of the contrivance seems to be in the creation of the characters themselves rather than in the episode-by-episode events. So, for example, Kenta’s household is poverty-stricken and his mother is unemployed, while Karin’s brother Ren has a taste for the blood of stressed women, so nothing could be more natural than him wanting to grab Kenta’s mother for a quick bite. Cue comic conflict.
Fine, it may well be storytelling sleight-of-hand, and certainly if one stops and thinks about it for a moment, one realises that nothing new happens. We’re still firmly in the world of lunch-boxes, domesticity in general (the ending sequence appeals to me not only as a cake hobbyist, but also as a sufferer of cooking moe), trips to the pool and hypersensitive blushing.
Thankfully, there’s the vampire element which, even if it’s a gimmick, is very effectively used. Karin’s secret is dramatic, in a schlocky way (eat your heart out, Haruka Nogizaka). Winner isn’t just a hotblooded rival for Kenta, he’s a hotblooded, yet underqualified, vampire hunter rival. Anju isn’t just a younger sister, she’s a gothic-lolita younger sister with a talking, cleaver-wielding doll (a doll whose interjections never fail to make a bad situation worse). Similarly, though this example isn’t playing with vampire tropes, Kenta isn’t just Some Nondescript Guy, he’s driven by hilariously unambitious aspirations and posseses staring eyes which scare small children. There’s a hint – just a hint – of the mad, all-inclusive pandering spirit of Code Geass here, which is a good mark in my book.
The ‘normal’ vampire elements may be a well-used gimmick, but the nosebleeds are a masterstroke. Vampirism is, as I have noted before, frequently mixed up with sex by vampire writers. Making Karin a mutant, blood-producing vampire who suffers from projectile nosebleeds if she doesn’t find someone into whom to inject her blood adds menstruation to the sanguine cocktail, and indeed the first episode plays on this with phrases like ‘that time of the month’. The vampires themselves, meanwhile, regard bloodsucking as a rite of passage into adulthood and, if that’s not enough of a symbolic minefield (or goldmine), there’s the association of nosebleeds with desire. All this is why I like to compare Karin to Potemayo: the former is more restrained, but they are both rather more left-of-field in their humour than I originally expected.
Quite a lot of the above praise stems from the premise and characters, so I suppose I’m praising Kagesaki (who, it would seem from that wikipedia article, draws herself with a nosebleed). That said, while the actual animation is not stunning, the adaption gives the impression of being made by people who pay attention to detail: each and every eyecatch is new, for example, and Maki’s ringtone is not the show’s theme tune, but Copland‘s Fanfare for the Common Man. (Perhaps because she’s the most normal character?)
And yet, despite all my efforts to produce the above excuses, Karin remains a guilty pleasure. I suppose this post is an effort to expel that from my system in some kind of figurative high-pressure guilt nosebleed. I had better go and clean my shirt.