Being a Karin Fanboy Is So Very Embarrassing!

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.

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27 responses to “Being a Karin Fanboy Is So Very Embarrassing!

  1. Nothing to be embarrassed/feel guilty about. Karin rocks. Especially Anju. That girl cracks me up.

  2. If Karin is guilty pleasure then we’re all doomed.

    I think Karin is as wholesome as this kind of stuff can get.

  3. It was worth staying up so late just to see this post, being one of those rare times I get to see you use the word moe.

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  5. I think I rather like the manga more, if only because the drama feels a bit more natural there… versus Karin’s grandmother Elda’s trauma here, and how it links with Winner’s grandfather.

    It’s not bad, but… well, the OP really did look soft-core compared to others of its season, didn’t it? ;)

  6. Why should it even remain a guilty pleasure? Moeness isn’t always bad, though for once I would like to see a character that is both moe and able to kick ass.

  7. I’m in the process of watching Nanatsuiro Drops *gasps!*

  8. I know the feeling I just re-watched Kannazuki no Miko on a whim.

    Karin was an interesting series to watch if only for the mockery of the traditional vampire = sexual deviant schtick.

  9. BEST SERIES EVER: GUNDOH MUSASHI, OK

  10. Personally loved the cleaver wielding doll, too bad Anju had to ‘grow up’… *goes off to search for the plushie*

  11. @ Baka-Raptor: Anju’s hilarious.

    @ omo: Just being at one end of a genre’s hypothetical Wholesomeness Spectrum doesn’t necessarily make a show wholesome. It may be that there’s nothing to feel guilty about, I just do feel guilty. Emotion’s irrational.

    @ Shin: Hmm. Though unlike Author, I do think the word has a use, if only because people insist on using it. And it’s always worth staying up late to read my posts, including especially the ones about obscure old anime.

    @ Haesslich: The OP’s a bit of a mismatch, isn’t it? But there you go. I can see how the manga might be better.

    @ omisyth: ‘a character that is both moe and able to kick ass’: Nanoha? Friendship has never been so explosive.

    @ lelangir: Maybe we need to form a support group.

    @ Crusader: Indeed. I rather like how Ren’s a playboy not because he’s a vampire, but just because it’s his character.

    @ Michael: Seen its Wikipedia page? The page itself reflects the quality of the show, and has been purposefully preserved in all its terrible-grammar glory by the editors.

    @ issa-sa: You own said plushie? *is secretly jealous*

  12. I’ve put this off for too long, maybe it’s finally time to go sit down and catch it.

  13. I really didn’t like Karin during its run. It has all the elements I usually like but it never clicked with me for some reason. Someday I’ll try to watch it again.

  14. The only source of Karin was ‘Chibi Vampire’ in a local Chapters store. I also happen to like the unconventional vampire aspect to it. Although I happen to try and sit in lone spots to read them in hopes nobody sees the title. I also tend to put it in another manga like Rave Master.

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  16. I don’t see any reason to be ashamed or embarrassed about liking Karin, unless, of course, you are empathetic with Karin’s habit of being embarrassed about everything. Besides, if you call something a “guilty pleasure”, you’re not really taking pleasure in it, since you’re ashamed of liking it. I always feel like using the phrase “guilty pleasure” is just a way to save face and kind of passive-aggressively insult the pleasure in question. Not that that’s what you’re doing, but that’s how I generally interpret the term.

    And, yes, Karin is great. I didn’t really expect much from the series, but it was better than I thought it would be. I don’t regret getting the DVDs one bit.

  17. @ C.I.: Give it a try. As Yamcha’s comment suggests, its elements won’t necessarily gel for everyone, but I like it.

    @ Yamcha: Second chances are always good.

    @ Dorne: Ah, yes. I must confess to hiding one book within another a few times myself.

    @ OGT: Any reason? There is no reason. Guilt’s irrational, and I’m calling it a guilty pleasure because it’s pleasurable and it makes me feel guilty.

    Karin is a rare anime, because it is both (a) a romantic comedy and (b) a show I’d like to see receiving a European DVD release so I could buy it.

  18. This is true. Every human emotion is irrational, from guilt to hatred to loving to shamefulness to [other complicated emotion words]. I lay awake at night sometimes wondering exactly why people I know in reality like me, because I can’t figure out a single damn reason for them to. But that’s the thing–they just do.

    And it’s not like I don’t have things that I’d probably call “guilty pleasures,” but I do feel that feeling ashamed about liking something you perceive as “bad” contributes to poor self-image and low self-esteem. But I guess it all depends on if you mean “I have this guilty pleasure and I am ashamed of it” or if you mean “I have this guilty pleasure and I am damn proud of it.”

  19. (And, yes, I know I’m taking everything entirely too seriously again. That’s how I roll)

  20. Well, if you want to know where on the ‘ashamed – proud’ spectrum Karin falls for me, I point you to the fact that I published this post in the first place.

    (As for taking everything entirely too seriously, it’s an excellent mode of life.)

  21. I have yet to watch the anime but have been reading the Manga as Tokyopop has been releasing it and it is easily one of my favorite romantic comedy series ever.

  22. I can’t really speak on how well the anime matches up to the manga, beyond the general principle that adaptions have a better-than-average chance of turning out worse than the original material. Maybe I should try the manga – if nothing else, it would provide some legal salve to my conscience after watching the fansubs.

  23. Angstfest from hell, to me. I just couldn’t take it with a couple of episodes left, and bailed.

  24. Hmm. It does get a little angsty towards the end but I don’t recall it affecting my enjoyment. Mind you, I could stomach SEED, so my angst-o-meter may well be broken.

  25. i love Karin, the problem is i cant find a place to buy her in plushie form! hehe now that was a little embarrasing ^/////////^

  26. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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