Anime I’ve Seen: Karin
Posted by travizzt on March 21, 2011
It’s time for another installment of “Anime I’ve Seen Extended Cut”! For those who don’t know what “Anime I’ve Seen Extended Cut” is here’s the basic premise; I take a longer look at one of the animes that I’ve seen on my “Animes I’ve Seen” list. Pretty simple, no? This was created for Clan of the Fanboys and you can check out the original post here. Oh and please note that I’m in no way, shape, or form trying to review said anime. This is more of an in-depth look into what I thought about the show. Now, let’s sit back and bask in Karin averageness!
This trailer just sums up the show perfectly; lazy and average. Just using the shows opening as a trailer? Really?
Karin Maaka is just your average high school girl, except that her family are vampires. However, she not your normal vampire. She’s different. Instead of sucking blood, she creates it, making her an outcast in her family and vampire-kind as a whole. When her blood level increases, she has to bite someone, else the excess blood explodes out of her nose. Thankfully, there are benefits to this problem. She is able to walk in the sunlight, can sleep during the night, and do ‘normal’ things that ‘normal’ girls would do. Unfortunately, her ‘normal’ life changes after a new student arrives, a boy named Kenta Usui. Whenever he is near Karin, her blood rises and she gets violent nosebleeds. Kenta witnesses one of her nosebleeds and promises her not to tell anyone about what he saw. A little later, he learns that Karin is a vampire and promises to keep her secret as well. But not all secrets can be kept for very long.
There is one word that can perfectly describe Karin; average. Karin does have an interesting premise, but an interesting premise can’t save a series from being mediocre. In reality, Karin just did what needed to be done without taking the next step to become something more. The execution and close to everything else was average to the extreme. The characters were average, the story was average, and the animation was average. Average, average, average.
The story is fairly simple, girl meets boy and falls in love with boy. Simple right? Well, let’s throw in a few vampires, a guy who is hopelessly in love with Karin, and some twists to make this show a bit more interesting. Problem is, it didn’t make it any more interesting. In fact, they only barely worked. Why? It never took these things a step further. It just stayed on the ‘safe’ path and didn’t stray to far from it. When it did, Karin turned into something amazing, but it never lasted more than an episode or two.
The biggest problem with Karin is that the whole series could have been over in just one or two episodes. All Karin had to do was bite Usui, but she never did. If she did, the whole series would have been pointless. So instead we have a drawn out plot. This really hurts Karin a lot. This plot hole is the most damning issue about this series because after you realize it, you start to think that Karin is utterly pointless. Why couldn’t she bite Usui anyways? There is no reason she couldn’t. Even other characters ask her why doesn’t she just bite the boy and get it over with. All Karin says is that she can’t do that. There is nothing more than that. She just can’t do it. Why not? Does she love him? No, that can’t be it, they only just meet. Is it because he promised to keep her secret? Kind of, but still it’s a weak excuse. There is even a point when Usui tells Karin that if she needs to bite someone to bite him. Just do it! It’s not like you are building up to the last episo- oh wait, you are.
The majority of the characters were unlikable, annoying, and almost ruins Karin‘s averageness. Almost. Let’s take a look at our main character, Karin. Karin was decent, but there isn’t anything more to her than that. She’s just decent. She’s not really remarkable or even that special. In fact, she comes across as your typical female lead in shows like this. She’s a bit of a klutz and can be extremely stupid, but that’s really it. The only thing I can remember about her is that she has huge breasts, or at least that’s what the series wants you to think. Just go back and watch the trailer. What do you see the most? Her topless. It’s not like she was portrayed like that in the show itself that much. Sure, there was a joke here and there, but nothing that obvious. Also, Karin can become annoying. Her wishy-washy attitude towards Usui is the best example for this. It’s painfully obvious that she is head-over-heels in love with him, but she can’t admit it to herself, even when she admits it. Also, Karin severely over-analyzes her every action and that’s probably the most annoying thing about her. Other than those things, there isn’t much more to her. That’s really all there is to Karin.
Kenta is just unbearable. I never thought I would find such a dull main character and love interest, but somehow I did. It’s surprising how little I thought of him. He was just ‘there’. For being such a prominent part of the story, he blended in the background most of the time. Now, this may be due to the horrid dub acting, but he just never had a presence. He looked average (for the most part), acted average, and talked average. The only thing that I remember him for is his creepy way of dealing with Karin and his creepy eyes. Okay, so maybe is defining trait was that he was creepy. However, he fails at that. I’m amazed that Karin even likes this guy, but I guess her interest does make sense, in a weird, twisted way. Still Usui is unremarkable as they come.
Aside from them, we have Kenta’s mother and the rest of Karin’s family. Kenta’s mother was okay at first, but soon became annoying. It just seemed like she could only display two emotions; sad/depressed and bubbly. It felt like she was made out to be something more, but that never really panned out. There isn’t much more to her than that. On the other side of things, we have Karin’s family. Her parents, Henry and Calera Marker, were just there. Henry was the more developed of the two, but still barely stood out. You could tell that he loves Karin the way only a father could, and that trait does make him likable. However, he still is unfortunately forgettable. Calera could have never existed in this series and I wouldn’t care one bit. She had a few humorous moments (her shoe and when Karin’s friend Maki came over) but it wasn’t enough to really make her into anything memorable. Karin’s older brother, Ren, was interesting, but ultimately didn’t really do much. He was the ‘typical’ vampire and did have quite a few interesting aspects. He preys on young women, mostly for sexual reasons along with the ‘bloodlust’ and that made him seem more like a vampire than any of the others. His other trait was that he cared about his family, but never really showed it. It was slightly touching to see how much he cared. However in the long run, any interesting aspects he had never really moved beyond that. Finally, we have Karin’s grandmother, Elda Marker. She was interesting, but extremely cliché. There was nothing about her that felt new. Her past felt like it was something that I’ve heard and seen before. There is nothing new. It’s still touching but it could have had a deeper emotional impact. Aside from that, Elda is just like Ren, only a bit more extreme. Elda really only comes across as a newer version of Ren. There was just so much wasted potential with her character. Elda could have been something special and a unique character in Karin, but wasn’t taken far enough. The two main characters’ families were nothing really special.
If there is one character worse than Usui it’s Winner Sinclair, a vampire hunter who is hopelessly in love with Karin. There is absolutely nothing appealing or even likable about him. He is annoying, whiny, and just too stupid to exist. There is almost nothing redeemable about Winner other than he somehow is the object of the most interesting character’s affection. Everything about him is annoying; his stalkerish love, the way he looks, his voice, his personality. There is nothing about him that is remotely interesting. Even the reason why he is in love with Karin is petty and childlike. I just can’t sympathize with him at all. There is nothing about him that makes you identify with his love. Winner is just a stalker. Now, let’s look at his ridiculous style choices. Seriously? This show isn’t set in the middle ages, so what’s up with that trench coat, silly hat, and puny pistol? Is there any purpose other than looking silly? Is this a joke? It’s not funny. It’s stupid. I can deal with odd clothing, but this is just plain stupid and annoying. Let’s not even talk about his voice in the dub, until the next paragraph. I will say that his voice takes the cake for annoying voices. As for his personality, he is just a whiny, lovestruck character that can’t take an obvious hint. Winner almost singlehandedly ruins Karin by existing.
Speaking of the characters, let’s talk about the dub really quick. Usually I don’t bring up how good the dub is because there is a fifty-fifty split on those who listen to the dub to those who use subtitles. Another reason I don’t bring up dubs is because I honestly don’t usually care how good or bad they are, there are always someone who stands out. Unfortunately Karin‘s dub needs to be one of the few exceptions. In the first few episodes, almost everyone sounds bored and unsure of themselves. There isn’t a character that sounds like they are having fun or even care. It does improve as the show goes on, but ultimately, it just ends up being average. However, there are a few characters that seem to take no steps forward and they are Usui and Winner. Usui doesn’t seem like he cares about anything at all and there never was any emotion in his voice. The only emotion he could express was concern and that’s about it. Thankfully, Winner is slightly better in this case, but it still isn’t saying much. As the show goes on, his whiny, annoying voice actually calms down to the point of being tolerable. It’s just a shame that it took until the last four episodes. In reality, there is no stand-out voice acting here. It just ranges from mediocre to bad, with mediocre taking most of it.
Thankfully, there are some good things with this series, mostly due to unique spin it gives to the vampire mythos. I love vampires. I love the myths, the stories, and almost everything about them. I just can’t get enough, even the bad. Karin adds a lot of interesting ideas to vampire mythology, while keeping some its ‘traditions’. The vampires in Karin actually behave and act like the classic vampire. They can’t go out during the day, they live off of blood, and crosses, stakes, onions, etc are actually painful to them. The vampire characters come off as actual vampires that I know and love. Thankfully, they take the concept a bit further. Let’s look at Karin’s unique situation for example. Karin is a vampire that doesn’t act like a vampire. In fact, she’s more like a reverse vampire, an ‘unvampire’ the show calls it. Instead of taking blood, her’s increases leading to an interesting twist on the mythos. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought up an idea such as this. A vampire that produces blood and has to bite someone in order to release it? You have me hooked. But Karin just doesn’t stop there, it takes it a step further. Vampires in this series have a blood preference, which basically means that each vampire enjoys a certain favor of blood and seeks that out. Ren prefers the blood of stressed girls and Elda prefers the blood of those in love. This opens a lot of doors and unique situations in vampire mythology. This is one that Karin does right, and I am glad it does.
There are only two characters that I actually liked in Karin and it surprised me to find out that I liked them. Karin’s little sister, Anju, and Karin’s best friend, Maki, started off as relatively boring characters. Those feelings changed after I watched episode nine, “Looking Back is Embarrassing” and episode fourteen, “Being Together Until Morning is so Embarrassing”. In episode nine, we see the relationship that Karin and Anju share. Anju loves her sister, but can’t seem to really express that love in any way. It’s surprisingly deep and touching for a show that hasn’t really been up until this point. You can understand their relationship, if you have a sibling. It’s identifiable. It also adds a lot of depth to both Karin and Anju, not to mention that it sets up events in episode twenty. Speaking of which, episode twenty, titled “The First… is so Embarrassing”, we see the pay off to Karin’s and Anju’s relationship and it’s shocking. I never would have called what happened. I was left speechless after this episode. I know believe that every show has to have one episode that leaves you at a loss for words and this is that episode. Anju is frightening yet you feel sorry for her at the same time and it’s pulled off flawlessly. I can’t say anything else about this episode because I honestly think that it needs to be seen. It was just that good! Because of that episode, I really became a fan of Anju.
Let’s move away from Anju and talk about Maki for a moment. In the beginning of the series, Maki was hardly there and when she was, she made my skin crawl from her dub acting. Thankfully after episode fourteen, Maki becomes a surprisingly deep and a well-rounded character. For a character who appeared in the background more times than not, I’m shocked that Maki became such a great character. Basically in that episode, Maki tells Karin that she likes Winner (WHY?!) but doesn’t come right out to say it because she thinks that Karin may like him. It’s sweet to see how much of a friend Maki, while secretly envying her. This point comes back up in episode nineteen, titled “Christmas Eve Together is so Embarrassing”. Maki finally gets the courage to tell Winner how she feels but he blows her off and the reaction she gives is seriously heartbreaking. What Maki is going through is surprisingly sad and touching. She is seriously depressed about Winner blowing her off and I never really expected that much commitment. It gets ‘worse’ (in the best way) for her in the next few episodes, and the pay off is shocking. Maki has the emotional depth that every character in Karin should have had.
The final thing that I’ll briefly mention is that there are a few good musical scores that add a lot to the series. There was a nice piano piece that came up during some touching scenes. This really helped in making those scenes actually touching. Without it, those scenes would have been just mediocre. Also there was a nice piece of thrilling music that came up every now and then. It really adds a bit of tension and horror to scary scenes, and it’s used infrequently enough it make it have a greater impact. The music does help add a lot of impact to scenes that wouldn’t be that good without it.
Karin is generic and average. This show could have been so much more, but it never really took that step. Instead it stayed in mediocrity. I can’t really say anything else about Karin. It would be enjoyable if you like vampire lore and vampires, but even that is stretching it. I guess if you want a simple, lighthearted love story Karin would be worth a watch. Otherwise, it’s really up to you to take a chance with this average anime.