Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chibi Vampire: The Novel (book, vol. 5) story by Tohru Kai, art by Yuna Kagesaki

The English translation of this Chibi Vampire novel was published by Tokyopop, which is (sort of) no more. However, it shouldn't be that hard to get a copy - it looks like several libraries own this, and there are cheap copies to be had via Amazon. I found this on the clearance shelves at a bookstore.

Synopsis:

If you're not familiar with this series, its stars are Karin and Kenta. Karin is a reverse vampire whose body makes blood. If she doesn't bite someone and give them her excess blood, the blood forcibly leaves her body via a massive nosebleed, leaving her weak and anemic. Karin's blood tends to increase more when she's around unhappy people, and when she gives those people her blood, their personalities change, making them temporarily more energized and able to overcome whatever it is that makes them unhappy. Kenta is a human classmate of Karin's who has learned her secret. He doesn't seem to mind what she is and has even given her permission to bite him (because he's dirt poor, he's often hungry and unhappy, which caused Karin's blood to increase). Karin finds the idea of biting him terribly embarrassing, however, because she sees him on a regular basis and has a crush on him.

So, that's the series' basic setup. In this book, an accident brings Kenta to the attention of Ayaha Ougimachi, a beautiful, rich, and spoiled girl who goes to his and Karin's school. After Karin inadvertently bites Ayaha, Ayaha becomes more outgoing and able to speak her mind. She promptly throws herself at Kenta, horrifying and upsetting Karin, who starts to worry that Kenta might like Ayaha. Added to that are Karin and Kenta's worries about being evicted - Ayaha's father is planning to build an expensive retirement home in the same place as Kenta and Karin's homes, and there's not much they can do about it.

Review:

If you're a big fan of this series, you might like this novel. Maybe. Almost all of the series regulars make at least a brief appearance - the only character I missed was Karin's little sister, Anju, who, as far as I can remember, only had a few mentions and no speaking part. Kai stayed true to the original characters, and the story felt like something that could have happened in the manga.

The book's primary original characters, Ayaha and her cousin, Shinobu, were mildly interesting. Ayaha had issues with her father, who she felt was trying to replace her mother, who had died of cancer, with a new young mistress. Shinobu had lived his whole life knowing that his mother would have preferred it if he had been born a girl. He also had a crush on Ayaha that was so secret, he refused to even admit his feelings to himself. He was probably the most intelligent person in the book – when Ayaha suddenly started throwing herself at Kenta, Shinobu put together what few clues he had and came to the correct conclusion that Karin had something to do with it, even if he didn't know exactly what it was she'd done. Oh, and have I mentioned that Shinobu was a bit of a sociopath?

Unfortunately, for reasons I'll discuss next, I can't recommend this book to anyone but die-hard fans of the manga, and even they might be disappointed.

As is usually the case with the light novels I've read, I found the writing/translation (it's hard to tell which) to be lacking. I could understand what was going on, but there was absolutely zero subtlety in the writing. It was the written equivalent of a sledgehammer, all the time. While I read a lot of fan fic that is often no better, and sometimes much worse, that fan fic is at least free. And also usually more interesting than this book was.

Kai played it safe with the Chibi Vampire world and characters – absolutely nothing new and of lasting effect happened – and didn't even follow through with the book's two primary original characters. I had expected Shinobu to admit his feelings to Ayaha at some point, but their relationship was no different by the end of the book than it was at the beginning. I'd forgive that if there were any signs that Shinobu and Ayaha were going to be novel series regulars, but the descriptions I've read of a few of the other novels indicate that's not the case.

The book's other big problem is Karin. It's been several years since I last read the manga, but I don't think Karin behaved any differently in the novel than she did in the manga. I just don't remember her being quite so annoying in the manga as she was in the novel. She was nice, but not very bright, to the point that just about anyone looked smart by comparison. She cried. A lot. She spent a good chunk of the book needing to be saved or crumbling in the face of adversity. Because she refuses to bite the one person who knows her secret and has offered, of his own free will, to let her bite him, she needs Anju's protection and help anytime she hunts, because she doesn't have the ability to erase people's memories like normal vampires do. The best she could do to protect an unconscious Kenta was hold him while shouting and crying.

While it's true that the other novels in the series might be better, at this point I'd advise Chibi Vampire newbies to skip the novels and stick with the manga. Fans of the manga who'd like to try the novels should probably keep their expectations low.

Extras:

Most of the light novels I've read include illustrations, and this one is no exception. The nice thing about these is that they are done by the original manga's artist, so they look just like anything you'd find in the manga.

Read-alikes: 
  • Tail of the Moon (manga) by Rinko Ueda - This stars another heroine who needs to be saved a lot, although, if I remember correctly, she cries a lot less than Karin. Like Chibi Vampire, this series also features romance and humor. I've written about the first two volumes of this manga.
  • The Wallflower (manga) by Tomoko Hayakawa - If you find Karin's massive, over-the-top nosebleed problem to be hilarious, you'll probably love at least the first few volumes of this series. The main character is a creepy-looking girl who freaks out and has nosebleeds when forced to be around good-looking guys. Unfortunately for her, several good-looking guys have just started living in her home, and they've been promised free (reduced?) rent if they can turn her into a lady. I've written about volumes 15 and 16 of this manga.
  • Kimi ni Todoke (manga) by Karuho Shiina - This is less over-the-top than Chibi Vampire but may still appeal. Those who'd like something else featuring a shy heroine who's not good around guys might want to try this. Sawako manages to capture the interest of one of the nicest guys at school...except she doesn't realize it, figuring that he's just being nice to her because that's the way he is. I've written about the first three volumes of this manga.

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