#1 Vampire rules inverted
To her classmates, Karin is a perfectly normal teenager. She goes to school, has crushes on boys, and she enjoys hanging out with her friends. However, nobody has ever gone to her house or heard anything at all about her family. Turns out there’s a good reason for that, because Karin has a horrible secret: her family is a clan of vampires.
Karin is a strange case, however. She is a vampire herself as well, but a rare breed from whom all the rules are in reverse. She can be in broad daylight perfectly fine, lacks the enhanced senses that vampirism provides, and none of the typical wards against vampires work on her. Most importantly, she doesn’t drink Human blood. Instead Karin has a condition where she produces an excess amount of blood that she somehow has to get rid off .
This gimmick makes for an interesting twist on the typical vampire story, without doing away with its charms completely. Karin still needs to bite people in order to feed them her blood, lest she suffers extreme nosebleeds; extreme enough to paint entire hallways red. She desperately wants to keep her nature a secret, but that either means preying on humans or regularly exploding into a fountain of blood.
It’s a real “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario, with Karin’s entire way of life at stake.
#2 Romantic struggles
Karin’s life is further complicated when a new boy one day transfers in. Kenta Usui is a kindhearted and ambitious young man, cursed with a look that people find intimidating. He one day grows concerned for Karin after catching her “making out” with an older man, but soon discovers what is really happening.
Rather than expose her, Kenta swears to keep her secret and begins helping Karin cover up whenever her vampirism threatens to leak out. The two of them become friends, though its immediately clear that a closer bond is forming between them. Besides the usual hurdles that come with teenage love, Karin’s vampirism also presents some extra challenges for them to overcome. For example, what would Kenta even do if Karin somehow succumbed to her predatory urges? What is she hurt someone or lost control? What if she hurt him?
To add even more trouble to this already-precarious situation, there is also Winner. He is a foreign exchange student who immediately earns the affection of his female classmates; thanks to his dashing looks, charisma, and aura of mystery. However, Winner is also wholly convinced that he has a romantic past with Karin. He is single-minded in his devotion for her and quickly grows to resent Kenta for being so close to her.
This rivalry is introduced early enough in the series to actually feel meaningful, whereas in other anime such third wheels tend to feel like obligatory plot points. Winner’s attempts at courting Karin have their successes and there is definitely chemistry between the two. This rivalry ends up being a great source of character development for everyone involved; as well as great entertainment for the audience.
#3 Difficult family relations
A theme across all the main characters of Chibi Vampire is that they all have a difficult family situation. Karin, Kenta, Winner, they all have an unusual home life that shapes what kind of person they are and also plays a pivotal role in their development across this anime.
Karin’s family consists of her parents, an older brother, and her younger sister Anju, all of whom are traditional vampires. Her mother practices a kind of tough love, frequently berating Karin for being dense, weird, and not “vampiric” enough. Her brother similarly criticizes her for being too close to humans and fiercely opposes her budding relationship with Kenta; often to the point of openly threatening him. On the flipside, her father is a worrywart that excessively dotes on Karin, while Anju goes to extreme lengths to help Karin out—often at the cost of her already-fragile health.
While for most girls romance is a personal matter, for Karin’s family mingling with Humans threatens their very existence. They all get involved and all have opinions on the matter, which causes conflict and infighting. Being constantly told to give up on Kenta takes its toll on Karin. Seeing how she copes with her family’s lack of trust in her is a key component of her story.
Meanwhile, Kenta has issues of his own. His father abandoned him and his mother at a young age, from which they never recovered emotionally or financially. They now live in a tiny house together and can only barely afford food and other essentials. Kenta works himself half to death to make ends meet, while his mother struggles to hold unto any job for long enough to make a difference.
Chibi Vampire does a phenomenal job of presenting the stress this puts on Kenta. He puts on a confident face and speaks optimistically, but has a lot on his mind. That’s on top of having to take care of a defective vampire. This unhappiness becomes one of the main issues that he and Karin work to overcome together. However, as they quickly learn, you can’t just magically cure such deeply-rooted traumas by sharing a few lunchboxes.
#4 Vampire Hunting drama
As for Winner, he is burdened by the fact that his family are all vampire hunters. He hails from the Sinclair family, who have hunted such monsters for generations with quite some success. Winner is determined to carry on this legacy, even though today’s people don’t believe in vampires anymore. Not knowing, of course, that he has fallen in love with one.
While he is initially presented as buffoonish, tensions begin to rise as the Sinclairs zone in on Karin’s family. This leads to some solid drama during the last few episodes. Developments follow each other up rapidly, character arcs are turned upside down, and we get some honest-to-God action scenes out of this anime. Big revelations are broken up with intense fights, during which the anime is not shy about racking up a body count.
It’s a big change of pace and tone for Chibi Vampire, but it’s not out of place. It feels like the explosive culmination of the drama that accumulated across the anime. A tale of romantic conflict that has deteriorated into violence. The final 2 episodes are particularly gripping and do a great job at rounding out characters that we spent so long getting invested into.
#5 Shounen-Shoujo middle ground
Chibi Vampire plays a delicate balancing game. It’s a story of teenage romance about a girl that wants to break free from her controlling family. The girls are cute, the boys handsome, and it’s a very emotion-driven story. At the same time, it also has its appeals for a male audience.
The character design may be cute, but also favors well-endowed characters. Karin’s enormous rack is a frequent topic of both conversation and comedy, with plenty of fanservice to go along with it. Nothing too egregious, but lewd enough to “excite” male viewers. Of course there are also the action scenes and the cool supernatural themes of the story.
The anime does a great job at walking this middle-ground, challenging both demographics to step out of their comfort zone. Boys get to enjoy a love story because it has cool vampires and sexy fanservice. Meanwhile girls get an emotional plot, which also dabbles in some sexuality and action. Some episodes do heavily favor one demographic over the other, but such shifts are always temporary.
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