Chaotic Updates! Karin, FMA OVAs

Aah-hahahahahahaha! My classes have taken over my life! How long has it been since I updated? Over a month? Geez . . .

Sorry, everyone. This is long overdue, considering the back-logue of anime and manga I've since watched. I'm only following one series for this fall, the aforementioned Fairy Tail, though Book of Bantorra has peeked my interest. However, I think I'll wait for it to end and see what people say about it as a whole.

Karin (24 Episodes)
Animation: ***
Story: ****
Music: ***
Overal: ***

I remember seeing a "preview" for this on some other Geneon disc, which was basically the opening animation and theme. Therefore, I couldn't draw any conclusions as to what it was about. I only saw lots of conveniently censored nudity and a girl who has nose bleeds. I decided it was some fan-service-heavy rom-com and forgot about it.

Some time later, I decide to pick up the first volume of the Chibi Vampire manga, thinking that it looked kind of cute and had some potential. Before long, I burned through what my library had, having endeared myself to the characters and their problems. It was later that I realized that Karin was the original Japanese title and there was an anime series that had the previously described opening sequence. I haven't finished the manga (my hold at the library hasn't come through yet), but I was able to get my hands on the anime's boxset and burned through it, and found it was good fun, like the manga.

Karin is the name of the main protagonist, the eldest daughter in a family of vampires, the Markers (Maaka in Japanese). However, he vampirism seems to work backwards as she has the tendency of creating blood instead of a craving to steal blood from others. In moment's of high blood pressure, she loses control and bites whoever happens to be nearby to pass the excess blood from her to her victum. Naturally, this causes her family no end of worries, simply because they don't know what to do with her. She's a teenager, well beyond the age of maturity for vampires, and yet she has no problem with standard vampire banes. She can walk in daylight, go to school, and hold down a part time job just like any human teenager. Her only problem is the once-a-month blood explosions, which she's been able to keep a secret this whole time, even from her closest friend, Maki.

Enter Kenta Usui, recent transfer student whose family has had quite a share of bad luck. He doesn't know his father and his mother can't hold down a job to save her life (entirely because she's an attractive woman who keeps getting in trouble with lecherous, middle-aged men; she's a complete victum). Because of this, he always seems down and his disposition leads others to think he's always angry (unfortunately, it's just the shape of his eyes).

Well, things get sticky when Karin meets Kenta and her blood starts to boil, curious because her monthly blood problem had recently happened. Turns out that Kenta has Karin's blood affinity, a characteristic or condition of humanity that excites vampires to feed. For example: lying, stress, lonliness, etc. For Karin, it's depression, something Kenta has in spades. Upon realizing this, Karin goes about trying to make Kenta happy so her blood doesn't go haywire. Her first idea: making him lunch.

From there it blossoms into ridiculous and cute romantic comedy as the characters discover each other (Kenta finds out about Karin and her condition quite quickly). It follows the basic premise of the manga, but for its dramatic ending, it takes a different route. Instead of dealing with other vampire families, the Marker family is trouble with a family of vampire hunters. While most manga adaptations that have their own endings can lead to mixed results, at least in Karin it's one of the more creative ideas I've seen, primarily found in the character of Winner Sinclair, the current heir to his vampire hunting family and another transfer student to Karin and Kenta's high school.

I personally consider Winner to be one of the best characters I've ever seen. While he takes vampire hunting seriously, his delivery (at least in the English Dub) is straight up melodrama, resulting in having the rest of the school thinking he's completely insane. As luck would have it, he falls desperately in love with Karin, completely oblivious to the fact that she's a vampire. More romantic hijinks ensue. Basically, Karin doesn't want anything to do with him (because he's a vamprie hunter), so she gets the help of Maki, who happens to be in love with Winner, to get rid of him. Unfortunetly, his obliviousness and devotion to Karin wears them down to the point of simply ignoring him. Probably the greatest result of this is whenever Winner talks to or refers to Maki, he calls her "Karin's friend and sidekick," every time. And for me, it never got old!

While the story is entertaining, I find everything else about the series merely adequate. The music doesn't really stand out, either being standard rom-com suites or old-school horror scores. The animation is decent. The story doesn't demand much action from the animators, but for the climactic ending, the combat strikes me as only being slightly stiff. The character designs are appealing and distinct and for a rom-com, that's all you really need.

I'm looking forward to the end of the Chibi Vampire manga (weird title change, by the way). I'm one volume away, so don't tell me anything. In the meantime, the Karin anime was a fun diversion, using the same characters and situations to present an entertaining anime series. It's not earth-shattering by any means so those unfamiliar with the story may feel either way, but I would recommend it to fans of the manga only for the sake of being introduced to Winner. Seriously, he fits right in like he was meant to belong.

Fullmetal Alchemist OVA Collection (4 "Episodes")
Animation: *****
Story: ***
Music: ***
Overal: ***

I knew that FUNimation had finally grabbed this, but when I saw it in Hastings for about $12 I figured I had nothing to lose. While I wasn't completely blown away, I felt this was a decent package to fans of the series like me.

The four segments have nothing to do with each other (and little to do with the main property) but provide some fun ideas that Studio Bones decided to animate. First is a wrap party by the characters after the "filming" of Conquerer of Shamballa, proving some goofy gags. Second is a side story that treats the audience as a character, resulting in an interesting fight scene between the alchemists and homunculi (it leaves me with the impression that it was orginally part of a ride or event). Third is a curious flash-forward, showing a trio of kids (who look very much like Ed, Al, and Winry) wandering around a modern Japan before returning to their great-grandpa Elric. The fourth is a live-action segment featuring Alphone's armor as he wanders around Tokyo, trying to find Studio Bones.

I don't think I've said this on the blog yet, but I find Fullmetal Alchemist's music to be a bit bland, which was used for the OVAs. Sure, the character themes are alright and the lullabies and comic tunes strike the right chords, but all it amounts to is decent background noise that barely stands on its own. The animation is impressive, though. I'd say it's equal with what Conquerer of Shamballa presented. Slick, immersive, even when everything is chibi-styled it looks nice.

Clearly, this stuff was for the fans, as most OVAs based on bigger properties are. They expect a certain familiarity with the Fullmetal Alchemist story, specifically the anime continuity (though I would suggest that the second segment would be an ideal introduction to FMA). In any case, the set provides some fun chuckles and nostalgias for fans.

This should be good for now, but I've got quite a bit in the future. I finally finished Revolutionary Girl Utena (I was three episodes away for months!). I also wrapped up Gundam 00, which was interesting, and I've got Shangri-La almost done, so there's certainly more to cover. Here's hoping it doesn't take me a month to update this blog, eh?