Chibi Vampire: Airmail

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice epilog to a beloved series

Chibi Vampire Airmail

For most beloved manga series, once they are finished they are finished. There is very little opportunity to go back and revisit the characters and see what they have been up to lately. And that seemed to be the case when “Chibi Vampire” (Japanese title “Karin”) ended with Volume 14.

But artist Yuna Kagesaki apparently had a few more stories hiding out in her pen, and so “Chibi Vampire: Airmail” serves as a nice epilog to a fun series. There are a few other stand-alone short stories by Yuna here as well. The first two stories are of bizarre love, and I believe are unconnected to the “Chibi Vampire” story.

“Reverse Babysitting,” has no supernatural elements but is the story of ten-year old Marimo Sakamari and nineteen-year old Takuma Toi. They are next-door neighbors and Takuma has always treated Marimo like an annoying brat, until one day Takuma inexplicably reverts back to a baby and needs constant care from his “mommy” Marimo (including diaper changes!). This story was an odd one, and seeing a ten-year old girl change a nineteen-year old guys diapers was a bit too much for me!

The next story, “Searching for my Beloved,” was amazing however. This was a genuinely chilling horror story, with too many twists and turns for me to describe the plot without ruining it. But it was great, and I could read a whole book of stories like this from Yuna Kagesaki. Honestly, with all of her cuteness I didn’t know Yuna had a story like this in her.

“The Vampire of the West” is the real “Chibi Vampire” side-story, originally published in 2008 in “Monthly Dragon Ace” (Japanese title: “Karin Gaiden: Nishi no Mori no Vanpaiya”). This is a sweet story about the love of a Catholic nun and a vampire. Friedrich Marker (Karin’s cousin) is charged with killing Sister Rosary, the last of a line of vampire-hunting clergy. Sister Rosary is not even aware of her legacy and doesn’t believe in vampires, but she is still seen as a threat. Instead of killing her, however, Friedrich gets to know her and discovers they share a love of Japanese comics. Over time the two grow closer, until Friedrich must decide who he will stand with; Sister Rosary or the vampires who want to kill her.

“Maki chan: The Helping Angel of Love” is a bonus “Chibi Vampire” story that I believe was created just for this volume. It is a very sweet little tale that gives a happy ending to one of the popular side-characters of “Chibi Vampires,” and will make all fans of the series say “Ahhhh…..”

Finally (and my favorite) Yuna tells of her Trip to Seattle’s 2008 Sakura Con in a little five-page short. I was at that convention, and it was really funny to see a Japanese artist’s impression of an American manga convention!

All in all, I really enjoyed this extra volume of “Chibi Vampire” and I thought the whole concept was a nice idea that I would like to see more of. Doing a final visit with beloved characters is always a lot of fun (including a brief glimpse of Karin and Usui’s daughter!) and this was handled really well.

About one-forth of “Chibi Vampire: Airmail” is taken up by a preview of the Tokyo Pop superhero series Ratman I appreciated this, as “Ratman” is a series I have been thinking of checking out, and it was nice to get the sample chapter.

 

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RE: Play Volume 3

3.0 out of 5 stars Out with a whimper

After a promising beginning and a slightly disappointing middle, more than three years after the first volume’s release in 2006 Chirsty Lijewski’s American manga “RE: Play” finally comes to a close.

Three volumes in three years is a pretty poor showing, especially when you consider how much of volumes two and three are given over to fan art submissions from Lijewski’s Deviant Art page. She doesn’t seem to care much about the series, and when the artist doesn’t care it’s a fair bet readers won’t care very much either.

This final volume brings a close to the storylines, packing up everything in as short a timespan as possible. Izsak’s secret origin is revealed. Rail gets really angry, then calms down. Cree proves just how much Izsak means to her and finds out that those feelings are returned. Char…well, Char doesn’t really get much closure. I guess you can’t fit everyone’s stories into three volumes.

As with the second volume, about a third of “RE: Play volume 3” is given over to two side-stories, character profiles and fan art. Niji and Laurent’s backstory is told, as is the moment when Charlie became “Char,” and just who she did it for. I am not really happy with the “bonus features” taking up so much space. I appreciate that Lijewski can from a fan-background herself and wants to share the wealth by giving people a chance to have their art published in a professional format, but that isn’t what I buy comics for.

Everything about “RE: Play” is just…lackluster. In the author’s note, it was revealed that Tokyo Pop commissioned Lijewski (One of the runner-ups for their “Rising Stars of Manga” contest) to do a shojo manga, even though Lijewski has no interest in shojo and would rather do an action-adventure shonen manga. She took the job anyways and did her best, but the lack of interest shows.

Lijewski’s distinctive art style is still pretty to look at, and every now and then “RE: Play” sparks to life, but the good bits are few and far between.

Oh, and the big surprise? It turns out that Izsak is not a vampire at all, but actually a ….nah, I’m not going to ruin it for you. That was one of the good parts of the comic after all.

Bloody Kiss Volume 1

 
3.0 out of 5 stars Angst-free Vampire Romance

Bloody Kiss Volume 1

I can’t imagine a more light and fluffy vampire romance than “Bloody Kiss.” There are no love triangles to be had, no repression of blood lust…in fact, the this manga vampires only drink blood from one human their whole life, who they take as a “bride” and cherish and love forever.

Furumiya Kazuko started “Bloody Kiss” as a short story, but was encouraged to stretch it out into a longer series. The finished work only spans two volumes, but it is clear even Furumiya didn’t know where the story was going. She just wanted to create some fluffy feel-good romance with a strong-willed girl and her beautiful vampire lover. Somehow the plot had to be stretched into that.

In the story, schoolgirl Katsuragi Kiyo inherits and old crumbling mansion from her late grandmother. Remote and hidden away, Kiyo plans to sell the place to finance her law school, but upon arrival she finds she has also inherited two vampires, the dashing Lord Kuroboshi and his attendant Alshu. Both vampires lived merrily along with Kiyo’s grandmother, and when Lord Kuroboshi sets eyes on Kiyo it is love at first site.

Aside from Kuroboshi and Kiyo’s romance, the humor of “Bloody Kiss” comes from the domestic strife of Kiyo trying to find a job to pay for food and upkeep, since the vampires consider themselves too aristocratic to work. Kiyo is also a horrible cook, although she tries her very best as she finds herself falling for Kuroboshi.

The art in “Bloody Kiss” is uneven, and artist Furumiya seems to not have a solid grasp of her characters and their appearance. Manga artists often humble themselves in the writer’s notes included in their volumes, but this is the first time I have found myself agreeing. The art does improve in Bloody Kiss Volume 2 however, so it is nice to see the improvement.

This volume of “Bloody Kiss” also has a short back-up story, “Angel Love Song,” which surprisingly features no vampires whatsoever, “Angel Love Song” is a teenage love story of a girl who gets dumped by her boyfriend, but then miraculously meets the boy of her dreams just in time for the band concert. Fluffy bunnies all around.

Chibi Vampire Volume 14

5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Endings all around

As of Volume 13, Karin the nose-bleeding vampire was a captive of the Brownlick clan who planned to feed off of her excessive blood in order to keep their clan strong. The Psyche, as the Brownlick calls Karin’s unique breed of vampire, has been the property of the clan for centuries and they mean to continue the tradition. Of course, the clan has a little surprise in for Karin. She needs to give birth to a successor Psyche before the clan can finish her off, assuring a next generation of strong blood for the Brownlicks. Utsui, however, has something to say about that plan!

Volume 14 concludes the long running and popular “Chibi Vampire” series (known in Japanese simply as “Karin,” the title which was also used for the anime). A vampire romantic-comedy, the series has had quite a few twists and turns, playing with the genre and injecting some new ideas into the typical “vampire romance” situation.

Because this is a romantic-comedy, ending on a high note with love all around is pretty much expected, but series author Kagesaki Yuna doesn’t take the easy way out. Even Karin’s lady-killer brother Ren ends up in a completely unexpected situation that is a bit of poetic justice for the character. “Bittersweet” is the word most associated with this kind of ending, because for every gain there is a loss, and for everyone who gets to walk hand in hand in the sunshine there are those who must shrink back into the shadows never to be seen again.

I thought the series ended well overall. It reminds me a bit of the ending to the Harry Potter series, where there isn’t a final page and dramatic conclusion but a short sequence following the main characters through the years and seeing what becomes of them. There are some surprises, some “Awww…” moments and of course a giant splash-page kissing scene to make romantic hearts go all a flutter.

For being the last volume in the series, it was a bit short and Tokyo Pop filled up the remainder of the book with some funny single-strip cartoons featuring author Kagesaki Yuna’s frustrations with being assigned to write a romantic-comedy, how she dealt with that and how the series took on a life of its own. There is also a nineteen page preview for a new series called “Deadman Wonderland” that looks really interesting.

Bloody Kiss Volume 2

bloody kiss

 
4.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted vampire romance

Bloody Kiss Volume 2

Ah, high school in Japan. If it isn’t robots, it’s vampires. At least that’s what it seems like if you read too much manga!

“Bloody Kiss Vol. 2” is the second and final volume in Furumiya Kazuko’s light-hearted supernatural romance. Originally serialized in the shojo magazine “Hana to Yume” (“Flowers and Dreams”) in 2005, “Bloody Kiss” has got to be the most angst-free vampire love story I have ever seen.

Continuing from volume one, we have the dhampir (half-human, half-vampire) Kuroboshi sharing a home with average high-school girl Katsuragi Kiyo. Kiyo inherited Kuroboshi along with the house when her grandmother died, and Kuroboshi chose Kiyo as his “bride.” In this manga world, vampires only drink blood from a single selected target, who is then the vampire’s “bride” for life. Kuroboshi has a servant vampire, Alsh, who has a bit of a panty fetish (of course) and is generally a sweet-hearted trouble maker.

The stories in “Bloody Kiss” are more like an anthology than a straight plot. There are a number of minor issues resolved in a few pages, like Kuroboshi and Kiyo facing off in a tennis match against popular girl Fujiwara, or a romantic rival in the form of Kiyo’s childhood friend Mizukami Sou who shows up out of nowhere as a vampire hunter. Nothing is too heavy, however, and all of the plots are resolved pretty much how you think they will be, accompanied by flowers and romance.

The art in “Bloody Kiss” is almost expressionistic. Artist Furumiya is more concerned with creating a mood than telling a story, and so pages can be given over to simple scenes with no dialog and only passing glances between characters. The panel usage was especially impressive, and the art captivating.

The main weakness of “Bloody Kiss” is that the serialization seems to have been only a few pages a week, and so we get a full story re-cap every few pages. That might have been necessary in “Hana to Yume” when readers might have come to the story mid-stride, but it gets annoying when you are reading the collected form.

Because “Bloody Kiss” is only a two-volume series, there isn’t much space to develop characters or get too heavily into the plot. I think that works just fine, because there isn’t much story here for more than two volumes. The length is just right. All in all, this isn’t a spectacular series, but it is some fun light reading, and if you are in the mood for some angst-free vampire romance than this is just about perfect.

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