Miscellanea and Ephemeron
05/03/2006 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Chibi Vampire, Vol. 1"
Review by Tom Good
Chibi Vampire is the story of Karin Maaka, a young girl faced with the embarrassing discovery that once a month, she bleeds profusely from her nose. (I know. Begun, the Subtext Wars have.) She comes from a family of vampires, in a world where vampires have strong preferences for the blood of particular types of people. Karin's mother Calera, for example, likes the blood of liars; not that of a small-scale liar who "only told lies to his fishing buddies," but the blood of truly destructive liars. I guess this is the vampiric equivalent of craving certain wine varietals. If I owned a vineyard, "Blood of the Liar" would make a great name for an Oregon Pinot Noir.
Anyway, the family is actually European, and their original name is "Marker." The parents still use the name Marker but the kids have adopted the more Japanese-sounding version: Maaka. This sounds similar to the Japanese word "makka" which means "deep red," so it is a suitable family name for vampires.
One night the new boy in school happens to see Karin in a park, wrapped around a businessman and biting his neck. Since he doesn't know Karin is a vampire, he assumes she must be a schoolgirl prostitute. He later scolds her for not getting a real job -- a reference to the "Enjo Kosai" phenomenon in Japan, where some high school girls turn to prostitution in order to afford the expensive designer brands they crave.
This association between vampirism and sex occurs throughout the book. Karin's older brother Ren points her toward a potential victim and says, "Take a . . . close look. As you look at her . . . you get . . . more and more excited, right? You can't wait to sink your fangs into her neck, can you? You don't need to do anything right now. Just enjoy the feeling."
Later when Karin attacks the woman, the two are depicted in an embrace that looks more lustful than violent, with Karin's fangs hidden so that her bite looks more like a kiss, and the victim's head thrown back in what could be rapture as well as shock. To intensify the sexual connotation, this panel shows the two women surrounded by an explosion of iris flowers. (Earlier when Karin bit the businessman, she was surrounded by roses, so the flowers are a recurring visual theme.) Even the nosebleeds are a common manga metaphor for sexual excitement -- though this is mostly used with male, not female characters. In Karin's case, the explanation for the nosebleeds is that she is an odd type of "reverse vampire" whose body produces too much blood, so she must give it to her victims.
Of course, many vampire stories have sexual overtones, so this quality is not unique to Chibi Vampire. But it is interesting that this story downplays ordinary sexuality or depicts it negatively, while vampirism comes across as positive. The characters do not wear revealing clothing by manga standards, nor do they act sexy. The main references to sex in this volume are the misinterpretation about prostitution, and a subplot about workplace sexual harassment. On the other hand, the story shows vampirism as beneficial to both the vampires and their human victims. In fact, the vampiric bite has the power to solve people's problems by removing negative qualities from their blood.
Karin's younger sister Anju appears in only a few scenes, but her Gothic Lolita fashion sense combined with her smart, ruthless personality makes her one of the book's best characters. She is not yet a full vampire, but she has the ability to control bats, and she carries around a creepy talking doll. Anju is the perfect counterpoint to the easily embarrassed, tentative Karin, and I hope to see more of her in future volumes. This book is a very promising Volume 1, and I recommend it.
Replies: 1 Comment
Hey we are doing a Vampire theme at RTRS this month.. just thought you might be interested.
Posted by DeRex @ 05/08/2006 12:56 PM PST
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