Tue 28 Oct 2008
My current manga and anime interests have brought me in touch with a show that stirred up the vampire issue for me again. I’m talking about Karin, also known as Chibi Vampire.
In the show, Karin is a half-vampire in a family of vampires who live in Japan. She has an older brother, a younger sister named Anju, and a set of parents who are all vampires themselves. Karin goes to school and has a part time job, just like any teenager.
In the Karin world, vampires drink from specific people who have certain traits. For example, Karin’s brother drinks from stressed out people, her father drinks from prideful people, and her mother from liars. When vampires drink from people, they perform a service to humanity by sucking out the “bad qualities” of people, therefore making them “better people”.
Things like crosses, running water, and garlic don’t affect vampires – that’s all just human legend. Sunlight is bad for “true vampires” – but they can go out as long as they use an umbrella or something. I haven’t figured out what the distinction is between Karin and her family exactly – she’s some kind of “mutant” and a source of “shame” for the family.
The big thing that makes Karin different is that she is a “blood producer” vampire. Instead of needing to suck blood, she makes blood. So when she bites a victim, she injects her blood into the person. Since she is drawn to “unhappy” people, she injects blood into them and makes them happy!
She meets a classmate, a normal boy, who causes her to make blood until she explodes in dramatic nosebleeds. He encourages her to try to make him happy so he won’t cause her to make so much blood and be unable to blend in with a normal life.
So, in a sense, we’ve come full circle in terms of vampire lore. From disgusting evil bloodsucker to natural function for the greater good creature who must remain unrecognized while doing good deeds. How’s that for a turnaround?
I like it.
Earlier I was ranting on about how vampires must not lose their edge, that to be meaningful they have to have some connection to their dark past. I still hold to that position. But I think a show like Karin (Chibi Vampire) shows us a new way to look at the vampire.
To understand the darkness we must take some of it within ourselves. Good can only remain good with the creation and fighting of evil. I’m trying to look at the larger picture and see evil as a natural function of a healthy, operating system of life. I like how the boy in Karin must come in contact with “evil” and remain grounded in the real world. And I also like how the protagonist is an “evil” character trying to be normal.
The show focuses on the female character and her quest to resolve her troubles. But I also like how the unspoken focus is on the guy in a certain sense. You can identify with him because he is a normal guy in a weird situation, and the action is not about you, but how you can make your own issues part of the greater picture to be resolved.
In other words, rather than the “girl” being the catalyst and the mystery to be solved, it’s the guy in the position. Karin is the protagonist, and what she does changes the stakes. You can get involved in the fantasy of her self-discovery or you can follow along the secondary, implied path of the guy’s development as Karin forces him to confront himself. I’m totally down with that, on both levels.
The show is fundamentally a comedy, played for the laughs of the embarrassment of characters in situation (every episode is titled “the embarrassment of…”). The shadow of any comedy is the reality of absurdity, and the fact is that Karin is a “dark” character going through rough times (aren’t we all). The light world of daylight illusion is a minefield to be negotiated.
The vampire is a version of ourselves. As we understand the vampire more, our own image of our light selves becomes a little more dark. And the dark vampire acquires a little more light. His/her details show up more under scrutiny and we can acquire if not understanding, than a stalemate where exchanges can be made. A treaty, if you like.
The manga Vampire Knight explores this a little. The idea of an interchange between light and dark. Jung talks about how the two sides of any conflict can only build a bridge between their differences by being themselves. The vampire must be what they are, just as people must be what they are. But what are they, either of them? In the light, in the darkness, what is revealed about either?
If the vampires are getting “gooder” or more understandable, what are people becoming?