Having no prior exposure to the world of Yuna Kagesaki’s shojo comedy horror manga, Chibi Vampire, I initially wasn’t sure how newbie friendly Tokyopop’s new short story collection, Chibi Vampire: Airmail, would be. Turns out, though, that the package is slightly mislabeled: of the four short stories included in the book, only two directly connect to the Chibi series. The first two tales — both of which hinge on multiple personalities — have nary a vampire in ‘em.
First item, “Reverse Babysitting,” is the kinkiest comedy in the set: in it, 10-year-old heroine Marino becomes mixed up with her 19-year-old neighbor Takuma when he inexplicably starts acting like an infant. Left to her own devices, she has to feed and change (!) the overgrown “infant” until he reverts to his young adult self. Sort of like that memorable Big Baby episode of C.S.I. only without any dead bodies or Gil Grissom being all detached and tolerant amidst the all-round perviness.
The second tale, “Searching for My Beloved,” proves less broadly comic — featuring, as it does, a ghost and a cannibalistic psycho killer. Centered on a fortuneteller, Carolina Haruko, who goes looking for a girl when a figure claiming to be her boyfriend asks for help finding the missing seventeen-year-old, the story is commendably dire. At times, however, Kagesaki’s art seems a shade too lighthearted to convey the full darkness. When we see the skull of a dead teenager, for instance, its eyes are oversized to match manga visual conventions.
The two pieces that follow are respectively described as a “Chibi Vampire Side-Story” and a “Chibi Vampire Bonus Story,” though what the distinction is, I haven’t a clue. I found the first, “The Vampire of the West Woods,” to be the more effective: a platonic romance depicting the relationship between an okatu (manga culture’s term for fan-boy) vampire named Friedrich and an isolated nun named Sister Rosary. Because the Catholic Church has long been vampires’ nemesis, Friedrich tries to keep his undead status a secret, though, of course it’s revealed in the story much to Friedrich's dismay.
The second, “Maki-Chan, the Helping Angel of Love,” is a straight comic romance with cameos by characters I presume are more prominent in the main series (one of ‘em, Fumio, “possesses demonic pheromones that seduce all men”). The story itself, however, proves rather to be thin. Series’ lead, Karin, has a cameo in this second entry, though her role is primarily one of observer. And it definitely must be noted: in both vampire pieces, we see no blood-sucking action. Instead, the focus is on the ways Kagesaki’s creatures live and blend in the mundane world.
Reading these two outings, I think I have a glimpse of the appeal of Chibi Vampire’s appeal for its older teen girl readership, though. Her heroines are strong; her boys are immature or nerdy — a reasonable grouping of your average teenage male in any country — and her art is light without being overly flowery. Shojo comics for less sentimental older teens, in other words. So in the end, Chibi Vampire: Airmail provides a decent introduction to this popular shojo manga artist.
Got to admit I don’t get the significance of the collection's subtitle, though . . .