One of the few anime I did read the manga of (at a friend’s insistence) Vampire Knight is the story of Yuki Cross who’s first memory is of snow and blood when her family were killed by vampires and she was saved by the vampire Kaname. Years pass and she now goes to school where the day class are human and the night class are vampires. Yuki, aided by Zero (her adopted brother) work to keep the classes separate and the fact that the night class are vampires a secret. My review of Vampire Knight Guilty (season 2) will be up on Saturday.
While I accept that vampire stories and sex are more or less intrinsically linked, I think books like Twilight and Vampire Knight (the manga) have a lot to answer for in how they represent romance to teenagers. That said, I’m not one of those people who thinks things always have to have a positive message, I just find it really odd that some people read or watch these things and think they are romantic. These stories have a romance in them, but they actually end up coming off pretty creepy when you think about the context so the romantic factor gets shot in the foot pretty quick.
So Vampire Knight? It is one of those shows I think needs a reboot now that the manga is finished because you could certainly clean up a lot of the character and story issues now that they know where it is going. Also, having rewatched it to do this review, the animation is kind of bad. This isn’t something I usually complain about but it was amazing how many times this anime relies on a still image with a pan rather than actual animation. While this does show off the very nice character designs, and fans of the manga know just how gorgeous these characters can look when allowed to pose, it actually makes for a pretty dull viewing experience a lot of the time.
Despite everything I’ve just said, I don’t actually dislike Vampire Knight as a story. Or rather as an introduction to a story. Much like Kaname spends a number of scenes in this first season staring at a chess board, the story itself is positioning the characters where they need to be. At times this leads to some awkward encounters and interactions but it does set up just the right amount of tension so that you know going into season 2 things are going to get explosive.
The main strength of the story is that it keeps the focus relatively tight on Yuki, Kaname and Zero as the love triangle at the centre of the story. While there are efforts to fill in other characters and organisations, these remain strictly background with the focus more on how those events impact on these three characters.
The interactions between Zero and Yuki are really great to watch, even if I want to slap Yuki a lot of the time for some of her assumptions and feeling guilty about every single thing. Zero isn’t the best character ever written, but he is emotionally hamstrung by having watched his family die and is now turning into a vampire when he was trained to be a vampire hunter. So his angst is actually relatively understandable, more so than Yuki’s happy go lucky attitude she insists on putting forward even though inside she’s just a pit of hopeless despair.
Unfortunately the interactions between Kaname and Yuki aren’t so impressive. I get the show wants us to want these two together but he keeps Yuki at arms length most of the time and then gets jealous and possessive at others. His actions force her to distrust him and then he gets annoyed that she doesn’t trust him. Amazingly enough when you don’t communicate and sit around and brood a lot, relationships don’t exactly work out easily. I know a lot of people will disagree but by the end of season 1 I’d really rather Yuki told Kaname where to go and headed off with Zero.
So yes, watching this you are in for a lot of teenage angst and the wondering if the choice they made was right and staring wistfully at the profile or back of the character they like and if you aren’t up for that Vampire Knight is not going to be your thing. Because basically everything else in this story falls flat.
The Chairman, (Yuki and Zero’s adopted father) acts a complete fool 90% of the time and is an irritant given he’s the one who set up the ridiculous school system. There’s enough moments in the show that point to him having a more serious side but we aren’t getting to see that in season 1 so basically he is a throw away character who seems to exist only to annoy Zero and cry when Yuki doesn’t call him father.
The rest of the vampires all have a serious Kaname fan club going on, and while this is explained, it means that their personalities are pretty fixed. Someone touches Kaname they get super defensive. Zero says something to Kaname, they gather to go pick a fight but then walk away because actually having a fight would be lame. Ruka gets a little bit of development as she pours out an unrequited love for Kaname but that’s a very minor side story and Aidou gets to be a complete pain in the neck as he regularly over steps the rules mostly so Kaname can show how cool he is in settling things down, but again this isn’t really a focus point and mostly makes Aidou look like an idiot.
Even the idea that Yuki and Zero are guardians in the school is kind of a throw away plot line to explain why they are wandering around at all hours and not abiding by a sensible curfew. While Zero can fight due to his hunter training, he isn’t really interested in looking out for the interests of the school and regularly exacerbates issues between the vampires or stirs up the day class with his cold attitude. Yuki on the other hand is useless. She has a weapon (Artemis) but in season 1, the three times she draws it she pretty much never actually hits a vampire and almost always has the weapon either taken away from her or drops it. About the only purpose Yuki actually serves outside of the romance is bait because every time she steps outside she literally gets attacked by a vampire. Again, this plot point will be explained later, but it makes for a really silly story during the early stages where you just feel like she has to have some sort of vampire magnet attached to her.
Before I finish though, a point needs to be made that the opening and ending themes to season 1 of this show are fantastic. Definitely exactly what the show needed and they keep you hooked. While the animation of the show is less than impressive, the visuals themselves are really detailed with repeated visual motifs to be found and plenty of other interesting details and symbolism if you pay attention. Plus, the colour scheme works really well for the show.
Basically, if you don’t mind watching three teenagers in a love triangle with the occasional vampire attack thrown in and some back story about a school trying to build peace between humans and vampires, you will probably find a lot to enjoy here. It is strictly set up for the events of season 2, but it paints an interesting picture of the characters and sketches in the world they live in enough to keep you on board for the story. While not my favourite story by a long shot, I don’t mind the occasional rewatch of this, though part of me still wishes that Zero would actually use his gun on some of the vampire students earlier in the show.
I’d love to know your thoughts on Vampire Knight if you’ve watched it and hopefully you will check out my review of season 2 out later this week.
Thanks for reading.
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