Vampire Knight Guilty Series Review: The Dark Side of Obsession

Overview:

On Wednesday I reviewed season 1 of Vampire Knight and now I’m finishing off the show with a review of season 2. Our characters pick up from where season ended with the death of a pure blood vampire and Zero is the one being blamed. The plot thickens however as more and more conspiracies are deeply held secrets are dragged into the light and Kaname’s plans finally come to fruition.

There will definitely be some spoilers below.

Review:

The main issue with season 1 is it is strictly background for the events that we will see unfold in season 2. As a result, there’s a lot of filler sequences and throw away moments as well as a lot of characters sitting around brooding and wondering what other characters are brooding about. What we see in Guilty is the result of all of these plans and intentions and what we realise is that most of these characters should have just walked away. I know that there are a lot of contrived reasons about how these characters are getting dragged along or getting the short stick because of destiny or fate, but really, most of the things that happen to them are the result of their own choices and not all of those choices have been great.

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Zero continues to descend into madness as a level E vampire because he didn’t drink the blood of pure blood vampire. This leads me to question whether or not Kaname could have solved this issue much easier by just giving Zero his blood way back when it was first noted that the tablets weren’t working. Then Kaname wouldn’t have had to have gotten jealous over Yuki feeding Zero her blood or worried that Zero was actually going to hurt her. While Kaname might find Zero feeding off him personally repulsive, it would have solved a lot of other issues, and considering how dirty Kaname is happy to get his hands, feeding Zero really shouldn’t have been that much of an issue.

Zero on the other hand throws away any sympathy I had for him as a character. In season one he was the only character I actually felt sorry for because he really was dealt a crappy hand at life. In season two, he actively pushes Yuki aside and ultimately rejects her for being who she is. Zero, you are a fool. One of the things I was hoping when I read the manga was it would clarify why Zero would act so idiotically. No, it didn’t. In fact I’m pretty sure Zero is more stubborn and irritating in the manga than he appears here. So basically he’s going to be unhappy and it is by his own choice. Good for you Zero. Have fun with that. Okay, the stuff with his brother was kind of a low blow and hard for him to cope with but emotional trauma only lets you get away with so much before the audience expects the character to use some common sense.

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Outside of the two boys both being idiotically stubborn and making the story messier than it needs to be we have Yuki who has decided to stop being bait for vampires and instead goes into mental break down land. Now we do get a decent enough back story as to what is going on here and it makes sense that Yuki is going through a lot, but it doesn’t make her character particularly interesting in this season. By the time she pulls it together to get proactive, the vast majority of the story has already played out and there is very little left for her to do.

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Still, where the love triangle was the strength of season 1, it is the politics of the vampire world and the meddling of hunter association that take control of season 2 and the end result is a far more satisfying look at this dark world. The conflict playing out at the school has a fairly grand scale and while it seems unlikely that any student would ever return to the school again by the end, it makes for an impressive setting for the final act of this story.

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Still, if you get to the end of Guilty and feel like the story is incomplete, you would be correct. It is one where the anime finished before the manga did so there is definitely more to the story. My personal recommendation is just to skip the anime altogether and read the manga. The anime isn’t impressive enough on its own and the unfinished story just leaves you with way too many questions.

That said, it isn’t unwatchable and it does bring us to the end of the immediate conflict as well as offers a solution of sorts to the love triangle. So without reading the manga you will get some closure and won’t just be left entirely hanging. The theme song to Guilty isn’t quite as good as season one, but is still pretty impressive, and the action is definitely better in season 2 given we actually get some decent action sequences. Also a fair sized body count by the end, somewhere along the lines this show got quite dark.

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All and all, it isn’t a bad watch though there are certainly better shows out there. It really depends if you are up for a supernatural teen romance or not.


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Vampire Knight Series Review: Tortured Teen Love Triangle With Fangs

Overview:

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.

Review:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Grimoire of Zero Series Review: Witches, Mercenaries & War, What More Could You Want?

Overview:

Zero is a witch who wrote a grimoire (magic book) only it has been stolen and now she’s travelling to get it back. She runs into a Beast Mercenary (no name given) and recruits him to guard her until she retrieves the book. As payment, she offers to turn the Mercenary back into a human which would allow him to finally live his dream of living a quiet life and so after some bickering he agrees to the deal, but things aren’t as simple as they seem.

I reviewed Grimoire of Zero week to week so if you are interested in my episode reviews, click here.

Review:

I’ve always kind of felt that the worst thing a series can do is be boring and Grimoire of Zero walks perilously close to boring for a lot of its run time. Even when watching something terrible like Hand Shakers, at least I can sit and make fun of it. With Grimoire of Zero, there really isn’t anything wrong. All the key elements of a good show are sitting right there on the screen. Yet at no point did this show actually ask me to get invested or to care in the slightest about the fate of any of the characters or the events in the story. Admittedly, this was a problem I had with a few shows this spring (Granblue Fantasy being another), where it seems like the story should be really interesting and right in line with my usual preferences, and yet I’ve been unable to actually care about what is going on.

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Despite my general lack of engagement, there are some good points to Grimoire of Zero that deserve to be mentioned. Other than a few scenes in the second half, it is a really pretty anime. The characters, the world, the magic are all just well done and great to look at. Admittedly, there are a few moments in the second half where group shots of the cast have a few of them looking a little rough around the edges and a few moments where you have to wonder which direction they were actually looking or who they were talking to. It isn’t a deal breaker by any means but there’s definitely a downward turn in the overall appearance as the show goes on so it is probably good that it started out so strongly in that department.

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Zero as a character is quite okay. A lot of people really like her, the young confident witch stepping out into the world for the first time with a little bit of sass. I found her more than a little cliché at times and at other times just found her lack of communication skills with regards to Mercenary far too convenient for the plot given just speaking could have solved a lot of issues, but mostly she’s an enjoyable character.

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Mercenary too is quite okay. He has some genuinely good moments, he looks pretty cool in a fight, he’s a little thick but not painfully stupid, and his personality plays well against Zero as the two of them have a competition to see who can be the most ridiculously stubborn while genuinely forming an attachment for one another.

While neither of these characters are sweeping me off my feet, they both serve their purposes well enough and given a stronger storyline probably could have been quite fascinating.

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And that’s where we hit the real snag of the show. It has a cool concept with the missing grimoire and the new system of magic that Zero had created, and even the world itself with the Beastfallen and the witch burnings was inherently interesting, but the story itself just kind of meanders around from one thing to another. There’s no intensity or drive, and while all the issues are more or less connected, it seems more that one plot idea gets thrown under the bus for another one to take the focus for a bit, and you aren’t really given any reason to invest in any particular issue.

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If we add to the unfocused and undriven nature of the narrative the absence of any antagonist to care about it really starts to hurt the enjoyment of the show. For awhile it seemed like they were actually trying to build Thirteen up to take the role of that antagonist. The show really needed something for the group to overcome and he seemed like a great stumbling block. He was powerful, seemed to have a plan that was contrary to what the others wanted, he could direct others so could match numbers with our protagonists, and it all could have worked really well. Then in the second last episode he just decides that if Zero doesn’t actually want the mass disaster he’s been planning he’s done with it.

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Now at that point there is another group rising up, but it is a group that we as the audience don’t much care about. They’ve been mentioned a few times and we’ve even met a few of them, but their motives are incredibly weak and their plan is rubbish. You don’t think for a minute they might succeed so you don’t actually care. Yet the main characters go through the motions of countering them like they are an actual threat. You can see they’d like you to care about what is going on in this sequence but it is all just kind of there. And then they solve that problem, make a few announcements and somehow everything worked out. Hooray.

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Even the fantasy fan in me couldn’t get into this one. While there are some elements to the magic I would have liked to learn more about, the show really isn’t interested in getting too explanatory about that, so while there are some parts of the world that aren’t generic, the overall feel of the world is pretty ordinary. The fight sequences are done well enough, although as another blogger pointed out possibly a magic battle between two high level magic users should involve more than just coloured lights and intense glares. There are some good character moments and scenes and just enough points of interest to keep this rolling a long but ultimately the entire show is pretty forgettable unless you really like those two main characters.

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Before I end this review there is one more point I have to make and I know it isn’t really pertinent to the review but I have to say it. ‘Arrow to the Knee’ jokes should not be appearing in anime in 2017. I’m a big Skyrim fan and I loved these jokes and memes when Skyrim first came out, but that time passed and the joke is not that great that it needs to be revisited. What makes this worse is that the Arrow to the Knee joke is probably the most memorable thing Grimoire of Zero offered me.

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As for a recommendation, basically if you like fantasy you won’t dislike this. You may not get super into it either, but there’s nothing overly broken about it and it does look very good, particularly early in the series. It’s worth checking out and if you connect with those two main characters you may even have a lot of fun with it. Otherwise, it is a show that happened and now I’m moving on.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 12

Review:

I wasn’t expecting much from this final episode and so I cannot say I’m disappointed. Still, as far as concepts go, Grimoire of Zero had so much more potential than it ever delivered and the final episode really hammers that point home.

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The group, including Thirteen, spread out, draw their magic circles, and get back to the centre to erase magic from the kingdom, somehow covering all the distance required in less time than it took the witches to break through a gate. Oh yeah, the war started. in fact, the witches are attacking these guys as they wait for Albus to rejoin them at the centre. This attack seems about as effective as anything else the Sorcerers of Zero attempted during this series. Might as well ignore it.

Anyway, magic gets denied and for some reasons the witches aren’t all massacred by the guards now that they are defenceless, and somehow Albus becomes the state sorcerer and people are just cool with that now because magic and non-magic people can all work together. It’s a really half-hearted way to deal with a conflict but as I said, I wasn’t expecting much else.

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Then we have contrived reason number 563 (not really) for why Zero can’t turn Mercenary back into a human, some random comedy hijinks, and then the two are off to see how magic is going in other kingdoms. I’m really hoping there isn’t a sequel showing us that story because I’m well and truly done. I will review the whole series of this and while I don’t think there’s anything too terrible here, I’ve mostly bounced between being indifferent and unimpressed.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 11

Review:

After all this build up to Thirteen, we found out his plan last week and this week Zero kindly asks him to stop and so he does. Okay, first they shoot coloured lights at each other and Zero reveals she purposefully wrote flaws into the incantations because even though she wanted to share magic she apparently didn’t want to not be the strongest (understandably really).

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So basically Thirteen just ceases to have any interest in the conflict he has set up and now apparently actually cares about repairing some of the damage he caused. Am I supposed to care that he now seems upset about Sorena’s death because I’m with the wolf guy. Thirteen did let Sorena die and he did nearly burn Albus. Okay, he didn’t start a plague. One thing he didn’t do.

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Seriously, it is very hard to take any of this conflict seriously when even the mastermind behind it walks away with only a brief moment of hesitation.

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And so we move toward the final episode because even though Thirteen no longer cares, all the pieces he set in motion are still heading toward self-destruction. It probably doesn’t help that most of the Sorcerer’s of Zero seem to lack logical thought processes and have already whipped themselves into a frenzy of mob-mentality. Logical arguments aren’t going to turn the tide here.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 10

Review:

Oh, they finally reunited and just to be sure we don’t forget that Zero is supposed to be a sassy young witch almost her very first words to the Mercenary make us wonder why he bothered spending all that time climbing a cliff.

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Firstly, this is clearly a lie given she does need someone to save her or she wouldn’t still be sitting around in a tower. Secondly, Zero does not pull this off very well. Some characters do an excellent job of giving the guy the cold shoulder but in Zero’s case it just kind of comes off as a half-hearted attempt  to make her not seem like a damsel stuck in a tower because that wouldn’t be cool at all.

Obviously, my biggest issue is I just don’t much care about either of these characters so their touching reunion didn’t do much for me.

Still, I did get one moment of genuine happiness while watching this episode.

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There’s something about convoluted insults that just appeals and this one was well deserved given Thirteen is insane and his plan is ridiculous. Pretentious is actually the perfect term for his entire being. I just had to appreciate this moment.

Oh yeah, and Holdem and Albus are in trouble but then some old witch just lets Holdem go. For some reason the Sorcerers of Zero haven’t killed Ablus yet and are taking her with them (no explanation as to why).

This is coming to a close and I’m kind of happy about that. It isn’t unwatchable but I’m not really into it either.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 6

Review:

There’s no denying I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by Grimoire of Zero so far. From the overly cute titular character to the overall lack of tension or direction (other than fetch the book) it hasn’t exactly been blowing me away with its creativity or even its general execution of a fairly ordinary story.

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Episode 6 doesn’t exactly remedy all the issues I’ve had with the show, nor it is a sure sign that things will get better and this might become more than just passingly watchable but, for me at least, it was a far more enjoyable viewing experience than anything this show had offered prior. For the first time I kind of worried about the characters and what would happen to them next and for the first time I actually felt a sense of menace in the world (rather than simply being told that things were bad). Thirteen’s inclusion is certainly part of the reason for that but even without him in the mix they could have explored the Mercenary’s and Zero’s trust issues and certainly someone could have given Albus a harsh dose of reality a little sooner.

That said, it wasn’t a perfect episode and the opening sequence where the fight just abruptly stops followed by the ridiculous banter between Thirteen and Zero over the inclusion of sugar in soup really did make the earlier parts of the episode feel much the same as everything else. However, that dinner time chat transitioned into something I found infinitely more interesting and gave me reason to not want to drop this yet.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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