The first memory Yuki Cross can remember happened ten years ago when she was five: she’s attacked by one vampire but saved by another, the beautiful and pureblooded Kaname. Kaname brings the human girl to the home of a human he knows and his frequent visits throughout her childhood result in her growing very attached to him. Six years later, the introduction of a boy named Zero, sole survivor of a vampire attack against his vampire-hunting family, diverts Yuki’s attentions from Kaname somewhat, since she’s compelled to try to cure Zero of his misery and hatred. When Yuki’s adopted father decides to open Cross Academy as a way to foster peaceful relations between humans (the day class) and vampires (the night class), the three central characters attend, with Zero and Yuki serving as the disciplinary committee (tasked with keeping the peace as well as the secret about the true nature of the students in the night class) and Kaname as the main draw for the vampire contingent, since it turns out purebloods inspire devotion amongst their brethren.
Yuki still carries a torch for Kaname, even confesses to yearning for him, but she’s also very protective of Zero, especially when she learns his secret: as a result of the pureblood’s bite he suffered as a child, he’s turning into a vampire. What’s more, vampires that used to be humans are fated to go insane, at which time they’re hunted down by the vampire elite. Yuki, in earnest shoujo heroine fashion, declares that she will not let this happen and offers Zero her blood so that he may satisfy his cravings without preying on others. Kaname isn’t keen on this arrangement—uttering the gem of a line, “I can’t keep my composure when my dear girl has been pierced by someone else”—and knows he should rightly be preparing to hunt Zero down, but looks the other way because Zero’s the only one in the day class who could protect Yuki if danger should ensue. Aside from the introduction of the vampire responsible for killing Zero’s family, this is essentially where matters stand at the end of the fourth volume.
Thus far, Vampire Knight is an exceptionally pretty bowl of angsty soup that offers a sprinkling of legitimately good scenes amidst a broth of cheesy and/or eyeroll-inducing ones. Yuki is a big problem, since she is completely and totally ineffectual. She’s one of those types who’ll rush headlong into a dangerous scene, usually intent on helping, and make matters worse by getting attacked or having her anti-vampire gun plucked from her grasp within two seconds of her arrival. She’s got a special weapon—the Artemis Rod—and occasionally demonstrates feats of athletic prowess, but proves incapable of saving herself time and time again. One wonders why on earth this dismally dim girl has two hot vampire boys competing for her affections.
The boys are somewhat more compelling, though not exactly likable. Zero is perpetually unhappy and often sour in disposition, though Yuki’s fretting on his behalf occasionally inspires brief displays of affection. I don’t begrudge him his angst—he is turning into the thing he hates, after all—but his seemingly constant dilemma about whether to give up or try to keep living for Yuki’s sake doesn’t do much for me. Kaname, for his part, is refined yet inscrutable. Even dialogue like, “I can’t bear losing you. Ever.” doesn’t manage to convince me that he’s in any sort of real emotional turmoil. The enjoyable flashbacks in volume three help somewhat to establish his connection with Yuki, though not greatly.
And yet, Vampire Knight possesses attributes that make it not only readable, but also somewhat of a guilty pleasure. For one, the art is very lovely, with bishounen eye candy galore. It’s slathered with screen tone, something I don’t normally like, but that ultimately works well in cultivating a gloomy and oppressive mood. Too, Hino occasionally creates scenes of surprising sexiness and drama, like the first time Zero drinks Yuki’s blood or the shocking final pages in volume four. This series may be blatantly silly at times, but as long as my (awesome) local library continues to carry it, I’m likely to keep reading.