Vampire Knight 1-4 by Matsuri Hino: B-

vampireknight1The 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.

vampireknight2Yuki 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.

vampireknight3Thus 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 vampireknight4dilemma 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.

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  1. Vampire Knight is definitely a guilty pleasure—ridiculous but addictive. I do wish, though, that Hino would give us less boring vampire politics and stick with the melodrama and eye candy. She’s much better at the latter than the former!

    • Definitely. Even as I wrote the second paragraph I was thinking how inefficiently Hino conveyed the same information.

  2. Michelle L. says

    Ditto ’bout the eye candy 😉 I felt the same way also about the first time Zero bit into Yuki’s neck! I don’t know what it was – something about blood? I think that goes some way to explaining why vampires are “so hot right now”!

  3. Danielle Leigh says

    oh, somehow I missed notification of this review! I can’t help it, I’m silly for Vampire Knight.

    Very fair review….just wait. This series goes ape-shit later. It is really kind of awesome.

  4. Danielle Leigh says

    Those would be the ones! (This volume will be released by Viz in early Nov.)

    • Oh, I think I have it. I asked them for vol. 8 ‘cos the series hasn’t been covered on MR in a long time. 🙂 I’ll be looking forward to the primate feces.

  5. I recently reviewed this too. Although I’ve read the series since it started in Shojo Beat, I just recently really got into it because of the aforementioned developments. It will be really interesting to see where it goes.

  6. Vampire Knight is in the dictionary next to ‘guilty pleasure’ for me ;-). A lot of it is just so cliched and stupid, and Yuki is such a – a –typical shoujo heroine – but when it works, it really really works. And some very cool, twisty, sexy stuff is definitely coming up for you!

    • I think Yuki might possess the same qualities as the typical shoujo heroine—an unthinking earnestness, primarily—but she is so useless when she’s supposed to be (essentially) campus security that it makes her worse than the typical shoujo heroine.

      • I will allow this point :-). I like competence in women more than anything, and so this annoys me about her as well… I hate to say this, but I really don’t read Vampire Knight for the girls in it at all. It’s all about Zero for me, Zero and his never-ending yummy angst ;-).

        • 1. The competence thing is a large part of why I love Skip Beat!‘s Kyoko, Basara‘s Sarasa, etc.

          2. Oh yeah, it’s all about the boys. Zero kind of bugs me, though. I think my favorite’s actually Ichijo, the vice president of the Night Class.

          • 1) Basara! About time for a re-read of that too, come to think of it (when I get back from Asia, at any rate). What a magnificent series that is. Sarasa, ChaCha, Kikune, the White King. Thank you, Yumi Tamura.
            2) If you don’t want Zero I’ll have him ;-). And this may be weird, but Ichijo seldom sticks in my head, no matter how many times I’ve read scenes with him in them! And he’s an important character, too. (Unless I’m getting confused – he’s not the short boy genius, is he? Told you I couldn’t remember him!) I always remember Akatsuki, though, even though he’s less important to the story…

            • 1. Sarasa’s mom is pretty awesome, too.

              2. Ichijo is the one with the sunny disposition who won’t tolerate any anti-Kaname mutterings. On the cover of volume 3, he’s the one in the rear center.

              • Danielle Leigh says

                I have the hardest time keeping the damn night class apart. I don’t know why, the character designs of a few of them are LITTLE similar but not overly so. But still. Can’t tell any them apart at all.

                Also, yes, this books is pretty much about Zero as far as I’m concerned (I’ve been taken by his “tragic hero status” when I usually hate that crap!)

                • I have trouble with the two who are cousins. And I don’t know all their names, especially the girls.

                • I have the hardest time keeping the damn night class apart
                  Thank goodness I’m not the only one who has this problem! Although I have now remembered who Ichijo is, having looked at the relevant cover.
                  Also, yes, this books is pretty much about Zero as far as I’m concerned (I’ve been taken by his “tragic hero status” when I usually hate that crap!)
                  Yay, a fellow Zero-lover :-). I shouldn’t like him as much as I do either, but there you go.

              • I knew I was forgetting at least one awesome woman! Yes, her mother is one cool lady.


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