It’s time to take a look at a series that doesn’t sound all that promising from the title. Yes, I had a sneaking suspicion that Vampire Knight wouldn’t be all that good as it’s a vampire story. That’s reason enough for me to fear it. Moreover, it sounded like Rosario Vampire, but minus the action and fanservice. So, that’s a bad thing and a good thing, but it means that the series has absolutely nothing going for it except the blood sucking gimmick. (No worries, there is a little action at the very end of the series!) I was able to complete this series in a little under a year which is cool since I started it last January and I ended a few months ago. I forgot when exactly I completed it, but no matter, let’s jump into the review! No worries, this one doesn’t get a 0 so readers can rest easy that the manga managed to do something right!
Yuki Cross lives at a school where humans attend by day and vampires by night. Both sides are separated for their own safety and she’s one of the enforcers who makes sure that the two groups play by the rules. Her partner in all of this is Zero. With the two of them as the ultimate tag team, nothing’s ever gone wrong at the academy. What helps this situation run so smoothly is that the head of the school vampires is Kaname, a guy who believes in peace and justice. It all goes well for a while, but then things happen!
That’s more vague than usual! Well, it’s hard to say exactly when things went wrong since a lot happened in these 19 volumes. There are many different vampire factions who were vying for power. Towards the end, Kaname realizes that he must destroy all vampire nobles including himself so that only the weak ones will be left and then they can’t bully the humans so easily. Zero is corrupted and turned into a vampire himself so even though he is a vampire hunter, he will be confronted with many tough choices. Yuki also starts to get her memories back and realizes that she is a vampire noble as well, but this comes along with some spiffy new powers so it’s not totally a bad thing.
So, should I start out with the negatives, positives, or the technical aspects like the art? I decided which option to go with by heading to Smashfaqs and based it on the top 5 topics. They were surprisingly positive ones so let’s roll with that. A positive for the manga is the fact that it actually has fight scenes once in a while. Zero and Kaname get into a scuffle at one point and even Yuki gets in on the action thanks to her powerful scythe. Zero gets control over plants and Kaname has super strength, mental abilities, speed, magic, and a lot of other things to keep the other two in check. The fights are cool even if there aren’t a whole lot of them.
The art counts as a technical aspect as well as a positive one for the most part. The art can get cluttered during the action scenes at times. Especially when the plants are around, but it can also be quite clear during other moments and I’d say that the artist does a fairly good job. I’d say that the art looks a lot better than the average Shojo series. It’s clear, intense, and you won’t mix up any of the main characters. Supporting characters are a different story since you can only see so many random guys running around before starting to mix them up a bit. Kaoru and Hikaru are still confusing in Ouran, but at least one of them switched his hair color after a while.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that there are any real characters since they all get tainted at one point or another. If we’re counting super mild characters, then I didn’t mind Zero’s hunter boss. He was fairly reasonable the whole time and you could tell that he was experienced the whole time. He hyped himself up a little too much at times though and he’s only my favorite character by default, I’m certainly not a big fan of his.
A positive for the series is naturally the fact that there’s basically no fanservice to be found. That’s always appreciated even if it is the norm for Shojo, you still don’t want to neglect to give it some props for this. Unfortunately, this is somewhat negated by the blood sucking scenes and such, but that’s a different negative. So, here essentially ends the positives section, but I’ll try to think of some more while writing the review.
Let’s start off with the blood sucking. See, the problem with vampires is that they’re going to drink blood. Inevitably, one of them ends up contaminating a main character. (In this case, everyone was contaminated except for one of Yuki’s close friends who never evolved from being a bit player in the whole thing) After that, the main character will offer his or her friend to drink some blood so that the character won’t have to hurt someone else. That happens here of course, several times and shows that the characters have no will power. Especially the fact that they always go overboard. Another cliche is that Yuki for example may say to only take a little bit since taking too much blood can be quite dangerous. Zero agrees, but then he can’t stop himself once he actually starts and it’s always a very wince worthy moment since he is supposed to be her friend. It’s hard to buy the fact that he simply can’t control himself and this has even started to finally happen in Seraph of The End, which is regrettable. Why do the heroes ultimately lose control so easily!?
That’s a rather big negative and ignoring the whole blood angle, there is naturally a ton of romance here as well. Luckily, there was a twist towards the very end that Kaname wasn’t actually Yuki’s brother, but was an ancestor. This naturally helped since we don’t want the manga to have gone down that route, but romance is romance and it was poorly executed from start to finish here. Both Kaname and Zero use Yuki when circumstances arise and both of them never actually trust her enough to let Yuki know the full scope of what’s happening. Why should she bother to stay with them? Yuki never quite broke off things with either party and the romance just dragged on and on like a bad soap opera. There was even another character who tried not to get involved with such things, but he was forced to become a blood sucker, which essentially made him a prisoner and he could not help out the heroes anymore. There was nothing positive to say about the romance.
Now, it’s time to go more in depth about the characters. Yuki started out as your average main character. She was fairly lively and always saw the bright side of the situation. Romance plots aside, she wasn’t a bad character. Unfortunately, then she turned into a vampire and decided to cross more gray lines and act a little more like a vampire. One scene in particular that was bad was when she decided to erase Zero’s memories. Think of the situation in Justice League when Batman’s mind was wiped or Captain America from the New Avengers comics. Yuki may have wanted to do it for Zero’s own good, but she ended up crossing a line that should not have been crossed. Becoming a vampire also made her lose her happy personality as she became a little too wise and took on a more somber role. She decently handled that role, but definitely fell rather rapidly as a character.
There was definitely no way that I was going to like Kaname. He always acted rather polite and such at the beginning of the series, but it was always an act. He could never make up his mind and wanted to be with Yuki someday and preferred solitude at other times. He decided to destroy all of the Nobles randomly and while it may not have totally been a bad decision, it’s not like all of the nobles were evil or sought to destroy people. Luckily, a plot twist showed that Kaname did spare one of them so I’ll give him credit for that. Portraying himself as the villain was definitely an intriguing move and one that I still don’t see a whole lot of benefit from. In the end, vampires and humans will never be able to perfectly get along because both sides have so many bad apples inside of them. It’s just how the world works and there will always be another new villain to seize the throne. Kaname’s also the one who turned Yuki into a vampire, which doesn’t earn him any brownie points as a character.
Zero’s the other main hero and he’s pretty terrible. I liked him a lot more than Kaname for a while, but then he lost control and succumbed to the blood sucking temptations. That destroyed him as a character. Shojo series like to typically have two main guys, the nice one and the mean one. Zero served as the mean one and a fairly extreme version of the character type at times. He would even point his gun at Yuki once she became a vampire. I don’t see that turning into a healthy romance in the long term so it’s another plot that I couldn’t get behind and I found it hard to sympathize with Zero throughout the series. At least he has a gun/vine powers so he’s a decent fighter, but his fighting abilities can’t save his personality.
As you can see, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the main characters. With a series this long, there are naturally a lot of other characters, but most of them actually aren’t that important to the plot compared with these. We do have other villains, supporting characters, and other heroes, but they are all just around to add more detail to the world. In the end, it really just comes down to the three main characters and the choices that they make since they will drastically affect the characters around them. From the supporting characters, I suppose that I didn’t mind the headmaster or Yuki’s friend all that much. Yuki’s friend was always nice to Yuki and offered words of advice, but she never did all that much aside from that. The headmaster always knows more than he lets on, but he prefers to let the heroes fend for themselves.
Kaname had a posse around him at all times, but by and large you won’t remember them after a while. You have the girl member who also likes Kaname and naturally resents Yuki. That’s her whole character arc for the most part. There are a few guys there who have ties to other families and talk a good game, but they don’t do all that much of consequence. One of them is brainwashed and the others try to help Kaname even after he has earned a negative reputation, but that’s about it for them. One of the main villains was a noble vampiress who went around brainwashing as many of the human students as possible with her blood. Kaname eventually stopped her, but she definitely got a lot of casualties in the meantime. Shizuka was her name and her death is rather intense.
The manga was never quite as happy as the average Shojo series and was always serious business so it was not all that surprising that there could be some violent moments. It’s nothing toooo bad of course, just a heart stab here and there (Vampires are quite durable) and it works as Kaname hype. It doesn’t even feel all that out of place and I wouldn’t say that it goes too far. You’ll know the scenes when they happen. The other big villain is Rido. He’s so powerful that he thinks Kaname won’t make a move against him. Kaname quickly destroys him (Not a total destruction since the bond of master and student wouldn’t let him, but the guy was reduced to ash so it’s more or less the same thing) and that’s the end of that. I can’t say that either villain was all that interesting in the end.
This definitely isn’t your average Shojo series, but it ends up losing to those. This further cements the notion for me that it is almost impossible to do a good vampire story. They end up just not being all that good. Records of a Fallen Vampire is probably still the only good vampire story and it was impressive. Maybe someday a series can follow that example, but I suspect that many other series will try and fail to do so first. Such is simply how these things end up going down.
Overall, Vampire Knight is not for the faint of heart or for those looking for a good story. If you’re a huge vampire buff then this is probably up your ally. As it stands, the characters simply aren’t likable and all of the romance plots fall back. The series takes itself a little too seriously with all of the tearful origin stories lying about. I did enjoy the occasional action scene, but those are few and far between. Based on the pictures I used, the series certainly looks more exciting than I’m giving it credit for, but keep in mind that they’re images that are meant to be misleading. I wouldn’t use the boring pictures now would I? It’s certainly no Black Bird and at least earns 1 star, but you’re better off reading Records of a Fallen Vampire instead of this title.