Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Sep 26, 2009

Vampire Knight - Matsuri Hino

Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino began in 2005 and currently runs in LaLa magazine in Japan. This is Hino's third work to be translated into English.

Synopsis: Yuki Cross is a guardian at Cross Academy, a boarding school that is operating to prove that the human and vampire races can peacefully coexist. Yuki is part of the Day Class, the group of students that attend classes during daylight hours. But once the sun sets, the Night Class arrives, and Yuki is responsible for patrolling the grounds to keep the day class students in their dorms. Yuki has lived at Cross Academy for the past ten years. She has forgotten what her life was before that time. Her very first memories are of being attacked by a vampire out in the snow, and being rescued by another vampire. That kind and gentle vampire who came to her rescue is head of the Night Class, Kaname Kuran. Kaname leads the Night Class because of his social status as a pureblood vampire. He has always watched out for Yuki since rescuing her as a child, and she cares for him fondly for that reason. Yet there is another boy that holds a place in Yuki’s heart, someone whom she has tried to support since he came to the academy four years ago. The son of vampire hunters, Zero Kiryuu is believed to be the lone survivor of his family that was attacked and killed by a pureblood vampire. He was brought to Cross Academy and given into the care of the headmaster. Now a guardian of Cross Academy alongside Yuki, Zero fights against his eventual fate of becoming the very thing he was born to hunt. As events unfold, Yuki stands beside Zero in his struggles, while seeking the mystery of her own past. Behind the scenes, Kaname Kuran uses his power to manipulate people and events to meet his own agenda. When matters at Cross Academy become dire, Yuki must choose what path to walk as she retakes her memories and moves forward toward the future.

Review: What I thought would be a high school teen love triangle with gothic flare, turns out to be much, much more than I could have imagined at the beginning. This story has the stereotypical shojo plot devices, like a love triangle, the hunky mysterious savior, and the beautiful boys so dazzling to behold. However, Hino has put so much development into the plot and characters that the story of Vampire Knight has gone beyond the confines of a typical shojo romance. What may seem like insignificant details at the beginning of the story, end up becoming major plot elements that Hino incorporates to add more depth and complexity to the story. I can’t even imagine what her character notes must look like.

As for the characters, Yuki Cross starts out as a mediocre heroine. She has admirable qualities of strength and determination, yet her indecisive emotions make her annoying at times. What Yuki lacks, Hino more than makes up for by surrounding her with strong and intricate characters like Zero Kiryuu and Kaname Kuran. Most fans of the manga are split into two camps, each supporting the pairing of one of these two boys with Yuki. Zero quickly wins the admiration of some readers with his determination to overcome his difficult situation and his willingness to sacrifice himself to protect Yuki. Kaname’s obsessive protection of Yuki as well as his expression of love for her equally wins over the other set of readers. Which one is the vampire knight? That has yet to be answered, and girls are still debating it in forums everywhere.

So how does Vampire Knight break the shojo mold? The underlying plot elements of political intrigue, revenge, and racism provide material for a much deeper storyline than your typical shojo love story. The social-political world of the vampires, which we only see a micro-example of at Cross Academy in the beginning, takes hold of these characters and throws the little love story into a quagmire of issues that end up solely focused on the vampire world. It seems like the story might have taken Hino-sensei by surprise in its development, since she intended to write a high school vampire love story, and now the story has gone beyond the high school setting. If the story isn’t exciting enough, then the art will captivate you even more. The gothic designs are darkly attractive, and the panels keep just the right pacing, be it an action sequence or a love scene. Striking characters adorn every page, with great expression and anatomy. The toning and backgrounds add to the moody quality of this gothic setting.

Is Vampire Knight a story for you? If you like goth, vampires, or romance that’s a no brainer. Go pick it up now. However, don’t disregard it if that’s not on your list of favorites. With the storytelling talent of Matsuri Hino, this one may yet be the next tragic love story of the modern century.

Romance Rating: Steamy - Hino makes blood sucking look more erotic than making love. There are enough heart aching and tender moments to satisfy any romance fan.

Media Status: Vampire Knight is available in 7 volumes from Viz Media here in the states. Volume 8 is due out November 3, 2009. So far there have been 11 volumes released in Japan, but the series is still ongoing. There have been 2 drama CDs released in Japan, as well as a 26 episode anime produced by Studio Deen. There are 2 Japanese published light novels jointly written by Hino that are side stories within the Vampire Knight universe. Vampire Knight even got a dating simulation DS game released in Japan, January 2009.


Laura said...

I just wanted to add some comments that I didn't want to put in the review. I first read Vampire Knight when it started running in Shojo Beat back in 2006. I liked it but not immediately. I was actually very disappointed with the plot up to the most recent volume, seeing as I'm a Zero fan. However, I watched the anime, and things I'd missed in my reading became clearer. After going back and reading the manga consecutively, without all the time in between chapters, I realized what a gem Hino has really written. So a lot of time and thought was put into the review. I'm not just a rabid fangirl!

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