The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Vampire Knight

Title: Vampire Knight
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Studio DEEN/NAS
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 8 Apr 2008 – 1 Jul 2008

Synopsis: Cross Yuuki was attacked by a vampire at a young age, but saved that night by Kuran Kaname, a full blooded noble vampire. It’s been ten years since then, and Yuuki has no memories of before this time, but she’s now a prefect at Cross Academy, as school run by her adopted father, Cross Kaien, which has classes for both humans and vampires (unbeknownst to most of the human students). However, her fellow prefect, the intimidating Kiryuu Zero, who comes from a family of vampire hunters, hides a dark secret from Yuuki.

The Highlights
Innuendo: Makes for an intriguing mix of romance, desire, emotion and angst.
Mystery: Deliberately paced, and still largely unsolved.
Background: Shrouded until about half-way, but adds a necessary dimension to the story.
Aesthetics: Erratic and underwhelming.
Ending: Choosing now to break seasons ruins the momentum and continuity.

Most examples of vampire lore have a dark romanticism about them, and Vampire Knight really plays this up as much as it can. Blood sucking is a metaphor for sex, and the mixture of promiscuity, desire and emotions creates angst and high tension. These elements, as well as a foreboding atmosphere and deliberately paced mystery, make this a good tale, but the overall show unfortunately has a lot of flaws that prevent it from really smashing boundaries and placing itself well above the crux of the populous genre.

There’s enough angst in this anime to power a Fall Out Boy concert. I have no problem with angst of itself – since it basically drives the story – but there are a few times where it becomes overbearing and causes characters to say or do completely unsympathetic things, and I could see why people with less tolerance for the constant, excessively emotional introspection would tire of it quickly. The story meanders for much of the first half, but it’s when background starts being revealed that events begin to become meaningful. The tension builds as we learn who’s emotionally invested in who and who’s got a vendetta against who. The last arc in particularly is filled with dramatic twists and turns, but it culminates in an end which is frustrating.

It’s frustrating because, while the arc is over, it’s clear that we’re still smack-bang in the middle of the story, and the audience is left with few resolutions. There are so many unanswered questions that even characters were asking a few in the final episode. Kaname is far and away the biggest enigma in this, and his motivations, past, and “great plan” are shrouded to the point of being impenetrable. It’s fair to say, we know nothing of Kaname, or even the events of the night of Yuuki’s attack.

Despite the plethora of unanswered questions, Vampire Knight’s biggest flaw is its aesthetics… which are woeful. The animation is wildly erratic, and even at its best isn’t much to look at. The music is fairly unassuming, and the total aesthetic package is unpolished enough to detriment the atmosphere. Also detrimental is Chairman Cross, who is too often played for out-of-place comic relief in a show which is so dark that there really should be none. The innuendo is arguably a necessary part of what makes this show tick, but there is one episode about two brothers that has homoerotic undertones, which is when it becomes a bit much.

The enigmatic nature of the vampires makes for much of the intrigue. When a vampire becomes attracted to someone, there’s a question about whether it is genuine love or vampiristic urges, which makes for an interesting ambiguity. I like some of the ideas this show has come up with, particularly the universe in which vampires and humans co-exist, with the vampire hunters as the police between them, all while the vampires deal with their natural urges to break this peace. Even its genre-mixing as a so-called “vampire/mystery/shoujo” piece is interesting (although I don’t regard this as “shoujo” in the traditional sense). Vampire Knight, however, desperately needs two things: better aesthetics and answers. The latter has been promised to us with the upcoming sequel, Vampire Knight Guilty, and I’ll be judging that series largely on it’s willingness to deliver.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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