PG-16 for violence and loads of sexiness; official series website (manga)
(Note: I have to spoil the first volume or two of the manga with this review, but don’t worry – this manga is nothing but reveals. There’s a spoiler every other chapter.)
Every girl and her dog – and in some cases, her brother as well – loves Vampire Knight. The manga’s sold a billion copies, a second season of anime will be making its appearance in the fall, and the number of Yuuki cosplayers who nearly killed NotHayama at Anime North in order to get copies of Volume #4 was both telling and disturbing.
That’s because Vampire Knight is Melodrama Porn. Just like those old martial arts films from the 70′s are King Fu Porn and those “how-to” dessert magazines at the grocery check-out are Food Porn.
The premise of Vampire Knight and the first few opening pages are so painfully, mind-numbingly stupid that I had to physically put the book down the first time I read it; all the blood in my body was diverted to slapping my hand against my forehead as hard and as quickly as possibly. Cross Academy is a boarding high school with normal students during the day, and ONLY SEXY VAMPIRES at night. The SEXY VAMPIRES are part of a program that gives vampires medicine to replace their need for sucking blood, and that, combined with their ethics teacher being an ex-vampire hunter with an eye patch, is supposed to help them become an active part of human society at some point. The only two human students who know about the night class are Yuuki, our heroine who’s in love with night class vampire leader Kaname, and Zero, a perpetually tortured bishounen who hates vampires and keeps taking his shirt off in front of Yuuki.
There are a bunch of other SEXY VAMPIRES and a few other humans in the series, but they’re not important – the point of Vampire Knight is for Yuuki, Kaname, and Zero to be involved in the most gasp-worthy, gut-wrenching love triangle EVAR. Kaname saved Yuuki from a much more evil vampire when she was a child, so she’s in love with him, but he’s a gentleman vampire who won’t bite her no matter how much he wants to. Zero comes from a family of vampire hunters, and since a vampire killed his family, he hates vampires more than anything – and thus hates Kaname. But Zero was also bitten by a pureblood vampire, so he’s turning into a mindless vampire himself, meaning he’s physically and emotionally tortured 24-7. Yuuki’s his friend, and they have sexual tension, but she also has sexual tension with Kaname, who has mutual hatred (and sexual tension!) with Zero. Oh, and biting someone is the social equivalent of having sex with him/her, so of course there’s SEXY BITING going on all over the place against bathroom walls to cries of, “I can’t put my teeth in you.” “Do it – I want you to.”
I will admit that the way mangaka Matsuri Hino keeps the melodrama ball rolling is nothing short of brilliant. This manga is basically a dramatic, sexy shoujo series with all the non-awesome parts cut out. The stupid premise building and bad opening only last about a chapter – then it’s headfirst into Kaname’s smoldering gazes and Zero hugging his naked body and screaming about how he’s a monster, what has he done, damn you, vampires. Even though the series is just about the Triangle of Sexy, the horde of side characters aren’t incongruous like in many shoujo – they step in when more characters are needed, filling in exposition, taking care of the boring off-screen stuff, and even slowly taking place in the plot in a fluid and comfortable way. That was the first thing that surprised me.
The second thing that surprised me is how successful the sexiness is. It is perfectly attuned to the teenage girl sex drive. Don’t believe everything the media tells you – some teenage girls have sex, but lots are just interested in sex in theory. They want boys, and they want sex, but not actually. That’s exactly what Vampire Knight gives them – boys, and sex, but not actually. Characters get into states of undress without ever showing anything important, there are lingering touches and little licks, and forbidden SEXY BITING with all its emotional and social repercussions stands in for fooling around. Even those viewers who are interested in actual sex can appreciate the sexual tension, because we all know that things are sexiest when you don’t show/include everything.
And the third surprise? The potential for the melodrama is endless. After the million plot twists and reveals in season 1 of the anime, I asked NotHayama, “What could they possibly do next season?” And off the top of her head she listed about 15 SUPER DRAMATIC plot points that could start the very next episode. For a show that has almost no downtime between the drama, it rarely feels contrived. Matsuri Hino has put together a premise that can keep the Melodrama Porn quotient high enough for long enough to melt its captive audience into a collective pile of goo. And the goo will beg for more.
So yes, the school of normal students/SEXY VAMPIRES broke my brain with stupid. And yes, most everything in the series is varying levels of silly. But for what it’s trying to do, Vampire Knight does it better than anything else I’ve ever seen.
Educated impression: You’ll probably die for more of this series if you a.) have the sentimentality of a teenage girl, b.) are addicted to melodrama, c.) have even a vague interest in vampires, d.) find sexual tension an art, e.) want to see boys angst while wielding phallic guns at cute girls and other boys, f.) find any of the above hilarious. But if you want something serious and intelligent to read/watch, stay far, far away from the ridiculousness that is Vampire Knight. (Lianne)