Thursday, August 13, 2009
Vampire Knight, vol. 1
I started reading Vampire Knight midway through its run in Shojo Beat. Now that the magazine has folded, I thought I'd start from the beginning of this series and see what the early chapters were like.
The story: From a distance, Cross Academy might look like an ordinary private school. But, upon closer inspection, there are a few peculiar things about it, especially its unusually beautiful "Night Class," which is completely comprised of elite vampires. But, that's all a secret to the humans at the school, with the exception of Chairman Cross and his two young wards, Zero and Yuki, who also happen to be the sole members of the school's Disciplinary Committee. As committee members, Zero and Yuki patrol the grounds daily to keep the vampires' secret and to protect the Day Class from their would-be predators.
Reaction: I'll admit I'm a sucker (pun intended) for vampire stories. From Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton to Stephanie Meyers and Bram Stoker, I've read a lot of vampire novels in my time. Initially, I was intrigued by the peaceful mission of Cross Academy and think it is an interesting experiment that will most likely have deadly consequences at some point. From the first page on, Matsuri Hino draws her reader in with Yuki's tragic history. There are some interesting changes to traditional vampire mythology, but it's not so heavy-handed as it is specific about vampire hierarchy.
Deep thoughts: I find it interesting that vampires are pop culturally back in vogue—from the Twilight movie and book franchise (and soon-to-be manga) to HBO's ever-popular True Blood. I remember reading a fascinating article late last year that blamed the vampire resurgence on the election of a Democratic president. Evidently, some social scientists have traced the popularity of zombie movies to Republicans' fear of "a revolt of the poor and disenfranchised, dressed in rags and coming to the White House to eat their brains." Meanwhile, there are also Democrats who "fear the Wall Street vampires who bleed the nation dry." It's an interesting theory that seems almost too good to be mislabeled a coincidence, although it may be.
Artwork: Hino's artwork is not only beautiful and, at times, comedic, but also oddly contemplative. Sure there are unearthly beauties in the vampires and disproportionately cute girls, but there's also a lot of serious looks and grim faces. Even in this first volume, there are some fanservice-y moments where Zero is half-naked or near upshots of Yuki's skirt while jumping off a high ledge. Other than that, I was surprised to see some growth in Hino's style since I saw the most recent chapters in Shojo Beat. There's more refinement in style and character design, and there's certainly less questionable fanservice content in recent chapters.
The verdict: If only... Honestly, I usually like most vampire stories, but this one seemed a little weak. Whether that was because of my lack of caring for characters or my "been there, done that" attitude as a reader, I'm still not sure. I just know that this is the first volume of the series, but it improves later on with more intriguing plots and a can't-miss love triangle that has become my most recent guilty pleasure. Vampire Knight is available in the U.S. from Viz.