Vampire Knight (VIZ Media, T+/Older Teens)

One premise of the series is that the day students aren’t supposed to know that the night students are vampires, although you have to wonder how dim they are to not catch on pretty quickly.

 

Cross Academy looks like any number of fancy private schools, with pseudo-gothic buildings (all pointy windows and sturdy towers), massive lecture halls, and wooded grounds. But there’s one thing different about this school: during the day it is attended by ordinary students, while at night vampire students take over the classrooms. Both sets of students board at the school, which sets up the potential for some interesting encounters.
 
To keep that from happening, Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu serve as school monitors whose job is to enforce the school’s strict curfew and otherwise keep the two classes separate. To make things more interesting, the day students are mostly girls while the night class is mostly bishi boys, so there’s more than a little sexual undercurrent in the situation as well. The school is run by Yuki’s adoptive father, Kaien Cross, a pony-tailed hippie sort of fellow who wants vampires and humans to just get along. Yuki and Zero were both attacked by vampires as children, but had opposite responses to that experience: Yuki retains an optimistic view of vampire/human relations, while Zero is a rabid vampire hunter with a big chip on his shoulder.
 
One premise of the series is that the day students aren’t supposed to know that the night students are vampires, although you have to wonder how dim they are to not catch on pretty quickly. Setting that difficulty aside, every vampire universe has its own rules, and in Vampire Knight, the vampires can survive on reconstituted blood (they have a stock of little tablets which dissolve in water) although some bad boys prefer to seek out the fresh stuff instead.
 
Some vampires are socially responsible, blend-with-the-majority type of folk and these are the people who send their vampire kids to Cross Academy, where they seem to present minimal physical danger to the day students. Instead they’re insufferable, snotty snobs who could perhaps kill with you with a withering glance or cutting remark more quickly than with their fangs. It’s an interesting choice which suggests a coping mechanism for people who are shunned and condemned by the majority culture. More “lore” will be revealed over the course of the series, but the vampire stuff is generally placed at the service of developing the personal relationships of the characters rather than the other way around.
 
Vampire Knight is basically a school story with gothic and vampire elements. Yuki is a typically plucky heroine who always tries to do the right thing even when she’s conflicted about what that is. She also has a crush on Kaname Kuran, a pureblood vampire who is the dorm president of the night class and also the very fellow who rescued Yuki from the vampire attack so many years ago. A love triangle develops when Yuki also falls for Zero, because what would a good shojo series be without a triangle? The story does finally get dark and creepy but takes its time getting there, although in fairness this is the first season of two, and perhaps the second is mostly gothic since the groundwork for that part of the story has been laid in these episodes.
 
The animation of Vampire Knight is nothing to write home about. It was a manga series first and the anime version looks like it was done on the cheap, composed primarily of static frames with the minimum amount of movement. As stills the frames are nicely done, particularly when the story takes a darker turn, but you’ll have to overlook a lot of really clutzy movement to get through this series. The DVD set (13 episodes on two discs, one of them two-sided) comes with a choice of Japanese or English soundtracks and optional English subtitles. Extras include a mini-manga introduction to the series, text-based “relationship charts” for Yuki, Zero and Kaname, and trailers and advertising material for other VIZ series (not sure if those last two really count as “extras” from the consumer’s point of view, but there you have it). | Sarah Boslaugh

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