From the Archive: 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. On the New York Times manga bestseller with every new release, this is a series that has gripped hold of the shojo audience in the states and won’t be letting go any time soon. Filled with Gothic flare, hot bishie vampires, plenty of action, and tragic romance, Hino’s series sucks readers in and provides plenty of entertainment. (Yes, corny pun intended.)

The Gist: 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.

Zero threatens Kaname with Bloody Rose, while Yuki tries to push her boys apart. Love this image!

Zero threatens Kaname with Bloody Rose, while Yuki tries to push her boys apart. Love this image!

The Characters/Romance: 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 stand out among the other shojo vampire titles on the shelf? 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.

My favorite scene in the series to date. You'd think Yuki was offering up her viginity instead of her blood.

My favorite scene in the series to date. You'd think Yuki was offering up her virginity instead of her blood.

The Art: 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.

The Audience: Steamy – Hino makes blood sucking look more erotic than making love. There are enough heart racing and tender moments to satisfy any romance fan.

The Media: Vampire Knight is available in 12 volumes from Viz Media here in the states. There have been 2 drama CDs released in Japan, as well as a 26 episode anime produced by Studio Deen. The anime series is currently being released in the states by Viz Media  – Vampire Knight and Vampire Knight: Guilty. 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.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

If you like goth, vampires, or romance this series is for you. However, don’t disregard it if that’s not on your list of favorites. With the storytelling talent of Matsuri Hino, this may be THE vampire romance of manga history.

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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