Release date: 2008
Vampire Knight is a Shōjo anime, in other words it is an anime aimed primarily at a female audience age approximately 10 to 18 but mostly the teen section of that demographic. As such it is a romance, at least on the surface, and eschews the fan service we are perhaps more familiar with (inappropriately sexual glimpses of the female characters) for glimpses of pale, tousled haired male characters and the chests thereof.
You might be forgiven for wondering, therefore, if this would be a worthwhile experience – unless you happen to be part of the target audience – and the answer is yes. As well as the romance – which has a Gothic, unrequited edge – the series has an interesting lore backdrop, strong story telling and a boat full of melodrama. Actually given the sparseness of the action (there is some but it is not an episodic constant as it might be in more male orientated anime) it would need these elements to maintain it as a piece.
The main character is Yuki Cross (Yui Horie). Her earliest memory is from the age of five and is of being attacked by a vampire. She was saved by Kaname Kuran (Daisuke Kishio), himself a vampire, and taken to Kaien Cross (Hozumi Gôda), who agreed to raise – and also adopted – the girl. Kaien is the headmaster of the Cross Academy and Yuki, ten years after the attack, is a prefect there.
The other prefect is Zero (Mamoru Miyano). He survived a vampire attack, in which his vampire hunter family were wiped out, and as such hates all vampires. The only problem is, in something that is hinted at through the first few episodes and quickly revealed, he is a vampire. Having been bitten by a pureblood (I’ll come to the vampire types soon) he is turning.
Kaname is now the dorm president of the night school at the academy. Cross has set his school up into a day and night school and the night school are all vampires sworn, under the leadership of Kaname, to not attack the day pupils (who are mainly girls, who swoon every time they see the night school students). The prefects’ role is to police the situation and prevent the identity of the vampires from being discovered.
Clearly the romance is going to be a triangle between Yuki, Zero and Kaname – but it is all hint, mainly. I say mainly because Yuki allows Zero to feed from her and the feeding is rather sexual in the way it is drawn or suggestive thereof, at least.
The lore is extensive. Vampire society is governed by the Council of the Ancients, who in themselves are not a sovereign body. The top of the tree are purebloods – quite a rarity now. They have a variety of abilities and can force lesser vampires to do their will. There is no human blood in their lineage.
There are then born vampires with a human blood aspect and the lowest of the pile are Level E vampires. Level E vampires are humans who have been bitten by a pureblood and thus turned into a vampire. They always loose their senses eventually and become killing machines. Both the vampire hunters and the higher vampires hunt Level E’s – Zero, of course, is fighting becoming a Level E. Drinking a pureblood’s blood stops the decent into madness and makes them a full vampire.
The vampires are nocturnal but can come out during the day. Zero has an anti-vampire gun that fires a cross symbol that will kill a vampire. On death they turn to dust. Someone (connected presumably to the headmaster) has developed a tablet that, when dropped in water, simulates blood – though zero cannot take the tablet for some reason.
Zero has a tattoo on his neck and, later, a charm is activated on Yuki’s bracelet that when brought into close proximity of the tattoo causes Zero to be mystically restrained. Later he is held in a more elaborate version of the design. We see a variety of abilities, such as a power over ice or over fire and the ability to make a blood whip.
As the series progresses we see that there is more to this than the unfulfilled love triangle and that the main protagonists are drawn together by past tragedies that need to be answered.
The music is excellent through the series and really added to the atmosphere and, in the main, the animation helped draw that atmosphere around the viewer. What was perhaps not as useful was a reliance on the chibi type style, which actually took away from the melodrama and seemed a little silly within what was, primarily, a drama.
Nevertheless this was worthwhile. 6.5 out of 10.
The imdb page is here.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008