Vampire Knight Volume 11

By Matsuri Hino. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

First of all, it needs to be said: Matsuri Hino draws some of the least menacing vampires ever. Look at the cover for this volume, which features Zero hovering over Yuki with a stake. It’s meant to be menacing, dangerously sexy, showing their hot tormented passions! So why are they both looking at the reader going “Um… is this OK? Are we vampirey enough? Also, nice timing with the blue roses so that you don’t actually see my cleavage. That was really excellent.” So it’s more sort of a lukewarm pretty sort of sexy.

That goes for the volume as a whole, where we keep hearing menacing threats about the true darkness of vampires, but actually see very little of it. Much of the fault of that is that this is a cooldown volume after the last battle, as well as a timeskip – one year passes mid-volume. This means everyone is regrouping and biding their time, and the battles in this book are almost all emotional and psychological rather than physical. Yuki in particular suffers from this – when she isn’t able to get out there with her scythe and kick ass, her passivity kicks in. Her relationship with Kaname in particular would be creepy even WITHOUT the incestuous tone to it, mostly due to the power games and vampire lore that envelop the whole thing.

It was very nice to see Sayori still taking part in all of this, despite Yuki leaving school. Her actions at the end of the volume certainly show her devotion to her best friend, if not necessarily her good sense. In a volume where almost everyone in the cast is a hot male vampire of some sort, it’s nice to see the bond between the two girls is still strong. At least, it will be nice to see it provided Sayori doesn’t get slaughtered at the start of the next volume, but I’m not expecting that.

The main issue I have with this series is that it remains very hard to tell what is going on, and also very hard at times to tell who is who. Viz helpfully provides the pictures and cast list at the end of every volume, but that should not be required reading. I realize that a series that comes out as infrequently as VK (it’s caught up with Japan, mostly) might cause me to have some memory lapses, but I don’t seem to have this issue with Ouran or Skip Beat. Vampire Knight makes me feel I have to re-read the whole series before I start the new volume, as a refresher course.

That said, at the end of the day I do still enjoy this series, even if I’m not quite sure why. I’ve never read or seen Twilight, but I imagine there must be similarities. The series has weak plotting and character differentiation, but the style of the manga is quite strong, and it manages to draw you in and keep you wanting to guess. It’s also quite well paced, which is a surprise for a volume like this one where very little action happens. But in the end, I’m STILL not entirely sure why I enjoy Vampire Knight. I just do. If only more series had this sort of primal effect.

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