Vampire Knight, Vol. 19

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

And so after 19 volumes, we come to the end of this particular journey. Yes, there’s a novel due out next month, but for the main manga, this is it. There’s even a limited edition, which has (in my opinion) a better cover art picture and a limited edition hardcover artbook, which features some lovely character pieces. Vampire Knight has always been a series that I’ve found to be of the moment. I may forget what’s actually going on the moment I put down the book, but while I’m reading the book, I’m swept along by the drama and emotions going on within. This last volume takes that and amps it up even further, as Yuki and Kaname compete to see who can out-self-sacrifice each other.


This is not to say there aren’t some issues. The incestuous subtext that’s been bubbling under the entire series becomes text early in this volume, and while it’s not dwelled on, I can’t say I was all that happy with it. Most of the supporting players who had large roles earlier in the series are reduced to little more than cameos here, though again it was excellent to see Yuki’s human best friend, Sayori, pop up to remind us that the world isn’t entirely vampires. (Nice flashforward as well.) And of course the entirely of this volume seems to feature both Kaname and Zero trying their best to protect Yuki by removing any agency she might have to strike off on her own, which usually makes me growl, but…

Yuki isn’t having any of it. The series has balanced a knife edge as to whether Yuki will finally slip and become a princess who needs to be protected and rescued or a knight who does the rescuing, and it’s to Hino’s credit that the final decision is Yuki’s, and it’s to live up to the title. Possibly the best panel in the entire volume shows Yuki, in her school uniform and sword in hand, dragging Aido (who is literally flapping in the wind” while shouting “We’ve got an academy to protect!” It does a heart good to see this.

As for Kaname’s master plan, well, in the end there’s not much they can do about it, but they do manage to find a sort of deus ex machina that can be fired off after a thousand years. The epilogue shows that all of the hatred and political intrigue that has dominated vampire life (and the series in general) seems to have dissipated. And Yuki and Zero are together, though this is given really short shrift – in the end, it’s not about whether Yuki ends up with her brother or her classmate, it’s about Yuki working with others to save both vampires and humans. Romance is an afterthought.

Vampire Knight’s pleasures may be fleeting, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. A lot of Vampire Knight’s covers have featured the main characters looking out at the reader, and the limited edition one does the same, with Yuki, Zero and Kaname lying exhausted yet satisfied (yes, yes, OT3), and saying to the reader, “We’re done. Is this enough?” It’s a very good conclusion.

Halloween Briefs

So, due to power outage, these aren’t on the regular Manga bookshelf site with last week’s briefs, and the MMF is actually long over. So just pretend this is still relevant.

The Manga Movable Feast dealt with horror, but most of the titles I’m about to talk about fall more under the realm of ‘supernatural’. They’re shonen and shoujo titles that deal with friendship, romance, etc., but happen to feature monsters, demons, or yokai in some way. This is, of course, not to say that they don’t all have the ability to scare in some way.

The one with the least horrific content here is likely Kamisama Kiss 5, which continues to be about a young girl who finds herself the god of a local shrine, and her vaguely romantic relationship with her familiar, sexy fox creature Tomoe. This particular volume in fact, is about removing the terror – no one goes to the shrine due to its reputation, so Nanami decides to hold a festival to entice people to notice the shrine is no longer run-down and creepy. There is a mysterious chapter where Nanami thinks that Tomoe has abandoned her and the shrine (which looks like a pit again), but it turns out to be a trick, and the majority of the volume is devoted to showing Nanami as plucky and never-say-die, and Tomoe as being aloof yet caring. The supernatural mostly is a spice here.

Much more scary, or at least with a vague tinge of unease hanging around it, is Natsume’s Book of Friends 9. The series is about a young man with the ability to see and control yokai thanks to his grandmother, and his attempts to balance out a normal school and family life with his desire to help free (and to a certain degree befriend) the yokai in his book. The stories tend to be drenched in yokai lore, and sometimes need a footnote or two, but generally dealing with monsters tends to be universal. We all know when a monster demands something or else she will do harm, and then gets what she wants, harm is going to happen anyway. There’s less school antics here and more of Natsume working with his own familiar, Nyanko-sensei. Who, thank goodness, is not a sexy fox creature. Things can get scary here, but this series gives more of a feeling of melancholy than terror.

Nura also deals with yokai, and is a Shonen Jump manga, so is not concerned so much with cute romance or finding friends as it is with awesome fights. Rikuo is still having issues with his leadership skills, and a lot of this volume continues to deal with the takeover of the town by a rival gang of yakuza… um, yokai. This volume in particular is very good at contrasting Rikuo’s caring and accepting nature, even of those who can’t stand him, with that of Tamazuki, who callously destroys his closest allies with a cruel word and a wave of his hand. It’s the difference between ruling by loyalty and ruling by fear, and this being a Jump manga, we know what will eventually win out. There are several good scary moments here, but I’d read it more for the Friendship, Training, and Victory myself. (Also, the Rikuo/Tsurara shiptease is really getting hammered on here.)

Lastly, there’s Vampire Knight 13, which despite the presence of vampires and demon hunters, is not so much horror in this volume as the political intrigue that it’s excelled in ever since Yuki came into her heritage. I’ll be honest, I think I preferred Yuki in the earlier volumes – despite trying to balance being prudent with becoming her own person, she still comes off as awfully passive here. There are a few scattered bits of action, and a scene or two of blood and gore (tastefully and sexily done, of course – this is LaLa Magazine, after all), but this is horror in the same way that Wilkie Collins was horror – romantic suspense horror with twists and turns and fitting into society turning out to be far more important than the number of people you kill. Normally I enjoy it, but I admit I found this volume a bit boring.

So, to sum up, it’s November 5th. Happy Halloween! Dress as Guy Fawkes!

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.