Vampire Knight Volume 10

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

Plot and continuity continue to be the main weakness of this manga, but I’m not sure it matters much when you have this much style. Much of this volume is taken up with big fights that don’t actually happen. Yuki and Zero’s confrontation is interrupted by Kaname, Kaien Cross’s fights are either offscreen or aborted, Kaname and Zero are stopped by Yuki… and this takes almost 200 pages to happen. And yes, I’m still flipping to the cast list at the back constantly, trying to determine which brooding bishonen is which.

I was amused by the cover, which features the four main females of the series. Yuki and Sayori’s pose is reminiscent of so many other shoujo (and boy’s love) manga that I can only regard it as parody now, and luckily they have two cool-headed vampires to protect their yuri tease. Not that Vampire Knight has any yuri tease. But at least we have the cover.

The pacing is glacial in this volume, which, while a bit frustrating, also allows you to admire the artist’s craft as she draws her gothic nights and sensuous killers. The last chapter was the most interesting to me, as it showed a flashback to the vampires’ childhood and gives us the explanation for Ruka’s crush. And no doubt it dashes the hopes of many fans by showing that Kain has a crush on Ruka, also unrequited. Silly Hino-san, keep your vampires ambiguously gay!

Meanwhile, I found the omake chapter with Yuki and Kaname’s parents incredibly funny as well, if only as it was so utterly normal. Walking in the rain after school, grumpy tsundere girl, smirking teasing guy… and seeing them as lovey-dovey adorable parents makes you wonder how many of the other shoujo couples that we follow end up like that. (And then there’s the last panel where Yuki says she wants her and her brother to grow up to be like her parents, but then if you’re reading Vampire Knight you’ll have come to terms with the incest by now.)

In my previous review I noted this was a series for people who likes to moon over attractive vampires, and that hasn’t really changed. Nothing of consequence happens here besides everyone retreating and Zero saying that he’s going to kill Yuki the next time they meet. Yeah, somehow I wouldn’t bet on that. But Yuki still makes a better heroine than most, and the series still holds that guilty pleasure attraction.

Vampire Knight Volume 9

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

(Note that if you don’t know the ‘twist’ from Vampire Knight 8, the previous volume, that it gets spoiled later in the review.)

As I spent the other day savaging Black Bird, a popular supernatural manga which has hit the New York Times bestseller list, I thought I’d follow up with its closest comparison, an even more popular supernatural manga which always hits the NYT bestseller list.

You can see a big difference between the two titles just by looking at the covers. Rather than BB’s ‘I am raping this girl’ construction, VK’s simple goth-styled cover says “We are hot, sexy yet utterly unthreatening vampires.” The two guys are gazing at the (female) reader, but are both kneeing at the feet of our heroine, dressed in a pretty ballgown.

The demographics of the titles are also different. Shogakukan’s shoujo manga, with the exception of titles that run in Ciao, tends to skew older. From my experience, Shoujo Comic and Betsucomi have more sexually explicit or suggestive titles than any of the other companies. By contrast, Hakusensha has been skewing younger over the past 10 years (if you compare Hana to Yume from the mid-90s to today, you’ll see this wasn’t always the case), and LaLa is definitely a magazine for teenagers. Whereas Betsucomi, despite Japan’s sales charts labeling it as shoujo, is clearly geared for young women.

Back to Vampire Knight. I have often called this title a guilty pleasure, and I think that still holds up. The art is pretty enough, and the battles between vampires actually look pretty cool. The character design is unfortunately more of the ‘I draw the same face but with different hair’ school that we see in manga constantly, and I find myself always flipping to the back while reading this book to see which one is Aido and which one is Cain. (Viz has a cast of characters glossary at the back of every volume, which continues to be helpful).

The plot, of course, is mostly irrelevant. Vampires scheme against other vampires, and vampire hunters try to scheme against both vampire sides. Someone’s getting resurrected and possessing bodies. Things can get very, very confusing if you try to work it out. Luckily, this is not really a manga you read for the deep, subtle plot. This is a manga which you read and scream “Kyaaa! Vampires!” There’s brother/sister incest, and bishonen twin brothers sacrificing themselves, and lots of hot guys protecting innocent girls because though they are vampires, they’re the GOOD vampires.

That said, there’s also Yuki Cross. She’s our heroine, and unlike Misao in Black Bird, she actually has a character. Misao is a reader stand-in, someone to imagine yourself as while hot brooding demons lick your wounds and fondle your breasts. Yuki has an actual character and real development. She started off as a normal girl with slightly unhealthy obsessions, but she’s always been shown as having inner strength. Now that we know of her pureblood origins, of course, things are very different… except they aren’t, as she refuses to do what Kaname tells her, and manages to wield a weapon that hates vampires through sheer WILLPOWER, turning it into a badass scythe.

The fight that takes up the last two chapters of this book is really impressive considering how little actually happens. Yuki sends her vampire protector off to protect others, then proceeds to try to take out the big bad. She’s joined in this by her love/rival Zero, himself now a human-turned-vampire, who manages to snap out of his self-loathing long enough to tell Yuki to stay back like all good heroes… except not because she’d get hurt, but because this is *his* kill.

The big bad ends up being taken out (supposedly, I doubt he’s really dead) by both Yuki and Zero, the former with a behind the back scythe chop while the villain is saying he wants to take her just like her mother. And then there’s just her and Zero, standing off against each other, with Zero declaring that he will kill all the purebloods – including Yuki. (To be continued, a fact that generated a hilarious omake at the end of the volume.)

This is the difference between a guilty pleasure and just guilt. Vampire Knight has sexual situations (the incest is right up front), and some nasty violence, but the heroine isn’t meek and shrieking, and shows she can hold her own even after her ‘origin story’, mostly due to the compassion she gained in the 10 years prior. It may have a messy plot and pander to gothic vampire lovers, but it’s also genuinely worth your time.