The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 75 – Vampire Knight

Vampire Knight

There are so many odd schools in anime. Some are supernatural, others have unusual policies, and some are so barmy that it’s hard to know where to start. For this category, I’m not counting sci-fi shows. We don’t know what the future will be like so we can’t say if a school set in the future will be odd. Nor does it include schools in which one particular student is unusual, rather than the whole institute.

As we are soon approaching Halloween, I’m covering the supernatural schools first. Vampire Knight began as a manga by Matsuri Hino back in 2005 and has just recently ended, with the final 19th volume being released in English. An anime adaptation of the first half of the story was released back in 2008, split into two parts named Vampire Knight and Vampire Knight: Guilty. The series is a “shojo” manga aimed at young women and girls, and it has a dedicated following.

The school, named Cross Academy, is an institution split into two halves: the “Day Class” which is full of humans, and the “Night Class” which is full of vampires. However, most of the Day Class are unaware the Night Class are undead. The headmaster, Kaien Cross, is an ex-vampire hunter who has decided that the best way forward is for humans and vampires to work together, and encouraging vampires to consume a form of artificial blood instead of the real thing.

The central figure is Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the headmaster. She is a Day Class member of the school’s disciplinary committee, whose main job is to keep order between the students: mainly when the Day Class and the Night Class swap over, as the girls in the Day Class storm over and try to grab the attention of the handsome guys in the Night Class.

Yuki is helped by another committee member, a boy named Zero Kiryu. While they work together well, they both have different views on vampires. Yuki is friendly with them. Her earliest memory is her life being saved by a benevolent vampire after Yuki was attacked by a rogue vampire. Her saviour, Kaname Kuran, is now the president of the Night Class and she is in love with him. Zero on the other hand is a vampire hunter in training and wants to wipe all vampires out after they destroyed all that he cared for. This is compounded by the fact that Zero himself has been turned into a vampire, and is constantly worried about losing control of his mind and body. Eventually he comes to Yuki for support, and she even allows Zero to consume her blood. The story revolves around what soon becomes a love triangle between Yuki, Zero and Kaname, as well as the internal politics of both the vampire community and the vampire hunters.

Many people will be looking at this anime and will automatically be making comparisons to another similar Western story: Twilight, which is based on similar supernatural love triangle. The relationships are mostly similar: Twilight has a human girl, vampire, werewolf love triangle; Vampire Knight is between a human girl, a vampire and a vampire hunter turned into a vampire. Another similarity is when they came out: the Vampire Knight manga came out a few months for the original Twilight novel; and the anime also came out a few months before Twilight’s film adaptation. As far as I know, one difference between the two is that unlike Twilight there don’t appear to be a best-selling S&M stories inspired by Vampire Knight – so if you want to read a romantic vampire story without the guilt of knowing that it ultimately lead to Fifty Shades of Grey, then Vampire Knight’s a great alternative.

Obviously, if you are not a fan of Twilight, then this is a series that you will probably want to avoid. However, as you watch Vampire Knight and read more of the manga, you will soon spot that this series does have some depth to it. This becomes clear as you near the end of the anime (the middle of the manga), in which you learn more about Yuki’s origins and her missing memories. You learn of a big revelation which changes the dynamic of the whole tale.

Vampire Knight is a title aimed at a particular group of people. If you do fit into that group, you will no doubt be very keen on this series.

Both collections of Vampire Knight are released on DVD by Manga Entertainment.

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