Spectrum Nexus

Anime Info

Creator: A Studio Deen Production
Director: Kiyoko Sayama
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Length: 26 Episodes

Anime Not Licensed

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Summary

+ Achingly beautiful animation
– Very melodramatic story
– Corny, over-the-top humor

Overview

When watching a TV series, movie, or anime dealing with vampires and the women who love them, the audience expects a certain level of melodrama. Vampire Knight raises the melodrama to the point of the absurd, the characters spend more time emoting, pondering, whining, and soliloquizing than doing anything. Just when the action starts to get going, the show screeches to a halt for yet another monologue or flashback about life's miseries. The fact that the melodramatic script is coupled with absolutely stunning animation makes it all the more painful to watch. The series never quite recovers from the beautifully staged opening moments.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Vampire Knight Anime Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 1/27/2009

Introduction

Of all the world's monsters, perhaps none are more romanticized than vampires. Although they are essentially nothing more than serial killers or mass murderers, they are most often depicted along Byronic lines as seductive, handsome, well dressed, brooding, miss understood anti-heroes. Yes they suck blood for sustenance, are probably in league with some sort of devil, and have lived for countless centuries in a musty old castles or Victorian Era homes, but with the right Goth teenager or middle aged Hausfrau to give them love and understanding, they would gladly give up their evil ways (but not the sexy clothes), take their blood from farm raised rats, and become model citizens (if a little pale and prone to being nocturnal). One of many anime and manga stories along such lines, Vampire Knight postulates a world where vampires attend a special school to learn to coexist with normal humans and the love of one teenage girl can save a young man from the curse of vampirism.

Review

There is a moment at the beginning of Vampire Knight when the series tricks its audience into believing that it is worth watching. At the beginning of the first episode, Yuki is telling the audience that she has no memories before the moment when she was saved from death at the hands of a vampire by another vampire. We see delicately animated white snow against a stone grey sky. We then see five-year-old Yuki as she catches some in her mittens, and on the soundtrack, the older Yuki contemplates the words "snow", "white", and "red". She then looks up and sees a stranger coming towards her -- he could be coming to help, but then the camera tilts up and we see his glowing red eyes and delicate, fanged mouth. The vampire gets closer and closer and closer…The camera holds on Yuki's face as the frame goes to black, white, and red for a moment as the older Yuki reminds us of the definition of vampire. We cut back to the action. The vampire grabs our young heroine, the camera moves in on her eye -- we see someone reflected in her eye. It's not her attacker. It's someone else. We hear a loud crunch. We see a bloody scarf. The camera pulls back revealing Yuki watching the first vampire falling to the ground, killed by the newcomer who turns out to be another vampire. Older Yuki reminds us that humans must never go near vampires as we watch Yuki go to her hero and embrace. This opening scene is a brilliant piece of filmmaking and an excellent example of the animator's art that the series can't manage to sustain. While the animation is beautiful throughout, the storytelling quickly breaks down into melodrama and tiresome humor.

Vampire Knight contains all the elements we have come to expect from anime series dealing with vampires. The vampires are members of a secret society, the main characters include a pretty girl, and a handsome boy, one of whom is cursed to become a vampire, and all the vampires are depicted as ghostly pale but otherwise pretty humanoids with eerie red eyes. The story begins one snowy evening as a young girl named Yuki is saved from a fate worse than death at the hands of a handsome vampire by another handsome vampire. Years later Yuki is a Prefect at the elite Cross Academy somewhere in England. Founded by Kaien Cross, a former vampire hunter, the Cross Academy is divided into the Day Class and the Night Class -- the Day Class is of course made up of humans while the Night Class is made up of vampires. It is all part of Cross's elaborate plan to create peace and harmony between humans and vampires. To ensure the safety of the human students and the privacy of the vampires, Yuki and her fellow Prefect Zero Kiryu act as enforcers making sure the human students are in their dorms by night fall. This is complicated by the fact that the Night Students are irresistibly beautiful and everyone in the Day Class is in love with them. Yuki is in love with Kaname Kuran, the pureblooded vampire who saved her, and Zero Kiryu is in love with Yuki.

One of the biggest problems with Vampire Knight is that the producers didn't seem to know what type of show they were trying to create. It's schizophrenic. Half the time it's a screwball comedy, with characters shouting their lines at the top of their lungs, weeping exaggerated tears, smiling exaggerated goofy smiles, and wavy their fists in the air whenever they get super angry. The other half of the time its romantic melodrama with characters making love-y doe eyes at one another, reciting long winded monologues about the cruelty of fate, and generally blathering on endlessly while very little of interest actually happens in the story.

Show More And what exactly is happening in this series? Underneath all the melodrama and screwball comedy, Vampire Knight almost works as a piece on race relations. Almost. Cross's goal for his school is a noble one -- however humans and vampires aren't people with different skin colors and cultures, vampires are predators who drink human blood. Do we expect wolves and deer to live together? Why should vampires and humans? Cross's noble goal is the framework upon which the most inane plot ever conceived by a hack anime writers is built. The plot largely ignores any exploration of the question of whether or not humans and vampires will ever co-exist peacefully and focuses instead on teenage angst and soap opera style melodrama and plot twists. It plays out like a combination of the X-Men and the Harry Potter novels and should have been titled I Was in Love with a Teenage Vampire instead of Vampire Knight (except for a few fight scenes, no one in this story acts like any kind of a knight). A new tablet has been developed which can be used as substitute for drinking blood. The students of the Night Class are being used as guinea pigs in tests to determine the pill's effectiveness. The younger vampires are extremely pissy about the whole thing, they don't like being used as guinea pigs but especially don't like drinking phony blood. It's sort of like expecting lions to be satisfied with soy burgers.

Meanwhile, Yuki keeps having mysterious flashbacks about the night she became Cross's adopted daughter. It was a snowy evening when she was about five years old and her family was murdered by vampires, she escaped her family's fate largely through the intervention of Kuran but anything else before that is lost to her. Kuran took her to live with his friend Cross. Another important memory she enjoys lingering over is the day Zero came to live with her and Cross. His family was also murdered by vampires. Unlike Yuki, who is in love with Kuran and seemingly believes in her adopted father's dream, Zero sees all vampires as irredeemable monsters. Wouldn't you? Years later, Zero is on the verge of becoming a vampire himself. He's in love with Yuki and resents the fact that she's in love Kuran. Kuran in turn is in love with Yuki and resents Zero but leaves him alone because he protects Yuki from wicked vampires (the ones with less control over their blood lust than Kuran). Scenes from this vampiric love triangle alternate with supposedly comedic scenes depicting the Day Class falling all over themselves to get a glimpse of the Night Class and fight scenes that seem designed primarily to depict Kuran's smug sense of self satisfaction at his control over his bloodlust. All this plods slowly forward towards a foregone conclusion involving lots of self sacrifice, heroics, and long drawn out exposition about why some of the characters are or about to become vampires and why some aren't. It's tedious stuff but it is very pretty to look at. And somehow the producers felt it warranted a sequel.

Show More
The sequel, Vampire Knight: Guilty followed in fall 2008 and picked up right where the first series ended. Most of the Day Class students are still madly in love with the Night Class and still oblivious to the fact the Night Class is made up of vampires. The members of the night class are all unnaturally pale but unusually beautiful, moody, Byronic, and arrogant, it seems anyone with half a brain who has ever read a signal piece of vampire fiction would have guessed their secret; however the machinations of the plot require the Day Class members to function with less than half a brain. While the second series cuts back on the corny humor it increases the melodrama. The overwhelmingly moody characters are now unbearably moody and increasingly prone to long winded speeches, slow moving periods of introspection, and inordinate amounts of Hamlet-esque inaction. Zero has transformed into a vampire and is accused of killing Shizuka Hio, the pureblooded vampire who bit him. He is also indebted to Kuran for saving him from madness, however, Kuran's actions were not out of kindness but rather because it is the only way he could ensure that Zero would still be able to protect from other vampires. Zero's longing for Yuki is now a deep seated lust to drink her blood. And although clues have been scattered throughout the series, Yuki is still clueless about her true origins as a pureblooded vampire whose parents were instrumental in creating the Cross Academy. Her self-discovery and ultimate awakening as a vampire is a tortuous journey involving vampire hunters, secret vampire councils, fights, betrayals, fights, and clichés piled on clichés.

While there is very little to recommend about this series, as stated earlier, it is all very pretty to look at. The animators do an excellent job creating the right mood and atmosphere for a series about vampires. The vampires depicted in Vampire Knight love being vampires, they revel in it. And it shows. The series' animators capture the arrogance and beauty of the vampires with a few masterful strokes, a sidelong glance here, a well timed sneer there. Likewise, they seem to remember life as teenagers quite well, capturing perfectly the naiveté, the bravado, and awkwardness of high school -- grounding an otherwise fanciful melodrama in much needed and almost natural feeling reality. The animators are just as skilled creating the school and its environment -- instead of a Gothic mansion oozing with dread, Cross Academy with its high-peaked roofs, columned walk ways, picture windows, steeples, and bells actually resembles the type of British public school it was molded on -- beautiful, picturesque, steeped in tradition. And each frame brims with details that help bring the series to life such as sunlight flickering through trees turned orange by the coming of fall, water splashing in the fountain, and even the different ways students wear their uniforms. It all promises so much but the series delivers so little.

Conclusion

Yuuki and Zero Many anime series have promised more than they can deliver, few have done so more spectacularly than Vampire Knight. The opening scene is so well constructed that everything that follows is not only a disappointment but almost painful to watch. Fans of the original manga series will probably enjoy seeing their favorite characters come to life in animated form. Other anime viewers will probably find it clichéd and at turns both corny and overly melodramatic. For those readers I would recommend other vampire themed anime series such as Hellsing or Vampire Hunter D or the video game adaptation, Devil May Cry. Those shows aren't necessarily deeper than Vampire Knight but they certainly are more entertaining and stylish.

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