written by Laurie Tom
I’ll start by saying I’m not a typical fan of vampire media. I dislike vampires as love interests. What I like is shooting/staking/killing vampires. In short, I like the hunters.
I first heard about Vampire Knight several years ago. It was about a high school where there is a Day Class for humans and a Night Class for the vampires, which at the time I thought was a neat twist. (Vampire Knight beat Twilight to market by a year.) Yuki Cross is a school Guardian charged with monitoring the Night Class to make sure they behave and do not prey on the humans in the Day Class, but unsurprisingly for a story aimed at the young female audience, she quickly finds herself torn between two boys: the immortal pureblood vampire Kaname Kuran and her vampire hunter foster brother Zero Kiryu.
Given my biases, I have to admit I only decided to watch the show because of Zero. He’s an incredibly tormented character. Even though Zero is a Day Class student and armed with an anti-vampire weapon, he is slowly turning into a vampire. And since he was bitten by another vampire rather than being born as one, he will eventually degrade until he’s a monster. Between his self-loathing and his devotion to Yuki he’s much more interesting to watch than Kaname, who spends most of the early episodes being good-looking and mysterious (I guess I’m past the age where that’s interesting to me).
Later episodes make it clear that Kaname has a far-reaching agenda and he’s not afraid to use people to get what he wants (which also includes some emotional stomping over Zero, who he abuses because he knows Zero is in love with Yuki and will not retaliate because Yuki is in love with Kaname–ah, love triangles!). There are scheming and political machinations that reach well beyond the high school environment.
Though I personally see Kaname as a manipulative bastard, Yuki’s fascination with him is well rooted and understandable even if as the audience I disagree with her choice. The world is decently well built, the characters engaging, and it doesn’t hurt that original manga writer/artist Matsuri Hino’s character designs are gorgeous to look at.
What I would have liked made clearer at an earlier point though, is that the vampires in school actually are high school aged. We see a younger Kaname in flashback and he ages right alongside Yuuki. As a vampire he will stop aging at a point, but the vampires at school really are teenagers, so it’s not as silly as it initially appears that they are going to class.
In the world of Vampire Knight the vampires are closely related to normal humans. They are not undead. They marry and raise families, and are capable of interbreeding with humans. They can be in the sun, though they are nocturnal by nature, and do not require blood to survive, though they enjoy drinking it. One’s status in vampire society is based off of how much human blood is in the lineage, with purebloods not having any at all. Transformed vampires like Zero reside at the very bottom of the social pyramid, and those that degrade entirely to being little more than animals are hunted by vampire hunters and regular vampires alike.
Unfortunately Vampire Knight does not cover the storyline for the whole manga series. The anime ran in 2008 and the manga itself did not wrap up until 2013, so there isn’t a conclusive ending to the storyline, but most of the plot threads are resolved so that it’s satisfactory (even the love triangle, surprisingly enough).
If you’re going to watch one anime series with pretty vampires at all, I’d recommend this one. It probably won’t convert anyone to the sub-genre, but it’s engaging, and even the love triangle bit turned out better than I thought it would.
Number of Episodes: 26
Pluses: gorgeous character designs, effective music score, Zero (if you really like tormented heroes)
Minuses: takes a while before the meaty bits of the plot come out, vampires being pretty, love triangle (I suppose the fact I enjoyed myself despite the latter two says something)
Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Penumbra, and Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction.