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Vampire Knight Manga Vol. 1-10 Review

Vampire Knight Manga Vol. 1-10 Review

Vampire Knight is a supernatural/romance manga written by Matsuri Hino, which premiered in 2005 and just published its final (19th) volume on October 14th. The series revolves around protagonist Yuki Cross, daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy. Unbeknownst to the Day Class, Cross Academy’s Night Class consists entirely of vampires – a fact that is known only by the headmaster and his two entrusted Guardians of the school, Yuki and Zero Kiryu. November 4th will see the release of Vampire Knight Manga Box Set 2, but first we’re taking a look at the series’ origins with volumes 1-10 (which make up the first box set).

Yuki Cross’ earliest memory is from ten years ago – a snowy night when she was attacked by a vicious “Level E” vampire that had gone mad with bloodlust. She was saved by Kaname Kuran, a 10,000 year-old noble pureblood vampire and head of the Kuran family (side note: she’s completely enamored with him). These days, Yuki patrols Cross Academy alongside Zero Kiryu, a white-haired ex-human vampire who… is also a vampire hunter.

Taken in by headmaster Kaien Cross at a young age after his parents were brutally murdered by vampires, Zero has become quite close to Yuki over the years – and has developed an intense hatred for the bloodsuckers of the Night Class. As he slowly transforms into a vampire, Zero suffers from painful bouts of bloodlust at night, and has to take blood tablets to control his urges. He tries to hide his symptoms but they slowly get worse, causing Yuki to worry that he will eventually succumb to madness and become a Level E vampire. In the world of Vampire Knight, there is a hierarchy of vampires: purebloods reside at the top of the social pyramid, while transformed humans like Zero are at the bottom. Eventually, all transformed humans lose their minds and become Level E vampires, who are nothing more than rabid animals and are hunted by both vampires and vampire hunters.

The full truth about Yuki’s past and her parents is slowly unraveled as Vampire Knight progresses, but a majority of the first ten volumes is spent building up the heated rivalry between Kaname and Zero, as well as their love triangle with Yuki. Even so, Matsuri Hino manages to squeeze in a good amount of action, and the storyline and characters are captivating. That said, there is so much backstory and so many characters to keep track of that at times it felt like I was reading Game of Thrones. While Vampire Knight is a relatively dark tale, Matsuri Hino adds a hint of  levity every now and then to great success, with accompanying chibi-style artwork.

Speaking of which, the artwork is beautiful, with a very distinctive style that pulls you right into the action. However, I thought that some of the proportions were odd, such as the giraffe-like necks on the male characters. Also, it can be quite hard to tell these characters apart in the black and white print of the manga, as they are all drawn quite similarly – Kaname and Zero have literally the same face, just slightly different hair styles and altered hair colors. While some of the characters (namely Kaname and Zero) have an interesting story arc, a lot of the cast feels pretty one-note. One can’t help but draw some comparisons to Twilight when reading Vampire Knight – the supernatural love triangle between Edward, Bella and Jacob is very similar to what you will find here, although I found VK to be much more interesting and well-written.

While Vampire Knight probably won’t draw in many readers that are not already in its target demographic, I found it to be an interesting tale with some complex characters and intriguing lore. The final volumes of this collection greatly ramp up the action and the characters start to grow on you. I’m really interested to find out how the series wraps up in the second box set. If you’re a fan of the genre, I would definitely recommend checking out Vampire Knight. There’s also an anime for the series published by VIZ Media, which you can catch on Hulu or Neon Alley.

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