Monday, September 27, 2010

Vampire Knight (anime TV series), via Hulu

Synopsis:

When she was a little girl, Yuki was found and saved from being killed by a vampire by Kaname Kuran, an apparently kind and gentle Pureblood vampire. Since then, she has grown up as the adopted daughter of Kaien Cross, the headmaster of Cross Academy, a school intended to foster peace between humans and vampires. Four years prior to the series' present, Headmaster Cross also took in a boy named Zero, whose entire family was killed by vampires. Although Yuki is still fearful of violent vampires, she has developed a huge crush on Kaname. Zero, however, hates and distrusts all vampires.

Zero and Yuki are members of the Disciplinary Committee at Cross Academy, charged with keeping the Day Class students, the humans, separated from the Night Class students, the vampires. For the most part, the human world is unaware of the existence of vampires, so the Day Class doesn't know what the gorgeous Night Class students are. The Day Class and the Night Class are rarely allowed to interact, although accidents do occasionally happen. However, Kaname, the class president of the Night Class, mostly manages to keep the Night Class students in line.

Although most wouldn't call Yuki's life normal, it's at least stable. That is, until she learns that Zero was bitten by the Pureblood that killed his family. Unlike ordinary vampires, Purebloods like that vampire and Kaname are able to turn humans into vampires with their bite. Humans turned into vampires in this way eventually become Level Es, insane vampires who indiscriminately kill humans. If Zero becomes a Level E, he will have to be killed.

When a transfer student arrives at Cross Academy and joins the Night Class, Zero is convinced that, although she looks different, she's the vampire who bit him and killed his family. He's right - the transfer student is Shizuka Hio, and her companion is Zero's twin brother, who betrayed his family and helped Shizuka kill his and Zero's parents. Because Shizuka turned Zero into a vampire, she has power over him that prevents him from killing her, no matter how much he wants to. After Kaname kills her and drinks her blood, however, there are those who think Zero was the one responsible for Shizuka's death, especially since Zero disappears right afterward. What not even Yuki knows is that Zero is so close to being a Level E that he's been confined. Drinking Shizuka's blood would have saved him, but now she's gone. Saying that it will help him retain his sanity, Kaname, for Yuki's sake, offers Zero his blood, and the series/season ends with Zero drinking it.

Commentary:

The initial appeal of this show for me was the romance between Yuki and two other characters, Zero and Kaname, the vampires, and the humorous interactions between the Day Class and the Night Class. Unfortunately, the larger storyline, involving Zero and his past, took its sweet time developing. First, there were plenty of "Zero hates himself" and "Zero's turning into a Level E" episodes. Then Shizuka Hio finally appeared, which is when lots of things about Zero, his past, and the death of his parents were finally revealed.

One thing you need to know when watching this series is that it's only the first part of the story - Vampire Knight: Guilty, the next part of the story, comes after this. I haven't watched that yet, so I don't know if it actually wraps the series up or has its own loose ends. I hope not. I want to find out what Kaname is planning, I want to know what the deal is between him and Yuki (I keep suspecting that he was the one who killed her parents, and the closing credits for this season look creepily not good for Yuki), I want to know about all the stuff that's been hinted at about Purebloods, and I want to know how things turn out for Zero.

I don't know which of the potential love interests, Kaname or Zero, I like better. They both have their good and bad points. Kaname appears to have control over his emotions (although there are hints that maybe his control isn't as good as it seems, that he's just good at keeping those emotions from showing on his face). Zero is rapidly loosing control of himself, becoming more and more of a danger to Yuki and others.  Kaname is both powerful and protective, well able to keep Yuki safe from other vampires (I would argue that, despite the weapon Yuki waves around throughout the series, she is not able to protect herself - she crumbles or slips up every time she's in real danger). Zero can protect Yuki from some things, but not from himself. Kaname appears elegant and kind, and his behavior around Yuki is always perfect. Zero is standoffish and so filled with self-loathing that it can't be easy to be around him. All of that makes Kaname look great, but the main thing that keeps Zero in the running is that, while Zero appears to have no ulterior motives where Yuki is concerned, I'm not sure that the same can be said about Kaname. During this entire first season, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess I'll have to wait until Vampire Knight: Guilty to find out what sinister things Kaname has up his sleeves. If he turns out to be completely honest and perfect, I'll be very surprised.

Of the more minor characters, I loved Headmaster Cross, who provided a good portion of the series' comedy, particularly in his interaction with Yuki. He'd love for Yuki to treat him like a father, but Yuki refuses (I don't know if she does this because she really doesn't think of him as her father, or if she's just messing with him). Also, I'm sure that anyone who watches this show and enjoys it even a little probably has at least one favorite among the Night Class students. Mine is Aidou. Even as he fawns over Kaname, he can't seem to help but toe the line and seems to always be in trouble for something. I also like the vice president (I can't remember his name, sorry) - he seems like such a nice guy that I can't help but want him to show all the scary stuff I just know he's got hiding right under the surface. After all, it's made clear several times that all vampires are scary predators and that some just hide it better than others - the vice president can't be nearly as nice as he appears.

Overall, this isn't a spectacular series, but I enjoyed it and I can't wait until I can watch Vampire Knight: Guilty. From what I remember, the manga this anime is based on is slower paced than this anime, which made for a lot of boredom early on, so, in that respect, I at least consider the anime to be better than the manga. I can't believe it took so long for this anime to get licensed - with all the excitement over vampires and, specifically, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, you'd think it'd be a no-brainer to license an angst-filled vampire romance starring several super-gorgeous guys as soon as possible. Then again, maybe this was as soon as possible - I have no idea what goes into getting a series licensed.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Trinity Blood (anime TV series) - This series has a similar mix of drama and humor, along with lots and lots of vampires. Also, maybe it's just me, but I thought one of the characters in Vampire Knight (Zero's teacher) looks an awful lot like a character from this show.
  • Twilight (book) by Stephanie Meyer - Those who'd like another angsty love triangle with vampires might want to try this. I can't imagine that someone who watched and enjoyed Vampire Knight wouldn't have already at least tried Twilight, but it could happen. In this series, one part of the love triangle is a werewolf with occasional anger management issues, and another part is a vampire who hates what he is.
  • The Awakening (book) by L.J. Smith - It's been a long time since I read this, but I do believe there's another angsty love triangle with vampires in this one. Vampires hiding big secrets, vampires hating what they are, the works. I remember loving this series as a teen, although, when I reread it several years later, I realized I hated Elena, the main character. I think I just got too old for these books.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (live action TV series) - If you'd like more vampires, a bit of romance, and a heroine who is truly able to kick butt, you might want to try this. Unlike Yuki, Buffy doesn't need help all the time.
  • Hakuoki (anime TV series) - Ok, so this series is neither licensed in the US nor even finished yet in Japan, but I can't help it - Chizuru, the main character of this series, is so much like Yuki. Except she's even more useless. However, if you, like me, enjoyed Vampire Knight's gorgeous guys and occasional action scenes, you might enjoy this one. Remember, focus on the pretty guys and fight scenes.

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