Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Now that Yuki knows of Kaname's past, she wants to start all over with him. Will events allow it or will things conspire to keep them apart? Meanwhile Sara Shirabuki is continuing her nefarious plans and Aido is being interrogated by the Hunters, despite his protestations that he knows nothing about Kaname's plans. The only thing that is really clear is that some sort of vampiric chess game is brewing and that moves are about to be made...
Vampires are forever. Not only does our fascination with them resurface every time there's a financial downturn (seriously, google “vampires and recession”), but they also live forever unless killed, giving them time to plot, plan, and see things to fruition. American fantasy author Carrie Vaughn refers to this in her Kitty the Werewolf series as “the long game,” and Matsuri Hino's vampires are clearly involved in of one of their own. This has been building for a few books now, and here with Kaname's past unveiled and Sara's larger scheme starting to be revealed, just what that game entails is really coming clear. This gives the series a clearer direction than it has had (not that it hasn't been fascinating thus far) and adds a real sense of dangerous urgency to the proceedings while still maintaining its air of tragic romance.
That feeling of tears repressed is one that really permeates this particular volume. The tragic past has become something of a cliché in shoujo manga, but Kaname's is legitimately so and really informs his motives. It also colors his relationship with Yuki in ways she does not fully understand; she thinks they're having the same conversation when he is really saying something quite different from what she is. While facial expressions are not Hino's forte, Kaname's sad, brooding expression whenever he looks at Yuki conveys a clear sense of emotions thwarted and possibly repressed. Equally melancholy is the relationship between Yuki and Zero, which is mildly touched upon in this volume when Wakaba mentions her to him. The general understated quality of the romance helps to give Vampire Knight its edge and to be dramatic without stooping to melodrama, or at least not too much. Add in some scenes with Aido and his father and this is a very melancholy book more in line with literary horror than paranormal romance.
Fortunately things are not all dark and brooding. Almost any time that Aido is on the scene the mood lightens and many of his interrogation panels are funny. Likewise his father's reaction to Yuki apologizing for Aido ending up in the hands of the Hunters in the first place is very entertaining, and the omake pages are also worth a chuckle. These moments offset the more serious content, which is very much needed. We also get to see some of Yuki's determination and spunk that has been missing since she awakened to her vampire heritage, all of which serves to alleviate the overwhelming gloom of this volume. That Hino can make this more than a one-note Gothic and still maintain the story is a testament to her skill.
As usual, no small part of that skill shows in her artwork. While eyes tend toward the glassy, her lines are elegant and delicate, conveying both moment and emotion in the characters' poses. Two scenes of Yuki walking do an especially good job, one which simply shows her going from a walk to a stride in the space of two panels and the other which shows her running so fast that she steps right out of her shoe. Subsequent panels are careful to note that she does not go back to it, a small detail that conveys the panic she was feeling and doubles as symbolism for her unbalanced emotions.
Unbalanced actually describes the majority of the characters in this volume with Sara being the most egregious example. She seems perfectly sweet and calm, like the big sister figure in a story set at a girls' school. Her plot, which is just barely legal by the laws of her world, is also a dark reference to those same girls' school stories, making the cliché seem sinister when seen through her goals. She's a much more alarming villain than the last, and one apparently even more opposed to Kaname's vision of human/vampire relations.
Vampire Knight still suffers from an excess of vaguely similar looking characters (thank goodness for the name guide in the back!), but it manages to blend Gothic and humor together and still be darkly compelling. It isn't entirely clear where Hino is going with the story, but it certainly promises to be interesting as Kaname begins to make his moves more obvious. By this point we as readers are willing participants in his “long game,” and this volume does nothing to change that, keeping us reading each bittersweet page to see what the next will bring.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Beautiful art, a story that is building and coming clear, and some flashes of humor to offset the darkness.
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