Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Vampire Knight Memories
Kaname is sleeping, frozen into a block of ice for a thousand years. During that time, life goes on for Yuki, Zero, and the rest of the cast of the original Vampire Knight, and they collect stories of the years to tell Kaname when he awakens. From Yuki's children to Yori's unexpected romance, these are the dreams of a thousand years.
The main story of Vampire Knight left us with the basic idea that Yuki and Zero would end up together while Kaname slept in a case of ice for a thousand years, and that, essentially, life would go on. If that wasn't enough for you, you're in luck, because Matsuri Hino is back with what happened during those years of Kaname's slumber with Vampire Knight: Memories, a collection of short stories letting us know precisely how life went on. This volume collects what were originally extras published in LaLa DX, but after a couple of books this will change to a regular series; whether or not that means that there'll be a more linear storyline remains to be seen. But the fact that the tales in this volume are a little scattered in terms of time period doesn't take much away from the fact that these are heartbreakingly beautiful as they let us in on what's been going on with the characters.
The strongest story is the first, which is told through the eyes of Yori, Yuki's human best friend. As the lone human uninvolved on an official level with the vampires or the Hunters, Yori's in a position to be more neutral, or perhaps more natural, in her observations. She's clearly feeling out of her depth in terms of Yuki's transformation. But she's unstintingly supportive, watching over and recording in her memory what transpires. The dual facts of her romance with Aido and her refusal to give up a human lifespan make both this and the second story (their romance from Aido's point of view) incredibly sad, made more so by a particular revelation in the final story, when Yuki's two children finally meet an awakened Kaname and begin to tell him what he's missed.
Aido's work, which is taking over Kaname's research into how to turn a vampire into a human, figures prominently into the second story, as Yori becomes his research assistant. That it isn't completed within Yori's lifetime is sad, but also makes sense for a subject so difficult that Kaname eventually gave it up. It also builds on Aido's character development from the latter half of the original series, keeping his determination and awkwardness but also granting him more maturity as time passes and his involvement with Yori deepens. Likewise Zero and Yuki's relationship builds on the ending of the original series, spending more time detailing Yuki's inner conflict as she feels she has to choose between waiting for Kaname and being with Zero in the meantime. It is Zero who shines as a character in this storyline, which is seeded throughout the entire collection, showing that he has come to terms with who and what he is and is no longer willing to give up happiness – for himself or for Yuki.
Of course, this is not without its bittersweetness as well – the scenes we see of Kaname's awakening let us know that both Yuki and Zero are dead (in fact, we see their death scene), so ultimately Yuki's decision seems to have been made. We don't get inside her head very much in the book, which is actually not terrible because the tradeoff is that we hear from other characters, but it does leave the question of her happiness a bit up in the air; this uncertainty is borne out by the way that her daughter Ai talks about her.
Fortunately Hino's artwork is more than up to the task of reinforcing the melancholy of the stories. Although it has always been beautiful, since the original series began, Hino has refined her linework and use of shading further, giving the book the air of a dream. Given that the background of the pieces is that Kaname is sleeping as all of this is happening, this feels especially appropriate.
Vampire Knight: Memories' first volume is one of the sadder manga I've read recently. It isn't the first series to take this approach – it's certainly the implication of the final episode of the original El Hazard OAV – but it uses its conceit especially well. By turns melancholy and sweet, this perhaps isn't the reunion with the characters we might have hoped for, but it is still a pretty path to wander.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A
+ Beautiful artwork, pervasive air of melancholy works well, Yori and Aido stories are sweetly sad
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