by Rebecca Silverman,

Vampire Knight

GN 13

Vampire Knight GN 13
After the events of the ball, Zero is told to take some time off. He uses this to go visit Ichiru's grave...only to meet up with Yuki and Aido there on a similar mission. When another pureblood attacks Yuki, Kaname comes to her rescue (via familiar) and tells her to drink his blood that she may learn about his past. The revelations will have great impact on the story's world and on Yuki's understanding of what it means to be a pureblood vampire.

With most young adult paranormal fare strictly in the Twilight camp these days, it is rewarding to pick up a vampire series that puts as much focus on culture and action as romance. Matsuri Hino delivers just that in her addictive series Vampire Knight, and this latest English volume is no exception. Picking up after the events of the last book with Yuki traveling around to purebloods who may be (or grow) tired of living, we find an exhausted, tormented Zero on mandatory leave from the Hunter Society. Zero has achieved levels of tortured angst normally reserved for victims on TV crime shows, and while at times it can feel overdone – reference his brooding in volume 12 – the opening chapter here allows the reader to really understand what he is going through. Zero is the last surviving member of his family. He has been turned into the very creature who destroyed his parents and his twin brother, and the girl he presumably loves has also been taken away from him because of vampires. His world turned upside down in a very brief time, leaving him standing alone with his brother's dead body clutched in his arms. While we have known all of this for a while now, the sight of him curled up at Ichiru's grave really brings it home.

The idea of two souls in one body has surfaced several times in recent volumes, and Hino once again plays with it here. Zero converses with Ichiru, and more metaphorically Yuki continues to ponder her former human existence. Kaname also gets in on the act this time as we learn about his past. This idea seems central to characters who have suffered great upheavals in their lives, and actually makes everyone more human. We've all had moments when we have to act differently depending on the company we're in, even if it is only to thank someone for the hairy sweater you just unwrapped. Yuki and Zero are coping with this dilemma on a larger scale – should Yuki be the princess Kaname wants her to be? Does Zero really hate all vampires, including Yuki and himself? Who is lying to whom here? This unsettled feeling that the protagonists harbor creates a relatable cast of paranormal characters who are not perfect in anyone's eyes, perhaps especially their own.

Not everything is angst and thorns here. Aido continues to shine as a comedic character, fretting over Yuki's actions and what the repercussions for him will be. When Kaname rescues Yuki, Aido is left behind with Zero, who takes him into custody, apparently by tasing him between panels. The vaguely worried look on Aido's face as he rushes to try and keep up with Yuki is so far from the ultra-cool and intensely elegant expressions that the other vampires maintain that it makes for a chuckle nearly every time.

Hino's art remains beautiful. Fabric drapes, unconscious bodies dangle over shoulders, and sensual lines make up most of the scenes between Yuki and the two contenders for her heart. Sara maintains a cold gentility that could belong to the villainous lady of any 19th century novel. Regretfully there are no action scenes in this volume and the movement is largely static. Perhaps the best scenes are of a human Yuki literally falling into Kaname's memories. There is a real weight to her descent, more reminiscent of the end of the film “Labyrinth” than the overused Alice.

Kaname's memories make for some of the most interesting reading this time around. Previously he has seemed meticulously rigid with strict expectations for Yuki and a clear goal in mind for vampire society. The flashbacks give us a better understanding of what makes him tick, and even give him a softer quality. A more complete history of vampires' interactions with humans also develops the story's world further, showing that Hino put a lot of effort into creating her alternate reality and giving us as readers a fuller perception of the dynamics at play. While there are still gaps in our knowledge, we are closer to grasping the big picture.

Despite the flashbacks brought about by Yuki's consumption of Kaname's blood – from a vaguely sexual position, as is required by the vampire genre – there is still a very uncomfortable aspect to their relationship. While Yuki is more assertive in her actions, there is still an element of Stockholm Syndrome in Kaname's insistence on “keeping her safe.” While it is nowhere near the level of Kanoko Sakurakoji's Black Bird, it still may make readers squirm. Also present is the vaguely incestuous quality of both potential romances – Kaname is a blood relation and Zero is, technically, Yuki's adopted brother. While this has been explained in terms of vampire society, it still may be a stumbling block for some readers.

Although Vampire Knight volume 13 retains some of the problems of its predecessor, it has enough going on to make it a good read. It still doesn't live up to volumes ten and eleven in terms of excitement and plot, but it continues to guide us forward to the point where the series will reach that level again. A continuation of chapter 59 is particularly rewarding from this standpoint, as is Yuki's need to understand the world she has landed in. If you've made it this far, keep reading. Hino seems ready to shift gears.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+

+ Sensual, attractive art, a more innovative take on the vampire genre than we've been seeing, good lighter moments ease the overall darkness. Moments of believable humanity for the characters.
Still hasn't returned to the heights achieved earlier, some uncomfortable romance.

Story & Art: Matsuri Hino

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