by Rebecca Silverman,

Vampire Knight

GN 15 & 16

Vampire Knight GN 15 & 16
With Kaname vanished and pure bloods dying at his supposed hand, Yuki finds herself thrown into a leadership position among the vampires. She decides that the best way to handle things is to reinstate the night class at Cross Academy and she solicits young vampires willing to work towards change to join it. But her call brings Sara Shirabuki back into the big picture, and that and Yuki's inexperience might not bring about the desired results.

After a few (admittedly beautiful) volumes, Vampire Knight seems to be back on track. Not that the books that did not take place at Cross Academy didn't serve a purpose, but for series heroine Yuki Cross (Kuran) the non-school volumes were a step away from the spunky, determined heroine introduced in the earlier part of the series. Now with Kaname's break from apparent sanity, Yuki is forced into the spotlight, allowing the character to reclaim some of her earlier positive traits and making the series interesting in a way that is separate from Matsuri Hino's complex world of vampire politics.

Kaname's murderous rampage that began in the previous book is not the focus of the action of volumes fifteen and sixteen, although the consequences of it are. The primary issue is that the vampires now lack a leader, and as the sole member of the Kuran clan, Yuki must take over Kaname's position. Her first decision is to petition Cross to reopen the night class at his academy. Yuki wants to resume the experiment in peaceful cohabitation, and while some are not sure that this is the right thing to do, Yuki manages to convince some young vampires to join her in her new endeavor. No sooner are things in place, however, than Sara Shirabuki comes seeking asylum at the academy. Claiming that she is next on Kaname's hit list, Sara inserts herself into Yuki's realm and immediately begins subverting our heroine's goal. This action makes up most of volume sixteen, and while the fact that she is up to her old tricks again isn't particularly surprising, Hino does still manage to make them cause quite a bit of tension.

Perhaps the tensest storyline, however, is the renewed relationship between Yuki and Zero. With the revelation of Yuki's vampire heritage Zero voluntarily distanced himself, but with the night class' return, he is forced to work in close proximity with his former friend. There is a push-and-pull dynamic to their new relationship – Yuki cannot reconcile herself to the fact that things have changed and Zero seems to be deliberately reminding himself that they have. This is best seen in the cover image for chapter seventy-seven, which also appears in smaller form on the back of volume sixteen: Yuki stands between Kaname in the foreground and Zero in the background. Each male is holding one of her arms – Kaname grips her hand while Zero holds her arm as they both pull her in different directions. At this point this image perfectly illustrates Yuki's struggle. Who will she ultimately align with? Kaname's pose is confident while Zero's is reluctant, another clear indicator of their feelings. In fact, as the story stretches between these two volumes, it becomes increasingly clear that Zero and Yuki are both struggling with their feelings as Yuki wishes in part for a return to her human days. One small scene in Zero's head indicates that this is something he desires as well. On that front, Kaname has an interesting line in volume sixteen about “turning Yuki into a real human.” Is this possible? Why would Kaname want such a thing? Given that such a transformation could have huge impact on the plot's resolution, it is a tantalizing tidbit.

As the story picks up its pace again, some of Hino's previous issues come to the foreground once again. Her near lack of facial expressions can make it difficult to determine character reactions when they are not speaking or presented in full figure form with attendant body language, and panels can get a bit muddled with the prevailing color scheme of “dark.” Less important characters are very difficult to tell apart, particularly when everyone is back in their school uniforms, and with the increase in both hunters and vampires, this gets to be a problem. One scene in volume fifteen involving feathers flying out of a pillow is especially difficult to decipher at first, partially exacerbated by the consistent replacement of backgrounds with dark screen tones.

All complaints aside, these are two very intriguing volumes of Matsuri Hino's longest series to date. The return to Cross Academy and the near total absence of Kaname gives us a closer look at both Yuki and Zero as characters (as well as their tortured relationship), and if Sara's plans aren't entirely unlooked for, they are still nefarious enough to be compelling reading. Volume sixteen leaves off on a pretty big cliffhanger (fifteen's ending is a little less so), which may affect your purchasing decisions. Overall these are both a good read and may help to renew flagging interest in the saga, particularly if you keep paying close attention to the details. The devil may not be in there, but some of the plot threads most certainly are.

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

+ Going back to Cross Academy revives interest and gives a chance for Hino to work more closely with Yuki and Zero. Some almost throw-away images and lines seem to have import. Aido's still funny and Yuki is getting spunky again. Art is beautiful...
...but the lack of facial expressions and reliance on dark tones sacrifices some readabilty. Less important characters are difficult to tell apart.

Story & Art: Matsuri Hino

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Vampire Knight (manga)

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