by Rebecca Silverman,

Vampire Knight

GN 19

Vampire Knight GN 19
Kaname is ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good of all. Yuki is unwilling to let him, vowing that she will give up her life for his. Zero has lost his memories of Yuki, but something within him is telling him that she is someone important to him. With all three of our heroes ready to give up something important for the ones they love most, can there be any triumph for anyone?

Self-sacrifice: the act of giving up your very being for someone or something else. But if everyone is busy sacrificing that which is most important for those whom they love most, does the act have any meaning anymore? That is the major conundrum of Vampire Knight's final volume. We already know that Yuki has given up Zero for his own well-being by taking away his memories of her and that Kaname plans to sacrifice himself so that Yuki (and Zero and everyone else in the world) can live. As the volume goes on, Zero also sacrifices something important to him so that he can be with the one he loves, and numerous other characters jump on the self-sacrifice bandwagon in order to ensure that the world keeps on turning smoothly. Looking at it through one lens, this is probably the most selfless cast of protagonists we've ever seen (or at least since Sailor Moon), willing to give it all up for everyone else. On the other hand, with so many people performing acts of selfless devotion, it begins to get a little ridiculous and to feel like emotional manipulation of the part of Matsuri Hino. How you view the events of this final volume may depend on the level of your cynicism and ultimately what you consider a satisfying ending.

Hino does manage to imply that everyone we care about achieves their happy ending in one way or another, although it mostly defies the sensibility that that entails being together forever. There is nothing wrong with that, but readers hoping for Yuki to spend eternity with one young man or another may be somewhat disappointed. There is a bittersweet quality to the story's resolution, a bit like Natalie Babbit's Tuck Everlasting, which for one reason or another has been constantly in the back of my mind during the second half of this series. While no plot threads are really left to dangle, there is a sadness to all of the main characters' endings that for happy ending junkies will make this a little more difficult to swallow, although it would not be right to say that the finale is not optimistic. The story was never going to end in an idyllic garden, but Hino successfully manages to make sure that it is more roses than thorns.

One of the major pluses to the book is that Yuki retains the strength that she regained a few volumes ago. Gone is the wavering girl of the middle of the series when she first learned the truth of her heritage; this Yuki is much more similar to the start of Vampire Knight. She is more conflicted now because of her amassed knowledge, but she shows great determination and the added strength of knowing when she can't do any more. Zero likewise shows character growth, most specifically in his emotions, as he finally accepts what he has been fervently denying for the last eighteen volumes. This is one of the more satisfying aspects of the series' finale, and Kaname's handling of the situation, while we might not entirely agree with him, shows a true maturity that he hasn't been able to enact before, although he has put on a good show of it. All of these lessen the sting of the very end, and while this series is not as tightly plotted as Hino's earlier (and far lighter) works, it all comes together quite admirably.

Viz has released this book in two different editions: the regular and a special edition that comes with Last Night, a small hardcover artbook. If you already own The Art of Vampire Knight, this is not necessarily a must-have; although there are some new pieces in Last Night, the compositions are very similar to those in the larger artbook. However, if you are a fan of Hino's beautiful art and don't already own the other collection, $15.99 is not a bad price to get both the finale of the series and a hardcover artbook. What might be a consideration for some collectors is that the writing on the spine of the limited edition is gold, while the regular edition, and all other volumes in the series, have red print. If you want your books uniform on the shelf, this may be an issue.

While the ending of the main story might not please everyone, Hino has still done a fine job of tying up all the loose ends and crafting a finish that does its best to wrap everyone's stories up. Kaname fans may have a harder time with it than Zero fans, but ultimately the story is about Yuki, and she pulls through and does what she needs to in order to be true to everyone she loves. The theme of self-sacrifice is overdone, but in the end, Hino, like Yuki, uses it as best she can to give us an ending that, although bittersweet, feels like the one that needed to happen.

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

+ Beautiful art in both the story and the limited edition artbook, a largely decent ending.
Overuses the theme of self-sacrifice, pages can get a bit busy. Artbook isn't quite different enough from previously released volume.

Story & Art: Matsuri Hino

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