Vampire Knight Season 1 Review

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Kaname, Yuuki, and Zero

For some reason anything with vampires at all gets labelled as being essentially Twilight in one way or another – its no surprise that’s the case here, but I’d say it’s pretty wrong outside of sharing the fact they both have vampires, a lead female, and I believe both have love triangles. Not to mention this is actually surprisingly good which separates it from that film a great deal on its own.

While I do say love triangle and that usually denotes a romcom of some sort when you’re talking about anime, this is actually a serious drama series with just a few fun or cute moments mixed in from time to time. That being the case, a lot of big and important twists and turns go on in this show and I don’t want to spoil them, so I’ll do my best to try and do the show some justice while being overly vague and so probably fail to do so.

Anyway, I don’t really know much about vampire lore in general as I’ve never really been interested in it for the most part. I know the basics and a few ‘deeper’ things about how vampires are usually depicted or this or that, but really not much. My only experiences with the stuff are things like Castlevania, the Karin manga, some shows airing this season and that’s about it aside from random information I’ve just absorbed over time through osmosis. I don’t know if any of that really matters, though it might be part of why I feel this show has such a unique story and feeling to it as it’s one of the only serious pieces of vampire fiction I’ve really dealt with.

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The lead character is Yuuki, the adopted daughter of a vampire hunter who is also the man who started Cross Academy – a place he’s designed to try and help mend the rift between humans and vampires. Yuuki and Zero (who was also taken in by the same guy) have the specific responsibility of making sure nobody finds out that the “night class” aren’t just special for financial or other reasons while also keeping the vampires under control and not out biting anyone – she even gets a cool collapsible bo staff. She’s a character I really like because she feels like she’s genuinely conflicted and has a lot about herself that are a mystery both to herself and the viewer. One thing she is sure of right from the very beginning is her love for Kaname which I’m fine with because he’s pretty alright. Her overall personality and design are very likable as well, she’s cute looking and she’s a little too sweet for her own good – but she’s also pretty strong willed, she just never knows what to aim that strength towards because both the men in her life are at odds with each other all the time, both very possessive of her, and both have a lot of shit going on in their lives. I won’t lie and say she doesn’t have some problems of being a little stupid at times to fit into certain cliches, but overall she makes even those instances come off as not too bad.

The two who form the other ends of the actually pretty cool and complicated love triangle are Zero and Kaname. Zero is a dude who hates the shit out of vampires and Kaname is a pureblood vampire. I like Zero’s bloodlust and I think the fact he’s the one who is constantly immediately jumping to violence and yelling in a rage while the VAMPIRE is the one always trying to calm everything down and be peaceful is a good change. He’s also struggling throughout the show for various reasons and it does a lot to develop who he is, how he got that way, and who he’s going to become. His development is a very key point in the story as he goes through the most drastic changes throughout the course of it and those changes have real impact on the other two as well. I like how deeply connected their stories are and how much more tangled things become further along in the story – primarily because of him. Yuuki might be the eyes we’re seeing the story told from, but Zero is the much bigger focus of the overall plot and even most of her personal story and romance is centered around Zero’s developments – at least in this season.

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Kaname seems to be pretty much the same by the end of this season as he was at the start yet he really isn’t, it’s just that his development is much more subtle because he’s purposefully treated as an enigma even though he’s around so frequently. You do get hints and some big scenes where it’s clear that his feelings are changing or that he’s doing something more than meets the eye – he has that mysterious charm women like, I suppose, but he also is often times the type of character to make things very tense just by being around. Yuuki’s love for him started way back when he saved her as a child from a vampire that was about to kill her, but a lot of the students and other vampires also have pretty strong feelings towards him either because he looks good or because of his power over the other vampires. I also love his voice which is supposed to be I assume noble and kind of ‘sensual’, but comes off often times as a bit molester-y which just adds comic value when you remember he’s xxx years old and in love with a teenage girl.

I don’t want to get in to spoilers, but the situation between these three actually really does go a lot of ways you don’t expect and these two guys have a lot of shit you’d never see coming between them (nothing gay, surprisingly), making it an interesting sort of ‘rivalry’ to watch unfold. While the romance aspect is definitely a big point it feels more like its heavily tied in to other story events than being the leading aspect of the show. Rather, the story is what it is thanks to the romance also being a factor – but the actual focus is on emotional struggles the cast goes through and some pretty good drama with well crafted and constantly developing characters. Mari Okada actually did the screenplay for this, and while I wouldn’t say it’s super obvious overall that it’s her – that extremely character-focused aspect always present in her work is definitely clear here. Actually, the blind misguided hate this gets and how it actually is reminds me a bit of Wixoss – another show she did the screenplay for that gets a lot of people assuming its a card battle series when it’s actually a dark psychological drama.

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Oh, there’s another character I want to point out because he’s such a stereotype that he’s hilarious for it; a vampire hunter dude who I don’t remember the name of. Everything about him is incredibly cliche in the best ways, the only thing he’s missing is a whip which he decided to replace with a shotgun. Aside his weapon though, he’s got the hair, the eyepatch, the entire outfit full with hat, trench coat, and pocket watch, and even the usual personality.

The art is pretty consistent with very few dips (very surprising, coming from DEEN who are known for total shit in that department), I appreciate the “bishys” and the overall style of the character art and designs, and the whole of the show looks good while doing a surprisingly nice job of keeping a sort of vampiric tone to the world even though it takes place primarily at a high school. The setting seems interesting but never gets discussed or shown much. The school, the town around the school, and the few places we see outside of either of those all seem modern yet with odd signs of being from back when vampires began “showing up” in folklore as well. We learn later on that vampires came to exist when humanity was going to die out during an apocalyptic event…and oddly, during that scene we’re shown a modern town being the example of the decimation from that event, which might explain why the mix in the present is strange.

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I watched this on Netflix and so I’ve been watching the dub which I actually think is pretty good and has a lot of that older dub charm. I’d recommend if you watch it and don’t hate dubs to go that route, even with a few corny actors being in it and much of the vampire side of the cast not relaying much emotion through their speech (which is on purpose in both languages). You even get that cute on occasion but strange thing some VAs do of saying names ending in “e” as “eh”, like “Kanameh” which is fun even the 100th time given only Yuuki really does it. I especially liked Yuuki’s actress, who I felt did a great job and fit her character perfectly including in the amateurish acting at times, it kept her monologues from ever getting annoying and made her even easier to like and care about. She’s no Caitlin Glass, Michelle Ruff, or Cherami Leigh, but she’s definitely cute all the same and had a sort of ‘natural’ sound to her. Then again, I’m someone who greatly enjoys Animax dubs for their charm and natural sound the few times I can get a hold of them, so mileage may vary. Aside that, you’ve got a lot of the usual names from back then starring here, even Troy Baker as one of the supporting characters.

My only real complaints are small ones, as everything else in the show is pretty good (not fantastic, but consistently pretty good). First is that there’s a bit of always-awkward-in-anime relationship between ‘close brothers’ that’s filled with typically not purposefully implied but just incestuous-feeling stuff in one of the character’s backstories which is not MEANT to be that way. It’s very clearly just trying to show a close sibling bond between these two brothers but it just comes off as really gay like sleeping while cuddling one another and obsessing over each other constantly. Anime writers tend to think young siblings are like this, so there’s no hidden meaning, I just don’t like it and never have. Luckily it’s only shown in bits of one episode.

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The other issue, which is really just silly to make while watching a vampire show given it’s always been part of the fiction; I’m not a fan of how the bites are treated very much as sex or something similar to it. This is a rare thing here and it’s far from a show that tries to be erotic on any level even for female viewers, but it’s just that it makes some scenes feel kinda rapey and distasteful – and other times it makes the otherwise really cute and pure-seeming lead character come off as kind of a whore. I don’t care if that’s supposed to be the implication nor do I know if it really is, but the character they developed is not someone who’d be going around fucking willynilly or doing so in such risky “probably gonna get caught” situations. So it’s just awkward at times, but this really honestly barely ever comes up and again it comes with the territory. It’s handled tastefully enough though and doesn’t feel intrusive at all, it’s just a part of vampire fiction I’ve never really liked even though it’s kind of the majority of the idea behind them.

Actually, there is one last thing. There are two separate occasions where Yuuki chases Zero into some shady areas of the town – both of these times she ends up running to essentially the same place, having the same exact shit happen where she’s attacked by a Level E (basically just a blood lusting vampire monster living off of instinct with no real rational thought or self control) that almost gets her and then being saved in the exact same way by the exact same person. I wouldn’t mind so much if this hadn’t happened that second time only one episode later, but it did and it made it feel pretty dumb. At the very least the way it starts each time is different, plus outside of that instance nothing like that happened again luckily.

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Anyway, this is one of those shows that kept me interested and always had me feeling like I needed to know what was going to happen. It’s got great cliff hangers at the end of most episodes, gets you invested in the cast, has a lot of genuinely surprising twists and turns throughout, a very intriguing and unique story that also gets pretty dark, and yeah – I like it quite a bit. I’ve only just started into season 2, but I look forward to the rest of it as the ending of this season gives you some conclusive events but then throws some HUGE stuff on there that makes it impossible not to want to hurry on to the sequel. I feel that with the subject matter and overall feeling of the show it’ll come down to personal taste even more than usual, but I definitely ended up enjoying it a lot more than I ever anticipated. I think that would probably be true for a lot of people and while this review gave me a hard time to write for some reason, it’s no fault of the show – I definitely enjoyed it a lot even though it’s not some masterpiece or must-see, and think it’s totally worth giving a shot some day even if it sounds a little bit out of your usual scope. If I had to rate it with a number, I’d probably go with an 8 out of 10.

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