Title: Vampire Knight
Genre: Romance, Drama, Mystery, Animation
Duration: 25 mins (Vampire Knight - 13 Episodes, Vampire Knight Guilty - 13 Episodes)
You can list the animé clichés in this one, from the ‘schoolgirl’ uniform (it is set in a school), the good vampires, one of which is actually in love with this random ordinary girl the story happens to follow, the tormented soul who constantly needs the love of those around him as he struggles with his traumatic past, the gratuitous gothic imagery (red flowers, ‘lolita’-like outfits, the architecture of many of the buildings, etc), oversized eyes, and the convenient fact that the lead character forgot her own past, allowing us to (eventually) explore it with her. All of these conventions have been done to death, and despite this fact, the plot that results shows their greatest strength; the manner it unfolds perhaps a little predictable but there are enough elements occurring simultaneously, unfurling with incredible steadiness divulging new information so as to maintain a constant source of interest.
The premise revolves around a school full of day students, unaware that the night students are actually vampires; the experiment of ex-Vampire Hunter Kaien Cross trying to strive for a mutual existence between the two species. His adopted daughter Yuuki taking the main stage; saved by the mysterious ‘pure-blood,’ Kaname who became an odd lover, and ‘Zero’ – child of Vampire Hunters murdered before his eyes – forming the other side of the love triangle, also cared for by the headmaster. As more information becomes apparent, vampire organizations wishing the experiment to fail and evil vampires bearing a grudge, and even the vampire hierarchy; Pure-bloods at the top, rife with in-breeding to maintain the purity of their blood line closely followed by the Nobles, powerful in their own right. Then the vampires created by the pure-bloods as their servants, until they are eventually consumed by bloodlust and hit the ‘rabid dog’ depths of ‘Level E,’ where they need to be put down (this is where the vampire hunters come into play).
This constant power-play between the vampire ranks could have resulted in a source of great intrigue, but as the story continues, all the ideas seem to run dry; for all the potential for exploration it never gets much further then mentioning the base. Rather than displaying a continual evolution of the characters we become trapped in a never-ending loop of ‘who-bit-who;’ the woman who bit ‘zero’ and refused to bite another companion was bitten by another and was under their will, and was in turn bitten by someone else so that ‘zero’ no longer would have to bite another, and the sordid story continues, gradually adding more mysterious yet ultimately uninteresting characters to the fold; the issue isn’t that it ever stops or slows down the plot progression, but rather that half is predictable a mile off, and the other isn’t predictable only because you wouldn’t expect them to re-use the same idea so soon.
And what seemed like interesting character details to begin with fail to become any more fleshed out towards the end, the conflict as a result of Yuuki being the centre of attention, the constant grinding desire of the mysterious ‘Vampire Council,’ which is only ever referred to in passing (an aspect that id have definitely liked to have seen in more detail), and with only the three real characters in focus – the damsel in distress, oblivious twat with self-esteem issues and a gloomy apathetic git – the others are only given a couple of emotions in their repertoire; whether that be the jealous female vampire, the class clown who only obsesses over her and yells at others for getting in his way, or the guy who thinks he’s gods gift to women, and it gets tiring all too quickly.
The animation is largely mediocre with little that feels exceptional, the similarities in many of the characters – particularly the male vampires – so close that distinguishing between them at times becomes a chore. Despite this, the use of contrasting colour, reds on whites and the constant dark background of the night against the lighter tone of the scenes that occur during the day has been done to reflect the mood of the scene to great effect. On the down side is the decision to try to make what could otherwise be considered a serious drama into a bad comedy by using childish exaggerated animation that feels completely out of place, and worse than unnecessary, actually rather annoying. The soundtrack, too, became frustrating as whilst effective at first, has a severely limited repertoire which does little to break the monotony of many of the scenes as the series progresses.
By the end I was watching it more because I’d already come so far, rather than from genuine interest; my desire to finish what I’d started rather than in the hope they had anything left to say, and even though eventually it did (the denouement in the last 6 episodes revealing many of the answers to the mysteries built up of the course of the series, delivering on more twists than the combined efforts of everything that came before it), it simply isn’t even close to worth the slog in order to reach it. This entire series oozes of potential, occasionally dropping little hints that maybe, things will pick up in a couple of episodes, but it never truly does. If you’re an adolescent teenage girl, this seems to have every generic fantasy you could wish for, with a gradually progressing story keeping things moving. If you happen to belong to any other demographic, that story won’t be enough to let you overlook everything else wrong here.