Vampire Knight

25 11 2008

vampireknight-panel

Vampire Knight is a shōjo manga written by Matsuri Hino and published in North America by VIZ Media on the Shojo Beat imprint.

It is rated OT – Older Teens, Age 16+.

Vampire Knight is a shojo title that stands out in popularity amongst the most successful shonen or seinen titles in both Japan and North America.

Vampire Knight has a visual extravagance which greatly contributes to its appeal. The very lush and elaborate pages represent a culmination of past and present shojo stylistic tropes manifested at their most gratifying. There is so much care put into the dream-like settings that they seem positioned to suggest pop culture archetypes more so then actual physical places. No bedroom scene lacks for massive blots of flowing fabric and adjacent balconies that overlook wooded gardens with stone pools and columns. Clothing has elaborate detail and draping and characters’ hair drifts around them in glossy tendrils, intertwining with filigreed decorative and expository detail work. Every feature of this manga is represented to excess. It’s all very symbolically saturated and, accordingly, rewarding for the reader with a sensibility for this sort of thing.

The huge, fathomless eyes of the heroine, Yuuki Cross, dominate the pages. Hino draws her characters’ giant shojo eyes to resemble deep, shaded pools rather then sparkly orbs – the effect can be quite intense. In many ways Yuuki is textually indistinguishable from other shojo heroines – determined, loyal and resourceful while being a bit naïve – but for all the acute emotion and limpid sadness in her face which is carried entirely in the artwork. As Yuuki moves further away from childish things her expression – when it seems it couldn’t possibly become more so – grows increasingly haunted. This visual characterization attains a perfect realization of how shojo is supposed to function emotionally and what its aesthetics are supposed to convey.

The plot is much concerned with the two beautiful young men who are rivals for Yuki’s loyalty and affection. Elegant and impetuous, often glaring at each other seethingly, they alternately clutch on to Yuuki as though hungry hyenas on a bone. If neither the adeptly swoon-inducing character designs of the Byronesque Kaname or the more flintily modern and perennially shirtless Zero appeal to you there is a large cast of other charming creatures to engage the audience. Regardless of the reader’s proclivities (as long as they tend towards the excessively pretty and melancholy) they can find a character to adopt as a personal favorite.

Ravishment (usually invited, thankfully) is a strong thematic and aesthetic trope in Vampire Knight. Most vampire narratives can be read as thinly veiled euphemisms for carnal knowledge. There’s really nothing to suggest that is the case here…

vampireknight-color

There has been a lot of debate regarding Vampire Knight’s artistic and narrative merit but the tone is often biased and a bit unfair. This series has everything to offer its intended audience and the uninvited should quietly amuse themselves elsewhere. Lianne at Sleep is for the Weak has written a funny and insightful editorial on the popularity of Vampire Knight.

Matsuri, Hino (w,i). Vampire Knight v1(Jan. 2007), English ed., VIZ Media. ISBN-10: 1421508222