Vampires are all the rage nowadays and in the world of anime it would seem that anything to do with the bloodsuckers gets licensed for release here. Several shows are already on the market, but you'll have to make room for one more. VIZ Media has licensed the series Vampire Knight for Region 1 and I just so happen to have the first volume in my hands right now. How is it?
Well, first of all let me just say that, yes, I said first volume. VIZ has opted to go for an antiquated individual volume release. That means you got a whopping four episodes on one DVD. Is that a bad thing? Not really, but it does leave you feeling very unsatisfied. Okay, that's enough of my jabbering on about the pros and cons (mostly cons) about the marketing strategy for the show. What's it all about?
Vampire Knight follows the exploits of a young girl named Yuki Cross, who suffers from amnesia. When she was younger she was attacked on a winter night by a vampire, yet she was saved by another vampire named Kaname. Yuki has no recollection of what transpired in her life before this event, and in the time that followed she was adopted by the headmaster of Cross Academy.
Cross Academy isn't you're typical school. For starters there are daytime and nighttime classes and it's designed so that the two groups shouldn't really interact with each other. Considering this is a vampire show I don't think I need to tell you who attends the evening courses at the academy. Yuki finds herself caught in the middle of both the humans and vampires, however, since she's on the school's discipline committee (referred to as guardians). Joining her is another guardian named Zero, who also happens to be a close friend.
At any rate Vampire Knight takes the academy and concept and builds the show up around the three aforementioned characters. The result is a twisted love triangle and a series that feel familiar in some ways, yet fresh in others. For instance, Yuki has a thing for Kaname, but Zero is fawning over Yuki, who initially doesn't give him the time of day. Think vampire soap opera turned anime with a bit of slapstick humor tossed in for good measure and you'll be on the right track.
The four episodes here were entertaining and there were some nice surprises. For instance the fact that Zero is a guardian and vampire hunter, yet at the same time a vampire himself is a nice touch. It really adds some flavor to his character and makes him stand out even more. Since it's revealed early on, I wouldn't really consider it a spoiler. Still, it provides some nice impact on the direction of the series in the future.
The dynamic of the characters is really what keeps this show going. The world of vampires has been explored extensively enough in other anime and media that it's kind of a little dry at this point. But when you add in the fact that Yuki is caught in between both worlds, Zero is a self-deprecating masochist, and Kaname is basically one of the world's oldest vampires, things get kind of interesting. Is it enough that the concept will be sustained in future episodes? Who knows, but for now it's entertaining enough to warrant checking out. If you're a vampire lover looking for something to sink your teeth into, give Vampire Knight a whirl. It's not for everyone and really it's skewed for lovers of shoujo material, but it's still worthwhile.
Vampire Knight is presented on DVD with its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series looks good with a sharp production by Studio Deen. Character designs, backgrounds, and animation are nicely detailed and their efforts show throughout the transfer. There's also a nice gothic look to everything, though I suppose that's to be expected. Some nitpicks are to be had with this release, however. The video features some light grain and there are occasional compression artifacts. The series also has a softer look at points, but it's hardly anything that's a deal breaker.
For audio options English and Japanese 2.0 stereo is available. No 5.1 mix is here for the English, but then again this isn't the kind of show that needs one. The occasional bit of action comes from most of the comedy elements, but even the real bits of fighting or whatnot is rather low key. This is definitely a dialogue driven series and as such the sound quality is on par with expectations. The dubbing for both tracks is decent, though I found the Japanese language was by far the better of the two. The original language just sounded more natural somehow.
Want bonus features? Sorry, there're only a couple of trailers here. Not even clean animations find their way onto the disc!
Vampire Knight is a fairly interesting take on the vampire genre, but it's not exactly something that hasn't been done before. The girl who loves a vampire thing is rather overplayed these days, but what makes this show reasonably entertaining is the relationship that forms between all the characters. Where that relationship goes is up for debate though, considering this first volume only includes four episodes. If the show sounds like something you'd be interested in then it's worth picking up. It's definitely not for everyone though, and personally my flavor of vampire comes in the form of Hellsing or Blood+.