Film: Vampire Knight – Volume One **
Release Date: 22nd November 2010
Running time: 100 mins
Director: Kiyoko Sayama
Starring: Yui Horie, Mamoru Miyano, Susumu Chiba
The popular Vampire Knight, a shōjo manga and anime series written by Matsuri Hino, premiered in the January 2005 issue of LaLa magazine and is still on-going. The television series was quick to follow, airing in Japan in April 2008, finally released in the UK on DVD this month, beginning with volume one and the first four episodes – so was it worth the wait?
The earliest thing Yuki remembers is being attacked on a snowy night by a vampire, and being rescued by Kaname, another vampire. Ten years later, still haunted by those memories, Yuki is now the adopted daughter of the Headmaster of Cross Academy.
Keeping peace at the academy with her friend Zero, her main duties are to ensure no problems arise between the freshmen that attend Day Class and those that seek out new blood, quite literally, as they vamp it up at Night Class.
Hindered by her hormones, Yuki is soon torn between Kaname, a pureblood who saved her life, and Zero, once bitten by a pureblood, now struggling to halt his slow transformation into the creature he loathes most – a vampire…
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? You could argue that this release is jumping on the Twilight bandwagon, if it wasn’t for the fact that it came first. A twisted love triangle then, if ever there wasn’t one, and the first volume struggles just as much to deliver a plot as the fore-mentioned slayer of vampire movies.
Yet it goes one better, because the little storyline on show here is rammed down the viewer’s throat so forcibly, time and time again, it’s like painting by numbers, with only one colour needed – a very dull grey.
Instead of using the medium it was created for, backstory is created by non-stop dialogue, saving the audience the trouble of thinking. This would be okay, and welcome in parts, if the plot was as audacious as Ghost in the Shell (1995), but quite frankly, it isn’t, and is an embarrassment for all those concerned. Worst of all, Episode four, ‘Trigger of Conviction’, dares to include flashbacks, just incase something blatantly obvious was missed. Thanks for that.
So, director Kiyoko Sayama manages with ease the ridiculous feat of making the three protagonists' affections simultaneously obvious, handling Yuki's discovery of Zero's ailment, supposedly the volume's solitary peak, with clumsy precision. In fact, not one of the three main characters comes away from this scenario with any dignity. Zero, at one stage threatening to do the viewer a favour by blowing his brains out, lacks empathy because he’s so miserable, Kaname’s obsession with Yuki is never explored, therefore bordering on psychotic, and Yuki’s failure to grasp the bigger picture suggests she’s a bit stupid.
When Sayama does finally move away from the hideous forbidden-love-that-isn’t plot she actually shows some promise. Episode three hints at better things to come when a freaky Gollum-like vampire stalks Yuki in the series’ best moments; but even then, the tension is almost ruined by Yuki talking aloud, realising that this beast must be naughty because it isn’t as beautiful as all the other Vampires at Night School.
The goofy humour is enjoyable at first, yet quickly becomes repetitive, insulting the otherwise impressive gothic visuals on offer (a shame more time wasn’t spent on the screenplay), while the opening score is almost as long as the episode itself – an intro that offers much but delivers so very little. So very little, in fact, that episode two revolves around the day-school students offering chocolates to their beloved night-school comrades, blissfully unaware that they are actually vampires – and that’s it. Seriously, it would be nice if just one of the students actually questioned a need for night school – it’s not like they think they’re all insomniacs, or something.
You could argue that Vampire Knight sticks faithfully to the manga series, concentrating more on romance rather than action, and while the love triangle is nothing new, especially post-twilight, it does carry with it some potential, certainly pleasing fans of the original material. Having said that, the few moments of real inspiration are pushed to one side, in favour of that romance, so much so that it’s questionable whether Sayama will be able to introduce the students of Cross Academy to a wider audience.
While the basic premise of Vampire Knight might sound like a rehash of Twilight, watching it unfold is something else far less exciting; lacking in plot, humour or bite, the only thing on offer here worthy of praise is its short running time. Volume two should never be exposed to daylight.