I'm a fan of shojo animes, and I love vampires. I thought Vampire Knight would be the perfect merging of the two. I had expectations of a tumultuous, passionate love affair between a vampire and human told in a high gothic style ala Wuthering Heights that would cause me to swoon. Instead, I got high school melodrama with a touch of the supernatural; I ended up bored and frustrated with the story. I watched only eight episodes and couldn't take it any longer. I don't believe the series merits plowing through the next 18 episodes.
The series is set at a school by the name of Cross Academy. Enrolled in it are both humans and vampires--the day and night class respectively. The three main characters are Yuki Cross, Zero Kiryu, and Kuran Kaname. Yuki and Zero are prefects and guardians of the vampires' secret. Kaname is a pure-blood vampire and "president" of the night class; he oversees the behavior of his fellow vampire classmates and keeps them in line. There is a blatant love triangle between the three characters that starts to dominate the story over anything else.
Well aware that the series falls in the shojo category, I was willing to overlook some of the character stereotypes and typical story tropes. The series went way too far with the shojo cliches resulting in the characters being flat and the story dull.
Yuki is supposed to be the spunky, strong heroine of the story. A much more apt description would be pathetic, damsel in distress, dumb girl. This girl is supposed to be a guardian of the school and part of her job is to protect members of the day class from the members of the night class. However she never demonstrates any physical strength or fighting skill. She has acrobatic skills that allow her to evade a blow every now and then. What's the purpose of the fancy looking staff called "the Artemis Rod" that she carries around? The weapon is named after the greek goddess of the hunt--a strong, independent female. Unfortunately, the weapon fails to live up to its name. In Yuki's hands, it serves nothing more than to be a shiny, extra long baton. It's acceptable to have a heroine start out weak and gradually become stronger. Unfortunately, Yuki is never gains strength. She is unable to save herself or hold her own in a fight until backup appears. She's a catalyst for the male protagoinists to show up and kill the monster.
Zero is perhaps one of the most interesting characters in the series. He's in a predicament; he's part of a long line of vampire hunters, but having been bitten by a pure-blood vampire, he's a vampire himself. I will say I was moved by his struggle to maintain his humanity...for about five minutes. His character really could've been developed more to represent the struggle of finding identity and being part of conflicting identity categories. Instead, his character went on the downward spiral of doom to emo. He becomes an increasingly hostile character. It's hard to maintain sympahty for him much less believe that he actually cares for Yuki.
Kaname is your typical, pure-blood, prince charming of the vampires. He rules over the vampires with an iron fist contrasting with the tender way he treats Yuki. He's popular and dreamy; mysterious and moody; all in all, not very exciting or worth swooning over.
Some love triangles leave your heart breaking where you're never fully convinced which is the "right one" because both relationships are meangful and deep. This love triangle convinced me that neither Kaname or Zero was right for Yuki, and that Yuki wasn't even worth pursuing. There's no real emotional connection made between any of them. Yuki just becomes a blushing, giggly teenage school girl around each of them. One type of relationship I do see is one of extreme control and borderline abuse. Zero, knowing that Yuki is in love with Kaname, frequently pulls Yuki away from Kaname in a rough manner; he's always slamming her into walls and intimidating her. The scenes where he drinks her blood seem more violent than sensual. Kaname's relationship with Yuki appears shallow. He seems mainly attracted by her beauty and "innocence." He is a prominent figure in her past. In the flashbacks, he appears more like an older brother type that Yuki simply has a girlhood crush on. In neither relationship are romantic feelings satisfactorily explored.
As for the rest of the story, what story? Granted, I did leave off at the eighth episode. There was the hint of some sort of conspiracy in the works by the Vampire Council. The chairman of the school, did voice a fear that the Vampire Council and Hunter's Association could disturb the peace of the academy; that seems like some pretty heavy foreshadowing. This could be the fatal flaw in my review. Maybe if I just stick through to episode 20, I would find a story to become invested in. Highly unlikely. I think I've given the series more than a fair chance.
To sum it all up, Vampire Knight's small semblance of a story lacks depth and quality. Yuki fails to live up to her archetype as a "spunky, strong heroine." Zero, a potentiial goldmine for discussion of identity, becomes the emo boy "nobody understands." Kaname is the tall, dark, mysterious and handsome vampire prince charming. The love triangle is frustrating as it overtakes any plot. The relationships are far from romantic and meaningful; rather they are abusive and shallow. Vampire Knight is not a credit to shojo anime. I consider it Twilight in anime form--a highly over-hyped series that is mediocre at best. Thus I give the rating two out of five stars.