One of the best selling manga in the US finally arrives in anime form with lots of very pretty vampires of both sexes in a high school setting.
What They Say At prestigious Cross Academy, there are two sessions of classes: the Day Class and the Night Class. As the school's Disciplinary Committee, Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu keep watch over the Day Class students, who are all infatuated with the beautiful, elite Night Class students. As Guardians, Yuki and Zero must also protect the secret of the Night Class - they're all vampires!
Vampire Knight gets a decent bilingual presentation here though it's not one that has much material with which to stretch itself. The show has two stereo tracks with both the English and Japanese languages encoded at 224kbps. It's primarily a dialogue driven show that's made a bit more intense at times with certain actions where the music adds to the atmosphere of it. It's not an action show but the mix for the series works well as it feels natural and has a good flow to it. The two tracks deal well with placement when necessary across the forward soundstage but there isn't a lot going on at any given time since it's trying to be moody and atmospheric. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Studio Deen has done a really nice job with the show with a fair bit of detail and excellent use of color with lots of darks balanced out by some key vibrant pieces. The transfer captures all of it well with generally very solid colors that avoid blocking and are very light on the noise. The main fault within the transfer comes from the source material in that there are some fairly visible gradients throughout it that stand out. They're never truly distracting and are fairly tame overall, but depending on the screen size they could be more noticeable for some. Cross coloration is blissfully absent and there's very little in the way of line noise during the panning sequences.
Vampire Knight's single disc release run gets a decent looking cover that focuses on the characters, something that certainly will draw in the fans of the manga. This volume features the three principle characters standing in a standard layout where they all look very serious, something that works well with the dark colors overall and the slightly shadowed logo along the top. It's a decent looking cover overall, one that appeals to the fans of the property, but doesn't exactly cross over as one that'll really catch the eyes of a casual browser. The back cover goes an interesting route by using fairly large print for the summary so it doesn't have to say a lot yet fills a certain amount of space. The right side features a decent strip of shots from the show that highlights the characters and the dark nature, which in itself is on top of the already dark blood splattered background and shadowed areas we have for the back cover overall. The discs features are well laid out in text form along with the episode count, which is useful since there is no proper technical grid here.
While we don't have a reversible cover, Viz Media has included a little bit extra here that's not a surprise. A small sampler manga is included that deals with the first few pages of the Vampire Knight manga while teasing about where it goes and some of the characters. It's an obvious bit of cross promotion, one I hope is being done in reverse within the main manga volumes in promoting the anime release.
The menu layout for Vampire Knight is pretty basic with the characters from the cover being laid over a shot of the hallway of the campus in a static form. The navigation is along the left with the logo and the menu as a whole looks decent as the artwork is solid and there's some nice detail to it, but it's not exactly an engaging menu that draws you into it. It sets the atmosphere fairly well but it's a by the books menu with no real frills or anything that goes deep into a theme of the show and its story. Submenus load quickly and without problems while the language menu is like most other Viz Media releases in that it defaults to English language instead of reading our players' language presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Matsuri Hino, Vampire Knight is a twenty-six episode series that'll certainly fit in with the continuing fascination about vampires among people these days. The manga series has had good numbers in Japan and is continually a best seller in the US as it draws in elements familiar and interesting to readers of a certain age and beyond. Vampires in general have a lot of appeal and when you shift them to a high school setting and add in all the angst, drama and lack of belonging that many face, they're a natural draw. Vampire Knight plays on this a bit with by using class to an extent and in a fairly decent way.
Vampire Knight revolves around the Cross Academy, an interesting school that offers both day and night classes. The day classes are filled with lots of interesting students, most of which seem to come from at least a touch of money. The night classes are filled with vampires who can't be out in strong daylight, though they can handle the evening sun as it sets just before the night. This particular group of vampires are pretty ingenious as they've come up with a tablet blood substitute that helps take care of their desire for blood. While they find the tablet to be little more than an after school project they collaborated on, it's given vampires as a whole a real boost in handling their problem. Of course, there are those that crave a real taste of blood and can't help their attraction to human stock.
Within the school, the series looks to revolve around three primary characters in these opening episodes. From the night class, we have “lord” Kaname, the seeming leader of the class who is very calm and cool with a sense of power behind him. His ties are strong with a young woman named Yuki in the day class as ten years ago he saved her from death. Since then, Yuki has certainly been interested in Kaname but hasn't been able to be all that forthright about it because of their positions and being in two very different classes. What's thrown into the mix that adds some tension is a fellow classmate of hers named Zero Kiryu. Zero's part of a vampire hunter family which makes him somewhat awkward for the vampires of the night class, but there are certain rules set about that keeps everyone playing above the board.
There are definitely affections of varying levels all around as Yuki cares for Zero while having strong feelings for Kaname who in turn finds her to be the only woman worth living for at this stage of his life. Add in that Zero hates vampires and both he and Yuki are members of the disciplinary committee that performs night watches on the night class, and you have a fair setting for trouble to be had on a regular basis. Especially as the day class students aren't aware that the night class are vampires and some of them are pretty outgoing. One of them named Aido, amusingly nicknamed Idol, causes quite a bit of trouble as well since he has a particular affinity for Yuki's blood but she's considered entirely off limits. In fact, he's the kind of vampire who far prefers the real thing as opposed to the tablets, so he's certainly one to become a problem.
Over the course of the first four episodes, we get a decent introduction to the primary cast of characters and some of the basic situations as well. One that surprised me is that the second episode went right to a chocolates related story where the girls give out the chocolates to boys they like, but it turned out rather well in that it helped showcase the relationships that are desired there and some of the social connections that exist in the classes as well as really highlighting how Yuki and the disciplinary committee have to work to keep the peace in general between the classes.
The main story that gets thrust into these opening episodes is that of Zero himself though, as an incident four years prior is hinted at and then laid bare. Zero's distaste of vampires is certainly strong to begin with, but when it's revealed so early in the show that he was actually bitten by one and has been fighting off the turn ever since, it really gives him the potential to be a very tragic figure. Yuki's lack of awareness of it allows for Zero to suffer in silence until things simply become too much for him and it turns into an issue that is difficult for the school to deal with. With nobody having transferred between classes before and the animosity that Zero has for vampires, as well as larger family issues that could come into play, Vampire Knight has some interesting areas to play with with these characters.
The visual design of the show is pretty strong, which is even more necessary for a series focused on vampires as atmosphere and design is hugely important. The characters are all well designed with a good bit of detail in the uniforms, especially as they have different uniforms for the two classes which gives it a much more distinct feeling. While Yuki is the primary female character, there are several other supporting characters and they come across well for the time that they're one, relative ciphers that they are. The various male characters invariably all look quite handsome or very pretty in their own way and that's obviously a huge attraction for a show like this so it's no surprise. With the locations and the animation overall, it's all very well done with a really good degree of quality that helps it all to look quite rich at times and very detailed. There isn't anything that stands out strongly with the locations, but it all flows well and fits with the main themes and designs of the series.
The opening installment of Vampire Knight didn't blow me away, but I didn't expect that it would either. With its shoujo origins, there's a lot to like here going into it as it's well designed, has some nice minor twists on the vampire mythology and it has a good bit of fun with how it's all structured. There aren't any significant surprises here, but I like the pacing of it and the way it's dealt with bringing in the problem Zero is having so early on as well. The characters are fun enough for the opening stories here, the setting is well introduced and the night class with their almost aristocratic nature combined with their relative youth makes them fun to watch. Vampire Knight certainly has some potential and the episodes here give you more than enough to want to come back for more.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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