Review for Vampire Knight Guilty: Volume 1
There's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we don't have to wait long to find out what happens next in the world of Vampire Knight, indeed we don't have to wait at all, as Manga Entertainment get straight on to releasing the second series, Vampire Knight Guilty. The bad news is that means you'll be hearing me whinge and grouch about User Prohibited Operations and a lack of value for money for the next four discs. I have four more Kaze authored DVDs to look forward to, discs that stop the user from changing audio or subtitles on the fly, and that lock the DVD timer away so that you don't know how much time remains, or depending on the player, how much time has elapsed. We also have four single volumes (as opposed to the US and Australian three single volumes), with one disc of four episodes and three discs of three, with the slight sop that they are RRP'd at £13. It's still twice the going rate for anime. And what's worse is that this disc gives me yet another reason to grumble. Not all is lost though, as I found Vampire Knight to be quite an appealing diversion, and I've been looking forward to this sequel series.
The Cross Academy is a boarding school with a difference. It's also the venue for a unique social experiment, where vampires are trying to co-exist with humans. Of course the humans can't know about this, so the school is divided into the Day Class and the Night Class, and the only time that the human students interact with the vampires is at twilight, when the classes change and the Day Class return to their dorm. All they know is that the Night Class is full of handsome boys and beautiful girls, aristocratic and elegant. It's down to the Guardians to keep from the Day Class from learning the truth about the Night Class, two students, Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu who have to protect the humans, should the worst happen. The school's headmaster adopted Yuki when she was five, after a trauma that left her with amnesia, while Zero's own traumatic past has left him with an abiding hatred of vampires, and a secret that he keeps hidden.
The first series introduced us to the volatile triangle of Yuki Cross, Kaname Kuran, and Zero Kiryu, and the complex world that they inhabit. It's volatile as all three are conflicted by their pasts, but most of all Zero, who after the attack that destroyed his family, was left with the inevitability of becoming a vampire and degenerating into a monster. As the previous series concluded, the vampire that attacked him, Shizuka Hio, returned to complete her vengeance, not least by revealing that Zero's brother was still alive, but now her loyal servant. It also transpired that the 'cure' for Zero's affliction lay in Hio's blood, but it was cure that he chose to shun. As the previous series concluded, Zero was on the verge of becoming a Level E, when Kaname approached him with an offer.
The first four episodes of Vampire Knight Guilty are presented on this disc from Manga Entertainment.
1. Burden of Sinners
Yuki is left as the sole Guardian in the school, tasked with keeping the Day Class and the Night Class apart, which isn't easy as she's more worried about what has happened to Zero. She isn't expecting him to turn up again as if nothing has happened. But following the deal that he made with the devil, things may never be the same again. By drinking Kaname's blood, Zero has bought himself some more time, but now he's concerned that Yuki can sense Kaname's blood within him. Meanwhile Maria Kurenai, the vampire girl who let Shizuka Hio inhabit her body, regains consciousness and she has a revelation about the past to impart to Zero. If that isn't enough, the vampire Senate have learned of Shizuka Hio's fate, and want Zero executed, and they've sent assassins to accomplish the job.
2. The Eternal Promise
Just how gullible is Yuki? This time, she runs into a little lost boy in town, and offers to help him find his mother. A thank you kiss renders her unconscious, and she wakes up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tonight is the Vampire Gala, when the great and the good of both communities congregate and socialise. It's a situation that has to be closely monitored, and the Hunters have ordered Zero to attend and keep an eye on the vampires. Yuki has woken up in a back room in the mansion that serves as the venue, and Kaname warns her to stay inside during the proceedings. Of course curiosity gets the better of her. Keeping an eye on a bunch of dry aristocrats socialising isn't all that appealing to Zero, but all that changes when he spots his twin brother Ichiru in attendance. Meanwhile, Kaname realises that Yuki has snuck out and decides that she needs to be punished.
3. The Azure Portrait
The school is on a break, and everyone is heading home. Well almost everyone, as for Zero and Yuki, the school is home. Also staying behind is the vampire Aido, although after recent events, he's not too keen on staying in the Night Dorm. His concerns about Kaname spur him to escape his normal everyday existence, and he imposes on Zero and Yuki. Kaname's recent behaviour is at odds with the calm and cool aristocrat that he pledged his loyalty to, and so Aido begins to reflect on their shared past for some clue as to the changes in Kaname. It seems the current state of affairs was set in motion when Kaname's parents died. Meanwhile, another Night Class student, Senri has gone home to visit his mother, but when there is told that his uncle has summoned him.
4. Devil's Awakening
For Senri Shiki, the time has come to learn the family secret, and he learns that the father that he thought was dead isn't as dead as he was made out to be, and he wants a favour from Senri. It's a development that affects everything, and even on his break Kaname can sense the change. It's enough to send him back to the Academy early. Meanwhile, Yuki has come to the conclusion that her ignorance is leaving her defenceless when it comes to Kaname, Zero and the troubles that surround the Cross Academy. The one way to remedy that would be to learn about her forgotten past, and who she actually was ten years ago, and what happened to her. The effort to remember is distressing to the point where Zero suggests that they go to the Hunter Society Headquarters to check the records kept there. It's not a good idea for Zero, halfway to becoming a Level E vampire, to set foot in the Hunter Society.
Vampire Knight Guilty gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, which as is often the case, is an NTSC-PAL standards conversion. For this disc, someone dropped a spanner into the conversion process, as it suffers from horrendous judder throughout. Any time there is any lateral motion of the camera, vertically or horizontally, the playback is subjected to an intermittent stop-start effect every half second or so. It's annoying, it's damned distracting, and it makes watching the show an utter chore.
Vampire Knight and its sequel are series that are originally aimed at the wobbly-kneed demographic, so you can expect a whole lot of pretty male characters in this show, tall, elegant, moody, while aside from Yuki herself, most of the female character designs are fairly generic. The world design is stylised but effective and quite detailed, but I did feel that the overall animation was static, or it saved up most of the animation for the action sequences. This is a show where you expect to see a whole lot of rose petals fluttering past moody tableaux.
You have a choice between DD 2.0 Surround English and Japanese, with player locked signs for the English track, and player locked translated subtitles for the Japanese track. The sound is fit for purpose, and opting for the Japanese track, I found that a favourite voice actress of mine, Yui Horie was voicing Yuki, which certainly added to the show's appeal for me. The dialogue is clear, and the theme songs are the expected power ballads to go with the romantic vampire action. The surround sound is appreciated, but it's hardly a surround intensive show. The English dub didn't immediately strike me as amazing, but it's not immediately bad either. I'm sure dub fans will be perfectly satisfied with it. There needs to be an English cast credit reel after the programme, as the credits aren't translated.
The name change is just a conceit, and the designation of Vampire Knight Guilty as a second series really doesn't mean all that much. The first episode of Guilty picks up where the final episode of Vampire Knight left off, and there's little in the narrative to suggest that there has been any significant break between the two shows. There's no major recap at the start of this run to remind us of what has come before, and there's no attempt to reintroduce the characters and the world they inhabit. In essence, the only indication that this is something of a restart is that after the climactic crescendo at the end of Vampire Knight, the pace drops back down at the start of Vampire Knight Guilty, as it begins to pick up the pieces of the Shizuka Hio arc and starts laying the foundations and building the story of the next arc. Frankly that happens at any new story arc, and isn't limited to a change in season.
If you liked Vampire Knight, you'll like Vampire Knight Guilty, although that is probably something you can figure out for yourself. It continues to build on that same interesting character dynamic, and this volume offers a whole lot of character development for Zero, Yuki and Kaname, but also some of the other characters in the show like Aido and Senri. Following the end of Vampire Knight, it became clear that there's a lot more to Kaname than meets the eye, and that he is playing some sort of long game within the upper echelons of vampire society, although to what end remains unclear. His actions at the end of Vampire Knight suggest that it isn't altogether a positive ambition, and in these first four episodes, the reveal of what happened to his parents puts his actions in a new light.
At the same time, Yuki, who has been letting herself react to circumstances and rely on Zero and Kaname, decides to take her fate into her own hands, be more proactive in her choices, and arm herself with the information she requires to do these things. That means uncovering the past, her forgotten memories of what happened ten years previously, and that turns out to be harder than she imagined. Of course she remains torn between her affections for Zero and Kaname as always. For Zero this is the most interesting stretch of episodes, as he's had his world torn apart by the Shizuka Hio incident, and he has to put the pieces back together again. That isn't easy when there are yet more revelations about what happened to his family. He's now also in the unenviable position of owing his continued well-being to Kaname Kuran, a person he has spent the last 13 episodes despising, and on top of that he has his own conflicted and deepening feelings for Yuki to deal with.
So Vampire Knight Guilty is the same, moody and elegant vampire melodrama that it is in my cultural DNA to dislike, yet because of some sharp writing and very appealing characterisations, I find that I'm hooked every time I put a disc in the player. That isn't made easy by this volume 1 though, as a very disappointing NTSC-PAL conversion makes it difficult if not impossible to watch without noticing the constant jerkiness in the image playback. I was considering marking it even lower because of this, but the story was just about good enough to hook me in spite of the flaw. Whatever you do though, don't watch it on a big screen.