Vampire Knight Preview

I used to like vampire stories. I grew up on the black and white Dracula, which was scary enough for a young boy in the 1970s. I liked the whole "caped demon menace" concept. I could get behind the idea of a vampire being a creature of pure evil who, like every good demon, is surprisingly seductive while ultimately fatal. And, ultimately, the basic vampire tale is a story of chastity vs. lust. Dracula is the ultimate "bad boy" that seduces women who fall for his lures, and the moral is about the same as the ones you'll find in any modern horror film -- whoever has sex, dies. As a child, of course, that part's not so clear, but any sane adult can get that underpinning. A lot of vampire films have abandoned most of that for action (in the case of Blade) or gore (as in the Hammer pictures of the aforementioned 1970s), but the sexual tension still remains core to the story.

It's no surprise, then, that vampire stories have moved into the realm of teen fantasy. Shorn of their Christian morality and clearly demarcated lines of good and evil, they tantalize their readers with handsome men who aren't affected by sunlight and crucifixes but have some qualms with drinking the blood of innocents...even innocent girls whom they love. It's the women who become empowered and decide if and when they will "give it all" and either become victims or vampires. There's a glut of these stories right now, with Twilight and Trublood and whatnot in the mix, and that makes me cynical. It's hard to accept them as true vampire stories because the whole mythos of garlic and coffins and stakes through the heart has been abandoned. But perhaps more, they aren't about good and evil but about teenage angst. And frankly, Vampire Knight's opening makes it worse because on top of all the emo, nothing freaking happens.

Long ago, Yuki was saved from a vicious vampire attack. Now, she acts as a prefect at Cross Academy. It's a unique school that has a Day Class (made up of all girls) and a Night Class (made up of all boys). Of course, there's a mystery behind it all...the Night Class is actually made up of vampires. Now they aren't malevolent, just thirsty...but there's a medicine for that now, too. But being around beautiful young women at the height of puberty can make any young bloodsucker ditch the drugs for a bite of adolescent flesh, and that's where Yuki comes in. She makes sure that the Night Class doesn't make a snack of the Day Class while also protecting the true identity of the vampires in the fold. Alongside of her is Zero, a vampire hunter who's got his own unique secrets to brood about. Whoever thought this school was a good idea was kinda nuts, but Yuki and Zero vow to protect its secrets.

I saw the first two episodes of Vampire Knight at Youmacon 2008, and it could have been a great place to experience an anime with people who love it. I realize that I am not the target audience for this show, and I hoped seeing it with some fans might help me appreciate it. Truth is, there were only a couple of girls in the audience who stayed through both episodes, and they were apparently running the video. People came in and out during it, but most people took in an episode and left, most of them grumbling. These weren't macho men expecting the next coming of Hellsing; most of them were young women. So why didn't it fly?

As highly lauded as this show is in some Internet circles, I think there's one key issue...nothing freaking happens. It bears repeating. Because as I sat there, I waited for something to happen. But the most exciting moment of each episode is when a couple of guys from the Night Class think about making a move...and then Yuki comes in and says, "Stop it." The rest of it...well, the characters are so non-descript that there's nothing else to care about. The second episode has the girls giving chocolate Valentine treats out, but it doesn't really matter because none of the girls save Yuki has any personality. I've seen animated school dramas that could have made a huge bouquet out of this scenario, but Vampire Knight sits there like a limp daffodil.

Many anime series take a few episodes to get rolling, and I realize I haven't seen enough to even describe the first (inevitable) DVD release. This is a preview review at best. But from the crowd at Youmacon and my own personal feelings, I'd give this one a pass. Unless you have devoured every page of Twilight and have debates in homeroom about the bishonen you'd like to give you a hickey, there just won't be that much here for you.

Vampire Knight episodes 1 & 2 -- mild violence -- C-