Sometimes you just want to watch trash. I get it. You look through my anime-viewing archives and you’ll see many titles that would make you think, “Why would he watch this thing?” Opportunities for delectable cuisine of hilariously bad anime are kind of hard to come by. When the mood strikes, I answer it. Why deny it anymore? Which is why I have now consumed seven episodes of Vampire Knight before dropping it outright. Happy holidays!
(Just going to provide a small disclaimer in case it was not clear before: This post will only cover the first seven episodes of the original Vampire Knight series. I did not watch its second season, Guilty, nor do I intend to.)
Y’all Know What This Is, Right?
Before I go overboard and make sweeping generalizations, Vampire Knight isn’t as much of a “Twilight but anime” as it is a “Twilight but almost entirely different (and anime).” Similarities are very obvious (female lead choosing between two men; vampires; really edgy), although it’s a little surprising how different in tone and circumstances the two properties are.
Also worth noting is that the original Twilight novel was released in 2005. The original Vampire Knight manga started publishing in 2004. While it may be a stretch to say that Vampire Knight inspired Twilight, it wouldn’t be a total stretch to say that Twilight eventually inspired the course of Vampire Knight‘s plotline, given the ongoing nature of manga series. For full disclosure, I am just typing aloofly and not researching at all. It’s entirely possible (and plausible) that they just happened to strike at the same time.
As for my input on Vampire Knight before viewing it… much like the obvious comparison, it seemed like tweenage trash. One of those series where you come across girls who liked it “as teenagers” who fully acknowledge how “cringey” it comes across now. AKA Tumblr shit. T’was absolutely perfect for the blatant “trash pick” this December. Or was it?
As a near-thirty straight male, I am clearly not the target demographic for this series. Nevertheless, I do try to give things an objective shot no matter the circumstances… okay, almost. If it’s literal trash, I don’t give it any standards. This, though, is at least a competent enough series with a notable fanbase and budget. Maybe the reputation it has is exaggerated.
It’s Actually Not (That) Bad
Viewing the first episode, then the second episode… I was actually… enjoying it? Okay, maybe it’s a stretch to say “enjoying,” but it was nowhere near the level of inadequacy I was expecting. Part of this was the misconception I had when going into this—that it would be an incredibly edgy series about a lot of stupid inner monologues and romantic tension and borderline abuse.
What the opening scene did was confirm this greatly. A shot of the wilderness entrenched in snow, with a voiceover yammering on about “What is snow?” and “What color is blood?” or whatever the hell it was saying. Pseudo-deep MySpace-profile stuff. After that, though, it transitioned to a school life setting with a lot of silly energy. Silly? Is this series trying to be… funny? Wait, hold on. I thought this would be super broody and dark the entire time!
It reminded me more of a vampire-themed romcom involving a spirited female lead. True enough, this is listed as Shoujo, thus a lot of the stereotypes are present here, down to art style and the emphasis on the female perspective. The atmosphere it was going for was a lot more agreeable: a silly school vibe with only a touch of interpersonal drama between vampires and humans. It had, dare I say, balance!
Even the focus on a particular character—Zero—was commendable enough. Rescued as a kid and adopted into the female lead’s family, his hatred for vampires is a consistent source of tension between his relationship with the members of the “Night School” and the female lead. Blunt as it comes across, it’s at least understandable with all he’s been through. He ends up being an all right character, one I even didn’t mind upon dropping the series.
Let me push that further—there was no character I disliked by the end of episode seven. Not a one! Some are better developed than others, only none came across as annoying or stupid by my standards. Each served their purpose as intended and the more major ones each felt as though they had proper motivation. In terms of purpose, I don’t believe there’s a lot of “wasted potential.”
This continued for some time until the very end of episode three, where everything came unto itself and spiraled into what I initially expected of it. Secret backgrounds were unraveling, sinister situations came to light, and opportunities for giant exposition dumps only grew. It was a delayed reaction: I knew what was coming; it just didn’t hit immediately.
But It’s Also Kind of Bad
Long ago, I attempted to explain something particular of “old anime” that I really didn’t like aesthetically. I would link to it, but I don’t remember when (or what) it was. Vampire Knight has this particular quality, except I think I now know how to refer to it: bad animation.
Not a lot of characters, settings, and general aesthetic impressions really pop with this series. Only rarely—mostly when it comes to supernatural vampire shenanigans, a la eyes glowing red or they use some sort of power—does it provide even a glimmer of effort. For large portions of a given episode, animation is abhorrently obvious in its choppiness and lack of actual animation. Shortcuts are taken through slow camera zooms and close-up shots of characters’ faces. After a December that also showcased Dragon Maid S2, this was even more apparent.
This can be excused to a degree with silly moments, where animators take the opportunity to liven things up with exaggerated panels and movements. During serious scenes, it makes it funny for the wrong reasons. I distinctly recall two moments where one scene didn’t even line up logically with the next. A character in one position in one frame, then completely different in the next. The female lead at one point just jumps off a balcony onto the ground with no effort. Quite funny.
While characters got off all right all things considering, the words that escaped their mouths proved disastrous. Particularly with episode four onwards, exposition and, well, “Tumblr shit” skyrocketed to absurd levels. The entire seventh episode was unbearably blatant—a literal flashback episode to fill in all the supplementary details of the main characters’ pasts. Information crammed down the proverbial throats of the viewer, with actual content of the episode consisting of female lead lying down on a couch and being angsty while the two boys exchanged some words. Riveting.
And yes, the edginess factor increased quite dramatically, as well. Characters baring their fangs at one another and ruminating on a bunch of emotional garbage that was never relevant when the series began (for some). Even the visuals added a certain darkened flair that made it all the grosser. The kind of garbage I precisely picked the series for, only to get tired of it after three minutes. Such are my moods.
Through seven episodes, it’s not as trashy as I would’ve expected it to be. Vampire Knight has an uncanny beginning and perhaps surprisingly competent character development. What ends up dooming it is the combination of shoddy animation, eventually ruinous exposition dumps, and a lingering ineptitude of reasonable moodiness that one cannot differentiate from basic fanfiction.
To its credit, though, it is better than Twilight.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.