“I love you Kaname-sama. You are the beginning of my world, and everything in that world…So even if I couldn’t remember my past…I wouldn’t be scared.”
– Cross Yuuki
Vampire Knight is a 2008 collection of two consecutive series of Shōjo Manga and subsequent Anime based on the original story by Matsuri Hino. The first series is simply titled Vampire Knight, with the second gaining the sub-title Guilty.
The tale we uncover within the confines of this anime is set in a world where vampires do exist, but, unlike certain other, more mainstream vampire stories, they are not known to humans… With a few glaring exceptions. A former vampire hunter, Cross Kaien, experienced a life epiphany which led him to open up the Cross Academy School to vampires as well as humans, splicing the student body into day and night classes. While the human children study in innocence of the dangers roaming their school grounds, the night class makes socialising with humanity an available option for many budding, revolutionary young vampires that do not necessarily approve of the council’s handling of vampire secrecy. Young noble vampires, however, are occasionally incapable of controlling their voracious thirst and need to be monitored – enter Cross Yuuki (Kaien’s adopted daughter) and Kiryu Zero. Both were subject to the cruelties of vampires as young children and are aware of the existence of these creatures, making them the perfect guardians of both the day and night students.
But the setting, the story arch and the human character interactions are not the most intriguing portion of this vampire series. What I find enticing is the raging vampire romance, the hints at erotic, bloody trysts, the a-typical vampire anti-heroes, and, above all, the sweet promises of incest.
Love between family members is a finicky thing to handle in any story… Of course, the path of least resistance, the most natural route is to keep the relations clean and pure. However, the more titillating option is to create confusion, mess with your characters’ minds. Force them to make decisions based on a fine combination of instinct and morality.
Usually, morality wins out… But sometimes it just isn’t driving enough 😉
Vampire Knight first approaches incest through the characters of Yuuki and Zero in an entirely subtle manner. They may not be brother and sister by blood, but they have been living as ‘siblings’ for too many integral growth years.
And that should have been the end of it.
But then we encounter another, more severely taboo relationship between Yuuki and her childhood crush/protector/idol Kuran Kaname.
“Yuuki, the safest place is beside me.”
It is uncovered through the anime series that Kaname is, in fact, Yuuki’s older brother and that Yuuki is actually a vampire who has been put into a kind of human stasis to protect her. Yuuki and Kaname were raised as children to marry one another and become just like their mother and father. The reality in the story, made clear through the manga series, is that Kaname is the original ancestor of the Kuran family (pureblood vampire elite according to the mythos) who was awakened from his coffin by the blood of Yuuki’s actual elder brother. The family then chose to raise this strange childlike ancestor as their own son (in place of the one they lost to wicked vampire machinations) and promised the hand of their baby daughter to him.
The incest is treated with tender sincerity, making it almost acceptable to most audiences. But, of course, the cop-out helps matters somewhat.
In Bought in Blood incest is a matter of course, something that Richard and I decided upon from the beginning. But we will admit that we allowed for some explanation other than simple human depravity. Vampires acquire a taste for family, or a certain bloodline rather. If their blood becomes thin within that particular family they are forced to find more adequate sources, and vampires are, by nature, lazy and prone to lounging rather than action. Which is why Ashur enlisted one human servant to propagate his blood through a tree of closely bound humanity; some so genetically modified that they became complacent to the idea of an incestuous coupling. Seth, of course, then went on to maintain this little family to his own designs, until Devika defied the will of Templeton males.
Where vampires are concerned, taboo abounds. But one must also consider that intermarriage – even through ties as close as those between siblings – is a natural part of human history. Genetically morbid offspring aside, people tend to stay close to those they have closeness to already. And sometimes, we find ourselves entertaining thoughts we should not (by societal standards). Vampires are creatures set in their ways. People, yes, but more stubborn with the views they held when their hearts still beat. And most vampires we encounter in literature are incredibly old, like walking fossils.
I defy anyone who claims a vampire – a powerful, ferocious, terrifying monster hiding behind the guise of a beautiful human visage – will be willing to alter centuries’ refined views with a few simple phrases, eloquently articulated by a human being. Why should the vampire care what society maintains is ethical and fair? What vampires desire they take. This is true of all literature on the subject… Yes, even Edward; he wants Bella to stay away from Jacob and he enforces that ruling.
But on a lighter note, and returning to the original topic… My most memorable Vampire Knight scenes!
1. When Zero bites Yuuki for the first time:
– Super sexy and very emotional. For those of us who find the vampire bite erotic and terrifying (I think that pretty much includes everyone), this scene is thrilling and comes at a perfect climax point for the characters’ relationship.
2. Yuuki’s flashback episode of her relationship with Kaname:
– Breaks my soppy little heart! For the highly intelligent reader, we receive clarity here already that there is a familial bond between Yuuki and Kaname. Not only this, but we start to see Kaname as a real person for the first time, not just the brooding and slightly suspicious protective vampire who haunts Yuuki’s waking dreams.
3. Yuuki’s solitary encounter with Aido while the night class rests:
– Aido is constantly a force of amusement in the series, but for the first time here, we see a darker side to him. A cruel, mocking face which is chilling and enticing. Vampire Knight is built on vampire stereotypes and Aido is certainly one of them. Also, do I detect a hint of D/s?
4. Kaname’s ‘punishment’ of Yuuki at the vampire ball:
– There is something altogether too appealing about Kaname, and what exactly that is does not become clear until he teases Yuuki with a hint at turning her into something like him. We know he is the only vampire (that we know of at this point) who can do so and his handling of the matter is one which combines perfect intuition and cruelty. It is a romantic scene with a bitter end, but it is also unsettling to see him so devoid of control.
5. When Yuuki awakens:
– We knew it was coming, Yuuki becoming a vampire. What we did not know or realise was the weight of such an occurrence. Loved, loved, loved it! Such a perfect making of a vampire. Not to mention how it solidified the obvious love between the two characters.
And finally, just to ruin some preconceptions of our favourite characters, meet the voice actors!