Vampire Knight and breaking down our guilty pleasures

Our thoughts from the monthly Mangaforum 

Vampire Knight and breaking down our guilty pleasures

Where do I even start with this…

This months manga was Vampire Knight (ヴァンパイア騎士ナイト Vanpaia Naito?) a shōjo manga series written by Matsuri Hino.

  • The plot over view reads; “Yuki Cross has no memory of her past prior to the moment she was saved from a vampire attack ten years ago. She was adopted by the headmaster of Cross Academy, and now works alongside Zero to guard the Academy’s secret. Cross Adademy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy’s dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires!”

What we thought in a nutshell;

  • An exhausting read to start with, easy to criticize  in almost every aspect; and yet the drama is immense (to the point of juvenile)
  •  Lexa confesses to enjoying it and now I need to know how it ends.
    • Is this what it means to have a guilty-pleasure?
  • Is it just a fan service for (young)people that really enjoy high school drama with vampires? Or is it trash?
  • …Is it meant to be that sexual? Or is it just me?

vampire_knight_zero_yuki

You might be asking yourself, What made us chose this, of all the vampire/teen drama’s that are now out there?? Well, the simple reason is, Co-host 1 Lexa’s husband bought this for her for Christmas, and she can vaguely remember watching the anime and thought she enjoyed it…the fact that her recall was vague should have been a warning sign…

Needless to say, I didn’t take to this immediately; It was only after Lexa told me off for flaking out after volume 1, did I see the rest through. She reminded me that, here at Manga forum, we’re committed to exploring all the different facets of Manga and its as important to assess the stuff we don’t think we’d like, just as much as provide the fan service to the stuff we do.

So what was it exactly that I didn’t like about it?…Well,

  • Over the course of the first 3 volumes (15 or so chapters) I couldn’t get past how unoriginal and dumb it seemed;
    • Boring, and a drawn-out, self-limiting story arch (…or so I thought…more on this below)
    • Predictable, formulaic plot (…or so I thought… more below)
    • There are no clever, independent, true-to-life, relate-able characters with witty dialogue (…I actually stand by this)

But….

Because it was so dull, neither Lex nor I had any intention of reading on; I was genuinely shocked that there were 19 volumes (OF WHAT?!) and a relatively successful anime series; and in our pompous mission to attack the cheesiness further, we decided to Wikipedia the entire story to see what happens in the end…

…All I can say is…WOW-WTF..Turns out, the story arch has some incredible plot twists, in keeping with the initial exhausting cheesy drama. If we thought it was drawn-out drama at the start, just wait! We’re talking mysterious twin brothers, shootings, blood-sucking-without-consent, vampire on Vampire blood sucking, and a lot more discussion about sucking blood and needing blood…

All the negative qualities listed above still stand. The outlandish story doesn’t absolve or redeem it from my cringing; but as we’re talking about it, we started to realize that, maybe this isn’t actually as dry as we thought. Even I’m interested now, having trashed it completely to start with. Is it really trashy garbage Or maybe we’re just not the target audience? It is exactly what it says it is; This is a Shōjo romance-drama aimed at a teenage female readership…. so would I have liked this as a teen?

And as we talked about it, I began to see how people can love this. As basic as it sounds, some people love reading (what some other people may find) trash, because that’s their escapism… And this also happens to be the level of drama teenage girls feed from. 

Oh yeah, and it is also pretty sexual; I mean, it’s all pretty “safe” and non-explicit, but sucking necks and the “need” between a couple…Teenage girl territory, as well as maybe a fetish for others….?

ch01_nightclassarrival

As I researched online to look for other guilty pleasures people “confess” to reading, my intention to pass some gems on to everyone here at Mangaforum, I actually realized that a guilty pleasure is completely subjective to the individual.

Reading some of the things people regards as their guilty-pleasures, including extreme sex and violence, against romance dramas like this one but in different genres (in fantasy sci-fi or even “slice of life” for example), I begin to wonder where the idea of “guilty” pleasure comes from, and how fetish, eroticism and taboo factor in to guilty-pleasures too? 

Where I had previously thought that what made a traditional guilty-pleasure was the acceptance that something was rubbish but liking it, others interpreted it to mean liking anything that wasn’t seen as “polite” conversation, or acceptable in the wider social circles – So then, wouldn’t that depend on the social circle you’re in?

By this logic, the manga I’ve read and enjoyed, may be complete antithesis of what someone else regards are good manga… And there in lies the discussion, my friends.  

In this case, I feel strongly enough about the negative aspects of Vampire Knight, that I could list them, but I also now, would really appreciate having a discussion with the Vampire Knight fan, to see what they enjoyed about it and what they thought of my views.

For example, I think the biggest barrier for me is Yuki, the main female character. I can’t call her a lead, because her whole existence revolves around accommodating Zero and the vampire relationships. The story is about her and how her forgotten memories are some how pivotal to their lives, but her entire story arch is to follow Zero’s development and Kaname around; She has no other role other than to be a reference point to how dramatic the male characters are.

She has no independent life or thoughts, other than obsessing in her relationship with the brooding male leads.  I could preach a feminist line here, but it’s actually the tediousness of reading such a dull, repetitive character, that got to me, especially since she’s meant to be “the most important girl…in the world”…it all just makes me gag with cringe.

But are fans capable of seeing her differently?  And if i was still a teen…or remotely into vampires, would I think differently?  

vampire-knight-zero-yuuk-31000

So all in all, I need to admit that although we intended to use this blog to recommend similar manga’s based on the wider theme of our discussion, it’s futile trying to recommend guilty-pleasure manga for everyone, because by nature, a guilty pleasure is something you couldn’t really recommended in the first place, but the other person would have to enjoy regardless.

However , the more i thought about it, the more I thought that no one should feel guilty (or ashamed) of liking a specific type of manga!

So, lets’s abolish guilty pleasuring things and just accept;

  1. we like what we like
  2. we’ll talk shit about what we don’t
  3. we’ll give our reasons on both occasions
  4. Then Let’s talk about it together! That’s what our Mangaforum is about. 

And with that in mind, it’s time to read and talk about something I love.

Next month’s blog will be largely me listing the inspiring and affirming aspects of Sailor Moon written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi – however, if you’re not a fan of that, we’d LOVE to hear from you!

Tune in 24th February on http://www.twitch.tv/mangaforum, and follow us on twitter for more updates over the coming months- https://twitter.com/themangaforum.

We look forward to hearing what you think!

Lara and Lexa

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3 comments

  1. This is one of a very small list of manga I’ve actually read through (because a friend insisted). While I kind of found it all too melodramatic and Yuuki as the main character drives me a little crazy, I think if I’d read this as a teenager I would have been far more impressed. The story at least does have some interesting developments and a lot of the vampire characters are quite interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Like

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