What They Say:
Yuki is torn between the two people she cares for most when Zero is accused of Shizuka Hio’s murder and Kaname refuses to attest to his innocence. Drawn deeper into the world of vampires, Yuki struggles to recall the events of ten years earlier but fails time and again, despite Zero’s help. Kaname continually evades Yuki’s questions, but when her visions of blood grow more frequent and intense, the past may come to light whether anyone wants it to or not!
Vampire Knight gets a decent bilingual presentation here though it’s not one that has much material with which to stretch itself. The show has two stereo tracks with both the English and Japanese languages encoded at 224kbps. It’s primarily a dialogue driven show that’s made a bit more intense at times with certain actions where the music adds to the atmosphere of it. It’s not an action show but the mix for the series works well as it feels natural and has a good flow to it. The two tracks deal well with placement when necessary across the forward soundstage but there isn’t a lot going on at any given time since it’s trying to be moody and atmospheric. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release retains the same DVDs used in the single disc releases, but Viz Media has made the first two volumes a double sided release, so there’s no disc art for any of them and only two discs in the set which makes it feel rather cheap. Studio Deen has done a really nice job with the show with a fair bit of detail and excellent use of color with lots of darks balanced out by some key vibrant pieces. The transfer captures all of it well with generally very solid colors that avoid blocking and are very light on the noise. The main fault within the transfer comes from the source material in that there are some fairly visible gradients throughout it that stand out. They’re never truly distracting and are fairly tame overall, but depending on the screen size they could be more noticeable for some. Cross coloration is blissfully absent and there’s very little in the way of line noise during the panning sequences.
The packaging for this release steps things up a bit for Viz Media in that we get a standard keepcase with a slipcover on it where the slipcover and the keepcase artwork are different. The slipcover has a good shot of the three leads together with the ominous moon behind them and the well designed color layout that plays to the two sides and how Yuki is in the center. It’s a clean and appealing cover on a number of levels and definitely a good sell The back cover continues the white framing of it all and has a good group shot of the supporting cast while including a decent if brief summary of what it’s about to the right. The discs features are clearly laid out and they do indicate here that it’s a two disc set and what the technical features are. Add in the production information and it’s a good slipcover that you’d want to keep. The keepcase itself is a double panel spread that’s quite good with some ornate background material that lets the eye draw to the supporting cast here, with both of the women holding onto apples of course, since that’s a key part of vampires these days (unfortunately). No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this season uses a similar idea to the first in that it gives us a look at a part of the school, this time the seating in the lecture rooms, where it changes brightness from light to dark as we have both the day and night classes as part of the series. With the logo along the top, it has a nice elegant feel and this is carried over to the text of the navigation itself which is further enhanced by the instrumental music that plays out which helps to build a good atmosphere to it all. The layout is simple and effective though they could have easily just nixed the extras menu and made it a trailers tab off the top to save a little work. Navigation is quick and simple and the language selections are well highlighted so you know what it’s set to. As expected, the discs did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The only extras included in this release is a relationship chart on the third disc, which would have been more useful as a printed piece so you could have it for the entire run of the season.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first season of Vampire Knight, I came away from the show with a distinct impression. While I’ve always enjoyed vampire stories, having liked them before it was suddenly cool, stories in the last decade or so have been along a particular line for the most part. Vampire Knight takes that for the shojo audience in a fairly predictable way. The opening season gave me some great looking designs, an interesting setting and that’s about it. When it came to the characters themselves and the actual storyline, it lost me throughout that season because it never really felt like it did that much and nobody really cemented themselves in a way to really be interesting. It was like it was filled with stock characters and no more.
With the second season, Vampire Knight Guilty, it builds off of those events from the first season as Shizuka is now dead and the fallout from there must be dealt with. Unlike the first season, where the supporting cast at least looked like they were just that, the focus is far heavier on the core characters themselves. The supporting cast turns in a performance that makes you wonder if the voice actors can even remember their own characters names because they’ve been so greatly reduced in favor of the main cast. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since some real focus on the driving storyline is a good thing and sometimes supporting characters are little more than a distraction, but with the drawn out method of the Vampire Knight series as a whole, it just exposes how weak the core characters really are all the more.
With this set, things deal with a couple of different paths when it comes to the core characters. For Zero, he’s got the double whammy of being sought after for his role in supposedly killing Shizuka as well as having his twin brother now hanging around the campus with a grim look to his face and a real distaste for him. And in the middle of it all he’s trying to protect Yuki as well. There’s some good material to be had about the bond with his brother Ichiru since there’s the whole Cursed Twin angle that comes up, but it’s not really explored well until just before the end and it serves as little more than a bit of tweenage angst to be played in how sad and awful their relationship is. Compared to other brothers who just slug each other on a regular basis and grouse about each other. Zero isn’t dealt a good hand here overall, though he gets to shine at the end, as his character doesn’t really grow or change. We do get a little more about his younger days though and that softens both him and Ichiru up, but only a touch.
The storyline involving Yuki and Kaname is fairly well tied because of her mysterious past that she’s forgotten, and that does get dealt with after a few awkward episodes involving her relationship with Kaname and the way it just gets to Zero. Neither of the guys in her life are all that to begin with and she doesn’t pine over either of them, but she has that soft spot for these supposedly hurt young men that keeps her close to them and getting into less than good situations. It’s just a step or two above a teenage live action drama series, if only because they don’t have the time to really develop it. But it does come across as fluff and pointless as it happens, since there’s so many of the quiet moments and the general pans and pauses to let the “impact” of things sink in.
What we do get is an understanding of what happened in the past that caused her memory loss and a real look at her true heritage and how it ties to Kaname himself. I admit I laughed outright when that occurred, in the midst of his turning her into a vampire, as we learned that she really was one all along and his brother no less. It’s pretty much comical, in that Luke and Leia kind of way, because all the supposed potential romantic dramatic tension just evaporated into a fit of giggles. The move of Yuki to vampire turns her personality inside out, though it recovers a bit as it goes on, and even she says that she’s not the person she was before. But doing this in the final few episodes when things are going big as Rido is set to execute his master plan that’s just as empty as his characterization has been for the whole series, it’s an exercise in trying to go big but not having the foundation to do it. The characters are just never developed enough to sustain a serious story of a larger scale here at the end and that just leaves it all hollow. But pretty to look at.
Vampire Knight is definitely one of the stronger titles from Viz Media with its manga division with how it consistently scores high and even older volumes do very well from time to time. But the show just doesn’t resonate with me no matter how much I try. It simply feels like an empty story, drawn out, with no real meat or meaning to it. They do have some amusing twists here, enough to make me laugh out loud at the surprise of it all, and that helped to salvage it a bit simply because it changed up the narrative a little. But by doing so, they ejected a lot of one of the characters going forward for a bit. I can definitely see the appeal to it and why it does so well in bookstores and attracts the audience it does, but it’s just not a title I can get into. Viz did a decent job with this release overall, but with the lack of extras, material with the voice actors and double sided discs, it just feels cheap and rushed.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Relationship Chart
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
Running Time: 312 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorpchi Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.