Title: Vampire Knight Memories (ヴァンパイア騎士 Memories)
Author: Matsuri Hino (Story & Art)
Genres: Supernatural, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Mystery, Shoujo
Published: 2016 – Present
Volumes: 6 [Ongoing]
Japanese Publisher: Hakusensha
English Publisher: Viz Media
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes ( Indigo / Amazon / Barnes & Noble )
This review contains some spoilers for Vampire Knight Memories.
Synopsis: The four original Vampire Knight “special chapters” are now the first four chapters of “Vampire Knight Memories”. This series focuses on Kaname living with Ai and Ren, and flashbacks of Yuki and Zero’s relationship. (Manga Updates)
The aforementioned summary doesn’t really do Vampire Knight Memories justice. It focuses on a reawakened Kaname and we get to meet Yūki’s children for the first time, yes. However I was also surprised to see that it contained stories about Sayori’s relationship with Hanabusa! Not a pairing I saw coming, let me tell you that.
I tried really hard to enjoy Vampire Knight Memories so I’ll start off with what I liked about it. For a supernatural romantic drama, the Vampire Knight series has always had good moments of comedy. Whether it’s Hanabusa freaking out over something or Yūki doing something dumb, Vampire Knight does cute comedy well. Vampire Knight also has a gorgeous art style, like a gothic Margaret Keane painting. No one can do angsty close-ups like Matsuri Hino, I’ll give you that. And she definitely has a knack for drawing gorgeous bishounen.
I knew of Vampire Knight Memories but had never read it, so when considering it as one of my bi-monthly reviews I tried to put aside my feelings on the original series and give Vampire Knight Memories a blank slate. However as hard as I tried, several of the issues I had with the original Vampire Knight still reappeared.
First, although I have an interest in the supernatural, I have no interest in anything to do with vampires (or zombies for that matter). I suspect this is because blood grosses me out and the idea of fangs (like needles) piercing skin just subconsciously icks me right out. This is of course a personal preference so I didn’t take it into account when scoring the series. Why did I read the original Vampire Knight series then, you may ask? For the characters, and the relationship between Yūki, Zero and Kaname.
The second issue, specific to Vampire Knight Memories, is that the series is presented as a jumbled up mass of memories. This was the hardest thing to wrap my head around while reading the series and it’s the main reason why I scored this title the way that I did. The premise of Vampire Knight Memories is that in the present, about 1,000 years after the end of Vampire Knight, Kaname has reawakened as a human with Yūki’s children, Ai and Ren, by his side. He learns to navigate this new world as a human while living with virtually no memories from his past. Everything he learns about his past comes from Ai and Ren, as well as a scrapbook that was left to him from Yūki. My understanding from reading Vampire Knight Memories is that most of the memories (flashbacks) are narrated to Kaname (and thus the reader) by Ai and Ren, which is why the majority of the title takes place in the past.
Unfortunately there is no coherency or or structure to the order in which the memories are recounted, at least not as far as I could tell. There are some chapters which jump between the present and the past, or just between memories within the span of a few pages. I found Vampire Knight Memories very confusing to read, and while I’ll grant that some of my confusion resulted from my sub-par memory, I still wish that the overall story was told in a more chronological manner. For example there is a major character death in one of the earlier chapters, but then they are alive in subsequent chapters and volumes. I felt that the emotional finality of that character’s death was lessened by the mangaka choosing to show them alive within earlier memories in later chapters.
What I managed to gather of the plot taking place in the past was this: after the ending of Vampire Knight, Kaname sleeps on while encased in ice after throwing his heart into a supernatural furnace. Hanabusa begins working on where Kaname’s research, which had been to find a safe way to turn vampires into humans, ended. Yūki’s best friend Sayori Wakaba begins helping Hanabusa with this work and over time they fall for each other, get married and raise a family together. Other characters have their own relationships grow and change over time too.
There is another slow uprising against vampires, a master plan using vampire-human hunter hybrids to cause humans to turn against vampires by causing them to be scared of vampires.
Lastly with Kaname out of the way, Yūki’s relationship with Zero can be explored. Except it doesn’t, not for a very, very long time because Yūki is still not over Kaname. Sayori literally dies before Yūki and Zero get together.
This brings me to my third issue with the Vampire Knight series, which is that all of the main romantic relationships in the series have never felt “real” to me because they don’t resemble actual relationships. I have never shipped Yūki with Kaname because their relationship always felt forced. If you disagree with me hear me out. In the beginning of Vampire Knight there is a power inbalance between Kaname and Yūki (he’s older, she’s the naive Day Class human student), but even after Yūki is revealed to be a Pureblood I still feel that a lot of the emotional connection between them was because they were both Purebloods, they had a bit of a past together, and then everything else was chalked up to this kind of “mystical allure” that their relationship was supposed to have. However I never felt that Kaname actually loved Yūki because he didn’t show all the traditional gestures a person uses to show their partner that they love them. Maybe that’s more of my own issue than a flaw with the series?
So with Kaname absent for much of Vampire Knight Memories I was excited to see my ship, Yūki x Zero, take center stage. But as I read on I wanted to bang my head against the wall as Yūki spent decades pining over Kaname, unable to move on. For me Zero ended up feeling like a loyal sidekick, as he did for much of Vampire Knight, quietly loving Yūki and accepting her shitty decisions even though it meant that they were apart and, again, not having much of an actual relationship. I both refuse to believe and find it incredibly unrealistic that a character would stay in love with another character for that long without getting anything tangible from it. It took Zero and Yūki so long to get together that even other characters were pointing out how ridiculous Yūki was being! I figured that it’s meant to be funny but man, was it ever frustrating to read. Even when Ren is finally born there is next to nothing shown of Yūki and Zero’s relationship, only that they are in bed together and then a couple of pages later Ren appears as a baby. /headdesk I wanted some Zero x Yūki romance dammit, and all we got for much of Vampire Knight Memories was handholding, sitting on a bench together, and a couple of kisses. Plus in the very end Yūki goes back to Kaname anyways (I won’t clarify how because I don’t want to spoil it for readers), which I felt was insulting to Zero.
My last issue with the series, which took me until Vampire Knight Memories to acknowledge, was that I actually don’t really like Yūki as a character. She’s smart, devoted and loyal, and takes her role as the head of the vampires seriously. However there’s the issue of her being unable to move past Kaname, she’s sometimes a huge airhead, and she’s pretty naive when it comes to relationships (namely hers with Zero). I feel like over the span of two series she doesn’t experience a lot of character growth, or perhaps just not as much as I expected.
Vampire Knight Memories is like a sexy mystery dressed up in a black baby doll dress: the artwork is beautiful and there’s Yūki as a goth Sherlock Holmes trying to figure out the latest twist in the ongoing supernatural battle between vampires and humans. However as for actual substance, I didn’t feel like there was enough in Vampire Knight Memories to justify starting another series. Also whereas I initially read Vampire Knight as a teenager and liked the relationship between Kaname x Yūki x Zero, as an adult I found the trio to be unfulfilling for the reasons mentioned in this post.
Do I Recommend This Title to Others?: If you’re a fan of Vampire Knight and you like supernatural manga, you’ll probably like Vampire Knight Memories. Although I take issue with how the title is presented, it fills in the blanks after the end of the main series and we get to see the stories of our main and secondary casts continue on, for better or for worse.
Final Score: 7/10