The eighth volume of Matsuri Hino's Vampire Knight offers one of those rare moments in shojo / shonen manga, where the original playbook is thrown out entirely, and the title as a whole is entirely the better for it.
With this volume, creator Hino re-works the manga's original recipe by finally having Yuki's lost memories forcibly revealed to her through Kaname's intervention. Her back-story is shocking enough in and of itself but now that the cat is out the bag, her major relationships in the manga -- specifically with Zero and Kaname -- are shaken to their core. Now that she knows the truth about herself, how will she feel about the relationships she's formed and the person she has become in the past 10 years? In many ways, the sweet, considerate Yuki is gone, replaced by a stranger who has much more insight into the nature of vampires, but this insight is only gained through a great sacrifice.
Significantly, with Yuki regaining her memories under the direction of Kaname, Hino also threads two unwieldy plots together -- Yuki's past and the current vampire society politics surrounding the resurrection of Rido, Kaname's uncle. Just as Yuki isn't exactly who she thought she was, we learn that neither is the handsome, chilly prince of the vampire world exactly who we thought he was either. Although a bit confusing, bringing these two plots together is an important move, as it brings the various machinations of outsiders (i.e. outside the character trinity of Zero-Yuki-Kaname) to bear upon the emotional center of the book.
Now it is Zero who stands on the outside, which only increases his isolation and rather pitiful attempt to inhabit the role of the tragic hero. He's ready and willing to sacrifice everything -- his heart, his life, his truth -- to keep Yuki as the person he's always known but if he does so he may only appease himself. Yuki may not need Zero's brand of heroics anymore, which may be his greatest tragedy.
As always, the manga's core relationships and its gothic, atmospheric art style make Vampire Knight a compelling read. Now in its eighth volume, the story has started to clearly distinguish itself from the pack of supernatural stories with attractive, but morally dubious heroes. Even if you've think you've seen it all, there are enough twists and turns in this title to make it a worthwhile addition to anyone's shojo library.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.