Manga Review: The Art of Vampire Knight

Vampire Knight is one of Viz's top-selling series, and it's not hard to see why: While it's not for everyone, the love triangle, supernatural romance, and hint of forbidden love are like catnip for some readers. The Art of Vampire Knight, released earlier this month by Viz, is a beautifully produced art book that will be pure heaven to Vampire Knight junkies (but probably a bit boring for everyone else).

The book collects the full-color art that manga-ka Matsuri Hino created for the chapter openings in LaLa magazine and the tankoubon covers. Some have been published as part of the English-language editions but others have not.

Vampire Knight is set in the Cross Academy, a high school attended by ordinary students during the day and a special vampire class at night. The story is basically a love triangle between Yuki Cross, a human girl who was attacked by a vampire as a child; Kaname, the vampire who rescued her and who now is the leader of the night class; and Zero, Yuki's childhood friend, who is now a vampire-hating vampire hunter who nonetheless is turning into a vampire, fighting it every step of the way. Lianne Sentar has a great description of why Vampire Knight is so addictive (hint: SEXY VAMPIRES) at Sleep Is For the Weak.

The Art of Vampire Knight is 75 pages of full-color drawings showing Yuki, Zero, and/or Kaname entwined in various poses, turning a smoldering gaze on the viewer or gazing off into the distance. Everyone looks wistful all the time; this is not a jolly threesome like you sometimes see in shoujo manga. The book is divided into three parts: Vampire Days, Vampire Nights, and Vampire Soiree. The first section is mostly just Yuki, Zero, and Kaname striking poses, while the second section brings in some darker imagery (blood, chains) and some interesting vignetting. The third section is all about the costumes, with some cute holiday pieces (pumpkins and macaroons, summer kimonos) and more smoldering gazes. The book concludes with the artist's special selection of art and a step-by-step description of how she paints a cover. Hino also has notes on each piece of art at the end of the book, telling where it first appeared and what she thought about it. But really, the pictures dominate the book; everything else is pushed to the back and reduced to tiny print, but the paintings are big and beautiful.

The book is beautifully produced and printed. The format is oversized hardcover, larger than most magazines, with a matte dust jacket. Most pages have art that bleeds to the edges, giving it a luxurious look. The paper is nice, heavy stock. Just based on the production values, $24.99 is a good deal for this book. While those who don't follow the series and aren't fans of smoky-eyed bishounen may want to give it a pass, The Art of Vampire Knight is a slam dunk for Vampire Knight fans.

(Image credit: Hino Matsuri Illustrations -VAMPIRE KNIGHT- by Matsuri Hino © Matsuri Hino 2010/HAKUSENSHA, Inc.)