I know - the suspense is killing me, too! But I still did not get a chance to read Sword Volume 2 this week. Monday totally snuck up on me, and I didn't want to cram the reading experience into my packed day. I was on my way home, knowing full well that I had 45 minutes on the train, and I thought how ideal it would be to have my comic of the week to read. So, I took myself to Barnes & Noble. Shut up! It was right next to my subway stop! I knew I wasn't going to have a great selection of comics, and yes, I pretty much knew that I'd be picking some kind of manga. If I had to liken my selection process to some sort of dating experience, I'd have to say I think it was like a Quiet Party.
(I've never been to a Quiet Party, but back when I was playing the field I thought they seemed interesting, and I think my old yahoo email address is still subscribed to their mailing list.) If you don't know what a Quiet Party is, well, as far as I can remember (or what I remember perceiving them to be), it's a party where a whole bunch of singles go into a room - but there's no talking. You just mill around? You look at the other people, and then you send notes to people you're interested in, um, corresponding with. I'm sure there's more rules to the game. But there I am, in Barnes and Noble with shelves and shelves of manga in front of me, and there's loads of people sitting right in front of them, reading. It wasn't so easy to just pick out a book and read it and then put it back. I had to stand there and survey the "crowd" (of books), and make a decision about them just by looking at their spines. When I did lean in (and over) the large man who was seemingly ensconced within the bookshelf, I would pick three books at once and peruse them. I didn't want to have to do this too many times. I, quite literally, had a train to catch.
Now that I'm talking about it, I think I'd found out about Quiet Parties by reading the Missed Connections board on Craigslist, and that's always what I associated them with. Quiet Parties basically sounded like one giant series of Missed Connections. The posts always read like this: "MC: Curly haired Girl at Quiet Party" and the inside was something like, "you were wearing purple and standing with your friend. I think our eyes met a couple of times. I was the guy drooling in the corner. Write back if you get this."
Come to think of it, I had a few Missed Connection type moments when I was selecting my manga:
MC with Death Note
"Hi. I read the first several volume of you. I really liked what you had going on! I'm not sure why I fell out of touch. Maybe because L got replaced midstream? I didn't really like that. And I wasn't ready to go to a whole new story line with some imitation of L. But here you are, right in front of me today, and i'm kind of wondering what happened. Maybe we can hook up again some time soon?"
MC with Fruit Baskets
"What's the deal with Fruit Baskets? What am I missing? This is a total Missed Connection because I can't figure out the appeal. Why does your name even register in my brain? But then, this time, when I was willing to give it a try for the sake of romance, you had every volume available except number one. You even had sticker books available. Sticker books?"
MC with Nana
"Nana.....I loved you. I did. What's going on? I couldn't even finish the last volume. I mean, we use to get together and it was non-stop. I would not rest or do anything until I read you. Now there doesn't seem to be that same impressive maturing process and emotional growth of your totally cool characters. You've just added more and more and everyone's getting distant. Come back, Nana. Come back!!"
So, yeah, Nana is really my benchmark when it comes to manga. I haven't read any that grabbed me the way that series did. I love Nana. Part of the love comes from how I've watched and witnessed the characters, particularly Hachi and Nobu, grow and mature. The way that they both deal with loss and pain, figuring out who they are and learning from past mistakes was truly impressive. I felt impressed by Nobu when he was moving on and dealing with the new girlfriend. It was like real life, and frankly, in real life often people don't show the growth that these characters exhibit.
But there's another thing about Nana, and it's a pretty big deal: I love Nana for the way it's drawn. It's not even just the art, it's something about the fashion, the way Ai Yazawa designs all these beautiful, sexy clothes, drapes them on top of beautiful sexy people, and then everybody runs around crying and falling in love and crashing into each other. I like it for the same reason that I love to watch Sex and The City--not gonna argue that the show has great acting or anything, but there's something about the set design and the clothes they wear and the colors that draws me into a world that's nothing like mine, and it welcomes me, and it makes me feel happy. Absorbed by fabulous clothes and cool places to hang out, and while it's merely a fictional world, it brightens up the moments in between, the same way that fresh flowers in a vase do. Hey, I know that sounds totally ridiculous. But it's honest. And that's how Nana makes me feel.
And if you've stayed with me this long, then yes, I'm finally going to get to Vampire Knight, which is the manga I ended up selecting.
Vampire Knight Volume 1
By Matsuri Hino
Published by Shojo Beat
Nana has pretty much set my look and appeal for what I'm looking for in manga, and in a completely selfish way, what I expect it to be. Vampire Knight seemed like it might meet those expectations, and it's also got vampires. I thought it'd be interesting to see how manga does vampires since I've been exploring this genre so often lately. (That sounds a bit more scientific than it really felt. This looked like something I know I like, and it featured a type of thing that I also like.)
Vampire Knight is set in a high school. A boarding school. The deal is that there is a day class and a night class, and never the two shall meet. The day class is supposed to leave the classroom and be completely out of the way when the night class comes. Why? Because the night class is made up of vampires! But....and here's the really flimsy part that creates the drama....the day class doesn't know that the night class is made up of vampires, and they're supposed to ignore the night class and not ask questions. Thing is, the night class is made up of a bunch of individuals who are all really, really beautiful (as is the apparent rule of vampire mythology). So, even though they are supposed to be tucked away before the night class comes, the day class hangs out and goes crazy over the night class.
There are two people on the disciplinary committee who are to keep the day class and the night class in line: Yuki and Zero. They are two people whose families were destroyed by vampires and were taken in by the pacifistic headmaster who strongly believes that vampires and humans can peacefully co-exist. (What is that? "Your family was murdered? Excellent, i've been looking for someone just like you to exploit my personal philosophy through a massive sociological experiment, with you as the experiment.")
Let's say a person such as myself decides to put aside plausibility. (I mean, seriously, why isn't this entire comic made up of day class students saying, "What's up with the night class?" or "Um, why can't I switch classes" or something like that, over and over and over again.) Let's say I suspend my disbelief and just go with it.
Well, it was interesting for the first chapter, which is entitled "First Night". Second chapter is, you guessed it, Second Night. Etc, etc, etc, I wonder if it stays like that throughout. Immediately in the second chapter, the reader is made painfully aware of a. how this was published as separate issues, and b. how it is meant for children? It must be. There's no recap page, but in nearly every chapter it is re-explained in bold letter that the NIGHT CLASS IS VAMPIRES, and the day class is not. And the day class can't know...blah blah blah.
I found Vampire Knight confusing and hard to read. Nana breaks form now and then, but it's easy to follow and read, it's all pretty intuitive. But Vampire Knight has pages strewn with three or four different types of text bubbles. There's actual dialogue bubbles, then thought bubbles, then narration bubbles and then there's these black boxes when we're being told about Vampires. I don't know if it's supposed to be the narrator or just The Truth About Vampires in black boxes. It's kind of surprising that something that plays the premise and recaps in such a dumb, blunt fashion fails to come up with a more simple method of delivering the rest of its information.
The story did start to get a little interesting. Our pal, Zero, detests vampires and is out for revenge after what they did to him and his family. However, it turns out that his family were destroyed by Pureblood Vampires and since he was bitten as well, he has slowly transformed into a vampire over the last four years. He even attacked Yuki and drank her blood. Also, Yuki is madly in love with the vampire who saved her life ten years before. Seems like many a love triangle is a-coming.
Vampire Knight, as much as I wanted to like you, I just didn't. First I had to buy into a premise that makes less sense to me than Batgirl. Then that premise was spoon-fed to me over and over - against my will! (IMAGINE that on a date!). When I did decided to commit to the experience I found it hard to follow. It wasn't as good looking or fun as Nana. To be honest, I stopped after the fourth chapter. Called it quits early. Essentially I pulled that thing you do on dates, when you have it set up that your best friend will call you half way through, and if it's a bad date you pretend she's telling you there's an emergency that you have to take care of immediately and leave. (If it's a good date, you just don't pick up.)
Sorry Vampire Knight. It's an emergency.
-Nina Stone, 2010