I’m sorry I didn’t post this on Monday. It’s been a long weekend, but that’s no excuse.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In volume 2, the focus was on Zero. In volume 3, the focus is on the relationships Yuuki has with both Zero and Kaname. We also begin to see how events in the outside world have been affecting and continue to affect all three. In other words, we finally get a better glimpse of the world they live in.
One of the things I love about this volume is that it doesn’t start with a summary in the story itself for those who picked up this volume first. The actual story begins with Zero in a series of wordless panels that would probably look boring to those who don’t know the events of the previous volume, or how much it took for Zero to finally decide to keep living. For readers already familiar with the plot up to this point, the way the simple act of getting ready for school is portrayed in those panels is a beautiful example of subtext in manga form. Those panels set the tone for the rest of the volume.
Also, for the first time in this story, you don’t get the feeling that an event happened just to provide an excuse for exposition. The storytelling improves dramatically in this volume.
The flashbacks, when they occur, involve Yuuki’s interactions with either Kaname or Zero. With Kaname, we see why she’s so willing to trust him and how deep and honest their interactions originally were. We also learn when and how things changed between them to their current state. Like most changes in a relationship, though there appears to be one catalytic event, there’s actually more than one. The first is obvious: Zero’s arrival in the Cross household. The second isn’t as obvious and, in fact, was more powerful to me than the first. It felt more true to the story/plot.
Yuuki’s memories of Zero at times overlap with her memories of Kaname. The point of many of these is to show Zero’s hatred of vampires as contrasted with Yuuki’s willingness to believe some are good. It’s only in the last flashback (in the main story), that we get a glimpse of something different from him than his usual fury against vampires. And, no surprise, the reason he softens his stance, even the smallest fraction of an inch, is because of Yuuki.
As a result, we see, long before Yuuki does, that Zero cares very deeply about her, to the point where he’s willing to go along with her belief that a vampire could do something good for a human. It doesn’t matter if he agrees with that belief or not, to me. For him to tolerate any toleration is huge.
The rest of the novel brings us the concept of the Senate, the ruling council of the vampires and two new characters: Asato Ichijo, head of the Senate, and Maria Kurenai. Of course, we learn very quickly that Maria isn’t exactly who she claims to be. Zero knows who she is, but won’t say.
I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything because it was so obvious to me it was somehow Shizuka Hio it’s not even funny.
In between all this is Zero’s first hunt. It’s something to read because, even though it’s short, it’s got an emotional punch that gives us a clearer view of what hunters do, why they’re necessary, and of what drives Zero. As a result of the hunt, he begins to change from a scary jerk of a guardian, to the protector he was meant to be from birth. It also helped me realize why Yuuki keeps stressing that she’ll kill Zero if he ever drops to “Level E”.
As a side note, each volume usually has a side story, a brief story at the end of the volume. Sometimes they’re cute and/or funny. The one at the end here is a microcosm of the themes of the volume. Its a flashback to when Yuuki was a preteen, after Zero has joined the household. Yuuki’s sick and Kaname spends some time with her. It is one of the sweetest manga shorts I’ve ever read, with a bittersweet ending that hooked me more deeply into the story than anything I had read up to that point.
Overall, there’s a lot of great world-building in this volume, not to mention the plot really begins to take off with Maria’s/Shizuka’s arrival. Also, although we get a glimpse of how Kaname actually feels about Zero feeding off Yuuki (he ain’t happy, folks), it’s obvious there are bigger things moving under the surface through this story, and Kaname is waiting for them to appear.