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"Dance in the Vampire Bund": Shall You Dance?

by on August 29, 2011

Vampires are real! They don’t sparkle in the daylight, and they can actually be pretty demonic looking. They’re led by Mina, a girl who looks no older than 10 but has outlived everyone you know. When the vampires announce their presence to the world, they declare they are relocating to a newly formed, man-made island off the coast of Japan: the Vampire Bund. At least some traditions survive: Vampire and werewolves fight against each other in this story of love and assassinations, trysts and terrorists. But does it eclipse a series that might have seen its twilight?

Vampires are on a rise as of late. Theoretically, you could say their run towards pop-culture prominence started with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. When Whedon suspended these stories to go off into space, the torch was picked up by others. True Blood, Twilight, and a host of other fanged protagonists (usually with werewolves, to give the full effect of a raid on the Universal Studios back lot) have carried the theme into the 2000s and the 2010s. Japan has gotten in the act too. Rosario + Vampire, Blood+, Trinity Blood, and even Kamen Rider Kiva have taken on vampires in some form or another. Dance in the Vampire Bund is one of the more recent interpretations

This series takes a slightly different approach to the genre: Vampire leader Mina reveals vampires to the population in the first episode, actively tries to avoid a war, and hopes to form an island nation of vampires. Opposing factions and races wish to stir up trouble, and her relationship with a werewolf with amnesia only complicates matters.

Dance in the Vampire Bund has odd pacing, to say the least. A dozen episodes feels more like two full seasons of a supernatural show on broadcast television, at least in plot content. The first half is dedicated to the birth of and revelation of the vampires to the world of the humans, and the second challenges the rulership of said vampires. The first half is a lot like the recent revival of V: the new creatures are introduced to humanity, and over the course of a season integrate themselves into a society that at times doesn’t trust them, and rightly so. The second half feels like the upheaval that would show up a few seasons into the series, such as Angel taking over his enemy’s headquarters, or Buffy no longer being the prime Slayer. Admittedly, the series may draw superficial comparisons to the shared universe Joss Whedon created over a decade ago thanks to the fanged forerunners, but it also takes a somewhat realistic account of how supernatural creatures would integrate with society. It doesn’t romanticize things or make some of the greater questions disappear (a la Twilight), and it doesn’t play it as straight horror. It’s more horror-drama-romance.

Speaking of odd, it’d be remiss not to point out the somewhat controversial element that almost led FUNimation to censor the release, something they’ve not done in years. To be blunt, the lead character, Mina, has the body of a child. Sure, the plot can insist that she’s hundreds or thousands of years old, but visually she is a child that at times runs around near naked, dances seductively only wearing ribbons in the theme song, wears lingerie in the ending shot, and so forth. She also has a more mature form that shows up rarely and which is easily more post-puberty. It’s not a deal-breaker, and is only a visual thing, but a certain segment of the population may feel that it’s an overriding factor, and these therefore should likely avoid the series. Additionally, a teenage girl also effectively lusts after a prepubescent boy (stated to be 13, but far from drawn as such). These elements are commented on, so they don’t exist purely to appeal to certain demographics, and even become part of the plot. For the most part, they’re like Lolita or Hard Candy; they’re squeamish plot points, but presented as valid and with seriousness.

Excluding the pin-up in the credits. That’s just cheesecake, or a cheesecake bite.

FUNimation sent us a review copy of the series, which might vary greatly from what you’d purchase. (There are DVDs, Blu-Rays, combo packs, and combo packs in nicer cases for earlier runs.) I can’t comment on the audio and video quality of the high-definition versions, nor the niceties of a premium box set. What I can tell you is that the DVD looks and sounds fine. Given that the anime aired last year, it might look stunning on Blu-Ray.

What’s on the DVD release (and presumably on the Blu-ray) is a variety of features, a few of which FUNimation fans will be used to. Textless songs and trailers are exactly what you expect. There is a Japanese promotional video coupled with Japanese commercials, which expand the coverage to the Japanese release. Most notably are a series of “Intermissions”, which are animated comic book panels with voice acting, showing scenes that didn’t happen in the actual series, but appeared to come from the original Nozomu Tamaki work.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is a rather refreshing take on the lore of vampires, but has its flaws. Beyond the cramped pacing and questionable elements, though, there’s a decent story here that just happens to use vampires as the hook for a study of social upheaval and action. It’s rather quick and breezy, so in your worst case, you’ve wasted only a few hours of your life. At best, it’s a unique take on the vampire stories that are overloading our society at the moment. You’ll just have to ask yourself how enticing you find the world of vampires. If you’ve fallen under their spell, it’s waiting for you.

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