I can’t imagine it must have been easy for Funimation or Manga to market this series to the masses.
Let’s first take away all the visual aids and just look purely at the concept and synopsis; Princess Mina Tepeş (descendant of Vlad the Impaler) has come forward and revealed the existence of Vampires by buying a special district off the coast of Japan in order to create a ‘Bund’ for her kind. Using her infinite finances and Japan’s huge debt as bribery, she gets what she wants but tensions are nevertheless high. Many question whether humans and vampires can co-exist, some doubt vampires can have good intensions, some think that vampires still don’t exist and that all of Mina’s actions are a big joke. Caught in the middle of it all is Akira, a werewolf born from a clan sworn to protect the Vampire Royal family, however Akira lost his memory over a year ago and cannot remember his life or promises he made to the princess before then. His closest friend Yuki helps him all she can but even she cannot come between the bond Akira and Mina seem to share, so will Mina’s wishes come to fruition?
The show starts slap bang in the middle of a chat show, discussing whether vampires exist and it’s not until the end when we finally get to see the Princess in action. From there we watch the progression of the Bund being created, the opposition of vampires and humans alike, battles abound plus Akira trying to recover his memory and perform his duties as guardian the best he can. The subject of Vampires coming out of the coffin to humans is not a new venture by any means but this different spin involving the Royal family and having their own land is a strong enough hook for even the more sceptical long term vampire fan to get invested in. What’s also a breath of fresh air is that the ‘vampires equals sex gods’ isn’t the main selling point here, sure there’s fan service amongst Mina’s struggle for a peaceful Bund and some vamps like to cop-a-feel before feeding but the actual sucking of blood and being a vampire is not glamorised or made romantic in any way. You won’t get the broody, handsome, dark vampire trying to sex up a ditzy, helpless human female. Vampires are very much seen as monsters here; fangs, blood and violence come connected with these demons and there’s nothing sexy about that, definitely something distinct and not seen as much in today’s vampire market.
Ok, now drop all of that set up and just look at the cover and screenshots. All you’re likely to see is an underage looking girl who likes to strip naked on regular occasions and make others uncomfortable with her body. You know she’s not underage because she makes a point of saying she’s hundreds of years old but that still doesn’t take away the uneasy of watching her dance with merely sheets of tissue paper in the opening song and asking Akira to rub gel on her exposed assets. This alone will become a turning off point for many, fearing that we have another moe or lolicon anime on our hands. Mina herself isn’t really a moe; when the character does decide to ‘Queen it up’ she can be very intimidating and you completely forget what age her figure looks like because her voice and how she carries herself when performing to her Royal duties immediately shoots her age range to her actual maturity. However in the moments when she crawls innocently into bed with Akira, wearing sexy lingerie in various still images across the discs, or taking baths whilst others are around, the awkwardness sets back in again and the show’s other attempts to provide fan service for a more general audience doesn’t distil the problem. Regardless, Mina is still one of the better created vampires in modern times with her ties to respected vampire fiction and royally bloody nature make a very different breed of vampire that’s not too commonly seen in modern vampire fiction.
As for the other characters; Akira is a likeable lead even though a little stereotypical and his back story creates a few plot holes, but he’s nevertheless a strong protagonist. Yuki is an interesting character being the only human of the main cast and narrator of the show; she changes from damsel in distress to ‘the other woman’ to friend of the princess over the course of the series. The side cast vary a lot from the werewolf bodyguards to the various vampires in the bund that seem to have very interesting backgrounds and mythology tied to them but Dance in the Vampire Bund doesn’t really go into a lot of detail beyond the present. There are several stylised flashbacks but sadly a lot of the limitations of the legends and various ties between the protagonist and her various enemies are often squeezed into spitting exposition-heavy speeches just before a battle to give reason for said characters to fight. A shame as various hints of what happened long ago does seem to be rather interesting but what we do get from Vampire Bund is still entertaining, lots of action, never stops for filler too long and being dissimilar enough from other anime and vampire series to warrant a look.
The animation is mostly excellent; there’s lot of vivid colour, the shows happily bounces from dark bloody vamps to cutesy school girls with no problems at all, and uses of real life footage with specific grading creates its own unique style for the series. However I will have to complain about something I’ve yet to mention in any other anime review I’ve ever done; the editing. The production team behind Vampire Bund must hate holding onto a shot with a passion because unless the camera is moving, no shots are over 3 seconds long in this show. Literally, after a few seconds we cut to anything else in the room or another member of the cast, just so they don’t stay too long on one thing. Holding too long onto a shot, especially a still clip that some budget anime tend to do, can be boring but Vampire Bund has a horrible habit of cutting to a extreme close ups of eyes, backsides, random scenery, even random cuts to full screen of various colours from black to red just to keep the vision from staying on one shot. This only get worst during the high tension action scenes when the editor must have been high on caffeine, alcohol and sugar combined, because the cuts are all over the place. At first I thought the abrupt edits were due to edited content that the American release has but according to a press release from Manga, there’s nothing censored about the UK release, so the jump cuts must be part of the original production. Why? I don’t know, I lost count the amount of times the anime randomly goes into ‘bullet time’ and ‘whooshes’ into a close up of someone’s eye. Coming from someone who works in the media industry, I failed to see what the intention was and all it accomplished was giving me a headache.
Music is suitable for the occasion; techno based tracks plus J-pop/rock tracks opening and ending the series, nothing memorable but nothing jarring either. Dubs for both English and Japanese are very good but I have to give props to Monica Rial for portraying the multiple sides to the Princess very well; being high pitched and sweet when playing her good side then deepens the voice to a menacing tone when the situation calls for it.
Japanese TV trailers and promo spots, plus clean opening and closing are extras provided on disc 2 of this set. Plus we also get ‘intermissions’ for episodes 1 – 12; these are small 1 minute episodes composed of manga images with Japanese voiceovers/English subtitles often expanding the side characters a little and various plot points only spoken about in the series. The episodes are skippable but only take 16 minutes to go through them all, and provides some nice insight to the smaller plot threads. We also have ‘Dance with the Vampire Maids’, small comedy segments right after each episode that often poke fun at various more risqué elements of the story, again skippable but provide a little fun.
Despite being another anime series with an inconclusive ending that serves only as a huge ad for the manga series and having a controversal female lead, Dance in the Vampire Bund is solid offering of blood, fangs and action that will keep a variety of supernatural fans entertained all the way till the end. Its production and story is solid throughout and despite a few niggles here and there, it’s mostly very satisfying. One to check out if you are a vampire fan, or at least looking for a supernatural offering that’s out of the norm.