Dance in the Vampire Bund Review
Note: The following Review is based off a recent re-watch of this 2010 series dubbed on a blu-ray released by Funimation. I read the manga about two years ago- so some of the lighter details are a little fuzzy. However, I know for a fact that watching the anime is an experience that is slightly different than watching the series subbed or reading the manga. Differences as they pertain to the story of the anime and the chapters covered by the anime are detailed in the review. For this reason, and so I can reserve the right for more in-depth analysis, I’m posting a spoilers warning.
“Theirs was a story of a promise” are some of the first words of exposition to the viewers in providing a foundation for the series, “A tale of the great ruler of monsters and the boy who gave his all to her, and the eternal bond that they shared...” A fairy tail, essentially. This is my favorite type of literature. Neil Gaiman and Tad Williams have written some signature works via the Fairy Tale.
With a recent string of great “dark shonen” or dark fantasy action anime gracing viewers like 2015’s Tokyo Ghoul or Parasyte, and 2013’s Attack on Titan, and 2011’s Deadman Wonderland or Future Diary all becoming mainstream megahits- I couldn’t help but be reminded of an often overlooked 2010 title that I had watched a few years ago. It was a series that dazzled my imagination and inspired me to, in prompt fashion, feverously read the entire manga in a 48-hour period. It is a title that seems to have been by and large discarded to the trash heap of anime history. It was never hyped as much as those after-mentioned titles, but it is very much comparable in almost every category. (Even by 2016 standards, for a 2010 anime this is a pretty huge compliment.) That show is Dance in the Vampire Bund and, to add to its list of credentials, it was animated and directed by the same group of individuals that provided viewers the 2011 megahit classic Madoka Magica: curtsey of Anime Studio Shaft and director Akiyuki Shinbo. So why was this series, which had so much going for it, so overlooked by so many viewers and so underappreciated those that did pay it attention? Well, I’m not quite certain...but I have a few theories.
First of all- going by western standards, the series has a plot device many people familiar with anime call a “Loli”. Now, I hope I’m not ruining my future arguing this, but in this show’s defense the application of this term is a bit misplaced. A Loli is basically a romantic interest who is for all intents and purposes too under-aged for the romance to be societally acceptable. Most people took one look at Dance in the Vampire Bund, saw it’s cover or read it’s premise and thought the term Loli, and immediately judged this show. Hard. This is despite the fact that the series’ loli is actually a woman older than the main character himself. This is despite the fact that the series has sharp writing easily comparable to most of its contemporaries. This is despite the fact that the series has production values that are simply astounding in certain aspects like environment detail and camerawork—all of which are a joy to behold on blu ray. The craziest part about Dance in the Vampire Bund is remembering when it came out. Dance in the Vampire Bund came out in 2010—a full year before most of the huge “Dark Shonen” or Dark Fantasy or Seinen anime titles started getting pumped out what seemed like every season.
Of course, Shaft’s Dance in the Vampire Bund wasn’t the first time an anime series had taken the idea of creating a top-notch action series centering around vampires and monsters and rolled with it. That honor belongs to Hellsing Ultimate, a blood-soaked dark fantasy action masterpiece which acts as something of a grandfather for all action series that followed it, which predates even Dance in the Vampire Bund by at least four years, eight if you go by the original 2002 anime series Hellsing. This may be another reason for people to overlook Dance in the Vampire Bund. There’s also no point in ignoring the 2007 megahit Death Note when discussing notable dark anime series that predate and serve as an influence for Dance in the Vampire Bund. What I argue that makes Dance in the Vampire Bund significant and unique (instead of derivative) is that it combines elements of both Death Note and Hellsing Ultimate to create a new and original product. For example, during the first half of the series it isn’t even clear whether Mina Tepes, the childlike queen who rules on behalf of all vampire people, is a “good” character or not. For the first half of the series before Akira, the main male protagonist, commits himself to her she performs one underhanded maneuver after another for the “greater good” of her people or as a result of her fixation on Akira. This is including, but not limited to, ordering attacks on humans who get in her way. At one point, she even abducts a human child and orders him bitten as to blackmail the prime minister of Japan. At another point Mina physically threatens a girl who she discovers Akira had feelings for named Yuki Saegusa. Eventually, she is revealed to be a good character and her actions misunderstood- but this whole plot dynamic is a page taken directly out of Death Note. As a matter of fact, I sort of wish Shaft utilized this idea more than they did- if anything. It’s a dynamic that would later see drastic expansion in anime series like Deadman Wonderland and Future Diary, but to my knowledge Dance in the Vampire Bund doesn’t get any props or is even mentioned in circles of conversation regarding those series. That isn’t to say this series is better- but it is something worth looking into if a viewer is a fan of “dark shonen” or ”dark fantasy” or “seinen” mainstream action series. The production values are there. While not a true Yangire like Yuno Gasai, or a crazily devoted romantic interest (to which Yandere is a sublet). Mina does show traces of it.
It also introduces some new aspects- some of which would be continued and expanded on even further by its after-mentioned successors. One such aspect is including a romance—something that both Hellsing Ultimate and Death Note were sorely lacking for two action/adventure series. Basically, Dance in the Vampire Bund was the first “modern” dark fantasy action series of the 2010’s as we know it. In my case, I binged watched both Tokyo Ghoul and Dance in the Vampire Bund with a friend who hadn’t ever seen either before I bought them on Blu-ray. When asked for an objective opinion, he said he felt the two were easily comparable. I agree with his assessment. To me it is especially intriguing how one receives widespread love and the other received widespread lambasting. I’m not saying that Dance in the Vampire Bund is a masterpiece by any means, nor am I saying that Dance in the Vampire Bund is necessarily better than a series like Tokyo Ghoul. To reiterate, all I’m saying is that the show under-rated, and that if you like any of the mentioned series you’ll probably like this series too, should this series be given a legitimate chance. Certainly, while it is a bit more primitive being six years older (the gore is improved in Tokyo Ghoul) it is still very much comparable.
With that point out of the way, let’s delve into the series itself.
The story of Dance in the Vampire Bund, much like just about any Dark Fantasy series mentioned, doesn’t waste any time getting started. It starts off feeling somewhat peculiar during the first episode—perhaps another reason it was so quickly discarded. Presented in a reality-TV format, the first episode details Vampires “coming out” of hiding due to a combination of A) the advent of technology exposing every recent vampire case before it could be covered up and B) a rouge bloodthirsty vampire making it a point to murder as many humans as possible in Tokyo. (*Cough* Tokyo Ghoul? *Cough*) It is argued that the identity of vampires would be impossible to hide eventually anyways. As such, the queen of all vampires named Mina Tepes, who is directly related to Vladmir Tepes—also known as Vladmir the Impaler and Dracula, will establish a vampire city called the Bund off the coast of Tokyo by building off of Tokyo Landfill #0. Humans in the audience and judge panel of this reality TV show express complete and abject disbelief of this proclamation until, right on queue, the rouge vampire transforms into a monstrosity and jumps to assassinate the Vampiric Queen upon her public taunts of his cowardice. A fight ensues and the Vampire Queen Mina Tepes (who is presented as a mere child) murders the assailant, thus concluding the first episode.
In my opinion, the first episode is something of a bait-and-switch for this series. First of all, while the story does follow Mina Tepes as a fellow protagonist and romantic interest to the main character Akira Kiburagi, who is introduced only briefly in the first episode when Mina Tepes expresses an out-of-place fixated interest on him when he is interviewed on his opinion on the existence of vampires- the series by and large focuses strictly on Akira. As it turns out, Akira is an amnesiac werewolf of the Earth Clan and is sworn to protect the head of the Tepes Family: Mina. When Mina reveals herself to him his memories start flooding back—a longtime promise of protection and happiness and love to his ruler whom he’s sworn to serve. It seems cliché, but the superb presentation and narration provided by Shaft leaves the viewer feeling touched. As stated, however, the series does play around with the dynamic in various ways...including by deconstructing established tropes on how romances should play out in an action series like this between two individuals of separate species. On the side of this romance is a close confident of Akira named Yuki Saegusa, a human whom he developed a close relationship to shortly after losing his memories and transferring to his high school. Her role is drastically diminished past the first few episodes of the season—a shame and a blatant hole in the writing in what is otherwise a pretty solid plotline for the main cast. She does, however, provided great narration on key events of the series. Technically the story is framed by her recollection and recording of the key events and the overall structure of the series is stronger because of her inclusion in the story.
Then there’s the ostensible and beautiful Mei Ren; who acts as the primary foil to Mina and Akira. Her character is one of the few changes I’ve ever seen used effectively when an anime diverges from a manga. To be quite frank, this character simply does not exist in the source material. As such it bewilders me why so many fans so sharply criticize the series. If anything her presence was one of the series’ key highlights. She offers Akria a way out, so to speak, of his commitment to Mina Tepes. A fellow beast-type assassin not of the Earth-Clan—one of the last in existence according to this story’s world. This whole inter-character dynamic is really suspenseful given that Akia and the viewers don’t realize Mei Rei’s true agenda until towards the end of the series. Throughout the majority of series, she acts as mysterious stranger of sorts. She doesn’t speak or show up often, but her writing is superb when she does. The lines of dialogue she drops are powerful- as a viewer you will listen and feel temptation just as Akira does. Her actions are always to an end beyond simple fan service. By the time Mei Rei’s agenda is revealed amid the climax of the series’ final two episodes- a viewer can expect to be left hooked and feeling a roller-coaster of emotions. In the final half of the series, (well four episodes technically) the series shifts from combating the conspiracy of Telomere [which is attempting to overthrow Mina] to affirming Mina’s right to rule over all houses of Vampires—including her would-be suitors who are trying to usurp her.
If nothing else, the final four episodes make the series worth it- but the production values and aspirations of the entire series are astounding. Akira quickly comes to prove himself to Mina again and again and again by taking head-on risks to her life. In moments of downtime the viewer will watch how she relentlessly teases him as a mother teases a child despite having a body of a ten year old. In moments of crisis viewers will be awed by Akira Kaburagi’s devotion to her. In moments of seclusion viewers will be shocked by Mina Tepes’ possessiveness and protective-nature concerning Akira. (And be reminded in somewhat quaint fashion of a certain other series’ characters like Gasai Yuno or Shiro) The dynamic is pretty unique, and is helped along by the sharp script-writers at Shaft and by content taken right from the manga. It’s like the writers took the best parts of the manga—including the primary plot points—and made solid improvements on them. Put simply, these improvements represent the best parts of both worlds. In my opinion it’s very much what Root A of Tokyo Ghoul would later try to do to much less success.
As stated, the anime is not a strict page-to-screen adaptation of the first chunk of the manga- but is something of a reinterpretation. Certain key plot events remain intact. (Most, in fact) For example those conflicts concerning the Vampiric separatists known as Telomere are all left in place. The schemes Mina hatches and her interactions with Akira are all nearly identical. In fact, quite interesting is it that Mina or Yuki never once interact with the anime-exclusive character Mei Rei. Only Akira does. She doesn’t even interact with her indirectly. Akira for obvious reasons never talks about her with Mina, but I think that the writers at Shaft deserve some brownie points for having the foresight to leave the other interactions identical. Mei Rey’s seclusion seems pre-meditated. To me, Manga readers have no basis for complaint because of this very reason. The other interactions are identical and for the most part the key events are all still there from the manga! For some odd reason those small-but-impactful changes have proven most detrimental in the eyes of most ardent followers of the manga. I’m not sure why, but the negative consensus regarding Vampire Bund seems to be so vocal. Perhaps the fans like myself who enjoyed it had no reason to voice our approval which is why no one sees that view. (Though I’m the first to admit that rationale is somewhat far-fetched.) I attribute this distaste from the core fanbase because, admittedly, the anime because does mess up some aspects, like motivation and plot event sequence, that occur after the series- but surely the anime series can’t be held at fault for something that hasn’t don’t yet, nor (at this point) for what it will most likely never do considering a second season was never announced. It’s important to know that lest you are a manga fan interested in seeing your favorite story converted to the big screen frame for frame—in that case you will in all likelihood be disappointed—there’s reason to take said complaints with a grain of salt. For those that have never experienced the manga though this is sure to be a treat. Even so, I’d like to mention such critical complaints only hurt the legacy of the franchise. Dissuading potential over trivial points is short-sighted and robs potential viewers of an enjoyable experience.
Not that a viewer should need to be dissuaded.
The ending three episodes conclude the third major arc of the series. Episode 1 is something of a standalone introduction. Episodes 2-7 deal with Mina Tepes and Akira Kaburagi coming to terms with their past and rediscovered relationship, as well as the various political and physical conflicts they face against, firstly, humans resisting the Bund’s creation and later the Vampire separatists known as Telomere and their various attempts to kill Queen Mina. Episodes 8 and 9 focus on the main acting face of Telomere—a powerful vampire known as Hysteria. The final three episodes 10-12 forgoes the focus on Telomere (which saw its primary agent defeated) and pivots the focus of the series to internal politics. Mina Tepes has an obligation to procreate the next heir in the Tepes line. Of that line, there are only four direct descendants left and the other three are male. The three other noble heads demand Mina, who has mysteriously remained young despite decades of time passing since the abrupt death of her mother, succumb to their political will. Primarily, this concerns choosing one of them as the husband-to-be. When Mina denies them this they finally decide to take the decision upon themselves, which sets up the conflict for the final arc of this season. These final three episodes are, by and large, the best thing to come out of this twelve episode series. It’s very psychological and truly tests Akira’s resolve towards Mina. This is where, in my opinion, the decision to include Mei Rei was such a great one. After all, as was stated this whole external conflict is still included in the manga…but it does very little in testing Akira internally. Fighting on behalf of his love interest? Sure, that’s one thing. But Dance in the Vampire Bund is all about playing with clichés and bending them in new and interesting ways. It’s taken for granted that, for the series to continue, Akira must ultimately defeat his enemies. So how, then, can the series create a tangible stake for the viewers to feel invested in. Well, I’ll leave that small pleasure for viewers to discover for themselves.
But I will say it’s worth it.
There is a major downside to this series. Two, actually. First, while the series does end on a proper and heartwarming note; the story remains incomplete and will probably never be continued. This means that the manga is the only option to continue experiencing the story. However, the anime takes a different route from the manga which means that- if you enjoyed the changes the anime makes from the manga as I did then the story can feel somewhat dry—at least until one gets past the parts the anime covered. Secondly, since the story does make some changes of plot order- certain ending descriptiosn are foreshadowing events that aren’t supposed to happen. Even for the sake of analysis I’m not going to say why due to the massive spoilers it would divulge. In any case, these are only problems assuming a viewer is going from anime to manga as I did. However, going from manga to anime seems to have the reverse effect. I don’t see logically why it should, but it does for nearly every anime review that claims to be critical for the sake of the manga’s sanctity. It’s not often that an original direction can make a story superior to its source material in any medium. This is one of the scarce few exceptions to that rule. (The only other off the top of my head being Birdy the Mighty: Decode)
Dance in the Vampire Bund is an underrated anime series that predates a number of fan-favorite modern and popular action series and features many elements that fans would later be expanded and come to be key centerpieces about those later series. For example, the inter-species dynamic between various types of sentient beings in Tokyo Ghoul is one dynamic that is prominently featured in Dance in the Vampire Bund. In Tokyo Ghoul it’s between Ghouls and humans and half-breeds. In Dance in the Vampire Bund it’s between Vampires and Humans and Lycans. Another example is in its inclusion of a non-standard romance: a great namesake for a fantasy series such as this. If there is a potential fan interested in watching Dance in the Vampire Bund and is a fan of the types of relationships as seen in series such as Future Diary or Deadman Wonderland; they most likely will enjoy what they find here as well. The writing is a step-down in some respects (at least until the final four episodes) but an improvement in others. One improvement I can firmly say Dance in the Vampire Bund has over its contemporaries is including realistic foil to the MC’s primary relationship. Mei Rei is a fantastic addition to the canon and her character is powerful and believable. Another improvement is in the dynamic between Akira and Mina and just how said factors play with a viewer’s expectation. Just what will Mina do next? Is a constant question running through viewer’s heads for the first six episodes of the series.
Perhaps I should have made this clear earlier, but one complaint against this show simply can not stand. Mina is not a child. Let us say it again just to be clear: Mina is not a child. She only looks like one. And that’s revealed not even to be her real body. In fact, her childlike appearance is something that Akira feels very uncomfortable with as well, and plays directly into the main early interactions between Akira and Mina. Anyone familiar with Interview with the Vampire is familiar with where the origin of this dynamic comes from. Vampires are supposed to be immortal beings. So what happens if you have a child that’s turned into a vampire? That’s one of the primary questions and themes explored in the now-revered classic vampire novels Interview with the Vampire. However, Dance in the Vampire Bund’s use of this idea is superficial at best. (She has an adult form that she hides.) Nevertheless, this is one dynamic that I actually ended up loving about the show because of how it plays into the series’ final conflict. It shows that the main writer constructed the story, and had to make use of proper literary devices like foreshadowing in order to make the plot twists believable to engage the audience. The animation and visuals, in traditional Shaft fashion, are quite simply breath-taking at times. While the gore is a step down from some its contemporaries in some respects, the camerawork and set pieces are by and large unique from anything that comes before or after it within the genre. Only other Shaft shows have similar camerawork and set pieces. It’s a unique staple of their products, I think. It is unfortunate that this show is the only one of Shaft’s recent series that was obtained by Funimation.
As mentioned, please know that the series is definitely worse in some ways as well. The subplots and villains certainly leave something to be desired compared to more contemporary series. In their motivations, presence, and threat the first two-thirds of Dance in the Vampire Bund’s main string-pullers come off as somewhat one-dimensional and not nearly imposing enough to be considered serious threats to the main characters. Hysteria’s use of Nanami, a fellow classmate of Akira’s, as a hostage isn’t engaging because the viewer most likely wouldn’t care all that much about Nanami much in the first place. Likewise, the Telomere agent Regendorf isn’t properly foreshadowed at all and is simply defeated and forgotten in the wake of Mina and Akira’s duking out of their internal feelings for each other. In any case- the pacing is very fast, so there’s never one conflict or villain that sticks around for long for viewers to get bored of. Fast pacing equates to fast thinking- and seeing how Mina (who uses Akira) resolves the early conflicts is very fascinating to behold, as well as how these rapid series of events affect her and Akira’s relationship.
There are definitely some ridiculous moments. The first ridiculous moment is in the beginning two episodes when all the background information is thrown onto viewers. (Or has yet to be) For all the viewer knows- there’s a reality TV episode that feels out of place in the first episode and a sexualized young girl being objectified in the second. It can be jarring, and this can be attributed to the series’ breakneck pacing which again is both a positive and a minus. Certainly, it would have helped to have a brief explanation as to Mina’s nature before the pseudo-sexualized-nude scene rather than after.
Later on, the fast pacing comes in handy concerning Hysterica and her terrorist plot being introduced and wrapped up in the course of two episodes. There indeed seems to be a straight-up pedophilic relationship between two side characters during that arc that’s…actually disturbing. It’s necessary to some extent because it directly connects the first arc concerning Telomere’s activity (at Akira’s high school) to the second arc. Hysterica, the main villain, hatches a plan to force Queen Mina out of the Bund as to kill her. She does this by using a girl as hostage, which Mina in turn “saves” by using her not-societially-acceptable fixation on a little boy. I’m not normally one to draw lines in the sand about where a show can and/or shouldn’t go…or anything creative wise really, but the actual plot is undermined because of the blatant objectification of the two side characters which take a focus right in the middle of Hysteria and Mina’s plans. The two characters in question are the student council president-turned-vampire Nanami Shinonome and the boy she looked after named Yuzuru. Their presence moves the plot forward from point A to B, to be sure, but I wouldn’t say they add anything beyond that. From what I understand their presence in the plot all but disappears once their involvement in resolving the Hysterica arc is over… beyond one pool scene in Episode 9 or 10 I think. I don’t even remember them at all in the manga. There’s one last minor villain is the literal incarnation of a walking cliché: the bullied character-turned-weak-vampire Hikosaka. His two appearances and untimely death, to be blunt, does nothing to affect Akira’s character in any significant way. In fact I found him somewhat distracting because his English dub voice actor is the same voice actor for the main character in Deadman Wonderland—Ganta Igarashi.
Finally, one should be reminded that Dance in the Vampire Bund, along with 99% of all anime are Speculative Fantasy. Comparable to what one would find in such titles ranging from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones. Enjoying said dynamics as part of a good escapist story and is not a crime. Do not be dissuaded by what at first appears to be a Loli. She isn’t one. If said viewer is a fan of any after-mentioned bloody action series (Parasyte, Akame ga Kill, or Tokyo Ghoul) than this is right up their alley. For reasons mentioned this series does have some downsides and legitimate criticisms. Give the show a legitimate chance and see for yourself. The best advice I can say is to know what kind of viewer you are and what you are looking for. The only potential winner here is you.
Cheers and best of luck,
Ill be honost, I only watched one full episode, and about half of the second but I can tell you this anime is a hoax. Dance in the Vampire Bund is my favorite manga, but The anime is Wayy off base from the manga. I mean even before I started reading the manga I tried watching the anime and hated it, hell it was a stroke of luck that I even picked up the manga in Boarders. My suggestion is that rather than waisting your time on this anime you should pick up the manga, then your life will be complete.
Dance in the Vampire Bund manga's score: 10/10
The story line seems both the same as all other shows about vampires but then it has a little bit of its own story line. I have a small feeling it’s a mix between ‘Black Blood Brothers’ and ‘Moon Phase’ where it’s a cutesy Lolita girl but is creating a new area for Vampires. I’m not so sure how I feel about Werewolves being controlled by Vampires. To me, they should be on the same level like all the other story lines but I guess it fits the story line. Akira feels a lot like Kouhei from Moon Phase and I would probably say they were the same person if it wasn’t for the fact that he isn’t a real weakling. Another thing that makes it odd is that Akira’s friend talks a lot throughout the story as though she isn’t in the show much.
The artwork is bright and crisp, though I feel it should have been a little darker. It’s rather high detailed in some places but then turns into action lines and crazy CG artwork in a couple parts. This is the really sad CG that doesn’t look right in the show. It’s also the fact that the parts they have CG could have been really easily created by drawing. The beginning is pretty interesting though the running around gets really old really fast. I’m also not found of the naked Lolita. It’s more fan service that isn’t needed. There is also way to many images of flowers when there not part of the show.
The music is really not that special. I only like the beginning song but the rest isn’t really even loud enough to hear it. The English voices are not that great, but yet not that bad too, pretty much a rather average show.
I must get this off my chest, I felt like a pedo bear watching this! I know that the charzcter is old but I did not want to see little girl boobs! So just to let you know there are boobs not a little just a little.
The story was really good, in my opinion it was a redemption for vampires after Twilight came out. They were kick ash they were breaking stuff and killing things. They way it starts is a hook, it hooked me in like a big ol' sucker fish.
Lets get real animation now adays is like prestine shiz along with the sound there is no random gurgling that shows up when you record.
The characters were so realistic I could see them being real people in the world today. Imagine the news if vampires were real they would be on it everyday. They would get pissed at being in the spotlight. I'm not going to go any further to avoid leading to any spoilers.
If you want vampire redemption, or you don't think they need redemption watch this.
This is my all time favorite anime. I love how they leave you with questions they never answer. I hate that thier is no second season. This anime has a great love story with twists in every episode. It's not your usual sappy love story you read these days about vampires. It brings us back to how vampires used to be. The way they are scary yet still sexy. There is lots of nudity in this manga like in a lot others. Some of the parts or aspects of this story may or may not make veiwers hate it. Most of it is only because of the age range between couples. All in all this is a great anime to watch. You get hooked and most people watch the whole season in one night.
Mina Tepes is one of the main characters, she is the ruler of all the vampires. Akira Kaburagi Regendorf is her body gaurd who in the beggining lost his memory, he is also a werewolf. werewolfs in this story don't look like wolves just three times bigger they actually look like humans turned into a beast with the abs and all. Mei Ren is another character in this story that likes to confuse you a lot but if pay close attention you will understand what she is trying to say. Mei Ren is a shifter like Akira but she is a tiger and the last of her kind. Thier is also Yuki one of Akira's closest friends and used to be girlfriend before he lost his memory.