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Dance in the Vampire Bund PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 27 September 2010 00:00

Dance in the Vampire Bund

Akira Kaburagi's a highschool student who also happens to be a werewolf. Mina Tepes is the queen of all vampires, hundreds of years old (although in the body of a nine-year-old) who he has sworn to protect. Mina has great plans for ensuring that human and vampire can live together peacefully - but with others in her realm deeply opposed to such plans, Akira's got his work cut out for him if he's to keep Mina safe...

Dance in the Vampire Bund is one of those rare shows that you really don't want to judge by the first episode alone, as it really doesn't give an accurate impression of the rest of the series - it gets underway with a panel show on Japanese TV, with the participants and audience arguing about whether or not vampires are real. They are, of course, as is eventually revealed when one of the panellists fangs up and chows down on one of his companions, before Mina emerges from the audience to reveal just how widespread vampires are. Be afraid, be very afraid...

But Mina isn't your stereotypical vampire queen. She has a ruthless streak, sure, but being trapped in the body of a nine-year-old (and that's not just fanservice for the lolicon crowd - there's a valid story reason as well, which is revealed towards the end of the series) seems to have given her a sense of childish playfulness and an eagerness to do "the right thing" that's putting her on a collision course with the more traditionally-minded members of vampire nobility.

Her plan is to create a special zone off the coast of Japan, the Vampire Bund, where vampires can live their own lives - and with vampires essentially isolated there, the humans outside the Bund would no longer have to live in fear of their necks being used as tasty snacks. This is something Mina has been planning for quite some time, with both the financial and political might of her empire backing the plan, and she's prepared to go to quite extreme lengths - including blackmail and kidnapping - to ensure that she gets her way.

Equally determined, though, are her opponents within the nobility, who still retain significant power in the vampire hierarchy, and between them and shadowy organisation Telomere, she's got a lot of opposition to deal with - opposition that will go to even greater lengths than Mina to ensure they emerge victorious.

Akira, initially, is blissfuly unaware of all this: a student at a prestigious private academy, he's missing large chunks of his memory and is simply whiling away his time in perfectly normal human fashion: he goes to school, has an are they / aren't they relationship going on with classmate Yuki, and simply wants to live his life in peace. The fates aren't so kind, though, and Mina's appearance at his school brings at least some of his memories back. He's a member of the Earth Clan, a werewolf tribe dedicated to protecting Mina - and he himself used to have a rather... special relationship with Mina, until a mission he had been on went awry, resulting in the loss of both his memories and his usefulness. The details of his final mission remain unknown until much later in the series, but he returns to his duties as her bodyguard - which both puts him in the line of fire of Mina's enemies, and introduces an interesting little relationship between Mina and Yuki where they somehow manage to become both best friends and love rivals.

Pinning down quite what Dance in the Vampire Bund is trying to be isn't the easiest of jobs. There's a large dose of fanservice (mostly obscured by convenient steam or lensflare in the online streams - this will apparently be corrected for the DVD release), but there's equally plenty of blood & gore and a strong line in political shenanigans as well. It's not a series that lends itself to simply being on in the background, as there's enough going on that you need to keep track of it closely if you're not going to end up lost.

A lot of the criticism I've seen of this series has centred on it being 'loli bait', and while there's a certain element of that here it's a little unfair to condemn the whole series based on that point alone. The plot itself is well put-together, the characters are intriguing (particularly the occasional appearances of the mysterious Soi Fon, who seems to have a soft spot for Akira herself but whose motivations in helping him from time to time take a long time to be revealed), and the battle sequences are very well-done - although again in places suffering from tv-edit lensflare. The process of turning a human into a vampire is often presented in fiction as a sensuous affair, and that's captured quite well in the series too.

All of which makes picking on the series because of Mina's diminutive size seem a case of rather missing the point. That's one aspect of the series, sure, but it's not overplayed and plays a distant second fiddle to the more serious business of Mina creating her Bund. With that side of the tale being generally enjoyable, with some nice twists and turns along the way, the good more than outweighs the bad - and hey, with these streams being tv-edit versions anyway, the worst of what lolicon-baiting there is here is edited out anyway. Dance in the Vampire Bund turned out being a pleasant surprise for me when I wasn't really expecting much from it (all that negative press beforehand), and ultimately proved be well worth watching.

Rating - ****