The Celluloid Vampire: Dance In The Vampire Bund (2010) – Reviews by Val

images (1)This 2010 anime series was really gripping, one of the best vampire anime’s around I would say. I watched the Japanese language version with English subs, but there is an English language version as well. Like other anime’s, this series is based upon a series of manga books.

The story is complex and well thought out and tells how vampires emerge into the human world in Japan for the first time, and how fear on both sides changes the world’s political status quo as the vampires and humans become split along the lines of those who want to keep the status quo versus those who desire peace. Additionally the leader of the vampires is a queen who is far older than she really appears.

The major part of the story revolves around the Queen of all vampires, Mina Tepes and the friendship between her and her protector, Akira. Young Akira is a werewolf and a member of her loyal werewolf bodyguard. Mina reveals to the world the existence of vampires and her desire for both races to live together. Her plan to end the isolation felt by many vampires involves gaining permission from the Japanese government to create a special district for vampires, “The Bund” on an artificial island off the coast of Japan by paying off the entire national debt of the Japanese government. If the Japanese government were to refuse her offer, the country will be plunged into a catastrophic and unrecoverable economic crisis. Naturally, the entire scenario has been orchestrated by the vampires to guarantee success. So guess what? The Japanese prime minister quits, leaving the whole decision up to the Parliament to decide by means of a vote. This forms an interesting backdrop to the whole story, as vampires battle each other in the midst of mundanes who are split either in favor or against the vampires or their new homeland.

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The many faces of Mina Tepes

This series was received enthusiastically, although there are complications in how some of the characters present to the world. In this storyline, as seems common in many anime, characters “transform” from one appearance to another, depending on whether they are vampires or werewolves etc. In Mina’s case, she spends 90% of the series looking like a tiny pre-pubescent female, and on transformation – usually after consuming blood, she reveals her true form. The true form in this story is alluded to as the true face of the inner character of each person, and with most of the “bad guys” in the series, these are repulsive and ugly. In Mina’s case, she transforms into a tall and fully detailed adult version of herself, with large bat wings. According to her, she hides this appearance to all but a few (including Akira), because of reasons that are only revealed much later in the series. Many others, especially the bad guy vamps, present as anthromorphed geckos and spiders etc, in keeping with their characters. The theory is, if they present as ugly monsters, then they are not good people inside. Beauty thus equals good, ugly = bad, in keeping with the cliche’ of modern society.

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 They grow up so quickly…

The appearance of Mina caused this series numerous problems, especially when it reached Western shores, since it was feared by some that it may “play to the imaginations of pedophiles”, since Mina appeared to be a late pre-teen girl in the romantic company of Akira, who when not a raging giant gray wolf ripping bad vampres to shreds, is a fairly good-looking 18 year old boy. As the story develops, it becomes immediately clear that there is a romantic association developing between them, until by the end, it is full-blown romance. Some sites report that Western releases were censored because of this, while others were not.

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Akira – generic-looking lead male character, werewolf, bodyguard to the Queen of Vampires, and all-round nice-guy cliche’

The version I saw was uncensored and so I was able to judge for myself. In all honesty, there were moments where I felt a little wary and downright uncomfortable considering the obviously sexualized appearance of most of the female characters in the story in terms of dress (or undress), but I think that whole aspect is somewhat overplayed by critics, and I think their fears were probably unfounded. If it was so, it would probably have been banned by actual censors around the world rather than just by a marketing company. When you consider that the character of Mina is far older than Akira, and not just by 7 or so years – and she is not mentally (or physically, other than her appearance) a child, nor is she even human – and she wields great power, commanding bad vampires to die on the spot, and sending soldiers to their deaths like a statesman would move pieces on a chess board.

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Handy with a sword…

Aside from that, it’s anime, for goodness sake, not actual live action film. The character of Mina is an adult in every aspect – and when she transforms, she physically kicks butt and is pretty handy with a sword. There are no scenes I would consider to be overtly pornographic, although there is quite a bit of nudity and partial nudity of various characters in the run of the series, although any detail is so vague as to be merely suggestive of shape or form – but probably still enough to give a censor a stroke. Especially if they date from the era of Scope Magazine. It’s not exactly a very adult story form or even story line, and at best might be focused at teens and the younger adult viewer (rather than the 40 year-old Vampyre researcher and amateur fang film-buff) so I would be hard pressed to imagine the kind of weirdo who would watch this sort of thing for actual sexual gratification *snerk* so perhaps it’s no surprise that I just don’t see it.

I suppose I could say that if someone were to look for things to criticize on that point, it would more than likely reside in the mind of the beholder. On the psychology of the issue, I could write reams about the whole underlying topic, and about how the concept of the perceived maturity and inner adult of a child could be used by a sexual predator to excuse his or her actions regarding a minor, but it’s also possible that the viewing public are overly cautious and far too afraid to not be always “politically correct” and see potential harm in anything. I don’t feel this is the case in this series, since perception depends on context. If we want to get into “moral” territory, it’s a series glorifying the mythical supernatural vampire, blood-lust and lycanthropy, but with a little animated partial nudity thrown in – so what exactly was the issue again? However, if you look past that point at the story itself, it is a beautiful tale, well told – and some people can find something ugly to criticize in anything, if they look hard enough.

The other plot devices of the story, the Fangless – those vampires who chose to remove their own fangs rather than to harm human beings – making themselves neither human nor vampire, and the Bund itself – are very clever. The Fangless become a helpless minority despised by humans and vampires alike, except for Mina, who creates a safe space for them in the Bund, and embraces them into their social order. The Bund becomes a country within a country, a safe refuge for vampires, their  Otherkin friends, and the oppressed Fangless.

The sub-plots are well developed and intriguing. Another set of vampire leaders, The Three, are each vying for the position of Betrothed, in order to produce an heir of pure blood with Mina, since all of them are descended of the Pure One, the line of Dracula itself. Turned vampires (another stereotype) are simply not pure enough for this, and so the future of the ruling class depends on this. Since the Three have a level of influence over Mina and her Clan, dating back to an ancient war in which all females of the Pureblood were wiped out – barring her, this results in a turn of events which reveals the vulnerable side to Mina Tepes, and also her inner strength and will to fight for her own independence and the survival of her dream of the Bund.

As Akira fights for his survival and to free Mina from The Three, she places her “entirety” on the line in a bet that will determine the future. If he loses, then she and all her possessions will belong to one of The Three. The idea of her becoming the possession of one of these three repulsive creatures is simply nauseating. However, if Akira wins, then they must absolve her of any marital obligations to them and submit to her as Queen, no longer bound to them in any way. Her contingency plan reveals her own desperate thinking, since it involves killing herself along with The Three should they refuse to honor their wager. In order for her to win, Akira must survive by killing all of the assassins sent by The Three to kill him because they see him as an obstacle to marrying Mina and producing an heir of pure blood. Naturally, The Three are thoroughly unlikeable and unsavory characters who absolutely despise and look down upon Akira and his kind, and view the idea that  Pureblood could have any feelings for a werewolf as disgusting and insulting to the vampire race. They also see Mina as nothing more than a means to an end, a possession which the three of them are vying over and competing for. No matter what your feelings on the rest of the story, you will I think, be rooting for Akira and Mina all the way.

At only 12 episodes long, this story comes to an end where I find myself screaming for more! I wish they would make another season or two… and more than enough loose ends are alluded to by the close of the last episode to allow the story to be picked up in a sequel.

Dance In The Vampire Bund is listed in the SAVCC Vampire Series Database.

References:

Wikipedia

Anime News Network

My Anime List

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About Octarine Valur

Octarine Valur - Founder: House Valur, South African Vampyre Community, South African Vampi(y)re Alliance (SAVA), SA Vampyre news (SAVN). View all posts by Octarine Valur

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