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DVD Review

DVD cover

Dance in the Vampire Bund
The Complete Series


Starring (voice): Aoi Yuuki, Yuuichi Nakamura, Chiwa Saito
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 24 October 2011

When Mina Tepes - queen of the vampires - suddenly appears in Japan to establish a colony for her blood-sucking brethren, Akira Kaburagi's world will never be the same. As a boy, Akira vowed to serve the ruler of the night, and now he must fulfil his destiny by protecting Mina from those who would dethrone her...!

Dance in the Vampire Bund is a manga adaptation whose premise - vampires revealing themselves to the human world - has been seen before, most recently in the hugely successful book and TV series True Blood. The initial revelation to the public by TV broadcast is handled tongue in cheek with a wonderfully credibly pastiche of the type of inane panel game commonplace on Japanese television, with a cameo by the series' author Nozomu Tamaki, who breezily admits taking liberties with vampire folklore for the sake of entertainment. A sensationalistic report of an assault leads to the appearance of the eternally childlike vampire queen Mina Tepes, who uses her tremendous financial standing to leverage Japan's government into allowing her to establish a safe haven for vampires on reclaimed land off the coast. Mina, however, seems to have more interest in the unremarkable teenager Akira Kaburagi who, unsurprisingly for a manga series, is more than he seems.

While Akira and Mina's relationship would be ordinary fare for a typical anime, the decision to emphasise Mina's childish appearance - putting it politely - is the series' main obstacle to being taken seriously. Tamaki and director Akiyuki Shinbo never pass up the opportunity to present Mina in as overtly sexual a manner as possible, from the title sequence in which she dances nearly nude, to the early incident in which she strips naked and insists Akira apply her with anti-sunlight cream. Sexualising extremely young-looking female characters is hardly a new trend in anime and manga, of course, but the presentation of Mina and her otherwise straightforwardly romantic relationship with Akira - uncomfortably counterpointed by her expressed wish to live as a normal child - mean that Vampire Bund has little chance of engaging casual fans.

There's plenty of the more conventional sort of fan-service to go 'round, as is common in anime today, yet it's hard not to wish the talented Shinbo had more confidence in his material without resorting to such obvious tricks. His distinctive style, full of artfully composed shots, faux-realistic backdrops and witty editing, is so effective in less conventional series such as Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Bakemonogatari that it's a little odd to see it used in a relatively conventional adventure series. The script by Hiroyuki Yoshino is of good quality and has much better pacing than the typical twelve-episode anime, with a mid-season enemy providing an effective bridge for the storyline. Only an overwrought subplot involving Akira's uptight class president and a young male admirer drags the series into eye-rolling melodrama.

If you can overcome the jarringly overt fan-service content throughout, Dance in the Vampire Bund is solid fantasy anime, yet it's worth questioning why we should so often have to wade through gratuitous sexual material to find a decent story - saying that it's just the public's tastes being catered to is insufficient when the anime market is so oversaturated with such material that finding series that don't rely on it is near impossible. While this series is very much part of the problem, it's more enjoyable than I expected.


Richard Hunt

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