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Dance in the Vampire Bund DVD/Blu-ray Complete Series Limited Edition Review

11 min read

Vampires prove they exist and their princess sets to create a land for her people to live safely in.

What They Say:
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 fulfill his destiny by protecting Mina from those who would dethrone her!

This limited edition comes packaged in a chipboard art box.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Please Note This review is of the BD/DVD combo set and all technical elements focuses on the Blu-ray discs.

Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward for a FUNimation release in that the original Japanese language is here in stereo while the English mix is in 5.1, both of which are encoded in Dolby TrueHD. Both mixes work very well though the usual elements are there in that the English mix often just sounds louder across the forward soundstage while adding some rear channel material here and there to good effect. The original Japanese mix has a solid forward soundstage design to it where it handles the character dialogue well and placement is spot on when required, especially when there are a few scenes that have some depth to them with where the characters are. The English mix enhances all of this and has a warmer, richer feel in general but not substantially so. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second alongside a handful of extras. This series has a lot of detailed animation to it and a great sense of color that translates beautifully with the transfer and encoding here. The shadows have a great sense of depth to them and the line work maintains a very solid feel without breaking up and the backgrounds have a rich palette to work with. The dark colors hold up the best and really helps to create the atmosphere that draws you into the show. Colors are very rich and warm throughout when necessary while the darker scenes have the proper cool look to them. With the way the animation works throughout the show, it captures the source material very well and provides for a very engaging and distraction free release.

Packaging:
Dance in the Vampire Bund is a DVD/BD combo release that is done with all DVD packaging. The limited edition set contains a heavy chipboard box that houses two clear thinpak cases with one case for the Blu-ray discs and the other for the DVDs. The box sets the tone well with the front of it featuring Mina in her red cloak and skimpy outfit that flows out from her to cover the entire area, leaving us just a bit of skin to see and her blond lochs. It’s disturbingly enticing and is kept simple with just a small logo that doesn’t intrude on the larger image. The back cover goes for a very dark look with blacks and grays as it has a very pale, porcelain version of Akira with no clothes on but the cloaks whipping about him lightly that are also black. He has a very vampiric look here, definitely one of the undead. Similarly, the logo is kept simple and small off to the side so it doesn’t distract.

Inside the box, the two cases provide for very different styles. The spines are nicely done with a bit of color so that the Blu-ray discs have a blue lettering along the bottom of it while the DVD has some red. The Blu-ray case has a very violent front cover with Mina tearing something deeply as there’s a ton of blood flowing as she has a very cruel grin on her face, all of which is set against a black background. It’s the usual cute girl gone horrifyingly bad angle, but it works. The DVD case artwork goes in the opposite direction as it features Mina in some simple and skimpy lingerie on her with her come hither look that is equally disturbing in its own way. The background goes different as well with lots of red and a number of roses scattered about around her. The back covers are the same for each of them with a breakdown of what episodes are on what dosc by number and title and a clean listing of the extras available on the set. Each case has artwork on the reverse side where one features Mina in heavy vampire mode while the other puts her in a traditional schoolgirl outfit out in the bright sunny day with blue skies that’s very cute.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is fairly straightforward as the bulk of it is given over to action oriented clips playing throughout the full screen while along the bottom we get a gothic style menu that has the basics with great colors and a nice sense of design to it. The music for it is pretty good as it builds up the atmosphere well while playing to the action side of it. Submenus load quickly and easily though as usual, the episode selection itself is a little rough just because it’s small text and the first disc has eight episodes to work through. The menu navigation doubles as the pop-up menu as well and the discs did not read our players’ language presets as they defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this release are all on the second disc and there’s a decent selection here to flesh things out. The first is a sixteen minute piece that contains the twelve intermission pieces which are basically manga pieces that are skimmed around with Japanese dialogue playing that are fully translated. They’re interesting pieces that help to flesh things out just a little bit more. In addition to that, we get a set of commercials for the series, the original promo video that was released and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series of the same name by Nozomu Tamaki which has run for eleven volumes as of this writing, Dance in the Vampire Bund is a twelve episode series animated by Shaft which goes against their usual types of shows that we see over here as it’s more traditional, but still layered with rich, beautiful animation. The show was controversial upon its license because of the look of the lead character, a several hundred year old vampire whose form was that of a young girl, because there are several scenes where she’s skimpily adorned and there’s plenty of natural sexual innuendo because this is, after all, a vampire show. Contextually, it does all work and there are elements introduced later on that eases some of the concerns that some may have, but having dealt with vampire stories and ones like this in the past, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest and the whole controversy was a foolish tempest in a teapot that deserves no more mention than that.

The basic premise of the series is one that has been worked to good effect in the last several years with the idea that vampires are making their presence known. Whereas they used to be the hidden predator of the night, they’re now taking on a different feeling as they want to assert their position in the world, have “equal” rights and to live alongside humanity. This series does have the elements that aren’t as interested in all of that, fearing the change that’s being pushed upon them, but a lot of it comes from not being able to adapt to how the world has gotten smaller. Eventually, the truth would come out and some of those prefer to take the approach of controlling how it all happens rather than it happening in a Very Bad Fashion.

Enter the opening episode, the weakest of the entire series in my opinion, as a talk show format is done with a bit of a game show feeling as well as people talk about recent attacks and how people are claiming vampires are really real. It all turns to dealing with various experts and the like, but it was really designed by the vampire princess Mina Tepes to expose the violent vampire for what he is and to introduce Mina to the world in a fashion that can be slowly accepted. It’s thought to be a gimmick at first, but the show quickly turns the whole thing into reality as Mina has worked the capabilities of her people, who are bound to obey her through lineage and blood, to purchase many corporations and move much business into Japan. Should she not get her way, it would be an economic collapse. And since she just wants a special zone in Japan set aside for her people, it’s something that is slowly but surely accepted. Sadly, the large social implications aren’t explored all that much as it’s mostly just glossed over in favor of the character material itself. When it does dabble in this area with the politics and intrigue, it’s a lot of fun.

Mina is the driving force of the series and she’s a disarming character as she has the design of a pee-pubescent girl but the mind of someone several hundred years old. She’s had long term goals in mind with what she’s doing and it’s amusing to see it unfold. When she enrolls in the school that becomes the focus of things at times, the student body president and others demand that she not be allowed. Of course, it helps to have been the real founder of the school, but that just sets other events into motion. One of her reasons for going to the school though is that it’s where Akira has been going and she has a connection to him. While he’s been living a normal life for the past year, albeit with lost memories from before, things have been gnawing at him he can’t figure out. Which is why he didn’t return the attentions of a fellow student named Yuki and has largely just been going through the motions. Discovering that he’s actually a werewolf, and formerly one of her elite guard before a mission went badly for him, raises a lot of questions and it pushes the show into a circuitous route to explore it over the course of it while also rebuilding the relationship between Mina and Akira.

The series runs through several stories, but three primary arcs that have to be dealt with. The first main arc runs over eight episodes or so as it shows the formation of the vampire bund and bringing together the various elements. Mina works the cute and vicious side as well as the political maven who stands for only so much defiance. The second arc works one of the other vampire clans that has their issues with what Mina is doing by bringing in Hysterica, a vampire who has a history with Vera, a vampire of Mina’s who has served her for a very long time. The third arc works in the mystery of what happened to Akira a year prior and helps to really reinforce his relationship with Mina, showing it as a bond that covers a great deal of time, while showing how Yuki deals with much of it. With Yuki providing the narration for the show at times, there’s a very sad edge to it all because of that and it adds a very good element.

Dance in the Vampire Bund has a very engaging story as it deals with a similar story to what True Blood does, but with different goals. The scale of things is what’s explored here at times, but it also works a great deal of character drama and interaction to it. Akira’s uncertainty about things with his past is a background issue for much of it, but it does color some of what he does as he returns to the fold and serves and protects Mina. The rightness of it, especially after he discovers his nature again, is handled well and without a lot of needless angst and drama. Mina is a very appealing character as she longs for Akira to remember what it was they had, while also still having to deal with all the plans she has in motion, and those that are trying to both gain favor and control over her. She has her secrets that are revealed, and they’re fun to watch. The show strikes a very good balance between the action and intrigue while still focusing heavily on the characters themselves.

The animation by Shaft here is really spot on and beautiful. It doesn’t work heavily in the usual vampire mythos designs but it knows where its origins are. By dealing with the modern world, it still spends most of its time in shadows but also shows how they’ve grown over the years to be able to use the light. Bringing in other things like werewolves works well and the slow inclusion of other clans and those who serve as Mina’s guardians is very well done. The show has a very rich and diverse look because of all that it covers and the animation, designs and overall detail of it all makes it a very engaging series. It has a distinct look to it that lets it stand out on its own, to have a certain beauty to the colors and a great depth at times, but not so much that it’s so striking as to be distracting.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect going into this title and I was a bit apprehensive since most of the Shaft animated shows I’ve seen have been very hit or miss for me. This one definitely proved to be a hit, especially as they avoided their usual style, and we get a fun, rich, sexy and violent vampire story that has several arcs within the twelve episodes it runs. There are primarily three arcs that play out as well as various character growth arcs that figure into different parts of it and they still had time to find some fun to have throughout it. It typically plays things serious though, working the story of Mina and her plans which have their own layers to it as well as the connections with the other characters that figure into it all. With so much of the focus on the controversy, the really engaging stories that are told here, that play much better in marathon form here I suspect, is definitely very enjoyable and a great addition to the bevy of vampire series that exist. I can easily see taking this in again without having to turn a critical eye on it and just enjoy it for the atmosphere of it all. Definitely recommended.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interviews with Director and Cast, Original Trailers, Promo Videos, TV Spots, Tease

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 14th, 2011
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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