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Dance In The Vampire Bund Complete Series Anime DVD Review

8 min read

A title that came to the US with controversy; unfortunately the controversy is almost more interesting than the title.

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!

Please Note: This review is the DVD portion of the BD/DVD combo release that was previously reviewed here for its Blu-ray and overall packaging. We split these releases up among different reviewers so that multiple opinions on the show can be presented to the readers.

The Review:
Audio:
For this release, I listened to the English 5.1 dub. The Japanese track is offered in 2.0. The channels were clear with no dropout among the tracks, and there was a good amount of directionality with the sound effects. And while the dialogue stayed in the center, I did enjoy the voice work. In particular, I liked Monica Rial’s work as Mina, as I think she found a nice balance that reflected both the childlike urges of the vampire princess and the stern leadership with which she rules the vampire race.

Video:
Dance in the Vampire Bund boasts some pretty impressive visuals. The artwork is clean, and there are some beautiful effects in the stark contrasts between the deep shadows and bright light as the vampires worked around their biggest weakness. I was a fan of the character designs too, as they did a really good job of portraying the sensuousness of the vampires without resorting to some of the typical anime tricks such as rampant fanservice. They kept to the traditions of the European vampire myths they were basing everything from. As far as I saw, the transfer looked clean too, so I have no real complaints.

Packaging:
This is the DVD portion of a combo BD/DVD release. Packaging details are available in the BD review.

Menu:
The menu for this release is pretty basic. There is a picture of Mina in the middle, set inside a classic photo border. The selections are offered to the side in an off-white color that stands out well from the maroon background. The highlight is in yellow, which can get lost a bit on lesser setups, but it otherwise stands out well.

Extras:
All of the extras for this release are on the second disc. There are clean versions of the opening and closing along with a few different trailers and promo videos. There is also an extra called “Intermission 1-12” which is a series of one minute long video comics which come from the original manga that help show how the manga translated to the screen. Things like this is something I’d like to see more of, actually.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dance in the Vampire Bund is a title that met with not a little bit of controversy when first announced by Funimation, as they admitted the anime would be censored upon release due to some nudity featuring the apparently underage Mina. But it wasn’t just some underage nudity that was the problem, as that had passed inspection in many anime already released in this country, but rather the context of it.

Mina is a vampire, which presents a couple of issues. Historically, vampires are very sensuous creatures. It is part of their appeal, as well as part of the inherent danger they represent—they are the ultimate predators. As a vampire, Mina shares in this appeal, and where she is quite a bit older than the twelve years of age her body looks, she doesn’t consider the potential scandal her naked body might create. Funimation wasn’t so much reacting to the fact that she had a few nude scenes—as I said, underage nudity isn’t a particularly new issue in anime—rather, they were reacting to scenes such as in the second episode where Mina has her chosen beloved, Akira, reapply shade gel to her nude body, giving the impression of a sensual massage.

Some would suggest that Funimation was overreacting, as when they announced the censoring of Dance of the Vampire Bund, there was a huge backlash, both from fans of the manga and from people who just dislike the idea of censorship (we’ll ignore the elephant in the room that was likely at the heart of some people’s protests). While the series was initially released in edited form in their streaming service, Funimation eventually backtracked after noting that the content was not as graphic as it could easily have been, and have now released it in full unedited form for DVD and BD.

And really, I feel like this is a situation where any publicity is good publicity for Funimation. Granted, I might not be the ideal test case, as I don’t always keep up with what’s going on in Japan as much as I’d like, but Dance in the Vampire Bund was not a title I had heard of prior to the controversy. And frankly, it is likely a title that would have passed completely under my radar without it too. But thanks to it, I wanted to check it out to find out what the fuss is about. Unfortunately, while certainly not bad by any stretch, the controversy threatens to be a lot more interesting.

Akira is a seemingly normal boy who attends a very prestigious high school: he has a potential girlfriend, does well in his classes, and is generally well liked. But for some reason, he cannot remember his life prior to a year ago. Sometimes he gets flashes of dramatic events, but he can never seem to put the pieces together.

But that all changes with the arrival in Japan of Princess Mina Tepes, the hereditary leader of the Vampire race. Mina has decided to bring vampires from mythology out into the open and has purchased a large tract of land in Japan in order to build the Vampire Bund, a safe haven for vampires to live. Mina interjects herself into Akira’s life, claiming that she knows him; unfortunately, he does not remember her, but there is something about her that sparks his instincts, and he is determined to find out why that might be.

I initially had a tough time getting into Dance in the Vampire Bund. I think partially it is because I have a bit of vampire fatigue from the slew of vampire themed movies, TV shows, and books from the past few years, but I also found it initially difficult to just get into the two main characters, Mina and Akira as there were just too many questions with both of them that it was almost overwhelming.

When Mina first arrives on the scene, there is a bit of confusion with her character. She obviously cares for Akira, but at the same time, she often takes a position of such authority over him, coming off as an overbearing master. She takes the same approach with humans. She openly promotes peace between humans, but is not afraid to run roughshod over the human leadership in order to get what she wants. It makes it hard to understand whether or not we are supposed to like Mina. Throw in all of the questions about Akira’s past, not to mention how he fits in with Mina and the vampires, and I just didn’t know what to think. And for me, giving me characters I can’t latch onto is the quickest way to lose me.

Now, I will grant you: having those questions is important for the story to progress like it does. It just wouldn’t work if we knew more about Akira and Mina from the outset than we do, and (hypocritically enough) it actually works well. The initial storyline for this title is the establishment of the Bund and an accompanying series of terroristic incidents by some mysterious rebel vampires. The question at hand is how Mina fits in with all of the incidents and whether she is a target or culprit. And for Akira, he finds himself torn between wanting to protect the Princess and revolt against her apparent tyranny. And despite my lack of interest in the characters, I do have to say that it was well done.

The other thing I liked about the plotting in this series is that they did not try to stretch that initial story out through all twelve episodes. It is an unusual move, but this short series actually plays through three storylines. And for me, this works because it keeps the storytelling tight and moving. I would have expected them to get twelve episodes out of that first storyline, and that would have introduced either quite a bit of dead time or some elements not present in the original story. Possibly both. And that rarely works out well.

Another positive effect of getting through the initial plot and move onto some others is that it gives us some time with the “real” Mina and Akira. The second story sees Mina having to track down a rogue vampire causing problems and threatening to bring down Mina, and the third consists of the heads of the three major vampire families deciding to test Akira to hopefully kill him and break Mina of her dependence on him. While these two stories were not quite as well put together as the first one, they both gave me some time to get to know the two protagonists better and therefore become more interested in them. Considering I ended the series thinking much better of them than I started, it does make me wonder how I’d feel about this series if I watched it again.

In Summary:
Dance in the Vampire Bund was a title that took me a while to warm up to, mostly because the mystery required to start out made me indifferent to the characters. While the later stories weren’t quite as good as the first, once I warmed up to Mina and Akira, I found I liked it a lot better. I’ll have to watch it again soon to see how interested I am in the early episodes now that I know the truth about the characters. It still isn’t the greatest thing I have ever seen, but if you give it some time, it can certainly be entertaining. If you like vampire stories, then as long as the occasion nudity of the seemingly underage Mina doesn’t bother you, you should find enough in here to enjoy to make it worth your time. Mildly recommended.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Intermissions 1-12, Original Commercials, Promo Video, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song, Trailers.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 14, 2011
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 widescreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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