O.K fan service series…we’re going to have a little talk. You see, I’m supposed to not like you. Please stop this…stop doing shows which are surprisingly decent with their dark turns, decent story and in depth characters.
What They Say :
The World’s Not Ready For Her Reign!
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!
The Review :
I watched disc 1 in English and disc 2 in Japanese, the English having a 5.1 Dolby Surround effect with the Japanese in 2.0 Stereo. The audio had no issues with its quality in terms of audio, timing and effects, and any notable distortion between audio and subtitles. This is become the standard of Manga releases, and it’s nice to see especially with their darker releases that they are able to do a quality release regarding how atmospheric they intend to be.
In widescreen effect, the video combined dark and gritty animation with both vibrant clear (if loli serviced) openings with dark, deep and at times violent animation. There were so sign of problems with audio/visual timing with subtitles, and the colours flowed very well on my HD TV –even when the parts where vampires are turned to dust, the possible grainy effects are not seen as the colours flow through each scene naturally – with Manga currently basically being nearly all my reviews, their releases are constantly good in regards with this.
There was no packaging for this release.
The menu on both discs is similar and quite standard, with poses of Mina on a dark red background in a sailor uniform and in her vampire regal on disc 1 and 2 respectively. The selections are standard and easy to access, Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on Disc 2, Extras. Again, on the episode selection there are no pictures and just titles, with no scene selection. Other than add, easily accessible and straight forward.
The extras aren’t overly heavy but there is one particular interesting one. The basic ones are 5 commercials (some with repeated material) which only last over a minute, and the clean openings and endings of the anime.
The interest extra is what is labeled as ‘intermissions’. These are short manga style clips which in total last just over 16 minutes – there is a clip from each episode which fill in some of the blanks of certain parts in each episode. For example, episode 1 showcases a little about Akira in the street when he was interviewed, ep2 – Akira remembering Mina and Mina letting him rest after the battle as Wolf appears, ep 3- Nanami/Yuzuru – a bit about Yuzuru’s family and how his parents too absorbed in their work, ep 4- the fangless talking about Mina, ep 5 – Alphonse acquiring one of the maids but she refuses to return being an assassin, ep 6 – Beowulfs outside the church making decisions, ep 7 – school vampires being taken to the bund as they worry and how Nanami became the servant of Hysterica, ep 8 – Vera reminiscences about Francesca, ep 9 – Hysterica’s getting trapped, ep 10 – Yuki/Wolf, Yuki not leaving the bund because of her friends, ep 11 – how Akira was found and rescued by the fangless and their mother and ep 12 – Yuki/Mina bonding – Yuki working on a new writing piece…which of course being this anime. It really actually helps fill in a number of holes in the story (which in turn manages to raise the grade up a little), a rare case of an extra helping out with the story whilst being unique in itself with its manga setting with the Japanese voices. Very interesting.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After recently reviewing Strike Witches, I was wondering if this series, which is perhaps even more infamous with the loli fan service (to the point where it was going to be censored in the US) – I was wondering how this would fit in. And yes, whilst there were minor uncomfortable moments, it certainly wasn’t as bad as I feared. In fact, the series was much better than I anticipated, to the point where anytime I get a fan service series, I no longer have to panic because in terms of storytelling, it can definitely surprise you.
It starts off very uniquely as well, with a TV show showcase apparent vampire attacks, as in a game show/storytelling scenario, they discuss if vampires exist. They get comments from a model, a manga artist, a comedienne and a star of a recent movie. They bring in more guests, including a woman named Miss Veratos who declares as a leader of vampires, and a young girl from Romania who begins to make a few people nervous as they reveal some evidence of vampire’s exists – an arm of a vampire. The Romanian girl begins to begin taunting the panel as it’s increasingly obvious that one of the panel isn’t there as a panelist…but instead to get his arm back. With one interjection later, the movie star is revealed to be a vampire, and the little girl is actually the leader of the vampires, named Mina Tepes. After disposing of the vampire, she reveals her plan in unison with helping the Japanese government’s financial woes, to acquire a land to create her own country, the ‘vampire bund.’ And all these with an interesting note of someone they interviewed on the street named Akira…who Mina seems to know…
After the introductory episode, the plot begins to show through. The Akira boy is shown at his school, where it’s obvious after a flashback that he has some sort of past connection to Mina. However, his memory has been wiped and the series other main plot outside of the creation of the bund and Mina’s struggle, is getting his memory back to showcase his relationship to the princess. Alongside him is Yuki, his best friend/possible former girlfriend…which makes things interesting when Mina ‘transfers’ as a new transfer student. This later takes a new twist when Vera (Veratos) is shown to be Mina’s bodyguard, and Mina is in fact the headmaster of the school, which brings dispute in the student council with her wanting to create a haven for vampires, whose stigma is obvious. But even more so when Mina and Akira interact, as his relationship to her showcases his own blood line…of the werewolves.
The show continues as a combination of action, comedy and character development as the two protagonists go on their own journeys through, both physical and mental. Mina, dealing with political problems both from humans (who fear her and her kind) and vampires (trying to usurp her). Akira on the other hand begins to recover his memory of what his role with her is, as well as being her own self pointed bodyguard. This combined with Yuki actually being a lot more interesting as interference between Mina and Akira, both when she discovers Akira’s secrets, but perhaps more shockingly, is one of the few romantic rivals in a show that actually also has a great relationship with Mina, perhaps becoming her only human friend and confidante. Subtle differences in this make a show like Vampire Bund stand out to be a bit more special.
It does have its problems though. You can definitely feel uncomfortable about the fan service that Mina exhibits – being century’s old yet the body of a 10 year old girl. Whilst it is explained why she is like this (as she can transform to a older woman form where the fan service is much more…tasteful if that is the best way to put it), it does seem to over rely on this. Your opinion about her ‘purity test’ as well as the character of Nanami, a student council officer turned vampire, in love with her much younger neighbor Yuzuru, can make the viewing uncomfortable, though the mini Nanami arc is actually well told as she struggles how her vampire urges are taking over and how disgusted she feels in being the way she is and being in love with Yuzuru despite the age difference. It does also give some good character development in a similar vein to Strike Witches, in characters like Vera and also Hysteria, an antagonist vampire master of Nanami on their past, and what she has against the princess.
The other weak point is the use of a foil character named Mei Rin, who was showcased as the trickster mentor of Akira, as she tries to get him through bringing his memory back, all the time acting like a tease. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to get her to be another romantic option for Mei Rin or just someone who gave exposition. Turns out she was neither and was in fact a bait and switch final boss, but it feel really flat as it was only brought in the last episode with a rather weak reasoning behind it – which is probably where Bund fails a little over Strike Witches, in the end feel a little more rushed to say the least. The purity test, the three clans, and the final battle were definitely not done well for me, considering how well the series had done in its short time to bring forth a good cast and some good episodes, the ending fell quite flat.
That side, this was another pleasant surprise. I can’t say I enjoy all the Mina service at her younger age, but in the end it’s animation and whilst I can say that it can be off putting, it’s not completely killing the show either (and it does lessen as the series go through). There are nice little bits put here and there about the character’s relationships to Akira (like his father and how he lost his memory, with his father actually one of Mina’s bodyguards), and Akira himself is actually quite likeable. He’s very dismissive about Mina and teasing at times, but also caring and understanding about her, Yuki and his friends. His despair about not being able to save a former friend turned vampire during the Hysteria arc is heart crushing, and as his memory gets by one by one, he realizes his role and yet accepts it, ready to protect his princess. Mina as well is captivating, as whilst she has her snide and jealous moments, is overall quite a good character who respects her subjects who deserves it and derides those who don’t. This really picks up when she and Yuki become friends, and she almost acts like a little girl at times (the skipping rope scene in particular makes you go awwww….) despite her responsibilities. Yuki’s one role is obvious when you hear her, and I love her friendship with Mina – and even bits like Mina’s maids and the Beowulf guards (Vera in particular) all get their moments to shine. It does pack in a lot in 12 episodes, but aside from a weak ending, I think in terms of development in both characters and story, it did its job quite well.
Dance In The Vampire Bund is another pleasant surprise, whilst viewing is not for everyone because of the issues it was already infamous for, if you can dismiss that, you’ll find a decent story with compelling characters, some good fight scenes, which bar a rather weak ending and a couple of flawed characters, does its job well in telling a dark tale about a princess and her non-royal bodyguard and possible lover. The intermissions actually add in a few bits as well to make the story much easier to watch as well as everything sinks in. A decent vampire story and worth a rent if you can handle some of the more ‘unique’ quirks it has.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episodes 1-13 Intermissions, Clean Opening/Ending, Commercials
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 24th, 2011
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.