Tuesday, 20 January 2009 21:58

Dance in the Vampire Bund (Manga, 2006)

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Overview

To all creatures of darkness, your salvation has arrived! Paper's please, yes yes...I see, they seem to be in order. What, you're still not sure what's all this about? How did you come here then? Oh, I see, terribly sorry about that, but I suppose we can't plan for everything. Let me explain. The dark sovereign, the ruler of all vampires, Mina Tepes, has constructed for us a sanctuary, just off the coast of Japan. An artificial island, fully sanctioned by the human authorities of that nation, where we need not hide or fear, where we can be who we are and live our lives as we wish under her watchful protection, as long as we obey her laws, of course. What did you think...she'd allow anarchy? Certainly not. She is in charge, and if you've got a problem with it, I'd suggest taking it up with her personally...just remember what she did to the last people to try that. Yes, it was with her bare hands, and I know she only looks twelve. Oh, that strapping young lad always hanging around her (or she's always hanging off of, depending on her mood)? That'd be Akira, her personal guardian...some even say her lover, though we all know she'd never risk that...at least, not yet anyway. She has several decades of growing left. Or would she risk it? Could be why there HAVE been so many attempts on her life recently. I mean, if you knew what that boy really was, that she'd do THAT with something like him well...I can only imagine how insulted some people might be. At least, those that are still alive after facing her wrath. So if you have a problem with her behavior, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you. We'll be sure to dust up your remains and deposit them in the outgoing trash the following morning...if she's done with you by then.

In any event, welcome to the Bund, population around a hundred thousand; mostly vampires. Yes, mostly, it's not an exclusive club house, by any stretch. There are indeed a few other types of dark stalkers, if you'll pardon the pun, here and there, though you'll have to seek them out if you want their company. Do be a dear and sign, here, here, and yes, here too; and don't forget your complimentary umbrella, courtesy of her Highness. Why, you ask? Oh...you'll see when the sun goes down. After all, the parties are still going on, and it's going to be a bloody time in the old town tonight.

Review

Here's a deep dark secret of mine: As a young child I was scared to death of vampires.

For the longest time I did the strangest things thinking it would protect me should I ever come into contact with one. This despite the fact that I probably also knew they were typically shown as being considerably stronger and faster than any human would ever be capable of and still be called human. A typical vampire horror movie would give me nightmares for days, sometimes weeks at a time; that movie 'Vamp' being one of the worst offenders.

Somewhere along the line, however, that pulled a total one-eighty, and I found myself enjoying vampire cinema. I can't quite remember when precisely, but if I were to hazard a guess, I'd expect it was right around the time that I found that most such movies featured extremely HOT female vampires. The fact they were undead predators of the human population didn't really inter itself upon my consciousness anymore...in fact, the whole idea tended to make it that much more...exciting. This in turn caused me to think more about them, how such a being would act, did they have free will (something I was desperately afraid of loosing), and the like. This again leads to wondering about other creatures of the night and beyond even that.

So in any event, it can be said, I enjoy a good vampire movie. Underworld: Rise of the Lichens is coming up, and I plan to be there opening night, and yes, it's all because of Kate Beckinsale (and that fine softcore scene she performed in the second movie, yessssss). Twilight was fairly decent, all things considered, though I admit to getting a little burnt out on the angst factor of a lot of modern vampire stories.

That would be domestic movie stories, but what about anime and manga you ask? Well, Vampire Princess Miyu had a good OVA, but a seriously LOUSY TV series. Thing about the TV series was that it just tried too hard to be hardcore, and it didn't work. You could feel them reaching and just doing stuff to make the whole thing seem more cold and hardcore than the story they were actually writing really was. Of course, there's the story of Hellsing, which tells the tale of Alucard (yes, yes, I know) within the Hellsing organization which is determined to rid the world of the things that go bump in the night. This one actually IS badass in ways that many stories can only try and approach...certainly the writers of the Miyu TV series could have taken pointers from the author of that manga. Tsukihime also comes to mind, which is a rather unorthodox love story between a beautiful German vampire woman and a man who has the ability to kill anything...including something like her. Then we have the similarly named Tsukuyomi, whose manga has probably descended into lolicon by this point, but can also be considered a guide to the care and feeding of your moe-moe vampire princess/little sister. Yeah...that one caters to a really strange...fetish is probably too strong a term; complex is probably better. So yes, it caters to several rather odd complexes that one may have, and unfortunately, like I said, could probably at this point be quite easily classified as lolicon (and it was such a good story starting out, too).

I spent a bit more time on Tsukuyomi than the others because the manga I'm getting around to reviewing, that being Dance in the Vampire Bund, has a similar concept all considered. At least, on initial inspection. Like Hazuki of Tsukuyomi, Mina Tepes (yes, as in Vlad Tepes) in Dance in the Vampire Bund (hereafter shortened as 'Dance') is a hyper powered Vampire Princess who is seriously overly moe'd. That's about where the similarities end though. Where as Hazuki is constantly on the run from those of her kin that seek to imprison her again and use her for their own gain, Mina is a cold blooded ruthless killer and absolute ruler of the whole vampire nation, and this is about where the story starts.

Actually the story really starts with a girl confessing to a boy, the boy turning her down, and the boy's best friend walking up and decking him for doing that. The boy's name is Akira, and early on you can tell that though he's not a vampire, there's more to him than meets the eye. In fact, they don't really hide what he is, but they don't come right out and say it either...not until the end of volume 2 anyway. Anyway, he's called before the ruler of all vampires herself in order to fulfill the covenant that his family is bound by, in his particular case, to serve as the Queen's personal guardian.

I actually find I like Akira, all things considered. Here is a boy who's been training all his life for his current role, even gone to war and engaged in real battles for it, and though he has the occasional flashback, it has done nothing but strengthen his body and more importantly, his character. Though as you go on, it's not explicitly stated, you find out that his training wasn't just of the sort he knew about, but also what he didn't know about.

To expound upon that, much of the books that have been translated deal more with Akira and Mina's interactions than with what Mina is doing in the creation of the Bund, though that provides a suitable backdrop for the ensuing drama. What is more than obvious however, is that Mina has spent a lot of time and effort into making this boy who he is, and a lot of what she does concerning him is much like a job interview. Little tests here and there, and big ones...the kind where both of them have their lives put on the line. That sort of thing is risky, but the payoff seems to be worth it to the girl, who though she appears to be a young child, and kinda is, she's more like the girl in Interview With a Vampire...older than she looks. Unlike that girl, however, Mina will eventually reach adulthood...something Akira can certainly look forward to, considering Mina does have the ability to show him what he's going to get then. Even if it's obvious she can't sustain that transformation of hers for very long, heh.

The story is going on at a leisurely pace, and the author seems to have little inclination to hurry it up, to which I say good on him. Of course this means that reasons like why Mina made her deal with the Japanese government for the creation of the Bund is unknown, and the potential plot holes that were revealed in volume 3 may not be resolved for awhile. Still the story and all the characters themselves are quite engaging. Mina's maids in particular are given special treatment in the 4koma material in the back of each volume entitled, 'Dance With the Vampire Maid' and are a sometimes amusing and sometimes serious lot when they're not hacking and slashing through paramilitary groups bent on assassinating Mina or being sent on secret assignments to kidnap and turn a senator's five-year old grandson into a vampire.

Told you Mina was cold blooded. Well, not THAT cold blooded, but she did order such a thing. However, you'll see how it turns out if you read it.

The artwork is beyond phenomenal. Of course, for those that know, the manga-ka has long well been known for his H titles from where you can see a lot of his good works on both the male and female form.

However, one does have to note that he's not afraid to go places that would probably get him sent to prison anywhere else, but Japan, both in story telling and in artwork. I mean, Mina tends to prance around naked half the time in Dance and I get the impression she does it because...who's going to tell her no? I dare anyone to walk up there and tell her she can't streak around if she damn well wants to. Seriously though, his works get into areas that make one start screaming like Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith, however, one also gets the impression that's what he likes to hear. Take from that what you will, I'm honestly not too sure about it myself. On one hand, I'd probably toss him in the slammer, but on the other, I like the idea of making humanity scream for mercy, so I dunno. Regardless, his current story telling seems to benefit from his ability to go places most wouldn't be able to. An example of this is when Mina actually tried to be sexy and flirtatious when she first gets Akira alone. Mina has the physical maturity of a twelve year old human child (at best) so this backfires in her face so badly it damn near looked like she was about to cry when Akira told her he had no interest in something with a child's body. Again Mina is like the little girl in Interview, so she's not chronologically a twelve year old, but the scene was supposed to creep you out, and it certainly made Akira do a big, "The fuck?!" as he was talking to her. That the author could actually put a scene like this on paper could be good or bad depending on your view point, so if you can't hack an exploration of a character like this, you may want to steer clear.

I'm hoping this never makes it to being an anime. They'll never be able to pull this off without serious censorship, which would kill most of the scenes like that, and their importance to the characters of the story despite many of the uncomfortable aspects of it. Especially in volume 4 and 5, though those are still RAW, from what I saw of those, they start going into situations that human aristocracy has placed their rulers into from time to time, and that makes one both blanch and angry...and it should, as it did the same for several characters, not the least of which was Mina herself and all her friends and retainers.

Overall, I do recommend this story. The artwork is without fault; exceeding so many others by a fair margin...though you may notice a few expy's from his work in H manga which is not a bad thing, since they were pretty fucking awesome character designs. The story does have some very uncomfortable moments, but if you can get through Interview With a Vampire, you can probably get through this, so I wouldn't be TOO worried, as the parts where these things happen tend to have a similar effect on the people in the story itself, in that they too get a minor case of the squick. It is a tale of vampires, so blood and gore occasionally flows by the deciliter, so if you're looking for something with a little less ultra violence, I'd note you'd be best served looking at anything other than a vampire story, and certainly this one in particular. I'm a little concerned about the plot holes that were opened up in Volume 3, but again, the story is slow moving, so explanations may be forthcoming in Volumes 4 and 5, and given the care taken so far, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were (or even in a volume down the road). Still, since this story isn't done, keep in mind we may also be dealing with the sort of story that starts out strong in in all the right ways, but fizzles...we've all seen that quite a lot in recent years. On the other hand, it's okay to enjoy the moment, I figure...and this is certainly enjoyable...for the current moment.

One last thing. Where were those girls when I was that boy's age? You'll know what I'm talking about if you read Volume 3.

Additional Info

  • Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund, ダンス イン ザ ヴァンパイアバンド
  • Genre: Horror, Occult
  • Magazine: Comic Flapper
  • Writer: Nozomu Tamaki
  • Artist: Nozomu Tamaki
  • Publisher: Media Factory, Seven Seas Entertainment
  • Volumes: 12 (ongoing)
  • Writing: Very Good (+3)
  • Pacing: Very Good (+3)
  • Artwork: Groovy (+5)
Last modified on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 14:00

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