DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND
Vampire Bund Gyouseifu; 2010, 12 Episodes. Based on a manga by Nozomu Tamaki; Dir: Akiyuki Shinbo; Cast: Shizuka Ito, Yuichi Nakamura, Chiwa Saito.
From the standout first episode, you know you're watching something different. Dance in the Vampire Bund shows us a world where vampires step out of the shadows with the wish to establish a home for themselves, the titular bund, along with contending against all the forces working against them. Upon this backdrop we follow the lives of Mina Tepes, the ruler of the vampires, and Akira Kaburagi, one of her unlikely protectors.
In an atypical move, Dance in the Vampire Bund spends much of its first episode using a different narrative style than we seen in the remaining series. The episode's events are framed as a live TV broadcast depicting a celebrity panel debating on whether or not vampires exist, (a hot topic after a woman is attacked and bitten by her assailant). But it turns out that this is all an engineered stunt allowing Mina Tepes, a regal woman with the appearance of a young girl, to reveal the reality of vampires to the world and that she is their ruler.
Akira, the male lead is barely in the first episode, but becomes the central character for the rest of the series. Akira at first doesn't remember Mina at all after suffering a head injury a year before the events of the story, but upon meeting her again and having to save her life, the memories start to come back and he discovers that he is something other than human himself. We follow Akira as he takes up his role as sword guardian of Mina (of course, this still allows for forays into his school life).
The overarching nature of the plot is surprisingly political, with how the vampires go about establishing the bund and the internal politics of the vampire clans that are sworn to serve Mina, but still vie for power. There are also a variety of forces at work trying to stop the bund from happening or destroying it completely, including both groups of humans and vampires and one organization formed of both, all running their own schemes.
The series' animation is excellent, with lush colors and fine details. The initial two episodes look a little different, however. As mentioned, the first episode is depicted as a TV broadcast and, in the second, many objects and characters have thin blue outlines, for no discernible reason whatsoever. The dub is pleasant, as is the music, and there's a standout performance from Monica Rial who voices Mina.
No review of Vampire Bund would be complete without mentioning the unsettling content that has added some notoriety to the series. There's the standard amount of fan service, though it's never lingering or the series' main focus, but there's also bits and pieces of full on nudity, the problem here being that it's of the very young looking Mina, and it's not all Barbie-doll style, if you get my drift. A few early episodes push the nudity, for example in the second episode needs her bare skin covered in gel to stop the sun from burning her. For some reason, she can't do this herself and asks Akira to apply the gel.
The DVD extras are the usual textless openings/closings, with a few other worthy features. There's a promo video and a number of original Japanese adverts for the series. The most interesting extra is the 'intermissions,' these are essentially motion comics, where we are treated to what appears to be panels from the manga with words spoken by the voice actors (in Japanese with English subs). These take place between the episodes and fill in some gaps, providing a bit more depth to various characters. At least one gives away a fairly major plot point, so I wouldn't suggest watching them until after the series.
In total, the series is worth a watch for anime fans who have a taste for some horror fare. There are certainly better vampire-centric anime out there, but Vampire Bund puts its own spin on the genre and adds enough unique elements that make it stand out among its peers.