Dance in the Vampire Bund is a rather notorious series. It’s been heavily criticised for having sexualised content involving a character who looks like a child and when it was released outside of Japan there was a big fuss about censorship as various companies grappled with whether or not to cut some of the more controversial content. It’s a series I’ve avoided because it looked crass in the same vein as Strike Witches or Upotte but I was asked to review it in spite of it being, according to the requester “a not very good show” due to it being a prototype in the way it’s directed for a lot of studio Shafts later works. For those of you unfamiliar with shaft, they’re the ones behind the Rec OVA, which was terrible. They also did Ef: A Tale of Memories, which was sub-par. They also did Natsu no Arashi which was decent enough and Madoka which was actually really good. Thus far, my experiences with their work has been pretty mixed. But I did just review a masterpiece so I may as well take up the request and look at this anime to see where it falls on the spectrum of Shaft productions and to decide for ourselves if it really isn’t very good.
After several attacks where young ladies are left with marks on their necks, a television program has a panel to discuss the possibility of vampires existing. The program includes a special guest, a woman claiming to be the vampire queen. She presents the preserved arm of the vampire who has, supposedly been attacking people. This prompts him to reveal himself and the existence of vampires is revealed to the public as is the face of the true vampire queen. She announces her plan to take a patch of land she owns within Japan and create a bund for vampires. Things take a turn when the vampire queen, Mina Tepes, begins showing interest in amnesiac High school student Kaburagi Akira. What’s the connection betwixt them and can she successfully establish her bund?
There are several narrative issues to the series. The first is that it lacks narrative cohesion. There are factors of vampire society that get established early on and then retconned later in the series. It can’t even keep whether Mina is the queen or the princess consistent. These are not interchangeable terms. They also switch between her as a student and as the school’s chairman. Her physical abilities also fluctuate. There are times when she can fight well and others where she’s completely helpless because the plot needs her to be rescued. It’s like she’s silver age Jimmy Olsen and just constantly has different abilities. The romance is pretty dreadful in this as well. The ‘development’ is really stilted and comes across as contrived. But that isn’t the worst part of it. You find out that she’s been basically obsessed with him since he was a small child. That’s the plot line with the paedophile werewolf from Twilight levels of just wrong. They try to balance it by making her look prepubescent but that just makes it worse. Or maybe it’s less about balance and more that the writer has a fetish for children and should probably be institutionalised. Even the major side romance is utterly horrendous garbage involving one character who’s way too old for the other, but with a less extreme age difference. The narrative isn’t particularly compelling either. While it has some concepts that could be interesting if they were expanded on, it’s more interested in showcasing its terrible romance and in providing fan-service. Because the only class that this writer is aware of is the variety you attend.
That being said, the whole idea of vampire society revealing itself and integrating into human society could have been really interesting if the writing hadn’t been complete schlock. The whole Dance With the Vampire Maids segment can be kind of funny at times too.
For the most part, the characters aren’t all that bad. They’re mostly just dull. There are two issues that really demote them from mediocrity. The first is the incessantly obnoxious way that a bunch of the female characters pursue our boring hero. The second is that the character dynamics are weak and they suffer from the same lack of cohesion as the narrative, undergoing changes without any reason beyond the plot demands it.
Dance in the Vampire Bund may very well be worse than Strike Witches when it comes to ridiculous, excess levels of fan-service. The big reason being that most of it centres around Mina, a character who looks to be eight or nine. She looks younger than Lucchini Here’s the thing about Mina. You could potentially make me believe that our bland hero could fall for her, in spite of her appearance, since she doesn’t act like a child, for the most part. It would require considerably better writing, but you could manage that. However, you aren’t going to convince me that you’re showing ‘sexy’ scenes of her starkers for any reason beyond you being a total sleazy scum bag. We don’t need to see her in the nude for the narrative it’s just distracting and unpleasant. Because she looks to be eight or nine. The action sequences are pretty bad too. Most of them consist of seeing our protagonist take a couple hits and then end things with one attack. Good thing his opponents have no durability. If they were evenly matched on that front he’d have been killed pretty much right away and the series would be somewhat better because it wouldn’t have its lousy romance taking up a bunch of time.
The series got some good actors. Saito Chiwa, Yuuki Aoi & Itou Shizuka to name a few. Their performances in this, however, are pretty weak. You can tell they’re trying but the writing just doesn’t give them much in terms of character complexity. The music isn’t bad, but it is pretty weak.
The series doesn’t have any. Which is fine by me given that its romance is at the Twilight level.
So, that’s Dance in the Vampire Bund. How ungood is “not very good?” Well, the premise had potential and there are some funny bits in the ending segments but its held back by an awful romance, a story that doesn’t hold together well, absurd levels of fan-service (a lot of which involves a character who looks like she’s eight), weak performances and bland characters. My final rating is going to stand at a 3/10. Next week I’ll look at Natsume Yuujinchou.