Content warning: Dance in the Vampire Bund is infamous for its erotic content that panders to lolicons. The pictures in this review do not reflect that content, but I will further address this issue on Thursday. If you have objections to fanservice for alarmingly-young characters, then you won’t enjoy this series irregardless of any arguments in this review.
#1 Vampires out in the open
Stories about vampires often emphasize the mystery and intrigue surrounding them. Hidden societies that go back hundreds of years, hermit lords hiding out in spooky castles, that kinda thing. When you look at prominent vampire anime like Shiki or Hellsing you get what I mean. Dance in the Vampire Bund is therefore interesting, because it starts out with the vampires boldly announcing their existence to the wide world.
It’s not a show about vampires trying to remain hidden, but rather about their struggle to cement for themselves a place in everyday society. It’s an anime that asks what would happen if Vampires suddenly turned out to have been real all along, and to this end it focuses a lot on the social questions that would emerge.
This is an interesting change from the usual formula and Dance in the Vampire Bund develops on these ideas nicely, Can Humans and Vampires coexist? You’ll have to watch to find out.
#2 Political storytelling
Mina is a Romanian immigrant who looks like the sweetest little girl imaginable, but who is actually the queen of all Vampires. She has come to Japan to enact a plot decennia in the making: to carve out an independent vampire nation, from which her people shall claim a place among the most influential powers of the modern world.
Though featuring a fair bit of action, comedy, and fan-service, it’s this political angle to the story that kept me truly kept me invested. Mina’s goals are astoundingly ambitious, yet she is fierce enough to potentially make it work. She is a lovable character for the most part, but capable of extreme acts of cruelty & manipulation when those are necessary to achieve her ends. It creates a dynamic character that I wanted to find out more about, and whose successes feel hard-earned.
Despite only counting 12 episodes, it also feels like Dance in the Vampire Bund has a lot going on. The story works through several major arcs in this short span and all of them feel like major events with villains that are established well, and whose storylines naturally lead into the next. This concludes with a strong finale that marks a turning point in the story, so while it certainly feels like there was a lot left to explore, I was left satisfied with what the anime had to offer.
#3 A different kind of Shaft
Shaft is an amazing studio and Shinbo a fantastic director, but in recent years I wouldn’t blame anybody for thinking they are one-trick ponies. For almost a decade-and-a-half their output has been characterized by artsy series that thrive on strange storylines and surreal visuals. They are good, but it’s nice to see they can handle something else entirely as well.
Dance in the Vampire Bund feels more like a “normal” anime and I never would’ve guessed it was made by Shaft if I hadn’t stopped to check if it came out before or after Bakemonogatari. Yet in spite of lacking the usual Shinbo touches, this is still a stylish and well-directed anime that certainly didn’t disappoint.