Monday, July 4, 2011

Dance in the Vampire Bund - review

Dance in the Vampire Bund completely surprised me.  By the end of this two-disc set, I had really had fallen in love with the series.  In my opinion, the series itself overshadows the uncomfortable material that we've been talking a lot about lately.  It's very clear to me that FUNimation saw the great aspects of this anime and they were dedicated to making sure that American audiences got to check it out.  Hopefully the anime lovers here are willing to look past the sensational elements to enjoy the heartwarming and engaging story.

I can honestly say that it's quite refreshing to see a tale about vampires as told in Dance in the Vampire Bund.  Recently vampires in the entertainment industry have become far too romanticized.  They've lost all of their edge and have become nothing more than heartthrobs with pointy teeth.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with liking that approach, but that style seemed to have push the more traditional style of vampire out of the picture.  Dance in the Vampire Bund helps to bring us back to more traditional values, but not without its own twists.

Get ready to see some major vampire action in this title, and that comes with a lot of spilled blood.  Dance in the Vampire Bund definitely has some graphic scenes that involve limbs being torn from bodies, but it's still far from some of the more graphic anime out there.  I'm happy to say that I felt the level of violence in this series matched with the overall style, and violence was used to actually further the story.  You get to see and feel the strength of these characters, particularly the more prominent beasts.

The series also focuses heavily on what the live of vampires are like in today's world.  If you are into series' that explore politics, Dance in the Vampire Bund actually plays heavily on those ideas.  I was quite impressed to see the political storyline start off as nothing more than high school  student councils, and then take us all the way up to vampire bloodlines, royalty among the factions of vampires and even deals being worked between vampires and the Japanese government.  Out of the entire series, it's these political happenings that might be most elegantly told.

That elegance is only  rivaled by that of the love story between the vampire princess and one of her guards.  It's true that this is where almost all of the discomfort for viewers might come, but again, the story moves beyond it's rather gratuitous shots of a thousand-year-old princess (in the body of what looks to be a 12 year old) to something much more beautiful.  The love story here is the relationship that is built between these two characters as they revisit a promise made to one another in the past.  By the end of this set, I felt that the relationship was truly something viewers could grab onto as the episodes went on.  Believably told and quite well voice acted at that.

The series isn't perfect, as there are a few minor plot elements and decisions that might have you scratching your head, but nothing that can't be forgive or explained with a bit of imagination.  The series' one true stumbling block has to be the rather shocking amount of clothes-shedding for our princess.  I just didn't feel comfortable while watching those scenes, but the story itself helped to take me out of them.  Thankfully the series pulls away from these shots the deeper into the episodes you get.

That's not the only questionable material though.  There's plenty of adult, sexual content here. You're going to see a fair share of fan-service here, as well as some full-out nudity for adult characters.  There's also another questionable relationship between two characters that didn't sit right with me.  Dance in the Vampire Bund is definitely more than willing to push your buttons and reach your limits.

For some, Dance in the Vampire Bund is going to be too much to take.  I truly do understand that.  I think you know by now if this show is for you or not.  It's not really one to test yourself with.  If you think you're going to be offended by this uncomfortable content, than stay away.  You definitely will see things that you don't want to.  If you're willing to move through that stuff and focus on the story itself, you'll be treated to an anime that really comes into its own as it pushes forward.  I was truly surprised with how much I enjoyed the series by this set's end, and was also impressed to see how much the series grew.

Here's to hoping for a second season...with a lot less uncomfortable moments.

8 out of 10
This review was based on the anime feature alone, and was not compared to the manga that it was spawned from.

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