Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ANIME - Dance in the Vampire Bund.

Two weeks ago as I was reading my nightly webcomics I saw a banner ad for an anime with an awesome title. What the heck is "Dance in the Vampire Bund?"

I didn't know, but I aimed to find out. My research essentially consisted of going to its Wikipedia page and checking out its plot synopsis, a few character bios and some review snippets. It was certainly grounds for an interesting story. Like all geeks, I enjoy a good vampire show - and here was an anime property I'd never heard of. Those often prove to be the very best ones.

Mina TepeĊŸ is the last pureblood vampire, and unquestioned monarch of the vampire race. One day she appears to the shocked and suspicious people of Japan and announces the existence of her kind - and her intention to build a city-state on an island just off the coast. Violence brews and erupts as shadowy forces attempt to dislodge her plans for peaceful coexistence between humankind and the vampires.

She has the body of a ten-year old girl.
This is where we get into trouble.


In keeping with a recent revolution to stop taste-testing movies before I buy them, I went into Best Buy and picked up the complete Dance in the Vampire Bund - twelve episodes.

When I laid the box on the counter, I know what the woman who rang me up was thinking.
"Ugh. Pervert."

...which was an entirely reasonable reaction. This is the cover on the blu-ray/dvd pack:


Ecch.

But that's okay! A moment of embarrassment is only a moment! I went home and opened up the box and took a look at the DVD cover art.

Things weren't getting any better. Things were getting worse.

I didn't want this thing in my house any more, but I popped the first blu-ray disc into my PS3 and watched the first two episodes.

Oh. My. God. How was it even legal to release this show in North America?!

I'm not going to post any screenshots of the offending content - and I've little doubt enthusiasts who are as passionate about anime as I am about gaming will take me to task for maintaining this position - but there is no purpose for some of this show's content beyond appealing to pedophiles.

Again, I'm not going to post these screens, so take me at my word as you view much tamer images.

At this point I could have either thrown the entire ensemble into the garbage - after breaking the discs - or I could watch the thing through to its end and write a scathing blog post about it.

Obviously, I chose the latter.

That's right, Mina. You should be sad. Your show is largely offensive and otherwise mediocre.

The show regularly presents the ancient vampire princess in various states of undress (or entirely naked). It never feels like there's anything innocent about it. It flatly sexualizes the body of a child, and while I can perceive arguments in its defense, I cannot agree with them.

Vampire stories have always been about romance and sexuality. Never literal sex - but for all their evil trappings and unholy alliances, the vampire's greatest power over us is their beautiful ability to seduce.

Vampire Bund clearly tries to convince us that it's okay to apply such bold sexuality to the image of a child because of this historic association with its subgenre. "This is what vampires have always been about, and her body only looks like a child's body - that makes it okay, right?"

Wrong. Not okay. Not close to okay. The show rationalizes itself with its fiction - even going so far as to suggest Mina looks like a child because she chooses to - but this could have been handled in such a way that allows the show to tell its story without its regular, disturbing displays. This could have been entirely about story and character and a love everlasting.

The show could have tried to shock us with the implications of an adult mind in a child's body with a few astounding scenes, and given us food for thought. Instead, its regular spoon-feeding of such imagery feels like blatant pandering to child molesters.


Elsewhere, it actually has a really good story. Aside from romantic male lead Akira - who is merely a by the numbers, cool-and-nice-dude-who-learns-to-trust-his-own-strength hero - most characters are well fleshed-out and defined. There's often great exploration of their motives, histories and desires.

The vampire world and culture that's presented here is well-designed, with warring factions, interesting mythos and political intrigue. The ending of the show feels entirely positive - Mina has dominated her enemies, Akira has proven himself the most badass of badasses and they pledge their undying affection to each other. It's nice.

Beyond all the loli-con and eventual shota-con crap, there is a lovely little romance story being told, here. Half the time I was certain the show was attempting to appeal to teenage and young-adult girls due to its heavy emphasis on the love story, the idealization of its male lead and its limited attention to action.


The action sequences are lackluster at best. The visual design is occasionally very cool, but instead of choreographing interesting combat there tends to be a flash and the slow-motion after-shot of whatever just happened.

This was clearly not the emphasis of the series. What the series emphasis is I can't accurately say - but I'm certain that, aside from the interesting story and world created here, I found it a largely disturbing encounter with animation.

* * *

A member of my immediate family was the victim of severe sexual assault when she was a child. Perhaps that makes me unusually sensitive to the issue, but Vampire Bund's more shocking moments never feel like they have any higher purpose in mind - and my own perspective is all that I'm armed with. It's chock-full of the imagery of rape, and spilling over with moments of naked girls and a grown woman forcing herself on a boy.

I will now return to "pre-viewing" all anime before purchase. The mild guilt between watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex online and purchasing it a few weeks later is nothing compared to the vile knowledge that my buying dollar has tacitly encouraged this type of work.

My friends...

Never watch this. Never buy this. Never support this.

6 comments:

  1. It's kinda funny how long you have to scroll through it's wiki entry before it tells you there's child nudity in it. Where as if you'd have only asked someone in the know about it, they'd tell you straight away.

    eh. I said exactly the same thing about your Evangelion 2.22 review so

    Next time you see a Funimation show that catches your eye, go to the Funimation site and see whether they're streaming a couple eps of it.

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  2. Every time I think about getting into anime that I don't know about, I think about this exact sort of scenario and realize that I'm not really in a position to throw money out on an anime unless I'm completely assured I'll enjoy it.

    Of course, with my terrible internet, I'm also not exactly in a position to preview such things via streaming on the publisher's site or anything. So...the moral of the story is that I haven't really gotten into a lot of anime.

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  3. @Mogs:

    -Paranoia Agent
    -Samurai Champloo
    -Cowboy Bebop
    -Ghost In The Shell
    -Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex
    -Spirited Away
    -Tekkon Kinkreet

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  4. I love the first three, haven't delved -too- much into GitS, but I've watched the odd episode here and there. Haven't seen SA or heard of TK, so I'll keep an eye out for those.

    Thanks!

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  5. Your list is missing FLCL. For shame.

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  6. I seriously feel FLCL is overrated. But after re-reading my list, I realize it's missing Perfect Blue.

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