I'm probably not the best person to write a review on any given anime series, as I only whet my whistle with the genre every once in a great while. In the last decade, I've probably only familiarized myself with the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragonball Z, Desert Punk, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and the original run of Tenchi Muyo. I know, I know. Those are all pretty much the most mainstream series I could get into, and if I was a 'real' anime fan, I would have taken the time to familiarize myself with numerous other series that would probably blow my mind. Give me a break though, will ya? Anime is expensive, and my appetite for Blu-rays is hard enough to satisfy as it is, let alone adding in a whole new world of entertainment to the mix. I'm fortunate enough to be able to review for DVDTalk however, which gives me the opportunity to see things I might not spend my money on under normal circumstances. It's probably been a couple of years since I've seen a solid anime, so when I saw Dance in the Vampire Bund up for grabs, I thought I'd give it a whirl. After all, there's a cute girl on the cover, and there's promise of vampires. Considering my previous experience with vampires in anime had been through Hellsing, I was ready to take a chance on this series. Overall, I'm glad I did, but there are some issues with Bund that left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, and unfortunately, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to get it out.
Before I get to some of the things that keep the Bund series from being as great as it could have been, I have to say, the basic plot elements at play are pretty interesting. Our world is portrayed pretty much as we know it to be in real life - Things move at a pretty fast pace, and everyone is seemingly entranced by every aspect of the media. As we all know, life has a tendency to be pretty rough on a regular basis, so it only makes sense that people turn to their television sets and tabloid magazines to stare at their harsh reality through a looking glass. Things don't really seem that bad when you're accessing everything through a filter, but a significant piece of news breaks during the airing of a game show in Tokyo - Although vampires were long thought to be nothing but mere folklore, they are in fact, real. Despite the fact that a vampire attack had recently been reported to the media, Mina Tepes, the vampire queen, informs the world that they have nothing to fear from any honorable member of the vampire community, as they never feed on an innocent human being. All of the blood sucking monster clichés floating around, had actually originated from the vampire community in an effort to mislead people and better their chances of blending in. They've been quite successful at doing so without arousing suspicion... that is, until one vamp ruined it all by drawing so much attention to himself. In order to keep the peace between vampire and man, Mina claims an island outside of Tokyo as a refuge for all fanged-kind. Hopefully with all the vampires residing in a single location, the world will be less motivated to grab their stakes and torches and wipe them off the face of the Earth. Of course, taking on the responsibility of creating a dedicated homeland for vampires is a daunting task, and makes for an interesting story arc throughout the 'complete series' of Vampire Bund.
A couple other story arcs are prevalent throughout the series, and that's pretty much where Vampire Bund starts to unravel. The basic underlying plot of Mina creating a 'bund' for all of vampire kind could have filled these 12 episodes and then some, but the creative team, for some reason or another, felt it was necessary to add so much more. One element of the story deals with a few different vampire clans rubbing each other the wrong way in regards to the development of the bund, whereas the other acts as a piece of romance, as Mina develops a relationship with a werewolf who has some issues in regards to his identity, thanks to suffering a little bout of amnesia. I'm not exactly a naysayer when it comes to side-plots. Hell, LOST is one of my favorite television shows of all time! That being said, Bund isn't able to convey any of its complicated ideas with a definable voice. Each piece of the puzzle is consistently clawing its way to the top, vying for dominance over the other. Each episode changes what the supposed intent of the series should be pretty dramatically, and after all was said and done, I didn't know what the ultimate goal of the series was. I didn't know where it wanted to go, and since I usually take great pleasure in watching head-trippy kind of stuff, it's not as if Bund's complicated storytelling went over my head. Its problem is that the creative team wanted to try and load everything that was in the Manga into the series all at the same time, when they should have realized that sometimes, less is more.
To a lesser extent, the other problem Dance in the Vampire Bund has is its main character, Mina. Remember when I said I was partially drawn to this release because it lured me in with the promise of attractive girls and some bad-ass vampirism? Well, bad-ass vampirism aside, Mina, shown on the package art dressed like a sensual Victoria's Secrets model or something... has the body of a 12 year old girl. Of course she's not really 12, but the form she's in more often than not is that of a pre-teen girl. She does this to protect herself mostly, as she'd be forced to marry a vampire she has no desire for... and all of that's cool. I like the fact that this girl is apparently old enough to manipulate others with the looks she has, young or not, but too young to be taken seriously as a bride for other vampires. It's an interesting position for a character to be in, but do we really have to see her dressed so sensually, and naked even, so often? The end credits of the show feature a photo of Mina dressed in red lingerie, in an obvious attempt to appease the anime viewers that love good looking girls in their shows. So, my question? Is showing just how shy Mina isn't when it comes to being naked important to the plot, or is it just there to stir up controversy and gain some press (read: publicity)? I'm afraid the answer is most likely the latter, and I wish I didn't have to be subjected to Mina's, well, everything, in order to find out.
This isn't the best anime I've seen by a long shot. To be quite honest, when compared to the anime series I mentioned in the beginning of my review, Dance in the Vampire Bund was probably the least enjoyable of all. That's not to say that it was horrible or anything, it just wasn't a cohesive final product. The plot was all over the place, and the visual content, although very impressive more often than not, was also utilized as a tool to drum up some controversy. If more time was spent trying to tie-up all the loose ends that are left after the final episode, and less time trying to figure out how to gain viewership with the overrated gimmick of sex and nudity, Vampire Bund could have been something special.
Although the quality of the story being told throughout the Dance in the Vampire Bund series has a tendency to waver, the picture quality does not. Encoded in 1080p via the AVC codec (1.78:1), simply put, this is a damn fine presentation from beginning to end. If you're a screenshot scientist, I'm sure you're going to want to spend a little time to find some kind of flaw, but look all you'd like - This release is solid. The color palette often changes up in order to fit the tone of any particular episode or scene, but everything is conveyed with the most accurate color saturation from the source. You'll never notice any kind of macroblocking in those solid color areas of the image either. Contrast and black levels don't seem to take a hit whenever things switch from light to dark and vice-versa, so there's no added bloom effect (that's not already in a given scene) or black crush to worry about. Lines and edges are very well defined, and there's no edge enhancement to speak of. Technically speaking, Dance in the Vampire Bund has amazing artistic design, and all of it is presented here flawlessly.
In my experiences in the past with anime, the original Japanese audio tracks are the go-to option if looking for the best audio experience possible, whereas the English presentation comes off rather flat. Not so with Dance in the Vampire Bund, as the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is probably more immersive than the Japanese track itself (which is in Dolby TrueHD 2.0). The sound effects are surprisingly accurate across the entire spectrum, and in major sequences even offer a lot of 'oomph' via the LFE. Although I expected the dynamic range of the sound effects and score to take a hit, that didn't end up being the case. The only thing that does sound a little misplaced in the grand scheme of things is the dialogue, but this is an English dub. The Japanese track does offer a better mix that makes the dialogue feel as though it's part of the story being told, and not just some kind of afterthought overlay. I usually consider the original Japanese audio to be far superior in any anime for various reasons, but for Vampire Bund, I give the edge to the English dub.
First, it's worth noting that this set contains the entire series on both Blu-ray and DVD. Each format gets its own keepcase inside the box, and the contents included within are identical to each other. The only different is the artwork included on the keepcases themselves.
-Intermission 1-12 - Each intermission basically acts as a 'previously on' supplement to any given episode, but it's a little more involved than just re-cutting bits and pieces from what we've already seen. No, the intermissions are actually done in the artistic style of Manga, and are presented in a somewhat humorous light. Normally I'd say stuff like this is just throw-away material, but considering how lost the series as a whole feels in regards to the story it's trying to tell, it's interesting to see what the creators have chosen to recap.
-Textless Opening Song
-Textless Closing Song
-Trailers for other Funimation Titles
I didn't really expect all that much for this series, to be honest, and my expectations weren't surpassed. There's very little here in the way of behind-the-scenes material, which could have been a vital key to clueing us in as to why the creative team decided to make everything so complicated. Also, there's a preview included before being able to get to the main menu of the discs, and you can't skip or fast forward through it, which is pretty obnoxious after you're forced to sit through it once.
Dance in the Vampire Bund can't hold a candle to many of the anime series that are currently available on home video, but it's still an interesting experience nonetheless. The artistic design is wonderful to look at (when it's not focused on making us privy to intimate physical details of the main character), and the numerous plots vying for attention are interesting enough in and of themselves. Unfortunately, the creative team behind Vampire Bund didn't know how to pace themselves and culminated them into something that's frankly, a mess. I would highly recommend that anyone who's looking to see why this show has drummed up so much controversy gives this a rental. It's worth watching through once for what it has to offer, but I highly doubt most of you out there, anime die-hards or even casual viewers such as myself, will find this to warrant any repeat viewings.