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A new way to end the banking crisis… VAMPIRES.

It’s an offer that the country can’t refuse – a chance to have all its debts wiped out by a kindly, super-wealthy benefactor. Just think of all those government cuts that would never have to bite. All those libraries still open, and hospitals still working. Free student grants for all, and no unpleasant sub-prime mortgage crises. Everything will be magically sorted by the world’s super-rich. There’s just one teensy catch: the money comes from vampires, and the price they demand is the right to live among us… Just a little island would do. They’ll stay out of our way… or so they say…

Dance in the Vampire Bund is anime’s answer to True Blood, a satirical drama that imagines vampires in place of many mundane malaises. Under the stewardship of the beautiful Mina Tepes, the hidden vampire underclass comes out of the shadows, and settles in a purpose-built “bund”, just offshore from the Japanese mainland. Fear and loathing troubles both sides of the human-vampire alliance, while the deceptively young-looking vampire leader Mina attempts to steer her undead people into the future.

Nozomu Tamaki’s original manga, which ran in the magazine Comic Flapper, introduced many interesting ideas. Tamaki’s vampires are an evolved form of humanity who experience heightened senses and emotions – turning many of them into gluttons, addicts and melodramatic hysterics. Vampirism can be stopped in its tracks by a vaccine, just as long as it is administered within 48 hours of a bite, adding a note of tension against-the-clock to any infection. Morevoer, Tamaki’s vampires may be predators on humanity, but they are also a dying breed, down to their very last “full” female. Although the integration of vampires into modern society is presented as a voluntary decision, behind the scenes, it appears that they don’t have any choice. Meanwhile, Mina is pressured to marry herself off to one of three remaining “true blood” nobles.

Deep down, Dance in the Vampire Bund has many resonances for Japanese culture. Heroine Mina Tepes is surrounded by love-struck noble vampires because she is the last full-blooded female, although since she can only bear a single child, one would think that the vampire race is already doomed. And since she fancies a human boy, there are sure to be tears at bedtime. But the story is loaded with gripping, decadent menace, as the “highly evolved”, cultured, super-smart vampire race faces extinction, and assimilation with the despised humans. You don’t have to dig too deep to see the tasty subtext – with an aging population and a declining birthrate, questions of immigration and assimilation, snobbery and miscegenation are close to home for the Japanese.

It’s rare that a genre as hackneyed and over-wrought as the vampire story gets a contribution with any lasting originality. But Dance in the Vampire Bund, with its undead ghetto and its real-world politics, its dynastic intrigues and its connections to real-world headlines, is a true contender. And it prompts fantastic opportunities for fan speculation. What if the vampires wanted to come to Britain? Could we give them the Isle of Wight…?

Dance in the Vampire Bund is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment on 24th October.

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