The first chapter of Dance in the Vampire Bund by Nozomu Tamaki makes me a bit uncomfortable. The cover illustrates the problem effectively. Mina Tepes, called “Hime” (Japanese for “princess”) throughout most of the book – though I’ll stick with ‘Mina’ for consistency’s sake – wears a dress that leaves her naked from sternum to a point a little too far south of her navel. This wouldn’t be a problem if she weren’t effectively twelve.
Mina may be the oldest vampire in the world, but she’s depicted as a prepubescent girl. And while she’s past the age of consent chronologically, Tamaki’s choice to make her look like a little girl is problematic. I know this will earn me cries of: “It’s just a vampire comic! Don’t take it so seriously!” But none of us would be here if we didn’t take comics seriously.
For most of the first chapter, Mina wears a G-string that’s a few sizes too small for her, creating what are meant to be luscious little bulges of womanly flesh around her hips. She strikes sexy poses and teases the protagonist, Akira, with her bare nipples.
I’m still trying to understand the reasons behind this particular choice. Maybe Tamkai wanted to make Mina seem vulnerable and to play with the idea that, even though she looks like a child, she’s powerful: politically, physically and supernaturally? Not the most original notion, but, for me, it’s all about the execution of the idea.
And Tamaki enjoys a bit of the fan-service. Every woman (apart from Mina) is busty and beautiful, and he makes sure to put them into situations that force them to reveal themselves. Not that I’m a prude or anything, but the women of Dance in the Vampire Bund are little more that objects – though, by the end, Mina developed into an actual character.
What first drew me to Dance in the Vampire Bund were the sharp art and the clear storytelling style. Tamaki is a masterful artist. Panels flow easily into one another and the story is always clear. His action is quick and frenetic but easy to follow. He’s equally skilled with quiet moments and moments of tension. Each character has several subtle facial expressions and none of them felt overused.
The story of Dance in the Vampire Bund is pretty straightforward. Mina, using the vast resources at her disposal, has paid off Japan’s national deficit. For this favor, the Japanese government has given her an island in Tokyo Bay that she plans to turn into a vampire settlement. This causes tension in several secret, and not so secret, factions, who initiate plots to assassinate Mina.
Due to the increased threats on her life, Akira of the Earth Clan (werewolves) has stepped up to fulfill his destiny as Mina’s royal bodyguard. Akira and Mina knew each other as children and they fall quickly into familiar patterns. Their connection grows as the chaos surrounding Mina intensifies. Multiple assassination attempts, tension between factions, and the drudgery of governing the newly formed vampire settlement wear Mina down. Akira acts as Mina’s touchstone of comfort and security. The scenes between them grow increasingly tender as the story advances and culminate in a mystery that sets up their relationship for future volumes.
Dance in the Vampire Bund created a weird tension in me. While I was uncomfortable with Tamaki’s creative choices at the beginning, I was quickly drawn into the story and impressed with his skills as a cartoonist, and I plan to look into his other series.
Dance in the Vampire Bund has a 7 out of 10 chance of waking Cthulhu from his eternal slumber.