Finally got around to finishing Dance in the Vampire Bund.
When you get down to it, I kind of loved the damn thing.
I’ve already said quite a bit about how Bund mirrors the content of the World of Darkness Vampire RPGs. I won’t go into that too much in this post other than to reiterate said feelings: This is as close as we’re getting to a Masquerade anime, and anyone that digs that shit should give this series a try.
Now that I’ve seen the entire series, I can make another proclamation of love: It reminds me of the oldschool anime OAVs I used to watch back in the day.
I say that because of the disjointed, hodgepodge, almost impressionistic manner in which the story is told. There’s a certain charm to the way OAVs from the 80s and 90s were presented. They were based on manga series that lasted several volumes, not unlike series you see nowadays, but they often only had an hour or so to tell their story, or two if they were lucky enough to get a sequel OAV. This led to a style of storytelling that most people consider downright bad. With such a limited amount of screen time, said OAVs had to skirt around plot points and often played more like visual cliff’s notes rather than actual stories.
Most people don’t dig on this sort of storytelling, but as someone who “grew up” during the era of anime fandom where these sorts of OAVs were pretty much the only thing you could find on the video store shelves, there’s a degree of nostalgia in seeing this sort of storytelling alive and well.
Bund’s episodes play like OAV episodes. They often cram a hell of a lot of information into a single episode, leaving plot details to dangle out in the open while moving on to the next vaguely sketched concept. For most viewers, this sort of storytelling is objectively bad, and I can understand why people feel as such. Most modern fans were weened on the era of late night anime series. They’re used to 13/26/whatever episode seasons that allow for storylines to “breath” and develop at a more natural and detailed pace. There’s no need for narrative shortcuts and the like when you have more than enough episodes to tell the story you’re adapting.
That’s all well and good. Most of my favorite anime series play out in that way. But there’s a problem with this sort of storytelling: it leaves no room for the viewer to insert his own thoughts into the narrative.
Because of the narrative “flaws,” oldschool OAVs allowed for a great deal of viewer interpretation, especially for an American fan like myself that had no clue there was a manga that actually told the story between said plot holes. While watching something like Darkside Blues or the Ah My Goddess OAVs, I was able to insert my own ideas into the places where I wasn’t given all the details. Darkside Blues dealt with a corporation that owned the entire world save for a small neighborhood in Tokyo (Shinjuku or Shibuya or some other “trendy” neighborhood). We didn’t get many details as to what this corporation was up to other than “some people don’t like it because it’s an evil corporation.” Add in all sorts of crazy stuff like a vampire-like bishounen who opposed the corporation and old men who sung the blues in scratchy engrish and you had a volatile cocktail of undeveloped details ripe for fan interpretation.
I rented that damn anime four or five times after it was released. I watched it at least two or three times each time I rented it. I watched it several times with my friends. We were engrossed with this vaguely defined but fascinating universe, just like we were fascinated by the vaguely defined worlds in Ah My Goddess, Akira (Yes, not an OAV, but it follows the same principles outlined here.), and several other similar videos. We’d brainstorm about the stuff we were missing out on and try to pieces everything together into a cohesive whole.
Outside of a few choice series (Darker than Black being the first to come to mind. DtB is a series that gets better and better the more I think about it.), most anime series don’t deliver on this sort of guessing game. Most series spell everything out for the viewer, and if some detail is missing it’s easy enough to look up the scanned manga or hit a message board to find someone that’s read the original novel or played the dating sim or whatever. While this has led to numerous richly detailed series the likes of which we never really got back in the day, in the process we’ve all but lost these “choose your own adventure” like series that force you to make up half of the story along the way.
That’s what I got out of Dance in the Vampire Bund. The episodes toss out details haphazardly (There’s a rival vampire organization! There’s a crew of badass werewolf assassin boys! These two characters have a deep past! THERE’S TWO MINAS BUT WE ONLY HAVE TWO MINUTES LEFT IN THE SERIES!) and leave it up to us to piece it all together. We can’t even depend on the manga, since a large chunk of the series supposedly deviates from the source material.
I’ll admit that a good amount of this is likely due to the overworked, stretched-thin production schedule of SHAFT (Too many series going at once, most of which get delayed. Not enough care given to each one.). At the same time, I’ll call this a happy accident. Due to this lack of attention, Bund has become a fascinating piece ripe for interpretation just like these old OAV series. I want to know what’s up with the various “vassal” clans of vampires. I want to know the structure of the various were-creature clans. I want to know what the hell is up with all of the Mina clones. At the same time, I don’t need, nor really want, the series to spell everything out so long as I get enough information to piece things together into my own interpretation.
And I think I may be one of the few fans who like this sort of thing.