You know how I said last week that in spite of its many faults, I was glad that Vampire Knight didn't have any loli vampires in it? Yeah...this manga, and more than quite a few like it, are the reason I have cause to say such things.
DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND (Dansu in za Vanpaia Bando), by Nozumu Tamaki. First published in 2005, and first published in North America in 2008.
Mina Tepes is an ancient being in the body of a preteen girl, and in spite of her youthful look she is in fact the ruler of the world's vampires. Mina is no tyrant, though. If anything, she wants peace for humans and her kind. As such, she essentially bribes the Japanese government into giving her an island for her kind, in turn for paying off their national debt. She also decides to go public with the existence of vampires, even holding a press conference to announce her intentions, and she gathers all of vampire kind to her. Not all within the vampire world are happy the creation of her 'bund.' Some try to stop her before the announcement, and other seek to overrule her through more devious means. She is not alone, though. By her side is her faithful werewolf servant Akira, who pledged to protect her as a child and means to do so now, even if he's uncomfortable with her overtures to make their relationship something more.
Ugh, lolis. I have been dreading this review in part because I knew that this series involved lolis, and nothing skeeves me out faster than those who fetishize and sexualize girls (or girl-like beings) who aren't even out of training bras. Dance in the Vampire Bund not only revels in fetishizing its lead, but tries (and fails) to make it tolerable through some half-baked attempts at supernatural. mythos and romance.
Honestly, I wished it had focused more on the former than the latter. Sure, the notion of vampire clans as some sort of kingdom or aristocracy is far from original, but it has potential and can be used as the base for some decent world building. Still, they never explain why Mina is in charge, or why she seeks peace between the various vampire clans as well as between vampires and humans. Instead, they just use it as a way to generate a quick villain or two to be deposed of. Tamaki seems aware of the fact that the romantic subplot is the stronger of the two and thus the story is far more about a loli vampire queen and the werewolf she loves.
Tamaki tries to paint this as something lovely and innocent, having various members of the cast coo over the two and how Akira makes Mina so happy, but it doesn't work because it's just another example of 'show, don't tell." The fact that they have to have others state it outright means that Tamaki isn't doing his job at making us believe that through Mina and Akira's interactions. God know Mina isn't being shy about her affections, as she spends most of the first third wearing nothing but skimpy panties and a capelet in order to tease him, and at times takes stupid risks in order to get his attention and make him prove his dedication to her.
The weird thing is that Akira is ostensibly the lead, as we start with him and he's clearly meant to be the (rather relative) everyman reacting to the strange new world around him, yet we learn so little about him. We know he's devoted to Mina, that he's some sort of strange werewolf who can control the degree of his transformation without the moon, and that there's some schoolgirl somewhere that he likes but can't be with. Want to know more about his personality or history or anything like that? TOO BAD! Mina gets a little more development, as we get glimpses of something more innocent and childlike that peeks out beyond her more poised and profession demeanor when performing her queenly duties, although these seem to conflict with the weirdly seductive moments she has with Akira. Tamaki can't seem to decide whether he wants to treat the so-called romance between Akira and Mina as pure loli cheesecake or as something sweeter, because it seems he wants his fanservice while wanting us to take the whole thing seriously, and I just can't do that when the two leads are so underdeveloped (in many senses of the word).
Takami's character designs are solid, but he clearly loves his fanservice to come in two flavors: big-busted blondes and lolis. I've mentioned previously that Mina spends a lot of time nearly naked, and she is drawn in all her prepubescent glory, nipples and all, and I admitted tended to skim through those sections lest I be seen looking at a mostly naked little girl. He's clearly more focused on drawing that fanservice than he is drawing faces, considering how often peoples' noses disappear and reappear between panels. The backgrounds are neatly drawn as well, but they're often obscured by dark screentones. Really, the only remarkable thing about the art is the fanservice, and sometimes that's for all the wrong reasons.
I've noted my distaste for Seven Seas's brand of translation in the past. They tend to leave too much untranslated for my taste, leaving in things like 'hime-sama' and 'oni-sama' and even a kid's jump-rope song is left in kanji, albeit with translation underneath. I can live with honorifics, but it's not like you lose something by turning 'hime-sama' into a comparable English phrase, like "your Majesty." If no context is lost in translation and there is a perfectly comprehendable equivalent in English, than TRANSLATE IT DAMN IT.
As far as actual extras are concerned, the only one present are a bunch of goofy 4-komas about Mina's maids. It's mostly fluff, and I have to wonder why on earth they chose to focus on otherwise nameless maids. It's also being rereleased in 3-in-1 omnibuses, although as far as I'm aware of they have not added any extras to those releases.
Dance in the Vampire Bund can't commit to telling an interesting story or building up an interesting world, so instead it focuses on a controversial romance. It doesn't even succeed at that, though, because it's more focused on creepy fanservice than it is on the two involved.
This series is published by Seven Seas. The series is complete in 14 volumes, and is currently in print.
You can purchase this volume and many more like it through RightStuf.com!
Also, now I'm creeped out by the fact that they crossed this universe over with that of Young Miss Holmes, because I hate to think of what appeal that series would have for the audience of DITVB *shudder*