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Dance in the Vampire Bund – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund

 

Similar: Black Blood Brothers

Tsukuyomi Moon Phase

 Strike the Blood

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Action

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Technically, the visuals are good.

Negatives:

  • Incompetent main character because the creators put lolicon first, depth and character second.
  • Cliché high school plot despite the premise, if you can believe it.
  • Distracting and unfocused camera work.
  • Even with only twelve episodes, the plot drags.
  • Creepy pedocest implications.

Mina Tepes, daughter of Dracula and queen of vampires, wants to setup a vampire district island in Japan in exchange for paying off the national debt. However, government officials and other vampire clans resist her play for power. High school student and werewolf, Akira, fights as her bodyguard against assassination and is her whipping boy.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is confused about what type of story it wants to tell. Take the first episode, which follows a panel show of “experts” (celebrities, a professor, and two presenters) discussing the myth of vampires and if they exist based on a series of recent deaths. The segment is amusing, as the panel presents the same drivel that they would say in real life. This sets a mystery case vibe, only with guests instead of detectives. However, vampires burst on stage before long and the second episode moves onto a high school teen romance. Mina joins Akira’s high school, where they fall for each other instantly while another girl, who has had a crush on him for, like, evah, gets jealous. Alright, it’s a high school show, got it. No, wait; it then becomes a political narrative between different clans and the Japanese government. Hang on, it’s now has an action slant when a squad of vampires infiltrate the school and attack the student body. Learn focus, for blood’s sake!

Protagonist Mina is also at odds with the tone. Are we supposed to take a prepubescent girl seriously as vampire queen? Why did she stop growing at twelve? If her ageing were to stop at a given point, wouldn’t it be at the human prime around twenty? This just sounds like an excuse for creepy Lolita. She doesn’t have a psychotic personality with the mentality of a child or a maturity betrayed by her appearance. She’s pedobait, nothing more. The creators took any excuse to have her strip. Her hidden power is to grow older with huge breasts, fighting naked, for some reason. She’s not Alucard, where armour wouldn’t make much of a difference since he can regenerate from any damage. Mina however, is easily wounded and not that durable. And why not stay in adult form if it’s more powerful? The design stupidity baffles me.

Furthermore, Mina treats us to the most amateur political manoeuvring that has no subtlety, no understanding of the political landscape. For a queen of an ancient race, she sure is incompetent. Also, the prime minister can somehow dissolve parliament? Okay… That is the dumbest attempt at politics I have ever seen. The writers didn’t need to be so absurd; all they had to do was have a political party opposed to the vampire zone. Too much effort?

Dance in the Vampire Bund is an anime too busy with random camera cuts to have any depth to its plot. I am disappointed they didn’t make it a crowd sourced supernatural murder mystery. It would have been far more interesting to have Mina as a mysterious (and mature) vampire working from the shadows, unseen until late like monster films. Shame.

Art – Medium

Desperate to emulate Bakemonogatari in visuals, forgetting what made the odd style work over there (they share the same art director). The cinematography tries to be interesting by cutting away to random parts of the environment and an overabundant number of close ups on anatomy – eyes, mouth, ear, etc. except, there’s not much worth looking at and serves no purpose but distract you from how mind-numbingly dull the dialogue is. Screens of yellow or red flash randomly, often during action – we see the swing, then the damage, no impact in-between. Why? Haven’t the foggiest. Characters are too shiny; they look laminated.

Sound – Medium

The voice work sounds tired in Japanese and is only a little better in English. Lacks emotion. You can’t get any personality from their voices beyond the archetype clichés. Music is too low at times and gets repetitive.

Story – Low

A Lolita vampire queen setting up a new city for vampires isn’t an interesting premise, and the execution didn’t help either. Dance in the Vampire Bund has no soul to it, nothing memorable.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Dance in the Vampire Bund isn’t good for an action anime or a vampire anime. This anime has nothing to say.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None.

Negative: 

Hollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionInduces StupidityRubbish Major CharactersShallow

Blood Lad – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Blood Lad

 

Similar: Rosario + Vampire

Strike the Blood

Soul Eater

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Comedy

Length: 10 episodes & 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Colourful palette.
  • An interesting idea with several good pop-culture jokes.

Negatives:

  • Deviates from the premise within two episodes.
  • Terrible visualisation in action sequences.
  • Bland characters that don’t evolve.
  • Succumbs to the tropes it parodies.

A parody about a vampire who’s an otaku of Japanese pop-culture rather than a bloodthirsty killer? Sounds interesting. What? It devolves into an action series that has little to do with otaku culture and parody? Just great

Staz is a vampire and leader of a demon gang. He’s also a nutter for Japanese games, anime and manga, which he smuggles in from the human world. When a human girl stumbles into the demon world, he pitches a tent on her property. Two seconds later, a plant monster eats her. Ah well, what can you do? Wait, she’s now a ghost! Except, Staz doesn’t fancy her anymore because he’s only into human chicks. He vows to return her to life so that his tent may once more stand upright. And so, Staz goes off in search of the Book of Human Resurrection to restore her.

As an otaku, Staz is a funny character with his pop-culture references; however, since the anime forgets he’s an otaku for the most part, we don’t get many of these jokes during all the action. This problem is at the core of Blood Lad; it sets itself up as a parody series, taking several clichéd anime tropes and mocking them. For example, the human girl, whose name I can’t remember from blandness, has large breasts despite being an early high school student, which they make fun of – once. After that, she becomes the generic, large breasted twelve-year-old (I’m sure she’s supposed to be older than that) love interest. Then they bring in another large breasted teen, (and there was much rejoicing. Yaaaaay…) same as the human, just aggressive instead of timid. One joke before a swan dive into the ocean of generic. Why not take the cliché and run with the joke? Every time Blood Lad parodies a trope, it ends up succumbing to cliché itself.

A funny idea for a character and a vivid colour palette couldn’t save Blood Lad from devolving into an anime you have seen many times before. Even if you’re into vampires, Blood Lad brings nothing of note to the mythos.

Art – Medium

Vibrant colours, which is a surprising choice considering the vampire theme; however, there isn’t much to look at. Not as creative as you would imagine for an otaku parody. Action sequences look awful because the character layer doesn’t interact with the attack layer. For example, when blood sprays everywhere, the character isn’t affected until the camera cuts to a different angle and then he is streaked in blood.

Sound – Medium

The voice work is good in both languages, but they don’t say much worth listening to. Forgettable music.

Story – Low

What starts out as an otaku parody with a vampire quickly devolves into a lame plot about saving a useless girl. At least some of the jokes are funny.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For fans of mild otaku humour with action. Blood Lad had potential in its premise. It could have been a humorous look at otaku culture from the perspective of a vampire, but its unfocused execution makes this anime a forgettable one.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None.

Negative: 

Horrendous ActionMisleadingRubbish Major CharactersShallow

Karas – Review

Japanese Title: KARAS

 

Similar: Zetman

Blassreiter

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Dazzling visuals full of energy.
  • Intense action with great cinematography.

Negatives:

  • Too many plot lines that keep shoving each other out of the way.
  • Very little character development across the board.
  • Obvious CG on occasion.
  • Core of the narrative doesn’t become clear until the fourth episode.
  • BLOOM! Ah, my eyes!

Every once in a while, I come across an anime that on the surface looks fantastic, has an interesting premise, and oozes style, but is kicked in the crotch by the most baffling and obvious errors. Karas is one such anime.

Immediately, Karas (Japanese for ‘crow’) dazzles with its intense action as two power-armoured samurai duel among the clouds, gunfire flashing out once they transform into fighter jets before they crash into the city below. The visuals are brilliant and intense, sometimes too intense with excessive use of bloom. It burns the eyes. Karas boasts actual cinematography, often lacking in television anime. Scenes are shot from creative angles, well composited to draw you into the action. The camera shudders against shockwaves, increasing immersion. This anime is beautiful to behold.

However, once the opening action subsides, Karas loses the audience. The premise revolves around a world of demons existing out of sight in a human city. The humans were once aware of the demons’ existence, but have since forgotten and relegated the use of demons to myths and ridicule. (How did they forget?) The Karas tech-fighters exist to keep the balance between the two worlds. Eko, a former Karas, grows tired of human ignorance and raises an army of demons enhanced by his tech-magic to destroy the humans. In response, Yurine uses her own tech-magic to give Otoha the power of the Karas to fight against Eko.

None of this is clear until the halfway mark. The first three episodes largely follow Nue – a rogue demon on humanity’s side – and not the supposed protagonist Otoha. Then episode four hits, and at last, we see the narrative’s core. Nue is all but dropped for Otoha to take his place. This is the obvious problem. Karas has too many plot threads that it can’t manage. I got the impression that the story compositor thought he was plucking a guitar with how fast the scenes jump between threads. Just as a scene is about to reveal its purpose, it cuts away to anoth- no, back again- wait, a third challenger approaches! It’s irritating, particularly in the first two episodes. Two police officers investigating the murders caused by kappa (water demons) also have a meaningless plot thread. Only in the final two episodes, once several plot threads get the Falcon Punch they deserve, can we enjoy the narrative.

None of this is to say that Karas is bad. Rather, it is crippled by baffling choices. It feels as though the first half of the series was in the draft stage, structure wise. Still, Karas is a gorgeous spectacle of action.

Art – High

Karas is a dazzling display of action that blends CG with anime. The CG is noticeable (though not bad) in a few scenes without environmental filters. Wear sunglasses against the bloom.

Sound – Medium

Decent English and Japanese voice tracks with good sound effects.

Story – Medium

Karas has a good narrative to tell between demons and humans, but is unfortunately elbowed across the face by unnecessary side plots.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Watch Karas if you want spectacular sights and action. Make sure to read the full review or a synopsis beforehand so you aren’t lost in the early narrative.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid AnimationStunning Art Quality

Negative:

IncoherentUseless Side Cast

Blade – Review

Japanese Title: Blade

 

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Blood: The Last Vampire

X-Men

 

Watched in: English & Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Action

Length: 12 Episodes

 

Positives:

  • Visual style is nice with decent atmospheric colouring; good screenshots, essentially.

Negatives:

  • So many action clichés: Locked swords that wouldn’t lock, simultaneous jump slash followed by silence before the damage appears on both, etc.
  • When the vampires burn in death, the fire looks photoshopped over the top, which is strange since the environmental fire looks good.
  • High action moments experience a drop in frame rate, even going so far as to have static characters merely drift across the screen.
  • The vampires are weak. A sneeze means death.
  • Despite the narrative focus on the death of Blade’s mother, we get no emotional exploration.
  • Squandered use of Blade.

An exasperated hiss, that is my reaction at the end of Blade. Madhouse did a poor job here in translating the Blade comics into anime. Blade is the fourth on Marvel’s anime slate, and after four attempts, they don’t seem to have learnt much, if anything at all. Here we have shallow narrative, noticeable animation shortcuts, and every action cliché imaginable.

Blade is on a mission to kill Deacon Frost, a regular villain from the comics, and his Japanese based ‘Existence’ organisation of vampires as vengeance for the death of his mother. From then on, the plot is as linear as can be, with no twists all the way. Blade teams up with another vampire hunter, Makoto, out for revenge for the death of her father. Together, they carve their way through hordes of vampires…with ease. Immediately, we have a problem. The vampires are weak! They die to a sneeze. Blade gets more resistance from the wind than from the vampires as he slices through. He could slash at the air for more of a challenge than these vampires. Deacon Frost and a couple of others are the only real vampiric challenge; however, they never explain why they are more powerful than the others. The story never explores anything beneath the surface. Blade finally confronts his mother’s killer? Meh, just another bad guy. What are the villains’ motivations? Eh, who cares; it’s not like depth matters. Instead, they waste time on calling out ability names.

This laziness is prevalent in every facet of Blade. The animation for instance, loses much of its frame rate during action sequences, even to the point where the animation stops altogether and the characters just slide across the screen. When Blade executes a flurry of attacks, half the time, rather than show off this fluid animation of him dancing between enemies, carving them to shreds, they chose to have still shots flash in sequence minimal detail. Only in the finale does anything interesting happen on the visual spectrum.

Blade is a dull anime and a squandered opportunity with the comic lore. Even after all said above, it still feels worse than that, worse than the sum of its parts from the disappointment at this anime.

Art – Medium

Nice style ruined by low frame rate action and so many static shots.

Sound – Low

Mere passable voice work lacking in nuance of better anime. Generic action music.

Story – Low

A bog standard action plot of a vampire hunter hunting a vampire that looks no deeper than the surface.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Read the comics instead. Wasted chance to create an alternative take on Blade mythos.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards(hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: Nothing

Negative:

 DissapointingHollow World BuildingNo DevelopmentShallow

Berserk – Review

Japanese Title: Kenpuu Denki Berserk

 

Related: Berserk: The Golden Age (remake)

Similar: Claymore

Gungrave

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Horror Fantasy

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good animation, especially considering the show’s age.
  • Guts is a great lead character that portrays a more believable muscle-bound character than most other anime.
  • English voice track is well done for the most part.
  • Properly used horror in an interesting plot.
  • ‘Forces’ music track fills one with epicness.

Negatives:

  • Incomplete, cliffhanger ending.
  • First episode is deceptive due to the incomplete ending, and the next few episodes are slow to start.
  • Opening and closing sequences will leave you horror-struck with lacklustre quality.
  • Poor use of what little music there is.

Berserk came out during a time when anime in the West was marketed towards a broader audience, even going so far as to censor elements or tone down language to reach the young demographic. Outside of films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, you had to search high and low for mature anime that wasn’t terrible. Then Berserk came along with its dark themes, unadulterated horror and violence to show us just how adult anime could be.

Berserk centres on Guts, the orphan swordsman, and Griffith, leader of a mercenary band, as they fight for their country of Midland. However, Griffith has ambitions beyond just fighting for a king; he wants to be king. Griffith’s plans test the loyalties of Guts and his mercenaries to the limit. Berserk focuses on themes of loyalty, isolation, and the fundamentals of humanity, the nature of good and evil innate with us. Be forewarned, this anime gets dark, very dark, contains nudity, plenty of violence, and gore everywhere. These aspects are not thrown in at random. No violence for the sake of violence. Gore for the sake of gore. Each use is relevant, an uncensored view of the scene.

Guts is a fantastic protagonist, a badass anti-hero, who wields a giant sword that can cut horses in half. Normally, wielding a giant sword is indicative of a terrible character, one that the creators put no thought into, especially when it comes to physics. With Guts however, he has the look and ferocity of a man who can wield such a weapon. The animators made the effort to show the heft of swinging such a heavy weapon; Guts doesn’t twirl it around like a baton as seen in other anime and games. As a character, Guts goes through a range of emotional and physical trials, exemplifying his depth. When designing a brawny character, look to Guts for the archetype done right.

Griffith too is a suitably complex character with his own strengths and weaknesses, exploring the price of ambition, but to elaborate further would constitute spoilers, so I shall stop there. The supporting cast of mercenaries is a mixed bag of quality, but they are good when it counts, Casca in particular who struggles with her identity as a women in a band of men. Villains, ranging from generals to nobles, are despicably evil, sick and twisted, some with magic elements thrown in.

There are two major narrative faults. The first episode can confuse viewers, being a flash-forward that we never return to because of the second fault, the finale. Berserk is incomplete; after an awesome adventure that keeps getting better and a horrifying finale, the series ends on a cliffhanger. It is clear they intended to have a sequel series, but never got around to it. (They did go back to the beginning again with the recent release of Berserk: The Golden Age; however, that’s a new take on the manga, so you won’t get closure on this version.)

Berserk comes highly recommended. Just don’t watch it if you can’t handle the thought of an incomplete anime. You could read the manga afterwards, however. Also, not for children – can’t stress this enough.

Art – High

You will find higher quality anime these days, of course, but Berserk’s gritty medieval style doesn’t feel dated beyond the use of action lines and slow motion to hide the occasional low frame rate.

Sound – Medium

Has one of the best tracks in anime: ‘Forces.’ Even so, the soundtrack is limited and hardly used. Many battles have no music for some reason, not for added effect. The opening and ending themes are awful, sung in terrible English and don’t fit the series – just…awful. The acting is good in either language, though I found the English suited the characters better, except for Griffith; his English actor can’t command the scene as Griffith should.

Story – High

An excellent fantasy tale of corruption and loyalty with a good cast of characters brought to a halt by a cliffhanger ending and no continuation.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must for fans of dark fantasy that doesn’t shy away from the realities of battle and horror. No incomplete anime deserved a conclusion more than Berserk.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Extensive Character DevelopmentHoly S***Riveting ActionStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None