Akira is a teenage werewolf whose family has a long tradition of being loyal bodyguards for vampire royalty. When he is seventeen, he is taken to meet the ruler of all vampires, Mina Tepes. They met once when he was a child, and he promised to stay by her side forever. Mina has taken him at his word and used her vast wealth to take over the national debt of Japan in exchange for the creation of a special district in Tokyo Bay: the Vampire Bund, an area in which vampires can safely live without being hunted or discriminated against. Enemies both human and vampire attempt to kill Mina, but she has an abundance of strength and cunning. In fact, it seems that her only weakness is her kind heart, especially her affection for Akira.
A closed-off area for vampires that exists as a legal district bordering a major city (along the lines of Hong Kong or Macau) is such a good idea with so much potential that I am really disappointed it isn’t explored in the way it deserves in the first three volumes of this series. In general, the world-building is sloppy and, instead of providing details to flesh out the setting, it depends on readers’ preconceptions of vampires and werewolves. Readers are not told what kinds of vampires and werewolves we’re dealing with; we are just shown people with fangs and vaguely militaristic clothing and told to run with it. The narrative feels forced and there isn’t a lot of set-up for the reader; for example, an important bit of lore—a vampire must obey the “Master” who turned them by drinking their blood—was not explained until it emerged as an important plot point. Too bad, because there are also fantastic original ideas; for instance, a newly-turned vampire would be able to hide a bomb in their body by simply taking out all their internal organs, which was new to me and very refreshing. However, the artwork is generic: competent, but nothing extraordinary.
It should be noted that while Mina is capable of transforming into an older body, which is presumably her true shape, she looks like a ten-year-old in her everyday existence. Her frequent nudity around Akira in this form is framed as fanservice. Akira himself often loses his clothes due to werewolf transformations or explosions. Abduction by vampires serves as an excuse for thinly-disguised depictions of gang rape (twice). One of the victims of the aforementioned abduction is a high school student who subsequently bites and enters a sexual relationship with a child friend; this is depicted as a happy event.
If you want an entertaining manga featuring nonhuman characters, there are many better titles. Instead of Dance in the Vampire Bund, I would recommend Black Butler, a recent title; Hellsing, a violent classic; Vassalord, an unashamedly sex-oriented trashy title with fantastic artwork and better writing, though it also features minors and rape; Shiki for absolute horror; Chrono Crusade for emotional storytelling; or Durarara!! for a contemporary setting and sheer wackiness.
Dance in the Vampire Bund Omnibus 1, vols. 1-3
by Nozomu Tamaki
Seven Seas Entertainment, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: OT(16+)