Glenn Hough (gallyangel) is a nonpracticing futurist, an anime and manga otaku, and is almost obsessive about finishing several of the lists tracked on WWEnd. This is the first in Glenn’s new series on Vampire Manga, a companion piece to his excellent SF Manga series, which will be accompanied by separate series for Horror and Fantasy.
The Japanese love, love, love, the supernatural. Their folklore and native religion of Shintoism foster a worldview that is positively bursting with gods, demons, and beings of all shapes and sizes living alongside Humanity. When Stoker unleashed his Count Dracula upon the English speaking world, Vampires and European Vampire lore found especially fertile soil in Japan. Like a sponge.
It’s not a surprise then, that Vampire related Manga is prolific enough for it’s own category blog. So we start.
One of the best – number one as far as I’m concerned – is a relative newcomer to the manga scene. It debuted in 2006. What gives it top of the heap status for me? Two words: Mina Tepes.
Princess of the Vampire Clans and Ruler of the Night: Mina Tepes.
Anyone who knows Stoker and the saga of Vlad the impaler should appreciate how deeply entwined her name is in all the Vampire lore which has gone before. How deeply right that name sounds for a Vampire: Mina Tepes.
To All Creatures of the Night: Your Salvation Has Arrived!
After millennia in hiding, Mina Tepes, the Princess of the ancient covenant and ruler of all Vampires, wants change. Using the vast wealth of the Tepes line, she has paid off the entire gross national debt of Japan and in so doing, gained the authority to create a “special district” off the coast of Japan that is to become the future haven to Vampires the world over! Now, on the eve of the landmark press conference announcing the existence of Vampires to the world, terrorists and rival factions plot to assassinate Mina before she has a chance to make her world-changing announcement!
And so the Dance begins.
Nozomu Tamaki’s vision stitches together the lines between incorporating (working with) all of the existing Vampire lore and birthing a fully modern tale with it’s own twists and turns.
Mina has to dance all night. She’s the ruling Princess of an autonomous country (the Bund) right off the Japanese coast. She’s the nominal leader of the Vampire clans. She’s announced the existence of Vampires and, indirectly, Werewolves to the world. The Werewolf Earth clan serves the Tepes line as a secret service, paramilitary, black ops organization. Mina is the last pure blooded female Vampire so she only has three choices of pure blooded males to choose from as a mate; each is more hideously evil than the last. She’s in love with one of her closest Werewolf protectors, but is unable to express it due to the pressure put upon her by the Vampire clans and their obsessiveness over Vampire blood purity in the royal line. Mina has to deal with threats to her Bund from the other Vampire clans, like a genetically programed virus which reprograms who a Vampire will call master and obey. And she has to deal with a hostile and suspicious world in which some factions can’t tolerate her existence. Mina is also acting as a shepherd for those of the “fangless”, Vampires who have renounced the drinking of blood, since there is now an artificial alternative. Add in a cloned twin sister, who orchestrates a coup d’e tat, a traitor in the Werewolfs, the unexpected making of a rare Human friend, the legendary mother of all Vampires (found in the jungles of Brazil) and it all makes Mina’s dance card fully packed.
The driving force behind the Dance is change, technological change brought about by Humans. Mina understands, as the other Vampire lords do not, that embracing change is the only way forward. Vampires, as a distinct species apart from Humanity, are on the brink of extinction; no matter how many Humans are converted, willingly or unwillingly, Humans control the planet and the shadows where Vampires have thrived for millennia, are disappearing. Their power to manipulate and control Humanity is waning, making them vulnerable.
All the tech Mina gathers to her Bund, the replacement for blood, the skin cream that allows limited mobility in daylight, the glass that polarizes at just the right frequency to protect Vampires from light, are just stopgap measures to slow the slide into extinction. Vampires by nature indulge in internecine rivalries which is made worse by modern weaponry. When Vampires and their servants had to hack at each other with spears and swords, they were far less likely to exterminate whole clans like modern 50 caliber machine guns can.
Princess Mina, Ruler of the Night, is both a realist and pragmatist when it comes to Vampires. But more importantly, she is their Savior. That is the heart of Dance in the Vampire Bund: a Princess as the Savior of her people. This is a fairy tale with fangs. And yet the fairy tale is thoroughly modern, reading at times like a political thriller or a black ops action packed blockbuster. Dance also has a substrata of sensuousness that echoes the lore and the modern twists of Anne Rice. The past is always echoing in the Bund since Vampires are so long lived as a species. This sort of Vampire societal inertia is a constant counterpoint to where Princess Mina is headed, where she feels Vampires need to go as a species. Just this aspect alone is a stunning use of contemporary political realities from around the globe.
Dance in the Vampire Bund is a deep drink from an ancient goblet which holds a modern vintage. There is the blood of Vampires feeding and killing and modern armies going full tilt at each other. There are the lusts of the Vampire and cold political calculations. There are traitors, divided loyalties, and unwavering devotion. Sparkly Vampires beware: In the Bund, they’d eat you alive at a Midnight feast, cracking your bones for the marrow. You wouldn’t last the night.
Our friends over at Seven Seas Entertainment brought Dance stateside. The takubon graphic novel series is in print along with a compilation omnibus edition. There are also two side series, Dive in the Vampire Bund and The Memories of Sledge Hammer, both of which are in print from Seven Seas. The second story arc for Princess Mina and her Bund is slated to launch in 2014. Dance is also available via the scanlation networks like mangafox.me or mangahere.com or mangatraders.com if you need a free copy or would prefer to read it digitally.