That’s right. The final episode of Dance in the Vampire Bund is titled Dance in the Vampire Bund, and (spoilers!) it ends with a dance in the Vampire Bund. Story-wise, this episode had to explain a lot, and it managed to accomplish that, tying the series together nicely, even while introducing new plot points that remain as mysteries to the viewer.
To quote M. Night Shyamalan on Robot Chicken, “What a twist!” I didn’t see that one coming. The true vampires’ inheritance being that there are multiple Minas? I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around this. It was nice to finally have that gap in Akira’s memories filled. I enjoyed the grotesque imagery in the scene when all the Minas were being burned. The music in that scene reminded me too much of the underworld theme from Super Mario Brothers, though.
But even though Akira and Mina are the protagonists, Meiren really stole the spotlight this climactic episode.
As joker76 had theorized, Meiren was indeed the 3rd assassin, and beyond that, she’s also a part of Telomere. That explains why she stopped Mina’s final strike in episode 7, and how she was on the other end of the phone in episode 9.
She explains to Akira pretty much everything. She was a slave who was given freedom and a purpose by that other Mina from the first scene of the episode. And she wants that Mina to be the queen of the world. That’s why she joined Telomere, that’s why she was undercover this whole time until all the vampire heads were gathered under one roof, and that’s why she now has the same kind of bomb inside her as was featured in episodes 8 and 9.
But of course, Akira doesn’t see things the same way. Their fight had its moments, but it was overall underwhelming. Mostly just bright flashes of light flying around the city. The best moments were those before and after the fight, when the tension between Akira and Meiren builds and builds, and when it is all finally released. Meiren had some very poignant things to say in these scenes, which made her into a tragic character, a real foil to Akira, instead of a simple villain.
But she still was the villain, and Mina was the heroine. She had her moment as well. When Akira was clearly overmatched by Meiren and down for the count, and Yuki was already beginning to mourn his coming death, it was Mina who sat with confidence. She firmly believed that Akira would keep his promise to return to her, against all odds and evidence. And in the moment of truth, he does defeat Meiren, even though he loses his arm in the process.
Once the action began to die down, Mina was great as she put the clan heads in their place. I loved the call-back to episode 10, where Mina had seemingly joked to Yuki that they could fill any room in that building with sunlight. Turns out she wasn’t lying. Thanks to the magic of fiber optics. And she was adorable when she was walking away from the meeting room and couldn’t help herself from breaking into a run to meet Akira.
The denouement was fitting, though it felt somewhat rushed. It was nice to see Mina and Akira honoring Meiren’s death, as she had proved to be a great and very likable character in these last few episodes. In the end, the story came back around to end with another promise, as Yuki’s narration had alluded to throughout the show. I didn’t like how they conveniently had Akira’s arm reattached. I wanted Akira really to lose something, to put a greater permanence and sacrifice to the battle he fought. I like it when the hero has to lose something in his journey to success, like, for example, Mikiya and his left eye in Kara no Kyoukai (or, on the subject of eyes, Snake and his right eye in Metal Gear Solid 3).
There’s still the unaddressed issue of the second Mina. There was just a quick little scene showing her at the end, so even though the current story had wrapped up neatly, there is still a thread open for a possible sequel.
And I think I’d like that. I can’t honestly say the show was great. The first half was aimless and, to be frank, pretty boring at times. Though the show got very strong in the second half, the ending didn’t blow me away. Which is pretty much what it needed to do given the first half. But the whole build up to the ending was so strong, and it got me so interested in the story enough that I’d like to see more. And the way Meiren’s character and story were handled was brilliant throughout.
This show leaves me with mixed feelings. Being an action/thriller, it was a very big departure from Shaft’s recent works, which have either been talk-heavy comedies or romance dramas. I was a little skeptical about how they would handle the action, and I was right to be skeptical; though the action exceeded my expectations and was even great at times, it was inconsistent and the climactic action scene wasn’t directed very well at all. And I’ve already gone on too much about how the story was weak until the second half.
At the same time, there were parts of the show that Shaft handled very well. When the action was good, it was GOOD. The stories of the main characters, including those of Yuzuru with Nanami and of Meiren were excellent and left me feeling… something when each of their stories ended. And Shaft tied the overall story together very well in the last 2 episodes, neatly wrapping up something that seemed to be in complete disarray halfway through.
I can’t heartily recommend this show to everyone, but if you’ve got the patience to sit through the whole thing, I think you’ll see those flashes of brilliance that made the show enjoyable. Here’s to hoping for a second season, in which Shaft has a better budget and has learned from what worked and didn’t in this season.
Anyway, this series is now over, and I’ll be moving on to Shaft’s Arakawa Under the Bridge in this coming season. The first episode actually airs today (don’t know the exact time, so it may have already), so look for impressions on that soon.