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Vampires of Mass Destruction

January 31, 2010

Something that’s irked me about anime for some time is how apolitical the medium tends to be. I guess it’s just a cultural thing or whatever, but very few series decide to tackle political issues the way Hollywood movies or broadcast/cable TV shows like to do at times. And when anime dares to get “relevant,” it usually sticks to the tired and true Miyazaki perspective: war is evil and nature should be preserved.

I don’t want every series to be topical, but at the same time it’s a little troublesome that the vast majority of anime series don’t even hint at any sort of political leaning. Even those cartoons on Adult Swim that all the fans hate for taking away “anime’s rightful place” tend to at least throw in a few political gags every now and then. It’s pretty sad when Robot Chicken (a show I dig, by the way) is more politically savvy than the average anime.

Then along comes the fourth episode of Vampire Bund. Much like the fourth episode of Durarara!, this episode of Bund clears up some suspicions I’ve had: The situation in Vampire Bund is playing out much like the war/occupation/whatever of Iraq.

The Vampires are the US. They’re using their superior monetary and military (but mainly monetary) power to manipulate a country into serving its own ends. The Vampire “kingdom” has invested vast amounts of money into Japan’s economy through investments and moving businesses to the country, and this has stabilized the nation’s rough economic situation. In exchange for “saving” the nation’s economy, Mina demands that a certain part of the nation be turned over to her “kingdom.” This parcel of land is to become completely under her control, not unlike Hong Kong was controlled by the British back in the day.

This is pretty similar to the situation in Iraq. The US moves in and aids the country by offing Saddam, bringing democracy to the nation, and otherwise “saving” the country from a perceived terrorist threat. Whether that was a good thing for Iraq and the US is obviously debatable, but the US essentially “helped” the Iraqi people. Many people believe this was fueled by the US’ desire for easy access to oil. That’s the “payment” for this aid, much like how Mina demands the island and outright autonomy as payment for saving Japan’s economy.

In both situations the “aid” wasn’t requested. While there’s obviously a certain part of the population that welcomes the US’ actions in Iraq, there’s also a sizable part of the populace that’s against such actions, and there was no large contingent crying out and pleading for the US’ aid. This was a decision made solely by the US. The same goes for Mina’s financial bailout of Japan. Japan was in a rough spot, but no one was crying out for some foreign power to invest massive amounts of capital into their nation to set things back on track. As far as the Japanese people and government knew, this was simply a natural upswing in the economy. That’s the way economics works. They had no idea that the upswing was due to outside manipulation.

Both nations are in situations where they can’t just oust their so-called “saviors.” Iraq obviously wants the US military out, since that might ease tensions with insurgents and the like, and they obviously don’t like the idea of essentially being occupied by a foreign power. At the same time, they can’t just boot the US out. They’re depending on the military to train their own defense forces, and despite their own feelings the US does lend a certain stabilizing force in a country that’s still in transition. It’s a lose/lose situation for Iraq, and all they can do for now is side with the more potent power.

Japan’s in the same lose/lose situation in Bund. They obviously don’t want a vampire nation popping up overnight within Japan’s borders, since they simply don’t want a bunch of fucking vampires running around doing god knows what. Are they going to kill people indiscriminately? Are they going to demand more concessions? What the hell is going on here? But like Iraq, Japan doesn’t have much of a choice. If they dont’ cave in to Mina’s demands, not only will their economy collapse, but they have no idea what kind of retribution will be dealt out by Mina and her vampire followers. Japan is fucked no matter what they do, and there never was and never will be much they can do about it.

Various details help paint this picture. The latest episode deals with a suicide bomber that tries to off Mina. A news reporter from CNN (I really dig that they actually used CNN and not some made up news network.) pulls off an elaborate plan to assassinate Mina. She lures a vampire, who has stolen some explosives, into her hotel room while pretending to be a willing “victim.” After the vampire does his business and turns her into one of his kind, she stakes the bastard and steals the explosives.

The most awesome part of her plan is that she takes full advantage of her newfound vampire nature. She guts herself, taking out most of her no longer vital organs, and implants the explosives within her body. She’s made the ultimate sacrifice for her at-the-moment unknown cause: not only is she giving up her life, but she’s become “one of them” in order to fulfil her cause. She’s a full-on terrorist sleeper agent. She embodies the fears that many in the US have post-911. She’s your neighbor or co-worker or whatever who just might be an Al Qaeda scumbag, and she’s been secretly plotting to blow you to hell when you least expected.

Yeah, Dance in the Vampire Bund is starting to play out like the political anime that I’ve always wanted to see. It very well could go in a different direction, depending on what they choose to focus upon, but I hope they at least keep some of these undertones.

All that said, I’m shocked that most fans are only focusing on how the series deviates from the manga and crap like that. They’re far too distracted by not getting what they expected to see that Bund is turning into something genuinely interesting and clever. Nope, all the care about is getting a story they’ve already read put on their computer monitor. I really don’t get that mentality.

Also: Bloody Bubble Bath Party! Yay!

At least I’m assuming that’s blood. I want it to be blood. Wouldn’t be cool if it wasn’t.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2010 8:56 PM

    Besides Iraq, there is also a closer to home contemporary analogy: current US bases in Okinawa and other places in Japan. The bases are there for protection against Russia (in the past) and China (in the future), but I think most Japanese would like to get rid of them.

  2. Landon permalink*
    February 3, 2010 3:00 AM

    Yeah, I can see that. And it’d make for a more plausible metaphor given the country of origin.

  3. February 7, 2010 4:32 PM

    Really interesting post. I’ve only watched the first episode, was meh about it, and then heard everyone saying how bad it is. But your post here makes me want to check out 2 to 4 and see for myself, it sounds like it could be something I would enjoy. Too bad it’s gotten such bad press so far.

    I’m very much with you on there not being enough political issues in anime. Though I think this is a reflection of the culture for the most part. At least in my own experience Japanese people are very apathetic about politics, compared to Americans and Europeans anyway. For example, I noticed that if I talked to an American two or three times politics would probably come up in some form at least once, but I knew some Japanese for an entire year and maybe the subject came up once, if at all.

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