In the 19th century, Dracula symbolized the foreign threat, the morally corrupting force preying upon British women. Now, in the 21st century, the vampire queen Mina Tepes dances seductively on a construction site, waiting for her man to catch her from falling. What has the vampire mythos become and what is it saying?
There is an interesting dichotomy in the vampire mythos that allows it to captivate audiences:
The vampire’s nature is fundamentally conservative — it never stops doing what it does; but culturally, this creature may be highly adaptable. Thus it can be made to appeal to or generate fundamental urges located somehow ‘beyond’ culture (desire, anxiety, fear), while simultaneously, it can stand for a range of meanings and positions in culture. The simultaneity at work here, it seems to me, explains why the vampire has lived so long. — Reading the Vampire, page 141
Nina Auerbach concludes along similar logic, but adds another dimension:
In both cultures, vampires turn to women to perform the extreme implications of their monstrosity — erotic friendship in England, social rebellion in America. In general, with striking exceptions (particularly in the American 1970s), vampires are male creations; their most stellar incarnations are male; but in their well-bred inhibitions, many need women to act out their natures for them. — Our Vampires, Ourselves, page 7
If the vampire represents both the forbidden yet reflects aspects of society, if the vampire utilizes women to deliver its message, how can we use this to understand Mina Tepes?
Mina represents the alluringly forbidden.
Mina Tepes is strong in many ways: she’s wealthy, politically and physically powerful. We know from the last episode and early in this episode that her vampire kingdom is very rich. Not only that, Mina is also a queen and queens generally imply a certain level of political power. Lastly, her strength was on display when we saw her easily destroy another vampire in the first episode. In this episode, she quite easily subdues two of her attackers.
More interestingly, however, is that she also lacks something many girls (in anime) seem to have an abundance of: sexual shame. She willingly strips before Akira despite her immature body, even taunting him in the process:
Contrast this with Yuki, another girl in the anime:
Yuki clumsily drops two bento boxes just because she didn’t want Akira to see her panties. If Yuki represents the ‘normal’ we see in every anime, Mina is everything a traditional Japanese girl is not. As a result, it shouldn’t be surprising that Mina is a vampire. Vampires have long stood for the queer and forbidden. For anime, there certainly is something queer and otherworldly about a young girl who is both powerful and confident in her own body.
Mina thus seems to be a metaphor of the modern woman (increased buying power and economic independence, increased political power, increased awareness of one’s own sexuality), so why is she a vampire? How is she a threat, or more importantly, a foreign threat? More importantly, however, the anime clearly does not reject her. Despite glorifying his sexual prowess, the novel made it plainly clear that Dracula was an immoral threat. Dance in the Vampire Bund, on the other hand, remarks that while there is something scary about Mina, it wholeheartedly embraces her. How does the anime go about doing that?
It’s interesting to note how vampirism robs Mina of agency. Instead of being economically and politically powerful in her own terms, she was born ‘this way,’ i.e. a queen and rich. Had Mina been a real girl, her power would require explanation. As a vampire, it becomes ‘the other,’ something mystical that normal people can’t really comprehend. Her nakedness, on the other hand, not only parodies her sexual maturation by contrasting it against her objectively nascent body, it also reduces her to the object of the gaze.
The fact that Mina has blonde hair and likes to dress in Victorian attire only highlights how ‘foreign’ she is. Although Mina is literally foreign, I suggest she represents contemporary Japanese girls (i.e. kogal) and their increasing penchant for Western language, products, etc.:
Yet as Kogals use language, fashion, and behavior to set themselves apart from the parent culture, they increasingly entangle themselves in a culture of escalating consumerism and materialism. — page 241
But the anime doesn’t reject her. A gothic lolita walking down the street should look plain ridiculous, but no one in the anime seems to even remark upon it. Instead, she stands out against the rest of the cast of characters, who are trapped in their uniformity and thus conformity.
The fact that Mina looks like a twelve year old only highlights how morally wrong she should be. It is no question that girls in the the modern era are becoming aware of their sexuality at a younger and younger age, not just in the West but certainly in Japan as well. Is this ‘right?’ The answer to this question is not so important as the fact that the audience often can’t turn away regardless of how they answer the question. The anime doesn’t reject her seemingly prepubescent sexuality, but even taunts the viewers with a “we know it’s wrong but who cares?” attitude. Unless we literally turned away from Mina as she displayed her flat-chestedness before us, we just proved the anime’s point. We may outwardly say that young girls shouldn’t be sexualized at such a young age, but in the safety of our homes, we have no problem following the camera as it pans across every inch of her body.
In fact, by not rejecting the sexually perverse, the anime rejects the ‘normal:’
The apparent fact that Akira may have glimpsed Yuki’s panties seems to barely register with him. It certainly didn’t distract him enough from catching the two bento boxes. Rather, the anime rejects the traditional concept of sexuality, the coy playfulness between blushing girls and boys. The anime thrusts a naked loli before Akira and thus the audience, daring the viewers (including Akira) to touch. Akira hesitates only so much because it seems wrong, but he (and the audience by extension) hardly believes it to be wrong.
(Curiously, Akira also gets naked in the second episode, but the camera takes a very conservative approach. We stay a safe distance away when his entire body is in the frame.
When we do get up close and personal, we are only treated to his upper torso and even then, much less than what we see with Mina.)
Despite all of Mina’s “monstrosities,” the anime doesn’t reject her. The anime wants to protect her; in fact, the anime asserts that Mina desires protection, which is a strange conclusion, but I’ll get to that in a bit. This is the simultaneity of the vampire’s appeal. Although Mina represents everything threatening about the contemporary modern girl (‘foreign,’ sexually mature, shameless), she is nevertheless alluring to the audience. What I find troubling, however, is not so much the fact that the anime embraces these liberating qualities of the modern girl, but contrives to fit them neatly in a conservative framework. Sure, Mina’s powerful, but she still requires Akira’s protection.
Akira, as his normal self, can’t really help Mina. We clearly see him get pushed out of the way while she single-handedly fought off the attackers:
So if being the modern man isn’t enough for the modern woman, what does the anime suggest?
The anime seems to say that man need to revert back to his bestial nature, to become animalistic. Only by doing so can you subdue the modern woman, where she no longer stands on her two feet but needs to be carried. By shedding his clothes, Akira rejects society and, according to the anime, its arbitrary morals and rules. The threat of the modern girl can only be subdued by appealing to nature. In society, we strive for gender equality. In nature, men are (generally) physically stronger than women. In nature, we assume that deep down women (generally) just want to be protected and cradled.
Am I supposed to believe that the vampire queen needs a shounen hero to pick her up and carry her like a helpless little girl? Of course Mina doesn’t need his help, but, implied by her facial expression in the screenshot above, she still wants his help. The anime seems to imply that liberated, powerful women are nothing to be afraid of — they still just want a prince charming to sweep them off their feet. The only difference is that charming has been redefined, implying that the effete modern man won’t get the job done.
Ghosts, werewolves, and manufactured monsters are relatively changeless, more aligned with eternity than with time; vampires blend into the changing cultures they inhabit. — Our Vampires, Ourselves, page 6
Perhaps Akira’s chivalry and lycanthropy are related. Perhaps the inclination to help women “just because” is an animal instinct. After all, in an equal society, shouldn’t we all help each other regardless of gender? In the end, the message might not be anything new. We have often seen in recent decades that the response to feminism have often been the (re)assertion of the (hyper)masculine.
I think this should be addressed in the main article rather than the comments:
Consider Akira’s “protection” in this perspective: not an assertion of strength or dominance, but a statement of fealty and submission (in keeping with his childhood oath). Conversely, it is a token of power on Mina’s part to be able to have such a knight in shining armor black fur (which she could most likely do without, seeing as she shrugs off a missile attack). All she has to do is call his name and he will leap forward. The power play is even more obvious in the instant-classic gel scene.
The idea behind this argument is that Mina has pragmatic power. In exploiting the traditional power dynamics of relationships, in which men are heroes and women are damsels in distress, i.e. playing by men’s rules, she will have more real power than Akira at the end of the day. And that would be a legitimate argument if Mina really did have more real power at the end of the day (though to be honest, we want an equal society where nobody is stronger than the other). But what power does she have, exactly? To put it another way, why does Akira submit to her? Is it because of her brains? Is it because of her abilities? The answer to both questions is no. Rather, Akira chooses to be Mina’s faithful knight only because she is an adorable loli, a childhood friend, i.e. everything that she has no control over. As a result, she is no different than the strippers who take their clothes off for money; once their looks fade, no one will give a shit one way or another about them. It is thus a demonstrably false idea that the commodification of young women’s “moe-ness” is a form of real power. If she wasn’t moe, what man would be willing to be her dog (pun quite intended)? But luckily, she’s a vampire and they can contrive to have her stay loli (and moe) forever.
Excellent post. This show does what anime does best: create myth. Mina is a new vampire for a new form of forbidden sexuality. The sexuality of the original Dracula novel a hundred years ago was no less outrageous in its day.
That she is a powerful woman (apparently a girl) is female empowerment, whether her power is innate or acquired. That she enjoys being protected is simply a truth about women’s instincts, as Akira’s enjoyment of protecting her is of men’s. That these attitudes themselves are now half forbidden makes them even more delicious.
The contradiction between Mina’s power and her need to be protected (in the context of this episode, I think it’s a real need) is another level of depth to the story.
What you write about Yuki being the normal coy girl may be true, but it is also true that she indicates she would welcome sexual interest from Akira. She is somewhat liberated, too. In a way, Akira is our representative in the story, but Yuki is being made the narrator, so she is our representative, as well.
The vampire myth is about accepting sexuality, as well as about rejecting it. Accepting the alien, as well as rejecting it. It lies at the beginning of a century in which we began to learn to look clearly at what is different, rather than rejecting it in immediate horror. To recognize our own shadow, in Jung’s terminology, rather than to give it power over us by refusing to see it.
How do we know this? More specifically, how do we know that these instincts aren’t artificial? Do women come out of the womb expecting to be protected? Likewise, do men come out of the womb expecting to protect? Or is this really just learned behavior due to society?
I’m thinking particularly of the missile attack on Mina halfway into the episode. I find it unlikely that someone like her would (or be able to) go out in public if she was really so helpless. It would have been such a convenient coincidence that Akira had been there to push her out of the way. As a result, she allows Akira to push her out of the way and carry her like a child afterward. Let any normal woman be as powerful as Mina — would they have done the same in front of their desired man? I just find this unlikely.
I’m also curious about your assertion that Mina’s power resembles any form of female empowerment — would most women think the same way if they saw this anime? I’m not a woman so I can’t answer that question, but even from my point of view, Mina’s portrayal as a vampire queen only served to blunt her power rather than enhance it.
But how so? She clearly has the sexual feelings, but due to whatever reason, she does not overtly display them. That does not sound liberated to me at all.
Her power, in my opinion, seems blunted by the trappings of what she is. Yes, she is a queen, but restricted by all of the duties and expectations that come with that position. She is a vampire, and obviously attracted to the male lead, but restricted by her current form and title. As a queen and as a perceived child, she does not fit easily into the world she wants to share–his. Honestly, it is hard to even see her as a child while realizing that she is probably–very likely–much older than Akira. For me, she is not a ‘sexualized loli’, but a modern woman in a powerful position at times pretending to be the child she happens to look like. She can’t have had much of an easy childhood in her position, unable to do much because of the threats to her life, so the time she spends with Akira is her ‘mental break’, so to speak. At least, that’s what I think.
I probably used “instincts” too loosely. It doesn’t matter where those deep and instinct-like feelings come from, my own observation is that they are the norm. That doesn’t mean we can’t transcend them, but they are usually there.
To say that being a vampire queen blunts someone’s power seems counter-intuitive to me. Queens have power, vampires have power, a vampire queen has double power. Maybe building one’s own power makes greater power, but maybe having power innately makes greater power.
As for the strange circumstance of Mina wandering around in the streets, that is part of what is for me the dream-like, mythical feeling of this anime. I will definitely not demand “realism” if they can keep satisfying me with the strength of the mythical feelings. Mina is clearly more powerful in most ways than Akira, but a basis of this whole story is that she needs his protection, too. It’s mutual. And the contradictions give the story power, for me.
Yuki is “somewhat liberated” only in comparison to the complete repression that is normal in anime, She expressed (quietly, I agree) regret that Akira didn’t show any interest in ecchi things. That seemed unusual to me.
So the norm here is what makes me consider Dance in the Vampire Bund rather conservative. Sure, it promotes a different sexual lifestyle — one that is seemingly blase regarding childlike nudity — but when it comes to gender dynamics, Dance in the Vampire Bund falls back upon familiar cliches and tropes to rationalize the ‘strange and foreign’ threat in Mina. In the end, she shares the same ‘biotruths’ as every other woman: they need a man’s protection.
Perhaps I was being unclear. The rags to riches story is a popular myth. In our society, we tend to glorify and respect those who have earned their way to the top. We tend not to attribute much credit to those who were born rich and powerful. All I’m saying is that Mina represents a stronger, more modern woman, but this is obscured by her vampire queen status. The rags to riches story have not typically featured women; women have often occupied a passive rather than an active role in such stories. As such, society’s consciousness (of this anime) cannot or does not want to make sense of the modern woman’s power as something rightfully earned by either her or previous generations of women. Rather, she is labeled as a vampire, a monster, an abnormality. In such a way, her power can be understood within a patriarchal framework. She is only powerful because she was born a vampire, she is only powerful because she was born a queen, etc. Akira calls her a princess rather than a queen, and he does so in a petulant tone as if to say, “Yeah, I get that you’re royalty but you’re still a brat.” The anime doesn’t seem to say, “Accept this new woman,” but rather, “How can we protect this new woman like the traditional woman of the past?”
We have different definitions of liberation then.
Also, Mina’s power is predicated on being the daughter of Mr. Tepes himself, apparently the grand progenitor of the vampire race? Something along those lines? So she isn’t very modern at all. If we’re feeling unkind, she’s like a foreign version of Fah lo Suee.
Lots of good points there. Especially “…society’s consciousness cannot or does not want to make sense of the modern woman’s power as something rightfully earned…” But everything can be seen from two directions, and I’m going to look at this from where we have been rather than where we might ideally be. Society may not have reached full equality, but it is a lot closer to it than it was fifty years ago. I’m not sure how to characterise the opinions of “society” as a whole, anyway. I also said “somewhat” liberated, and meant that in relation to other anime, not to real Japanese society, much less to Western society. In any case, I think I can consider your opinion valid even while stating a contrary one of my own, lol.
It was a good discussion and I know where you’re coming from.
Erm, I didn’t get it? She was superpowerful in the first episode. I mean, a guy died just because she told him to. And now in this episode she lost all that wicked aura and got totally beaten up? Allucard would be soo dissapointed! She seemed like a totally different person. She got all clumsy and all in this episode
I’m hating the fact that vampires are turning into animals. Why can’t they just be vampires? It would be so much cooler. A wolf or a bat would be ok, tho. But a freaking chameleon and a spider? Not even a Gangrel would make sense of this shit LOL
But the animation is wicked. I loved the character design! But the Monster of the Week approach does sucks.
Amazing post. I guess the fear about woman’s increasing power (economically, politically and sexually) is behind Mina’s being a vampire. It makes a number of people feel more comfortable because a vampire is just a myth, a monster and not real.
Wow, remarkable post. I’m speechless on how you concluded all this from an anime…
‘Modernizing’ a perspective without breaking the conservative shell by accentuating its foreignness… it’s an interesting approach all right.
I’m kind of convinced now that you’re either an English major or Sociology or something along lines of… oh the citations…
I sat in an Intro to Sociology class for a day. The professor wasted 20min on the red/blue pill scene from the Matrix. I dropped the class.
Don’t forget that he carries her away from the military-grade helicopter shooting missiles at them, completely ignoring the fact that she’s more likely to survive it than he is at that moment. It smacks of Emiya Shirou-esque, “I don’t care that you’re a master swordswoman/Queen of the Damned, you’re still a girl” protective chauvinism.
Anime in general has a long history of portraying strong powerful sexually mature women as morally ambivalent or out-rightly evil in nature IE; Eboshi form Mononoke Hime, Abelia from Now and Then, Here and There, Kushana from Nausicaa, Fujiko from Lupin III, Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop, and so forth.
This sort of transformation of sexually mature females into “monsters” is taken to its extreme logical conclusion in the movie Stacy, it’s almost as if anime has to make sexually mature women into the “other” to make them acceptable.
Is Eboshi really morally ambivalent? She does a lot of good (egalitarian society, compassion for the lepers, etc.) in spite of her apathy toward nature, which (I’m unclear on this since it has been years since I’ve seen this movie) I think goes away by the end anyhow.
Of course Eboshi is morally ambivalent, for all the good she does, she does equal damage to the surrounding nature, and lets not forget for as tough as she is she still has to be saved by the much younger male (just like Akira does for Mina).
I’m not forgetting that she’s saved by a younger male. That’s not what I’m disputing nor is it relevant to whether or not she’s morally ambivalent. I believe Eboshi has a straightforward ideology that simply prioritizes her people, even at the cost of nature. She only fails to recognize the symbiotic relationship between mankind and nature, something which she corrects by the end of the movie. We know exactly where she stands. Han Solo (in A New Hope) is morally ambivalent because he doesn’t care either way except for his own benefit (until the end). Eboshi is quite different.
Besides, if Eboshi is morally ambivalent, every single person enjoying first world benefits is morally ambivalent. After all, Eboshi (partly) represents us.
That was really quite interesting. I myself haven’t seen it at all, but I would probably have chucked my computer across the room out of pure annoyance when the main male turned into a werewolf, so kudos for bringing some actual depth to your analysis of it.
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See my response above in the addendum.
It could be a case of “no movie is worth a scene” (ZOMG excuse to have scenes of rubbing lotion on naked loli tits!), but the biggest problem that I have with whatever this show is trying to say is that this whole thing simply does not work with her as a loli. I agree with a lot of your vampire story background section and the part about the threat of mature women.
It’s clear that the show is saying that she is desirable as a loli. I would also agree that Japan _in general_ likes sexualized lolis, and for that matter, infantilized adults (the reverse of sexualized lolis?) So now we have problems with things like her taunting Akira sexually. There’s nothing at all “forbidden” about sexualized lolis in Japan. Weekly Playboy has been putting loli idols in the magazine for decades, and that’s published by Shuueisha, not some seedy, underground, backalley publisher that probably is getting its photos from traffickers. So why then are we supposed to think that it’s “bad” to consume her?
Then, the second problem. Mature women are threatening. How, then, does this in any way relate to lolis? A “mature loli” is an oxymoron. However, “modern women” are not exactly desirable. After all, you can get access to adult women in all sorts of contexts that are not going to be threatening, and this applies to both otaku society and mainstream society. Dakimakura and doujins for the otaku, JAV, hostess clubs, soaplands, and of course, marrying some cute OL for the mainstream crowd. Independent women are marginalized by society, so how can they threaten it?
Finally, even any sort of “You guys THOUGHT it would be great to have a naked loli, but you thought WRONG!” subtext doesn’t work for me because how in any way does Mina bare any resemblance to a real-life loli, or for that matter, a real-life woman?
I doubt the general consensus approves of lolicon. It might be more acceptable in Japan than most first world nations, but it’s still a taboo subject:
Obviously some sensationalistic TV show isn’t an ironclad source on how the general populace feels, but I still think the perception of lolicon is negative in Japan.
Well, the absurdity of a modern woman as a loli serves to diminish her status: “That’s the threat? But she’s just a loli, etc.” Ultimately, she isn’t threatening at all. It’s the same contradiction wrapped up in the idea of a vampire. Yeah, the vampire is a monster, but do we watch a vampire story expecting to remain scared by the end? No; we know the good guys will win. We’re not dealing with a true horror here. Those belong in nihilistic films. The expectation here is the same: the good guys will win, the vampire will be impaled with the stake (only this time, probably a stake of flesh). Like the boogieman, she isn’t really supposed to be scary when you look closer. And this anime is saying, “Use a masculine perspective and you’ll see that she isn’t scary at all.”
“because how in any way does Mina bare any resemblance to a real-life loli, or for that matter, a real-life woman?”
Actually she bares no “real” resemblance to a real life loli, or a real-life woman. What she does bare a resemblance to is the fetish “nublile” image of young girls you can find on certain porn sites, which I assume are actual women/girls too. You context was vague, but I assume you trying to make the “let’s separate fiction from reality/it’s just a drawing” argument. Art takes place in a real-world environment and real world cultures. Aspects of that culture will be present in most art whether the creator is aware of it or not. Likewise, not all fiction is created solely for the purposes of mindless entertainment, sometimes the artist is actually trying to say something relevant about culture or attitudes. I wouldn’t have thought Vampire Bund was necessarily as deep as the blogger has made it seem, but it does make me reconsider it in a new light.
“And this anime is saying, “Use a masculine perspective and you’ll see that she isn’t scary at all.””
THAT subtext I can see, and it makes the anime seem all kinds of scummy.
do you people like mindf* that much?
it’s a story that (also) utilizes archetypes to (also) describe elements of “psychology” pretty much like any tale,alright but…
instead of trying to be freud,isn’t that much cooler to consider it just a story and see what kind of emotions it is able to trigger in you.
Really men… take it simple.
(however if you want to take it from a psychological point of view, it’s pretty obvious how it relates to what you my call modern sadistic and masochistic waves)
Have always fun ningentachi.
Ah yes, the turn off your brain stance. And I love the quote marks around psychology. Heh, this supposed field of “mental” “studies”… pfft, who “needs” that?
There is nothing remotely Freudian or even psychological about what I wrote and I actually thought it was pretty simple. I’m sorry if our standards of simple vary that much.
Only two types of anime exist where you can turn off your brain. Action and harem, since neither require any deep thinking. I really liked E Minor’s interpretations of the subtext and he brings evidence that I can see being valid. Why would you come here if you don’t want to read this? I’m sure there are other reviewing sites where you can view just the aesthetic components to an anime if you’d like.
no… well the “take it simple” thing wasn’t strictly related to what you wrote, i’m not here to start a war or something, actually,i wrote only because part of the main point was missed,and to put it veeeery simple,it is good to turn off your brain sometimes,even if it was not what i meant.
Look, if you try to explain something as intricate as a modern japanese manga-scifi-anime-visual novel, basing your assumptions on what you see on the surface,(and by surface i mean what you rationally see)
you’ll eventually miss what’s really enjoyable about them.
by entering the anime and knowing the characters,you may get something for yourself, your way,even grow up a little,but you need to use you instincts-little kid inside of youself-fanciullino-letyourmindrelax.
I didn’t mean to offend or being arrogant,if that was the case i’m sorry
I do not see how my article fails either “[to enter] the anime” or “[to know] the characters.” I also don’t get where you think my analysis is purely rational. Subjectivity plays a large part in identifying subtext.
want an example?
how many guys are obsessed with wolfs or lycanthropy, can we say that those people have no traits in common?
if you are purely rational you’ll miss what the wolf means, (full moon they gain power anyone?)
there never is one meaning,or maybe yes,but that’s not the case
moooooiiiii ep 3 is out.
Who is being purely rational? Who even missed this plainly obvious fact that you’re pointing out? Who are you even arguing against? Nobody is taking the position that you are arguing against. I never claimed my analysis was purely rational. I never missed the fact that werewolves gain their powers during full moon.
You wanna know why I didn’t point it out? Because it’s unimportant to my thesis. I’m sorry if you think identifying subtext comes at the cost of “text,” but that is patently absurd.
Until you begin disputing specific arguments in my article, I have nothing more to say on this.
it was about missing the meaning
but true let’s end it
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I like the manga much more than the anime.
Can someone please tell me who that other girl is who looks EXACTLY like Mina?
Is she Mina’s twin or something?
My head hurts just from thinking about it. =_=
You spent countless hours trying to read sociosexual commentary into a fucking lolicon exploitation anime. Why.
I’m amused you think this took me hours.
dude or whatever you are moe doesnt suck and she is older then she looks her body has nothing to do with this if you dont like it then tough keep your opinion to yourself or tell actual friends dont blog about it
That is a purely fanboy response if ever I heard one. What she looks like has everything to do with it as if you didn’t read the story you would have a much different opinion what you were looking at. If I were to give you untranslated scans of Dance and asked you what you were looking at, I honestly doubt you would say the character was older than she appears. It also has a point in this particular thesis. Kick it up a notch to another level and realize that criticism and analysis aren’t four letter words. They don’t necessarily mean the person doing the analysis dislikes the object of analysis, it just means they’re putting a bit more thought into it, which is not a bad thing.