While Seven Seas Entertainment continue to release Dance in the Vampire Bund (with the tenth English language volume proper of Nozomu Tamaki's manga due out in August), to fill the gap between the release of volumes nine and ten we see the company releasing this "Gaiden" volume - a side story set well and truly in the same world as the series proper that was originally released in Japan as a bonus mobile phone manga release, albeit a side story which does supposedly have some relevance to forthcoming volumes of the series.
This bonus volume, subtitled Dive in the Vampire Bund (it's not a manga about Didier Drogba in case you're wondering), begins with a group embarking upon a guided tour of the vampire bund before two of its number slip aware from the crowd. This duo consists of a boy named Masaki who is seeking to become a vampire and live in the bund to escape recriminations for stabbing a gang boss, and his long-suffering friend Akira (not to be confused with the series major protagonist) who looks to assist him in this desire - an action that drags them slap-bang into the midst of the bund's underworld.
Next thing they know, Masaki and Akira are both turned into vampires and dragged straight into taking in part in a robbery complete with a gun fight, vampire death aplenty and the discovery of a kidnapped girl in a suitcase who has also been bitten by a vampire. While Masaki decides to follow his own path from here, Akira and the kidnapped girl Ruli try to make the best of their situation - a decision that leads to them meeting first the Akira we're more familiar with, followed by vampire queen Mina Tepes herself as the promise of a vaccine to return the pair to normal raises its head.
This takes us on a journey throughout the darkest depths of the bund's underworld and some decidedly odd characters - most notably a smart-talking, cigar smoking baby - as the hunt for a vaccine and Masaki's fate converge in the midst of a story which seems to set the tone for future volumes of the series proper.
For fans of Dance in the Vampire Bund, Gaiden sits well and truly within familiar territory - the art style remains as functional but mediocre as ever, most of the major characters get at least a cameo within the story and there's a blend of bloody violence and fan service throughout, with the latter occasionally stepping into gratuitous territory - although this is admittedly a vampire story so I suppose you have to expect these sexual elements to crop up.
As for the actual story itself, Gaiden serves up a mildly entertaining story that never threatens to be much more than a slice of simple entertainment - it might quote Dante, but it's anything but highbrow or a piece of work that could be considered as "deep". Not that this is a bad thing in itself, and as a passable addition for those who enjoy Dance in the Vampire Bund it ticks off all the requisite boxes, but at the end of the day it is very much a side dish to the series main course and as a result it never really pushes the boundaries beyond relative mediocrity.
A functional and reasonably entertaining aside to the main series, but by the same token Gaiden is nothing particularly memorable either.