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Manga / The Case Study of Vanitas

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"I'll do as I please, use methods I choose, and, no matter what you people want... I will save you without fail!"

Stories tell of a mysterious clockwork grimoire called The Book of Vanitas which, once opened, is said to place a curse upon the reader that is worse than death itself. Drawn to Paris on rumors of the book's existence, Noé, a vampire, boards the airship La Baleine to confirm it for himself. There, he's suddenly attacked by a fellow vampire who loses control of herself after her true name, the foundation of a vampire's self, is corrupted.

In steps the enigmatic, self-professed "vampire doctor" Vanitas wielding his namesake tome, which he uses not to curse but to cure. Claiming he inherited the book as well as his name from the original Vanitas, a vengeful vampire born under the ill-fated blue moon, he cheerfully recruits Noé to work with him in eradicating the malady that's robbing vampires of their true names — and their sanity.

The Case Study of Vanitas (Vanitas no Carte, or The Memoirs of Vanitas) is an ongoing 2015 Steampunk fantasy manga by Jun Mochizuki of PandoraHearts fame. It runs in Square Enix's monthly Gangan Joker magazine and is simulpublished in English by Yen Press. An anime adaptation by Studio Bones began airing in July 2021.

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The anime adaptation maintains the basic story, but excludes explanations of world building, several action sequences, dialogues, some foreshadowing and minor characters.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In the beginning of the Bal Masque arc in the manga, Dominique has her two attendants chain Vanitas to a giant wooden wheel so she can interrogate him about what he really wants with Noe and his Archiviste powers. For some reason, the anime adaptation cuts out her attendants, showing Vanitas still being chained to the wheel, but it creates some confusion as to how a girl of Dominique's stature and size could possibly be capable of putting him, a grown man, on there without help. It also creates some confusion as to why Vanitas would even let Dominique chain him to a giant wheel, since he doesn't seem like the type of person who would just let some girl do that to him. Possibly subverted: Dominique as a vampire is physically stronger than the average human so it could be feasible she can overpower Vanitas by herself, though that’s still debatable.
  • Alternate History: The series takes place in a world where the 16th century's alchemist Paracelsus altered the World Formula with the Tower of Babel and created those that are known as vampires. The manga starts around 300 years after the incident, in a version of 1889 Paris where the Tower of the Sun was built instead of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Amusement Park: The fifth arc of the series takes place at an amusement park where Mikhail is keeping Dominique hostage by threatening to make her jump from a Ferris wheel if Noé doesn't drink Vanitas' blood.
  • Ancient Tomb: The Catacombs of Paris appear as the setting of the third arc, as well as the secret lair of the Chasseurs.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits:
    • The anime's first opening sequence, played over the upbeat song "Sora to Utsuro," features the two protagonists, Noé and Vanitas, going on a tour around Paris where they visit the many attractions in the city and Vanitas plays babysitter for an excited Noé. This makes the show look like a happy-go-lucky Bromantic Comedy set in a mundane France. The series is actually a vampire story taking place in a Steampunk version of 1889 Paris, containing plenty of drama, action, horror, and tragedy that wouldn't be expected from that carefree opening.
    • The second opening sequence also shows nothing but Vanitas and Noé walking around Paris, but this time separately until they find each other. Most of the second half of the anime doesn't even take place in Paris.
  • Bathos: Moments of drama and angst are frequently juxtaposed with slapstick, snarky banter or chibi antics.
  • The Beautiful Elite: As typical of a Jun Mochizuki work, a lot of the characters in Vanitas are gorgeous beyond compare.
  • Bookcase Passage: In Mémoire 6, Dominique and Noé go to a shop where they go through a hidden passage behind a bookcase that leads them to Altus Paris, the Pocket Dimension of Paris where vampires live.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 7, which adapts Mémoire 12 from the manga, is a much-needed break from all the action and angst from the episodes so far. It focuses on the main characters just eating and dancing together at a restaurant to have a good time for once. As well as a good delivery of Ship Tease for all the potential couples, both the opposite-sex and same-sex ones.
  • Bridal Carry: In Mémoire 53, Jeanne carries Dominique bridal-style after saving her from her own suicide attempt. Funny as Jeanne had fantasized about a similar scenario with Vanitas a few chapters back.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Most of the male characters are either very handsome or incredibly pretty. An omake kinda makes a joke about it by showing several of the guys working at a Host Club.
  • Catch a Falling Star:
    • In the first chapter, Vanitas falls off of a Cool Airship and Noé jumps right after him to catch his leg. Somehow, both survive the landing without a parachute.
    • At the start of Mémoire 53, Jeanne saves a suicidal Dominique who had jumped off a Ferris wheel, catching her in the air before she hits the ground.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Noé's childhood friend Dominique has been in love with him since they were children, but the death of her brother Louis makes it hard for Dominique to progress her feelings for Noé. Meanwhile, Noé's exact feelings for Dominique are unknown aside from being very close with her and wanting to protect her to not lose another loved one after what happened to Louis.
  • Children Do the Housework: Two orphaned human boys got adopted by the vampire known as Vanitas, later renamed Luna. To the concern of the boys, Luna sucked at cooking and cleaning. The older boy happened to be very good at both things, so Luna left those responsibilities to him.
  • Color Motif: Hard to tell in a black and white comic, but color pages, covers, and art on Mochizuki Jun's twitter generally have the characters color-coded:
    • Noe is purple, representing his curiosity, nobility of spirit, and the mystery surrounding his past.
    • Vanitas is dark blue, representing his confidence, melancholy and strong integrity.
    • Dominique is red, symbolizing passion, aggression, and a desire for love.
    • Jeanne is yellow and pink, symbolizing idealism, love, joy, and jealousy.
    • Luca is green, symbolizing youth, jealousy, generosity and vigor.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The anime's first half was fairly faithful to the manga, only cutting some minor scenes for faster pacing. However, the second half was significantly condensed in order to adapt the Gévaudan arc's three and a half manga volumes and the amusement park arc's two and a half manga volumes into a 12-Episode Anime. As a result, it eliminated a chunk of Chloé's backstory as well as the scenes related to the vampire senate and the extremist faction of the church that set up future arcs.
  • Cool Airship: Noé and Vanitas first meet at La Baleine, a giant airship fueled by astermite. And how cool is it? The airship looks like a flying Gothic palace!
  • Corrupt Church: The Catholic Church carried out a big massacre in Gévaudan, killing hundreds of women and children, under the delusion of exterminating vampires hiding among humans. They then used the "Beast" and curse-bearers as a cover story.
  • Dance of Romance: Mémoire 12/Episode 7 has one big Ship Tease moment for those who are into the potential same-sex couples as NoéxVanitas and DominiquexJeanne dance a waltz while surrounded by Love Bubbles and Bishie Sparkle. Dominique takes Jeanne to dance with her (to tease Noé as she thinks he likes Jeanne) and both enjoy it so much that they immediately become good friends. While the girls dance, Noé asks Vanitas to dance with him, using that he wants to teach him as an excuse. Noé takes the chance to ask Vanitas what love is, but both are just left wondering as neither know the answer.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Noé who is the last remaining survivor of his clan and was a slave on the black market before Dominique's family bought him; Vanitas whose parents were murdered by vampires and became an experimental subject.
  • Date Peepers: Domi spies on the date she set up between Jeanne and Vanitas, disguised as a man. Dante ends up stumbling across her and then tagging along for the rest of the date.
  • Daywalking Vampire: None of the vampires in this setting have any problem with sunlight.
  • Dysfunction Junction: As it's to be expected from a manga made by Jun Mochizuki, almost all the characters have a terribly traumatic backstory, are mentally unstable, or both.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Although none of the main characters' sexualities have been explicitly confirmed, everyone in the main cast gets Ship Tease with people of both genders. Vanitas enjoys making unwanted sexual advances at Jeanne and lets her drink his blood several times. Meanwhile, Vanitas is all but stated to feel curious about how would it feel like to let Noé bite him and drink his blood too (even thinking about Noé biting Dominique when pressing Jeanne into doing it with him). Noé repeatedly drinks blood from Dominique and likes it, but he also drools at the mere thought of having a taste of Vanitas's blood. Dominique has an obvious crush on Noé since childhood, not that it stops her from flirting with women for fun and later forming a very affectionate friendship with Jeanne who often blushes at Dominique.
  • Fantasy Metals: In this world, almost all machines are powered by Astermite, a mineral with miraculous properties that doesn't produce smoke that pollutes the air and has made it possible to build giant airships.
  • Ferris Wheel of Doom: In the amusement park arc, because of Mikhail's Book of Vanitas going out of control, a Ferris wheel collapses and almost crushes Vanitas and Noé. They're saved by Dominique who creates an ice barrier to protect them.
  • Flames of Love: In Mémoire 27, Vanitas and Jeanne take shelter from the snow at an abandoned cabin. After Jeanne orders to undress themselves to warm their bodies up together, they cuddle in front of a fireplace. The icing on the cake is Jeanne giving water to Vanitas mouth-to-mouth as the flames burn behind them.
  • Flowers of Romance: In Mémoire 42, Jeanne has a passionate moment with Vanitas in a field of astérisque flowers, where she pins him down to drink his blood and kiss him on the cheek.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • If you look carefully, Vanitas never touches his book barehanded... or anyone for the matter. The one time he touches a vampire with his bare hand, her strength vanishes and she becomes unable to even stand.
    • One of the covers shows the arms of Vanitas and Noé wrapped by chains... At the same emplacement as Vanita's scars. The Book of Vanitas has a silver chain, and he never touches it bare-handed. Do the math.
    • In the first chapter/episode, as Noé narrates the fairy tale of the Vampire of the Blue Moon, the audience can see the Book of Vanitas... and the silhouette of another book behind it. There are, in fact, two books. When Vanitas' younger brother Misha introduces himself to Noé, he reveals he also has his own Book of Vanitas.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: Though it has very strong Steampunk influences, the series's inclusion of magic, the supernatural, and many Gothic Horror tropes sets it as one of these as well.
  • Gothic Horror: Like PandoraHearts, Vanitas has big elements of the gothic genre such as vampires, the late 19th century European setting, old castles, symbolism, and physical as well as psychological torture.
  • Gratuitous French: The series is Japanese, but the characters occasionally speak French words to remind the audience that the work's setting is France. For example, the word vampire is spelled in French, the Vampire Hunters are called Chasseur, and vampire executioners are called Bourreau. The first scene of the first anime episode has news titles in correct, understandable French, but if you squint, you can read the text below... Which is some text about an archeological finding made in 1901, and rediscovered in 2021, obviously google-translated from the English.
  • Great Offscreen War: Between the 16th and 17th centuries, humans and vampires were in a great war as both races tried to exterminate each other. By the time of the late 19th century in which the story takes place, humans and vampires have long stopped having anything to do with each other. Although, there's danger that another war might break out if Curse-Bearers continue attacking humans.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Louis and Dominique de Sade are actually fraternal twins and they look very alike, especially after Dominique started dressing like a boy to cope with Louis' death.
  • Hemo Erotic: Having one's blood drunk by a vampire is noted to be pleasurable for many, and in fact many Vampires will drink each other's blood as an act of affection between friends and loved ones, as demonstrated by Noé and Dominique. It's explained that this reaction is because there's a biologic response that anesthetizes the bitten individual through a substance that is apparently similar aphrodisiac. However, the degree which this is pleasurable runs on a sliding scale, with some just becoming numb or drowsy, and not feeling any pleasure at all. The individuals involved also seem to matter, possibly on a biological level, as Vanitas comments that he feels particularly euphoric when being fed upon by Jeanne compared to other times he's been bitten. Also, apparently, drinking someone's blood without consent is considered a crime.
  • High School AU: The omake of Volume 7 is about an AU where the characters are high school students and teachers. The premise is Vanitas infiltrating the academy while Disguised in Drag and gets found out by Jeanne who also is disguised as a man to be Luca's bodyguard. The omake later got an Audio Adaptation with a couple of Drama CD for the anime's Blu-ray release.
  • I Know Your True Name: A vampire's true name is linked to their destiny and is as important as life itself.
  • Image Song: Two of the Blu-ray discs come with an additional disc of character songs performed by the voice actors, all coming in duets.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: People wanting to die by the hands of their loved ones is a recurring scenario in this manga. Most often it involves Curse-Bearers or hypothetical Curse-Bearers wanting to die while still at least partially in control of their minds so that they don't hurt anyone.
    • Louis begged his beloved friend Noé, to kill him when he was going out of control, fearing that he would kill Noé if he wasn't terminated. Noé's inability to fulfill Louis's last wish continues to haunt Noé to this day, and is in fact part of what drew him to Vanitas since Vanitas 's abilities represented a hope that Louis could have been saved.
    • When Chloé was in despair over how miserable her existence was, outliving generation after generation of her human family and being hated by the townspeople she had been brought up to love, she desired to be killed by Jeanne who she loved like a little sister. Jeanne was actually directed to do so, but was unable to carry it out.
  • Legacy Character: The current Vanitas claims he's the inheritor of the original, though he's only an average human rather than a vampire.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Jeanne and Vanitas are turned into this in the High School AU where both go to the academy Disguised in Drag. Jeanne also behaves like a flirt who calls Vanitas her food property because of all the shoujo manga Dominique made her read.
  • Masquerade Ball: The second arc of the series has our heroes attend a Bal Masque full of vampire aristocrats.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: The renowned alchemist Paracelsus built the Tower of Babel as part of an experiment to rewrite the World Formula, resulting in a disaster known as the Babel Incident. The formula that constituted coal was altered to become the blue mineral, Astermite, from which power could be produced without almost any environmental pollution, a flora formula was altered to create bioluminescent flowers, and most importantly, the human formula had been altered and given way to the existence of vampires.
  • Matricide: In a disturbing example, Catherine, a young girl vampire attacks her mother after being affected by the curse. She then begs Vanitas to kill her before she hurts her sister. He obliges
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Vanitas" can mean "vanity" (exhibited in the self-serving way he talks about saving the vampires) or "emptiness" (a possible allusion to Noé's statement at the end of chapter 1 that he would kill him with his own two hands). A vanitas is also a particular style of painting, a reminder of death and the frailty of life which demands that we cannot be obsessed with trivial things. This may also be a factor in the meaning of Vanitas' name.
    • Noé's name. Vanitas calls him "Child of the Ark" and he is an Archivist, a clan of vampires believed to have died out. Noé is the French version of "Noah" from Noah's Ark, a famous Bible story where two (a male and a female) of every animal is brought upon a boat to survive extinction...
    • A vampire's true name seems to be this in general.
  • Mercy Kill Arrangement: Vanitas promises Jeanne to kill her if there ever comes a time that she's 'no longer herself'.
  • Mind Virus: The malady afflicting vampires that Vanitas is aiming to eradicate. It takes possession of the victim's true name and endows them with an unquenchable thirst for blood.
  • Mythology Gag: When Vanitas and Noe are initially caught by Roland, Vanitas introduces themselves as Vincent and Gilbert. These are the names of two brothers from the author's previous manga, PandoraHearts.
  • Myth Prologue: The manga begins with Noe narrating the story of the Vampire of the Blue Moon and how they were exiled for being a bad omen while swearing revenge. It later turns out that this story isn't as accurate as other vampires believed as it turns out that the Vampire of the Blue Moon was actually a nice guy with no interest in revenge.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: In the first chapter/episode, Noé and Vanitas fall off of a Cool Airship. Not only do they survive the fall and landing (without a parachute!), they come out unharmed even though they crashed against a cathedral and made a hole in the ceiling.
  • Off with His Head!: Decapitation is the only certain way to kill vampires. Louis, who was Dominique's older brother and one of Noé's first friends, was decapitated by his grandfather in order to protect Noé when Louis became a Cursebearer.
  • Oh, and X Dies: The first chapter ends with Noé's narration stating that he will kill Vanitas at the end of their journey.
  • One Cast Member per Cover: There's a different character on each volume cover, with the occasional exception of pairs (Vanitas and Noé in every cover featuring them since Volume 3, Chloé and Jean-Jacques in Volume 7). Only the two protagonists, Vanitas and Noé, have more than one cover.
  • One Twin Must Die: Twins are a symbol of bad luck to vampires, which is why some families kill one of the twins at birth. This was supposed to be Dominique's twin brother Louis' fate as giving birth to twins would have been a disgrace to the noble house of de Sade. Louis was only spared because his grandfather wanted to use him for some sort of experiment involving his transformation into a Curse-Bearer, so he could live up to his teens.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires are closer to a Mage Species that drinks blood to gain strength. Because of their direct connection to the World Formula, they have abilities similar to magic that allow them to increase their physical strength and stamina, and in the case of more powerful vampires, use Elemental Powers and such. They apparently won't die unless directly killed via decapitation and their bodies instantly turn to dust after losing their head. Drinking blood is not a necessity for them and they can easily suppress their blood cravings unless they become Curse-Bearers, vampires who went insane after their true name was corrupted.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: Jeanne carries Vanitas over her shoulder when she needs to take him away for a private conversation about her blood cravings.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: There's the pink-haired Jeanne often paired with Vanitas who is blue-eyed and dresses in blue clothes.
  • P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: A male-male variation; Noé is the POV boy while Vanitas is the Poster boy.
  • Pocket Dimension: One of the effects of the Babel Incident was the creation of secluded dimensions, named "Altus," that are connected to the original world, but are only accessible to vampires and humans who cross the border while touching a vampire. After the war, most vampires are living at Altus, although there's still some vampires who live at the original world along with humans.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: Between 1764 and 1767, there was an incident of serial murders in the former French province of Gévaudan that were attributed to a man-eating wolf-like animal that was called The Beast of Gévaudan. In this manga, the murders were supposedly committed by a Curse-Bearing vampire. In reality, that was just a cover. The real cause of the murders was an illegal vampire hunt of the church that indiscriminately killed everyone in Gévaudan that could be, become, or give birth to a vampire.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Vampires' eyes turn red when they display their superhuman powers that allow them to rewrite the World Formula. They also turn red when they're feeling strong emotions or are thirsty for blood.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Many curse bearers are unwillingly turned into feral animals due to having their true names tampered with. Only a handful trade their names willingly for power. Even then, eventually their curse will leave their control and devolve into violent rage. Even fully in control, Chloé had difficulty resisting Noé’s blood.
  • Revenge: Vanitas' whole motive for saving the vampires; not to help them out of genuine good will but as revenge against the Vampire of the Blue Moon.
  • Roundabout Shot: The anime opening sequence has one of these with Noé grabbing Vanitas by the hands and spinning him around in the air until they fall into a fountain.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In an art illustration Jun Mochizuki did for Vanitas shows him falling, blue butterflies all around him. The only butterflies that are not blue are the purple ones on his arm where the mark of possession by the original Vanitas of the Blue Moon gave him.
  • Scars are Forever: Vanitas' left arm is scarred since he was bitten by the Vampire of the Blue Moon (or claims that he was).
  • Scenery Porn: As expected from Jun Mochizuki's work. Just look at Chapter 1's scenery of Paris as Noé and Vanitas fall out of the airship. It's breathtaking.
  • Ship Tease: The series has teasing moments for all the potential couples of the main cast, mainly VanitasxNoé (unusual partnership with lots of Homoerotic Subtext and Noé's strong interest for drinking Vanitas' blood), VanitasxJeanne (Forceful Kiss from Vanitas, very sexually-charged blood drinking scenes, and a persistent Unresolved Sexual Tension), NoéxDominique (childhood friends who like drinking blood from each other and are very protective of each other), and DominiquexJeanne (Pseudo-Romantic Friendship where both are overly fond of each other).
  • Spell Book: The Book of Vanitas has the power to interfere with the World Formula and restore the names of vampires that had them stolen.
  • Steampunk: The series takes place in a steam-powered Paris as opposed to the Gaslamp Fantasy of PandoraHearts, though Vanitas also qualifies as that as well.
  • Take Away Their Name: Naenia strips vampires from their true names, which causes them to become curse-bearers. The only known way to cure them is using the Book of Vanitas to bring their true name back.
  • Technically Living Vampire: Vampires are an advanced Human Subspecies that came into existence because of a disaster known as the Babel Incident. Some humans gained the supernatural ability to use their eyes to rewrite the World Formula. Vampires drink blood if they want to (although the urge is easy to suppress) and are Long-Lived, but they're just like humans in every other aspect.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: After a very weird and rough start, Vanitas and Jeanne have developed a very strong mutual attraction since the Gévaudan arc, with Vanitas having become increasingly flustered around her with their interactions. By the end of the arc, Jeanne admits to Dominique that she's fallen for Vanitas, but will try to pretend she still hates him because Vanitas claims to not want people who love him back. Meanwhile, Vanitas is very insecure at the idea of anyone ever loving him, making him a total mess when thinking about Jeanne.
  • Void Between the Worlds: Between the human world and the vampire world, there's a void known as the "Border" that only vampires are able to cross. It's said that if a human were to step into the Border without touching a vampire, the human would fall into nothingness and be lost between worlds forever.
  • Wall Pin of Love: Vanitas has Jeanne cornered after tricking Noé into taking Jeanne's master Luca as a hostage. As Jeanne begs for Luca's life, Vanitas pins her against the wall, does something to her that makes her lose her power, and forces a kiss on her before asking her to marry him as he has fallen "in love" with her.
  • Watching the Sunset: A variation happens in the belltower scene at the end of Mémoire 11/Episode 6. Noé makes the declaration that he wants to understand Vanitas and has decided to stay by his side. Vanitas concedes and the two men watch the sunrise, a symbol of the true start of their partnership.
  • Witch Hunt: After the Babel Incident caused some humans to be transformed into vampires, they became hunted by regular humans who viewed them as unholy monsters. The original Beast of Gévaudan incident happened because paranoid members of the church were hunting hidden vampires in Gévaudan and killed any woman and children they came across.


Vanitas and Jeanne

When Vanitas finds out that Jeanne apparently gets random cravings for blood, but can't figure out if she's a curse-bearer or not, he decides to entice her to drink his blood. It works, and he winds up enjoying it to the point where, in a later episode, he offers to give Jeanne exclusive bloodsucking rights to him in exchange for keeping the fact that she bit him a secret from her master Luca.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / VoluntaryVampireVictim

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