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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 2016 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.

The Case Study of Vanitas contains examples of:

  • Alternate History: The series takes place in a world where the alchemist Paracelsus in the 16th century 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 Paris of 1889 where the Tower of the Sun was built instead of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Vanitas gets Ho Yay with Noé from the beginning on, telling him occasionally that he's very interesting. He also flirts with Jeanne heavily and professes love for her. He even kisses her in Chapter 6, while also musing with Noé what "love" is.
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    • Johann mentions that he thinks Vanitas "has a pretty dishy (attractive) face" with a heart in his speech bubble. He also throws an arm around Dante to pull him close and worries about a female comrade, claiming to know a lot about the female heart, and hugging her when he finds her.
  • The Beautiful Elite: As typical of a Jun Mochizuki work a lot of the characters in Vanitas are gorgeous beyond compare.
  • Bishōnen: Most of the male characters introduced thus far. Not surprising, given the author's previous work.
  • Cool Airship: A given for the series's Steampunk setting.
  • Cute and Psycho: Dominique definitely counts when Noé's safety is concerned and Vanitas when his loyalty to the Vanitas of the Blue Moon is brought up.
  • 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.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Noé, who is tan-skinned, white-haired, and red-eyed.
  • Foreshadowing: This is Jun Mochizuki, folks.
    • 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 another 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Charlatan and possibly Noé's Teacher's true form.
  • I Know Your True Name: A vampire's true name is linked to their destiny and is as important as life itself.
  • Knife Nut: Vanitas and Dominique, if her comment to her servant 'The usual' is anything to go off before she starts throws them at Vanitas.
  • Legacy Character: The current Vanitas claims he's the inheritor of the original, though he's only an average human rather than a vampire.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nice Hat: Both Noé and his Teacher wear a rather fetching top hat.
  • Oh, and X Dies: The first chapter ends with Noé's narration saying that he will kill Vanitas at the end of their journey.
  • Off with His Head!: 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.
  • 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 an advanced human subspecies that came into existence because of the catastrophe of the Tower of Babel. 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, which are vampires that had their true name corrupted and made them go insane.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: There's the pink-haired Jeanne and Vanitas who is blue-eyed and dresses in primarily blue clothes.
  • P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: A male-male variation; Noé is the POV boy while Vanitas is the Poster boy.
  • 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: Amelia's eyes turn red when her Cursebearer symptoms manifest, other vampires seem to have red eyes when they display their superhuman powers. The rules for when eyes turn red aren't explicit yet.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: When Vanitas and Noé meet Laurent for the first time, Vanitas introduces both himself and Noe as Gilbert and Vincent.
  • 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.

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