REVIEW: Gorgeous Gothic Vampires Entertain in The Case Study of Vanitas

Season aired: Summer 2021

Number of episodes: 12

Genres: Fantasy, Drama

Thoughts: The Case Study of Vanitas sports many of Mochizuki-sensei’s signature elements — elevated character designs, a gothic atmosphere, and an overarching mystery waiting to be solved. It’s extraordinarily beautiful and highly enjoyable to watch. Despite all my reservations on the vampire’s return to entertainment, the anime won me over.

Noé seeks the Book of Vanitas — a legendary artifact that supposedly heals vampires from a terrifying disease. In vampire mythology, the disease began when the Blue Moon Vampire swore vengeance on the general vampire population for rejecting its existence and cursed them to live in fear of contracting it. Once contracted, vampires lose control of their bloodlust, leaving both humans and their own kind hunting the sickened vampires down. However, to Noé’s surprise, the Book of Vanitas is in the hands of a human who claims his own name is Vanitas. After Vanitas shows Noé the power behind the book, Noé decides to stick along with Vanitas in his journey to cure all vampires.

Taking place in a steampunk historical Paris, The Case Study of Vanitas went above and beyond for its art — in perfect parallel to what the city is famous for. I cannot praise the visuals and the character design enough. Mochizuki-sensei is known for her dramatic and drop-dead beautiful characters — antagonists, protagonists, and supporting characters alike — but the anime heightens this fact with its vibrant colors, dynamic clothes, and detailed animation of character expressions. Part of my enjoyment for this series comes straight from just staring at the screen to enjoy what I was seeing, story aside.

Me watching Vanitas characters

However, the series does suffer from some lackluster story arcs — especially in the beginning. Important characters often get introduced through interruptions, and, while that can be comical, it disrupts the flow when their sudden entrances force-pause entire conflicts. Jeanne and Luca are the earliest example of this issue. They interrupted Vanitas and Noé’s hunt for a corrupted vampire with their own demands unrelated to the issue at hand and quickly became the new conflict by attacking the protagonists. The paused mission would come back several episodes later, which makes the story feel disjointed.

Luckily, the later arcs don’t fall into that trap. New characters are introduced and contribute to the current problem at hand rather than throw off one, and their interactions are also more interwoven with the protagonists’ narrative arc. As a result, I found myself emotionally invested in the second half of the series versus the first, where I just watched out of entertainment.

Yum

The most surprising thing to me, however, is that I found the bloodsucking scenes quite charming. This is my first time watching an anime that gives an actual explanation as to why bloodsucking is so sexually charged — vampires inject an aphrodisiac into their victims when biting to not only prevent their victims from moving but also to enjoy getting bitten — and I find myself oddly appreciative of that added detail.

What is not surprising is the perfect music. Yuki Kaijura is the composer of the series, and her brilliance is on full display. The music extracts the exact emotions from the viewer no matter the scene. From the haunting, sharp sound of the flute to the sorrow of a vibrating violin, there was no end to the music that assailed the viewers from all directions. This is one of the reasons why I found myself so forgiving towards the first few arcs’ narrative mistakes. Even when rolling my eyes at the bad resolution of another conflict, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief when the fighting had stopped because of how high-strung the music made me feel.

The two protagonists and their interwoven relationship

Since the characters and their motivations and growth are heavily interwoven with the mystery behind the disease, we have not yet seen anyone’s development. Vanitas’s past was hinted at briefly in the last arc, and none of the characters have changed much because nobody really came any closer to understanding the truth behind the disease. Because of that, the voice actors also remained fairly static in their portrayal of the characters — though I found Inori Minase and Ai Kayano’s performances as Jeanne and Dominique respectively more electrifying than the pair of protagonists.

In the end, this first cour really is just a setup for the actual storm coming in the second cour. The twelve episodes certainly do their job in establishing the world, the characters, and the conflict. However, due to the mishaps of the first few arcs, this series was far more fun to watch than it was emotionally engaging. One can only hope that changes in the second cour.

Rating

Plot: 7.5 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 7 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 7

Art/Animation: 9

Soundtrack: 9

FINAL SCORE: 75.75

 

 

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