The Case Study of Vanitas
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
The Case Study of Vanitas ?
One of the most interesting aspects of The Case Study of Vanitas is the way each episode gives us a deeper understanding of the story's world. For example, Vanitas and Jeanne's “date” lets us know that we are at some point between 1885 and 1889 in an alternate version of our world, where instead of the Eiffel Tower, Paris built the Sun Tower for the world exhibition. (It was an actual competing design at the time.) We also now know that vampires, in addition to being born rather than turned, are perfectly visible in mirrors, another bit of important lore that helps illustrate why humans are so afraid of them: they're potential predators hiding in plain sight until their eyes burn red. Those may seem like little things, but they support the main story by grounding it in a reality that feels, for lack of a better word, real. They also unfortunately make things like the inaccurate top of Jeanne's dress (no cleavage for daytime wear!) or the distinctly Japanese style of crêpe stand out more, but that's a fair tradeoff for a series with so much solid worldbuilding.
This week's episode is one that bides its time. At first it seems like a goofy throwaway episode: Jeanne, mistakenly thinking that acting interested in Vanitas will fend him off, asks him on a date, Dante and Domi tail them, and Ruthven takes Noé out for tea. All very light and fluffy, tra la la. It isn't until the very end that we start to see both the meaning of the French title for the week (oath) and what the actual end goal is: Jeanne's curse takes hold in public and Ruthven makes it clear that Noé is insufficiently vampiric to merit a place in his plans.
In truth, I think Ruthven's attack on Noé is the meat of the episode. Jeanne more or less functions to distract us from the more serious pieces, but also to occupy Vanitas so that Ruthven can get to Noé in the first place. It doesn't seem likely that she, or Domi, were aware of this; possibly Ruthven is simply taking advantage of Vanitas being out of the way to launch his plans. But he's also Luca's de facto guardian, so it wouldn't have been hard for him to slip a word in Jeanne's ear about when to invite Vanitas out – assuming that he doesn't have some sort of mind control power to use on her. Given the lack of overt supernatural details in the series' vampire mythology, that seems less likely, but Ruthven also isn't someone to underestimate, and if anyone was going to be able to exercise such a skill, my money's very much on him.
As for why Ruthven is so anti-human (and don't we all have some days where we are), the truth seems to lie in his past. He was, he tells Noé, once a teacher, but all of his students are now dead. Certainly old age could have done that, but the implication is more that the deaths of his students have made him disinclined to trust humans – and that he wasn't pleased when relations between the two races normalized. He's therefore, as was hinted at in previous episodes, actively working to separate humans and vampires and put the two groups on bad footing again. Is this so that he can separate the two worlds? Or is it so that he can have an excuse to kill humans indiscriminately? Right now I'm thinking that the answer is both, but in order to get to the point where he can better embark upon his plans, he needs people like Noé out of the picture. Noé's equalist views are not what he's looking for in whatever brave new world he's planning.
We are essentially working with two oaths. The first is Ruthven's to wreak havoc on human/vampire relations, which may include the deaths of Luca, Noé, Vanitas, and anyone else who stands in his way. (Is this what happened to Luca's brother?) The second is Vanitas' to Jeanne – that he will kill her if her curse overwhelms her. That's looking disturbingly possible after this week, because she's clearly having a lot of trouble controlling herself and just the sight (and scent) of a scraped knee sent her into a frenzy that even sexualized bloodsucking performed on Vanitas couldn't snap her out of. It's a grim place to end the episode, and there are no guarantees that anything or anyone will turn out okay when the curtain rises next week.
The Case Study of Vanitas is currently streaming on Funimation.
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