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This Week in Anime
How Case Study of Vanitas is Bringing Sexy Vampires Back

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Jun Mochizuki's tale of vampire society is returning to the genre's roots with a heaping (heaving?) dose of sexual imagery. Stand back Lestat, horny vampires are back in a big way.

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Well, Nick, I don't know about you, but I am most certainly ready for another clown-free week of anim—

At this point I just have to stop opening my mouth.
Steve let's be real, we're all clowns here. It's frankly a miracle they haven't locked us up yet.
No prison would have us, I'm sure of that. But I guess it works out, because clowns aside, this Vanitas anime is pretty darn good huh.
I expected it would be. While I only ever read the first two volumes of Jun Mochizuki's horny goth parade, the moment they announced an adaptation by BONES and Tomoyuki Itamura I knew it was in good hands. After years honing his craft by trying to salvage Monogatari, it was only natural to let him handle this bloody, thirsty, and bloodthirsty thing.
Although I am a huge mark for Monogatari, I still have to admit it's always nice to see Shaft directors branch out and apply their talents to something that isn't exclusively for perverts. And The Case Study of Vanitas so far is only mostly for perverts, so it fits like a glove.
Let's be fair, this show's horny is also directed at a different breed of pervert, particularly the kind who like to see handsome men in disheveled cummerbunds and ripped suit jackets.
Does it ever! I want to call it "classy," but I think there's a better word for it. Distinguished, maybe? Despite ostensibly being a shōnen series, Vanitas definitely owes a lot to classic shōjo, and beyond that, the harlequin romances and gothic yarns of a bygone era. It's certainly not unique in that regard, but its colorful presentation sets it apart from the riff-raff.
Also, in a season where most productions come burdened with qualifiers, it's easily one of the best looking shows currently airing. Steampunk Anime Paris makes the real thing look like downtown Cleveland, to the point where the OP is just our two leads going on a sight-seeing date around the city.
And that level of polish isn't reserved for the OP. The show proper is plenty full of striking images and sumptuous compositions—again, the exact stuff I'd hope for from Shaft alumni.

The anime is also a BIG fan of the moon, if you couldn't tell.
You know the director worked at Shaft when the storybook paper dolls come out.
And the gratuitous lens flare while a scumbag dude genuflects in front of a woman.
Though much like the manga, the show thankfully doesn't take itself seriously 100% of the time. There's a whole lot of chibis in here too.
Not to mention the Perfect Cat.

Indeed, the Most Cat.
Murr is is a fuzzy, heterochromatic bastard and I love him. Though we should probably discuss the human(oid) characters, starting with our main character who is counter-intuitively not the titular Vanitas, but instead his doofy vampire BF.
Oh yeah lol I think that's the first time we've mentioned this show is about vampires. That's a pretty important part of it! The purple-coordinated gentlemen there, Noé, is on a quest to find and understand a magic tome called The Book of Vanitas, which has a mythical reputation amongst vampires, and not a very pleasant one. Lucky for him, he runs into that book on the very first airship he boards. Unlucky for him, the book is in the hands of this jerk.
Vanitas, despite carrying the name of the legendary vampire traitor who cursed his brethren centuries ago, is actually human. Or technically he's a gremlin but they don't have a classification for that in Fantasy Paris.
He prefers to call himself a doctor, although I doubt he has anything resembling an accredited medical degree. Nevertheless, he is able to use his blue grimoire to heal vampires—specifically, cursed vampires whose true names have been corrupted, turning them into mindless bloodsucking beasts.
And sometimes alligators, for some reason.
And wolfmen, occasionally. It's magic. What can you do?
You'd think that would be a setup for a simple enough monster malady of the week affair. Noé and Vanitas finding different vampires in peril, learning their sad stories, maybe bonding over the damaged lives they help put back together.

Nope! Shit immediately gets way more complicated with a half dozen intersecting agendas, conspiracies, and horny vampires to fight and/or make out with.

Oh yeah, also Jalter is there.
Hey now, this Jeanne doesn't have an awful anime mullet so she's leagues ahead of that Hot Topic reject.
Jalter has a haircut! Sometimes! But I digress, Vanitas really does very quickly branch into something a lot thornier and toothier than the premiere suggests. Which I think is a good thing, for the most part! I liked the first episode well enough, but the subsequent installments have done a lot of good work pulling me into Vanitas' complex network of personal tragedies and deliberate eroticism. It's spicy in here.
It also takes a pretty big risk by making its titular character kind of a scumbag. And not always the lovable rogue type either. Vanitas' big plan to defeat Jeanne is to trick Noé into taking her young master hostage, for one.
The scene where he's very easily manipulating an upsettingly gullible Noé is pretty funny, at least. Shit gets considerably more real and less comfortable when, having turned the tables on Jeanne, he shifts into full-on bodice-ripper mode.
Yeah I wasn't joking about the making out part earlier. That happens and boy is it weird.
And I similarly wasn't lightly making the comparisons to classic shōjo and Harlequin romances. I mean, Vanitas at least has enough sense to evoke the discomfort in the scene through its initial framing, but then the sudden shift to the above bright and sparkly image is a little jarring, to say the least. And it is for sure drawing on a long history of romantic titillation tropes, but the nonconsensual nature of the scene is still gonna rankle a lot of viewers, and quite understandably so.
It's especially jarring because not long afterwards we get plenty of sensual blood-drawing that's entirely consensual, even borderline romantic in its direction. So I'm not entirely sure what's up with this particular scene or where exactly this whole tryst between Vanitas and Jeanne is meant to go.
Could be one of those quirks of storytelling, where you start with familiar building blocks to help kick things off, but as the story and characters develop, you realize you want to take them in a different direction. And to be fair, I definitely want to see where Jeanne and Vanitas go from here, because this is exactly the kind of hot vampire mess I want out of a story like this.

Like this is barely-veiled coitus. It's great.
This is the horniest piece of animation I've seen all year, and that includes the hour-long BL movie about a yakuza boss getting his back blown out in every scene. They even have Vanitas biting the inside of his own hand. Christ.

Though even this scene is something he himself initiates, almost as a power play in its own right. And it all seems to tie into how Vanitas is constantly presenting himself to others. It comes up very frequently that he's not just trying to be an asshole, he straight up wants people to see him as a villain.
Now this could be a self-destructive defense mechanism hinting at some kind of buried trauma that informs his character and motives, or he might just be a nasty garbage boy who likes getting his neck drained. It's impossible to say.
Also maybe I'm reading too much into it but it kinda seems like jealousy on his part too, considering he spends the preceding episode pouting after Noé gets down with a lady of his own.

Oh I don't think that's reading too much into anything. Vanitas is a veritable vampire bisexual paradise so far.

Nothing like proposing to your best bro and giving him this look on top of a bell tower at dawn.
M It's a fetish smorgasbord, which is only to be expected when you have a major character related to the god damn Marquis de Sade:

This has nothing to do with BDSM, but the best gag in the whole show is this shot of her diegetic steampunk rose petal spewer.
And the 2nd best is her just casually collaring our main character.
Now THAT has something to do with BDSM.
I especially like how Noé doesn't even object to it. Like this is just something that happens on the reg between them. And to be fair it does serve a purpose as Noé is wont to run off chasing shiny things like a toddler when he's not on a literal leash.
And it also makes sense that Dominique (and yes, they absolutely did name their de Sade family OC "Dom") would know that about Noé, considering they pretty much grew up together.
Ah yes, immediately after the aforementioned blood-fuck sesh, we get easily the most emotionally devastating episode in this whole show. That's Vanitas in a nutshell really.
Amplifying the whiplash-like effect of that for me was this content warning at the beginning of the episode. I don't believe I had seen that before from Funimation.

And to be fair, the episode does contain quite a bit of child beheading.
A little weird I never saw any of those when watching Higurashi GOU but yeah, whole lotta blood in episode five, and not the fun sexy kind.
Blood, and just a lot of horror and dread in general. Noé's fast friendship with Louis and Domi is the heart of the episode, but as it proceeds, the claws of the curse slowly rend that heart to pieces.
It's pretty intense, seeing this kid slowly grow up to realize he's doomed to either die or kill the people closest to him, with no telling when his next day will be his last. But it's especially effective with the direction and storyboards firing on all cylinders.

And even the denouement of Louis' story is horrifying. Noé is saved, but it comes with an internal, personal confrontation that his guardian Teacher might be something besides the gentle savior who rescued him.

Vanitas, incidentally, also has a thing for monstrous Cheshire cat-like grins.
Oh and to cap it off Noé finds out Louis spent his last years making dozens of wooden stakes, hoping he'd use them to take him out before he hurt anyone. So just a whole carriage of baggage dumped on this lad's shoulders.
Oh and THEN he snaps back to the present day and has to watch Vanitas turn a little kid into a pile of ash because her curse had progressed too far to be reversed.

Starting to understand why he decided to own the fluffiest cat on the planet.
It's like poetry, it rhymes! Tragically!
Is Vanitas blunt, edgy, over-the-top, horrific, sexy, and sometimes in poor taste? You betcha. Do I love it because it is all of those things? Absolutely.
It is in many ways an acquired taste, but I have picked up that taste from scrounging through gothic-styled dumpsters for years. I haven't felt this personally pandered to since Dance with Devils and I'm going to roll in it like the filthy raccoon I am.
There are just times when I want something with some edge and bite to it. Vanitas has that, plus an exquisitely-realized creative vision. I am perfectly content in this little vampire hole.
...I think with this show in particular we need to be careful with how we use the world "hole", dude.
That's all, folks!

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