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This Week in Anime
The Horrific Beauty of Case Study of Vanitas

by Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas,

In this second season, The Case Study of Vanitas confirms its the goth kid disaster anime you should be watching. Deep emotional backstories? Beautiful vampires? Fluffy Victorian outfits? Buckets of blood? It's all here.

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 Nicky, after our compatriots dipped their toes (and other extremities) into the Horny Waters with the uh...less than amorous tiddy show of the season, I think we need to right the ship and show something that could actually get someone's motor running.
This is my face now that I finally get to talk about The Case Study of Vanitas, one of my favorite shows of this and last year simply for its pure dedication to being "equal opportunity steaminess" aimed to cater to thirsty bisexuals of the world (i.e. me).

What other show could rip a situation like "nakedly trying to avoid hypothermia alone in a cabin" straight out of fanfic and pull it off SO lovingly? And with Studio BONES making it look damn good.
Vanitas really is the show with something for everyone. You want hot anime men? We're drowning in 'em. You want sexy ladies in fancy dresses? Damn right you do.

You want immaculately animated accordion fanservice? Buddy, I've got good news.
Don't forget one of the most resting bitch-face'd cats to ever be drawn on a screen.
Bless this horrendous beast who knows not the light of god.
Funny enough, "What is god to a non-believer?" Could really describe a lot of the ethos behind the characters in Vanitas. As much as we joke about the cutesy elements, The Case Study of Vanitas is first and foremost a serious historical fantasy setting with a lot of drama and brooding plots and some really good action to boot (and vampires, of course). While this part of the show features a new arc, the previous half features enough character and plot building that it's worth checking out before jumping in to this one.
Assuming everyone remembers the frankly bonkers alternate-universe vampire lore, the biggest things to recall from last season's ending are a) Jeanne and Vanitas are a fucking car crash of a pairing.
I'm SHOCKED how well they work considering how they...erm...met. I did not expect to warm up to their relationship as much as I did, especially in this arc.
and b) Vanitas and Noé also met a remarkably affable vampire hunter from The Church who annoys the living shit out of our resident magic doctor.

It's great.
Every character in Vanitas is such a unique little knot of twisted complexes. It's super endearing to watch these little microcosms of trash emotions interact. And the new characters introduced are no exceptions.

Yeah, I'd be a disaster too if I had to share a name with THAT Fate/Grand Order character.
Poor guy can't even google himself, it's gotta be rough. Especially when the show's titular shit-eating bastard man cannot resist playing the heel the moment they meet.

Noé, internally: "I can't take this little bastard anywhere, I swear."
Vanitas really trying to steal the title of fav "Black-Haired Blue-Eyed Smirk Boy Drawn by BONES" in my heart from previous champ Yato from Noragami.
They're two similar but distinct styles of trash boy, and I'm glad to have both of them. I'm also just happy to have Vanitas back altogether. This show is an invaluable font of gorgeous, stylish, gothic cheese, the likes of which I haven't seen in a long while. Just look at this!
It's got impeccable aesthetics that exude both beauty and horror! Really makes a girl feel spoiled to see in a TV anime production nowadays.
The previous season had more or less an equal balance between artistic horror and indulgent fanciness, but this second part is definitely more about the horror. Though there are still at least a couple fancy dresses to ooh and aah at.
And as displayed previously, the characters also remain similarly gorgeous.

and simultaneously, HUGE DORKS!!
On that note both the OP and ED deliver again this season. The opener from Little Glee Monster took a while to grow on me, but the ending by MONONKVL is a delicious R&B jam straight out of the late 90's.
My only gripe about the OP is that even after weeks of watching it, I still have no idea about this strange artifact Noé bought and nobody can tell me what it is supposed to be. Otherwise, I like that it primarily focuses on Vanitas and Noé being lost and separated from each other, a roundabout way of mirroring the story of this arc.
I have some theories about what exactly that thing's supposed to be, but we'd have to age gate this column if I said them. So let's just get into the story of this season, where our intrepid heroes become Buzzfeed Unsolved and go hunting for a cryptid.
Searching for the Beast of Gévaudan also plays with Vanitas' folkloric and historical elements, while also being just absolutely nuts. The gang heads out to the little province upon hearing strange reports but once there are completely transported from green pastures back to the snowfalls that time forgot with seemingly no explanation, get separated, and run into various dangerous parties, including paladins, the beast itself, and terrifying clown ghosts!
It's amazing how quick their little field trip turns immediately into a 10 car pileup. They're not there for more than five minutes before basically everyone they know is there and raising hell. And wouldn't ya know it, that pink-haired altar boy breaks that fancy chain Vanitas keeps his magic book on.

If you listen closely you can hear the Fleetwood Mac lyrics in the background.
That same special book and Noé immediately get picked up by our antagonists and Vanitas is fortunate enough to be taken in from the cold by Jeanne, who is out here to slay the beast herself. She claims it's simply her duty but it's immediately clear that she has some sort of deep personal history with the whole situation.
The chaos also leads to maybe the first time we've seen Vanitas totally on the back foot, and it's a glorious bit of role reversal. After nearly a full season of him twirling Jeanne around his little finger, it's time for this piece of shit to go Full Tsun-Tsun.
Jeanne trying hard to save Vanitas's ass from freezing to death is an extremely funny and intimate character moment as it is sexy. Real-life rescue tactics aren't very hot but finding whatever awkward excuse to get two characters naked and alone together is a romance classic. In front of a warm fire Jeanne is able to unload her baggage about Chloé d'Apchier, whom she believes to be the beast. And then we get to top it off with a steamy somewhat kiss! Gotta stay hydrated to sate the thirst.
Get his ass, Jeanne.
Bonus Jeanne only realizing what went down after the fact having previously gotten swept up in her totally not-horny intentions.
Noé, meanwhile, is having decidedly less fun with the people saving his life. Poor boy just can't find anyone in his life who respects boundaries.
Poor Noé! He also immediately makes Chloé's boyfriend-butler, Jean-Jacques, jealous when he didn't even do anything. Otherwise, he ends up being physically unharmed. His new hosts, despite having murdered hundreds, don't seem to plan on killing him any time soon.
Oh, there's nothing to be afraid of with these two! Sure they're a couple of weirdos in a spooky castle but it's not like they invite him to a horrifying dinner party or anything.

You know, it really feels like Konami doesn't know what to do with Silent Hill anymore.
And the spooky clown ghost is there and she's just vibing! Y'know? The one that mysteriously RUINED NOÉ'S LIFE?!
It's fine. She's fine. There will definitely be no repercussions for paling around with the show's most undisputed antagonist.

Oh, and also Chloé's family has spent centuries working on a machine to rewrite the world, just like the original magicpocalypse that made vampires in the first place. But I'm sure it's just a coincidence.
Chloé also isn't exactly the same kind of vampire like the rest of them. In fact, despite her young appearance, she's probably one of the oldest vampires we've encountered. She was once a human daughter of the d'Apchiers and was one day transformed. Her family mourned this occurrence and swore they would take back her humanity by any means possible. Then they proceeded to keep her a secret, she became isolated, and eventually she simply outlived them. She never had any say.
Being stuck eternally as a 12-year-old and watching generations of your family age and die is already a pretty raw deal, but of course she winds up meeting Count Asshole, Duke of Sucksville to make everything just a little bit worse.
But he has baby Jeanne around with him! Aww, isn't she cute! Her and Chloé quickly become close friends.

This also hints that there was a time where Ruthven might've actually had noble intentions to find peace between humans and vampires vs whatever supremacist he is now.
There's a lot of mysteries surrounding basically everything in this show, and spoilers none of them are going to be succinctly answered anytime soon, certainly not in this arc! But I do want to highlight how impactful the show makes the short scenes we get between Chloé and Jeanne. We mentioned the series' penchant for both horror and beauty, and it's put to full effect to sell their relationship.
Vanitas is the kind of story that's all about just fully selling you on the characters and their feelings. We're lead to believe that whoever the beast is must be some sort of monster or irreparably damaged individual. The audience labels Chloé as guilty before we even really get to meet her. But brief little moments like this also emphasize her tragedy. Soon after, Ruthven assaults her. Betraying her and leaving her to feel all so alone. Enough to give into the seduction of a sweet-talking specter.

Well, almost give in. But then she's saved by that ever dependable anime power: Friendship!

Or, well, desperate attachment borne from loneliness and fear. But that's as close as anyone gets to an uncomplicated relationship in this show.
Outside of flashbackville, Noé and Jean-Jacques, despite getting off on the wrong foot, actually become fast friends. He tells her about the situation with Chloé. But unfortunately for Noé he has to get assaulted again, this time with his new bro feeding him some of his blood and send us tumbling into yet another flashback so we can get his memories about what happened.
Yeah something like 60% of this arc is just flashbacks. Which is helpful in piecing together the central mystery, but also means our main duo spend a lot of time either not doing anything or tripping on empath blood.
It's the only way we can fully build up the characters though and it's effective. Even Mr. Pink, who I probably care about the least out of the cast, got quite a juicy bit of emotion out of me just from his backstory. There's something a little magical about watching yourself go from apathy to tears over a character before and after you learn their whole deal.
And it plays into the show's overall themes. Basically every person in this show is some kind of broken and fucked up, and very few of them handle it in a healthy way. But part of the magic of this show is seeing other equally messed-up characters reach out a hand regardless. Though Jean-Jacques definitely makes one of the worse decisions even by this cast's low standards.
And with the time element there's also something to be said about being hung-up on things from the past. While everyone was pointing the finger at Chloé for being the beast, Jean-Jacques decides to scapegoat her by transforming himself into a real monster. Creating the legend we all know today.
I know for the sake of the narrative he had to become a big snarling monster, but how funny would it have been if he turned into a historically accurate Beast of Gévaudan and just became a real fucked up looking dog? The real kicker, though, is that the ACTUAL in-universe Beast was a total myth. The church made it up because they were secretly killing local vampires in violation of the treaty, and that created massive fear that ended up centered straight on Chloé.

Vanitas may be a fantasy story, but it knows one of the incontrovertible truths of history is that the Catholic church did some fucked up shit.
And as an audience, we go from being ALL suspicion on Chloé to roundabout accepting her innocence. Even Jeanne fully believed that Chloé was responsible for all the blood she didn't spill.

Also just taking a second to appreciate Jeanne's look here.
Or several seconds. A minute or two even. Anyway, while Vanitas and Noé are figuring out the whole church conspiracy, that whole reality-altering machine that came up before gets finished, and because Chloé's entire lineage are overdramatic goths, of course the machine is a god damn organ. I wouldn't have it any other way with this show.

Just tapping out "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to rewrite history so the Astros never won the world series, don't mind me.
Trying to re-sew the very fabric of time and space likely isn't without consequences, and if you think it's a drastic revenge plot, you'd be right! But not in the way that you'd expect. Remember out little ghost friend, Naenia, bestower of malnomens? So if Chloé's bad name isn't The Beast? Well then what is it?
Turns out Chloé is just immensely petty and cannot stand another girl whispering in her boyfriend's ear. Naenia messed with the wrong girl.

But this also turns out to be a terrible idea when the true identity of Naenia turns out to be the missing vampire queen whom all vampires must obey.
People have been theorizing that the real world Queen has secretly been dead for months, but I'm hoping this is what actually happened, and like three months from now we're gonna get the most unhinged BBC broadcast ever.

Also in classic Vanitas fashion this answers one big mystery by bringing up like 12 more at once.
And being y'know, the queen, she basically gets out of this scot-free and flies off to go take more names, leaving and triggering Chloé's malnomen that starts sucking everything up into a hell dimension of her own making!
And just when everything's gone to shit, it's time for the Church to show up again! Because there's no bad situation the clergy can't make worse.
Except they actually start helping by protecting the townsfolk from all the roaming demonic beasts just flying around ravenously now?
Yes, but they also have a hard time limit on how long Vanitas and Noé have to save everyone before they just start chopping heads. Which they can do thanks to their steampunk chainsaw swords.

God I love anime.
Vanitas and Noé also finally get back in touch, head first I might add!

That's kissing distance right there.
I do love that Noé finally loses patience on all of Vanitas' avoidance and excuses and just tells him "Hey, learn to trust me asshole. What part of the last 18 episodes makes you think I wouldn't believe and help you if you told me the truth about god damn anything?"
Just totally breaking through his carefully placed defenses. Our two boys don't spend a whole lot of time together on-screen but you can still feel the story pushing them closer together.
We still don't know all of Vanitas' deal, but it's very fun seeing his carefully crafted heel persona slip more and more as the people around him just punch through to the awkward, lonely child underneath. They are going to drag him, kicking and screaming, into a loving friend group.
But this arc isn't about healing Vanitas of his traumas. He's the one who's supposed to be doctoring others! So we shift focus back to Jeanne, who has been struggling and yet determined that it is her right to kill Chloé even though she doesn't want to. She's fighting off in her mind palace when Vanitas comes to save her in what is probs one of my fav moments of the whole show now. And regardless of whether this version of Vanitas in her mind is the "real one" it shows how sweet, important, and healing their brief relationship has been.

Squeezing my tissue box because I adore when even "messy" relationships still have positive outcomes where you feel the characters growing as people.
Vanitas is a big, contradictory hedgehog who does his best to keep everyone at bay, and even insists his helping vampires is just a means of vengeance, but even a screwed up jerk can be a source of hope. Granted, other times messed up jerks just try to kill you, so you have to beat their ass with a pipe.
or y'know, just punch 'em! Nothing wrong with plain ole fisticuffs.
I do love that Vanitas basically tells Noé not to get hung-up on Astolfo's sad backstory. Even if somebody's got a sympathetic reason for being a shithead, that doesn't make it noble to let them stab you while they work it out, bro!
I think this applies to the general struggle between humans and vampires as well. Everyone wants to get along but how could you when there's just so much bloody history there? People don't like to think of themselves as wrong, especially after they've been hurt.
I think it's also just a lesson Noé has to learn. He spends this whole arc - really the whole show - trying to help people he feels bad for, but eventually he has to set down boundaries. Compassion and recognizing the humanity in who you're fighting is a good thing, but you have to stand for something besides pity at the end of the day.
And we've see how other people take advantage of him for his empathy. It's both his weakness and strength. But it's the thing that powers him to really put his foot..err fist?..whatever, down so people can actually start healing and moving the fuck on. When we move to Jeanne and Jean-Jacques too, they see Chloé all tied up in her baggage and desperately tie to pull her out of it instead of dying alone. According to her malnomen, it's something she has to figure out herself though, or else she'll perish.
It's really god damn sweet to see her finally pulled out of all the anger, loneliness, and loathing that's defined her life for so long, and just allowing herself to be vulnerable with people who really love her.

Maybe somebody else in the show should learn something from that. HINT. HINT.
These final moments of this story arc is so sweet. It's so cathartic seeing Jeanne come up and thank Vanitas even if she also just decides to jump him and I'm 100% certain he jizzed his pants in the process. But ultimately, it's still wholesome and blissful where once what stood before was only tragedy.
If there's a singular lesson to be taken from all the time-hopping, world-ending shenanigans in this arc, it's that trying to live by closing yourself off is a one-way road to your own doom. There are plenty of reasons to be scared of letting others in, but it's worth it to find the courage to do it anyway.
And it's not just Jeanne that Vanitas should be letting in, but someone else too. Mayhaps, in time.

Even if the season ended here I'd be pretty satisfied. People really seemed to have slept on the first half after a point but there really isn't a better time to catch up since all the pay-off is truly rewarding. I can't stress enough how much more people need to be checking out this show. It could have a ton of mass appeal if properly recognized.
It really is just a blast. Gorgeous, indulgent artwork and character designs, complicated and lovable characters, and just rad as hell fantasy ideas. It's a show basically made for me, so trust me when I say it really packs a punch.

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