Once in a while, The Case Study of Vanitas plays it straight. Not often, but there are moments that feel earnest. Glimpses of actual sincere drama where the show explores the inevitable pain all these characters have gone through. Well, not Noé. He seems to be able to reset to blissfully glee in minutes regardless of the situation. That’s really a big part of his charm.

We had some pretty strong indications already that Chloé had seen a few things. This week, we see them as well…

Here’s the thing. I really liked this episode. There are so many great little moments I want to discuss. Like how actually seeing the simple act of Jean-Jacques bending down to feed Murr is such a nice grounding element. It doesn’t matter in the least in the grand scheme of things. But these little moments make the characters and the world seem a little more real. And that’s a big deal.

Or how the name Marquis Machina is for some reason one of the creepiest things I have ever heard. It works so well. It sounds kinda French but easy to pronounce. I loved it. I could go on about how those few seconds of animation in the fight between Noé and Charlatan were a tribute to the skills of the studio. Charlatan is not exactly corporeal so it’s a bit like fighting against water or something and to see that play out physically was a feast for the eyes. I gotta say, Noé almost looked like water for a second there, after Chloé got her hand on him.

Or I could talk about Charlatan getting a name. Naenia doesn’t quite fit the naming convention of the characters so far. It’s the name of a species of moth which is truly terrifying. It’s also a name for Nenia Dea apparently, who is a minor but very old roman funeral goddess. I didn’t know much about her so I looked it up. Apparently, some scholar was disputing her description as a funeral diety and instead tried to make a case for her being the goddess of “children’s playtime”. Very interesting considering how Charlatan is characterized as some carnival monster.

Or I could talk about August. How he always shows up when things start to go bad. Or is it the other way around? A rather good antagonist and for my money, much scarier than the Church. After all, August is an ideologue and there’s nothing worse than that.

I could dissect the episode into all its great moments. Pick at the little clues and droplets of meaning we got this week. But I don’t think this was the point. I think episode 15 of The Case Study of Vanitas was supposed to make us take a breath and remember. Remind us that this story about vampires, magical mirror Paris and smoke monsters is really about how people deal with loneliness.

As I sat through the episode I found myself on a journey. I wrote down, wow Chloé is really powerful. In my head, this was the strong girl in a frail-looking body trope. We’ve seen it a million times but I don’t hate it. And then the show told me, no she isn’t just a trope. Let me show you. And I found that she was, at some point, just a little girl. A normal little girl. That had to grow up and lose her entire family time and time again.

But even then, she retained a lot of her innocence. When she met adorable little Jeanne and left the estate for the first time, I remembered thinking, Chloé was so sweet. Even after decades of essentially being cursed, she had retained that sweetness and innocence. That’s impressive. What could have happened?

The Case of Vanitas is surprisingly effective at drama. At least it was this week. The last scene between August and Chloé shook me. It was short and didn’t get dwelt on. The director used a number of jump cuts to give the action something almost like a montage feel. And it was sad. This entire episode made me honestly feel bad for Chloé.

It didn’t answer anything. W are told right at the beginning that Chloé gave up her name willingly in exchange for a wish, but we’re never shown what that wish is. There is an insistence that the relationship between Cholé and Jean-Jacques is extremely important and Noé might be messing with that. Yet through the entire flashback, we never see how Jean-Jacques came into the picture. Chloé’s life was sad, mired in loss and isolation. But it wasn’t tragic. It was the normal sort of sad. Losing parents after they have lived a long and full life. Being separated from friends who go their own way. The type of sadness we all go through. So there’s no real clue as to what her wish might be. No thirst for revenge, no deep regret, no single element that could change everything.

In a myriad of little ways, Chloé’s flashback, which was pretty much the entire episode, subverted all the established tropes of the genre. Instead of discovering something unimaginable or establishing a motivation, we just spent time with a normal girl having a normal life. That’s not how these things are supposed to go! And after all of that, I’m left a little lonely myself. I miss Vanitas and Noé together making sure things stay light. I miss crazed vampire hunters attacking blindly before we can think.

I’m not going to lie. I don’t want the rest of the series to be like this. Introspective and dramatic. But for one week, it was very effective and a fantastic foil to the rest. Now let’s get back to pretty boys being dorks!

Previous episodes

2 thoughts

  1. You know, I just never want the episodes to end. I don’t much care if they’re going for drama or comedy or a mix – it’s always really stylish. Also Jean-Jaque not getting that someone wants to shake hands was so on point for this series. Loved that moment.

    And Chloé casually stating: and this is how I lost my first friend was pretty chilling, especially after she just knocked down who was introduced as prime villain material a peg, which – at least for me – distracted from that aspect a little, though not enough that I had to remember what she was talking about. A really well-crafted scene that is.

    Fun thought (behold the irony): Chloé might not have chosen to become the Beast in exchange for wish: she might just have wished to become the Beast. I mean she’s going out, and she gets to see Jeanne again (remember who sent her, and who knows that the regent has their name taken, and who’s with Chloé now, and what past we just learned about…). Man, imgaine this: I’ll become the Beast, and you destroy what I’ve been creating all this time in exchange – how does this sound? A way to fulfill the family legacy; a way to keep it from being used; a way to let loose and go out in a flash… I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m probably wrong, though.

    1. It’s too early to tell but so far the second cour has such a strong start that I’m tempted to think it might outdo the first. And I would never have guessed that.

Leave me a comment and make my day!