Jun Mochizuki’s The Case Study of Vanitas (Japanese: ヴァニタスの手記, Hepburn: Vanitasu no Karute) is a gas-lamp fantasy manga series. It has been serialized in Monthly Gangan Joker since December 2015. Volume 1 collects the first four chapters.
Steampunk Paris! Second only to London in the technological marvels it introduced to the 19th century world, Paris will astound country bumpkin vampire Noé Archiviste — should he manage to reach it.
Noé has been dispatched by his master in quest of the infamous Book of Vanitas. Rather conveniently for the vampire, the book will come to him.
Those vampires who have not retreated to Altus, the vampire world, live peacefully beside humans. Most vampires, after all, can easily control their desire for human blood. Those few who cannot control their hunger are firmly and without exception executed.
Noé is not the only vampire on the Paris-bound airship. Fellow vampire Amelia is suddenly taken ill. This rapidly develops into uncontrolled bloodlust. Noé does his best to protect Amelia from herself, a task that rapidly becomes unmanageable the more deranged Amelia becomes. When a mysterious man dressed all in black bursts in through a window and announces his interest in Amelia, Noé assumes the worst. In fact, the man is there to help.
A person who wanted to transform a vampire into a ravening beast need only alter the vampire’s true name. The primary defense against this is obscurity. Few know how to alter a true name. At least one person knows and is using this knowledge to create a plague of deranged vampires. The man in black, a human who calls himself Vanitas (a name borrowed from the notorious vampire Vanitas of the Blue Moon), also knows how to alter true names. He knows this because he is in possession of the infamous Book of Vanitas, which was created by the original Vanitas. He uses it to cure vampires like Amelia.
After the obligatory fight scene, infodumps, and various hijinks, Noé and Vanitas enter into a very reluctant partnership. At stake, Amelia’s life: vampire Count Orlok intends to euthanize her, believing cursed vampires cannot be cured. It’s up to Noé and Vanitas to prove that they can cure her. They must track down, overpower, and cure a serial killer vampire even now plaguing the people of Paris.
There will, of course, be problems.
The original Vanitas became an outcast and presumed villain because he was born under a blue moon rather than the red moon under which every other vampire is born. This seems a very slender pretext to shun someone. The consequences appear to have been undesirable all round. There’s probably a lesson about prejudice there.
You may wonder where Altus is and how it is protected. No answers are provided in volume one, except that a Barrier prevents easy travel between worlds and that Altus is the world where vampires live. Also unexplained: why the human Vanitas borrowed the name of a notorious outcast. I’m guessing that this is a mystery that take a dozen or two volumes to reveal.
The art in this is a bit confusing. I found the faces somewhat interchangeable.
I’ll probably not pursue this series, mainly because my tolerance for zany characters spreading chaos in the name of doing good is a lot lower than it used to be. Sure, we’ll probably find out who Vanitas is, why he picked that name, how he got his hands on the book, and why he cares what happens to vampires … but his hijinks in volume one are annoying enough that I don’t care.