A case study in how to overwhelm the reader.

The Case Study of Vanitas Volume twoTitle: The Case Study of Vanitas (Vanitas no Carte)
Genre: Supernatural, Historical
Publisher:  Square Enix (JP), Yen Press (US)
Creator: Jun Mochizuki
Serialized in: Gangan Joker
Translator: Taylor Engel
Original Release Date: May 23rd, 2017
A review copy was provided by Yen Press.

Now that Vanitas has definitively proved that he can use the Book of Vanitas to heal a vampire whose true name has been stolen, not just to curse them, Noé and other vampires are starting to feel more a smidge favorably towards him. Only a smidge however since there are clearly many more secrets that Vanitas is hiding and it’s impossible to erase the centuries of crimes committed by the original Vanitas, crimes that are still occurring with alarming frequency today.

I consider myself a MochiJun fan but two volumes in and I’m starting to get a sinking feeling about this story. While Crimson Shell was a bit of a mess that was understandable, it was her very first series after all, and I really loved Pandora Hearts. And yet, I see Jun Mochizuki making several mistakes in The Case Study of Vanitas that she never made in Pandora Hearts and this baffles me.

I rather like Noé as a point of view character but I dislike the grating Vanitas as a main character which is already proving to be a problem for me. Both Noé and Vanitas know to an extent what is currently plaguing the vampire world, but they both run in slightly different circles which means that there is twice as much information for the reader to puzzle out. The story is also practically flinging side characters at the reader, as there’s barely a chance to get to know any relevant side characters before even more force their way on-stage! Even with a thicker than usual volume, The Case Study of Vanitas is already starting to struggle under its own weight.

In short, Volume 2 is very very messy and it follows a messy introductory volume. The conflict at the heart of the story is clear: someone out there is purposefully trying to corrupt and destroy vampires and given the methods involved there is a high probability that this has some connection to The Book of Vanitas. But there are too many characters and too many factions to keep track of, especially when everyone seems to have a past that offers some clues into what is going on.

This story would have worked better if Mochizuki had started with a slightly smaller focus, fewer characters, and then started growing the story at the end of a second or third volume. Instead I currently feel like I’m drifting in a sea of too many ideas. The only part of the story I consistently liked was Mochizuki’s detailed and balanced designs, but even these get fairly ridiculous at times (in the bonus pages she calls Vanitas’ coat “the outfit nobody understands” and I’ll agree, it looks as if he’s hiding an entire bed’s worth of pillows in the hemline to achieve that silhouette!). I will be continuing this series but with more and more resignation, this is not the story I was hoping for and I’m not sure I can grow to like it regardless.