With the story beginning to settle down and the characters coming into its own, this might be when The Case Study of Vanitas takes off.

The Case Study of Vanitas Volume ThreeTitle: 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: November 14, 2017
A review copy was provided by Yen Press.

The first two volumes of The Case Study of Vanitas felt like a messy whirlwind of character introductions, expository details, and a story in dire need of guidance. After all of this hubbub, however, it appears that the story is finally starting to settle into itself and make progress towards what will probably become the series over-arching plot.

This change is most helped by the fact that deuteragonists Noé and Vanitas have turned into a snippy, almost buddy-cop duo as they investigate curse-bearers. Earlier in the series, their general ignorance of the world (Vanitas of the vampire world and Noé’s ignorance of both the human and vampire worlds) made it hard for the two of them to be on the same footing narrative-wise as one or the other was always the butt of a joke or circumstance. In some ways, it felt very similar to the Oz and Raven duo in Jun Mochizuki’s previous work, Pandora Hearts. But there the two characters had affection from each other so the teasing didn’t feel entirely mean-spirited, and no such love exists between Noé and Vanitas (yet).

But by now Vanitas, the human who was “adopted” by the vampire of the blue moon (which the story still has yet to provide many details about what exactly this means), and Noé, a vampire who grew up in very sheltered circumstances in both the human and vampire worlds, snip and snark at each other as they watch each other’s backs in their near-constant escapades. The side cast of The Case Study of Vanitas is continuing to grow larger and larger but currently, it does not appear that any of these characters will be joining this duo to form a trio. In other words, these two misfits in their own worlds will just have to suck it up and deal with each other.

Now that the characters have been established it’s truly time for the larger plot for the series to emerge but it’s still a little nebulous. It appears that curse-breakers (vampires whose true names have been tampered with) are a far more wide-reaching problem than both the characters and the readers had already surmised and, given what Vanitas is using the Book of Vanitas to heal these true names, I suspect that Vanitas and Noé will find themselves chasing the instigator of these troubles. It also appears that human-vampire interactions are even more complex than previously demonstrated and that this will play a role too.

Truthfully it’s a little hard to tell exactly how these two worlds interact. Everyone the reader has met so far is aware of and has some connection to vampires but it appears that this is not the case for the general human population, but a clash between human and vampire civilizations is a classic plot so it’s sure to come into play at some point! The introduction of a church-based organization of vampire hunters certainly supports this theory and it also seems like they will be the first truly formidable foe that Noé and Vanitas have to face in the fourth volume and beyond.

With this third volume of The Case Study of Vanitas, the story begins to make itself felt and the manga is no longer a series of pretty images without a plot but a series of very pretty images with aspirations to tell a grand story. That story still has a long way to go before it’s out of danger (of just collapsing in on itself), but this volume’s ending promises more backstory on Vanitas coming soon and a better understanding of these characters will surely lead towards a more interesting story going forward.