[Review] The Case Study of Vanitas
a feather-light soufflé of a manga
by Shaenon K. Garrity
Jun Mochizuki, best known as the creator of Pandora Hearts, specializes in gothic fantasy with an elegant Victorian veneer. Her newest series, The Case Study of Vanitas, adds two closely related tropes: steampunk and vampires. In an alternate 19th-century Paris with flying cities and clockwork technology, vampires are real but mostly harmless, having been driven underground by the human majority.
Vanitas, a cocky “vampire doctor,” roams the nighttime streets, magically curing vampires who become overwhelmed by bloodlust and turn to killing. He’s joined on his rounds by Noé, an upright young vampire following rumors about the strange book Vanitas uses to perform his cures. Does it contain the secret to vampires’ salvation, or does it spread their curse?
This being a fantasy manga, there are further complications, including name-based magic spells, political tensions between the human and vampire communities in Paris, and a shadowy monster lurking about, giggling. But for the most part this is a refreshingly straightforward story, building episodic adventures on the solid foundation of two pretty men helping vampires be less bitey.
The other draw is the manga’s romantic faux-Victorian setting, festooned with lace, bows, stained glass, polished gears, and other hand-cramping details (drawn, as the endnotes admit, by Mochizuki’s beleaguered assistants). Mochizuki’s love of all things French comes through, with flowery Parisian street scenes and characters named after historical figures like Joan of Arc and Manet.
The Case Study of Vanitas is a feather-light soufflé of a manga. Underneath the steampunk style, it’s not much more than a standard fighting-fantasy manga with a little eye candy for the fangirls. But if it’s not filling, it’s sweet and attractive.
publisher: Yen Press
story and art: Jun Mochizuki
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