The Case Study of Vanitas also known as Vanitas no Karte is a supernatural/steampunk vampire series that first aired in the summer 2021 season. The series will consist of two cours with the second half due to be released in January 2022 so from the get go one should be aware this season will not have a complete conclusion. The backdrop to the Vanitas story centres around the vampire curse of the blue moon. It is said that a vampire named Vanitas was born during the blue moon and since most vampires are born under the crimson moon, he felt lonely and swore vengeance against the vampire race using the grimoire “the book of Vanitas” to strike them down.
From this point is when the real mystery of this story starts and what makes the Case of Vanitas intriguing is how this seemingly simple premise slowly unravels as we learn more and more about the world. Questions are often raised about the book's origins and its purpose. We also get an insight into the history of vampires, Noe’s past and later on Vanitas backstory. What is more the way these details are revealed and developed is very effective and are strong pulls into watching the show. It certainly kept me keen on watching the next episode at least in the beginning.
Unfortunately, this level of interest was not sustained throughout the shows running. This lack of interest primarily came about because the pacing for the second half was slower. That is not to say nothing happened as I feel that some of the contents covered will probably bear some significance come the second cour but if I am to judge purely on this seasons’ contents alone, I felt the details covered could have been condensed into fewer episodes.
Another possible point of contention that I can see coming from some viewers is the frequent comical chi-bi scenes. Now in fairness I did often find these skits were funny and it did add a light heartedness that was needed due to the darker themes often present in the show. However, the problems come from the frequency in which these scenes occur. There were times these comedic scenes came at awkward moments and later on even stifled the plot. This was an issue throughout the show but became more a prominent problem in the second half of the show when I felt it was done in excess.
Yay or nay with the comedy scenes?
One of the stronger points in The Case Study of Vanitas was the cast and their chemistry. A special mention needs to be made for Vanitas who was one of the main highlights of the show. He won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but his swagger, bravado, general eccentric and reckless behaviour was a constant source of entertainment for me. He always manages to find a way to push peoples’ buttons and is a big driver in the humour that takes place. Beyond the bluster and comedy act though lies a man with a keen intellect and quick wits. Moreover, his backstory increasingly becomes a source of mystery that pulls you in wanting to know more. In contrast to the smart and streetwise Vanitas we have Noe who while smart often reveals his country bumpkin naiveite. It is this contrast in personalities and outlooks that creates a chemistry (and angst) that is amusing to watch. It works well and for some seeing their relationship develop could be reason enough to watch this show.
For fangirls there is the additional bonus that the two main leads are bishies. There are even hints of boy love but to avoid disappointment I would stress the operant word here is hint. Don’t expect full on yaoi action as although we are often teased, nothing of substance ever comes out of it. Maybe, just maybe, something happens in the second cour?
As for the secondary cast, whilst they were all interesting in their own ways, they are not nearly as developed as our two main leads. Saying that there were some growth, what is more, one of the revelations made does suggest we will get significant character developments in the second half of the series so in this point we can remain hopeful.
Animation wise this series is a bit of mixed bag. On the plus side the steampunk art style coupled with the Alice in Wonderland type imaginary definitely makes this series standout. However, these positives are tempered by frequent drops in quality in the more distant pan shots. On top of that the action scenes are quite short indicating shortcuts were taken here as well. If you are a fan of action then beware that you will not enjoy these moments as much as other anime series that do a better job handling such scenes. The musical score is solid though and I enjoyed both the opening theme "Sora to Utsuro" by Sasanomaly and ending song "0 (zero)" by LMYKas.
When watching The Case Study of Vanitas what becomes immediately apparent (apart from the steampunk style) is the Alice in Wonderland type imaginary which is frequently deployed. The art style and even flow and direction of the story bears striking similarities to the anime/manga Pandora Hearts. This is no coincidence as the creator of both series is Jun Mochizuki. Therefore, it follows that if you liked Pandora Hearts then you are likely to enjoy The Case Study of Vanitas as well.
For people who have not watched Pandora Hearts my main recommendation would be to hold fire. It is not that the series is bad per se but with the second cour just round the corner I feel this is a type of show that works way better if you watch the full 24 episodes in one go. A lot is left hanging at the end of the 12 episodes and in the final moments we are literally at the beginning of the next arc. Now an open ending is not always a reason to pause (Demon Slayer is a good example that watching an incomplete story can still work) however in the case of this series we are not even sure of the goals of the protagonists nevermind the villains. Too much content is simply left hanging to have any kind of closure. Because of this I feel it is even hard to even give this anime an overall score. It would better to simply wait and reserve judgement until this series is completely finished. As such take my scores below with a pinch of salt.
Story 6 – Decent premise with great initial plot developments. This good start is not maintained however as the plot significantly slows in the second half. This stalling coupled with the fact that story has no closure means The Case Study of Vanitas is essentially asking you to watch the second cour. Until the second part of this series comes out we cannot say with confidence whether this show will be any good or not.
Characters 7.5 – Vanitas is the highlight in the character department hands down. His bravado, intelligence and mysterious past will garner interest from a large number of people. The chemistry between Vanitas and Noe is also strong making this a big reason to watch this series. Other points of interest would be the hints of relationships which goes in both directions (straight and yaoi).
Animation/music 7 – The steampunk and Alice in Wonderland imaginary are the good points. The negatives are the frequent drops in quality and shortcuts taken during the action scenes. Fortunately, the musical score is stronger plus I enjoyed both the opening and ending song tracks.
Overall 6.5 – This is a tentative score given that this is in essence an incomplete anime series. I do see some potential and if the plot developments can be expanded to a satisfactory degree, I could easily see myself recommending it to others. However, at this moment of time my best advice would be to wait as I strongly suspect this series would be far more enjoyable if you watched the whole thing in one go. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the Pandora Hearts anime/manga then you should give this a go.
There is a gallery for The Case Study of Vanitas so if you are interested check it out!