At long last, Jun Mochizuki’s next intricate fantasy is brought to animated life in The Case Study of Vanitas Episode 1. Studio Bones has done it again. The Case Study of Vanitas adapts the manga series of the same name by Jun Mochizuki, mangaka of the much-beloved Pandora Hearts series. Both manga series is published in English by Yen Press. The adaptation is in good hands with Studio Bones, which is also behind many other beloved series such as My Hero Academia, FMA: Brotherhood, and Mob Psycho 100.
The story takes place in France, where vampires and humans live a tentative existence amongst each other. A bedtime story is told that while most vampires were born on the night of the crimson moon, one lone vampire named Vanitas was born on the night of the blue full moon. He was ostracized by his own kind and was said to have created a cursed grimoire in order to exact revenge on vampires. Noé was left a note by his master, telling him that rumors have sighted the Book of Vanitas in Paris and that Noé is tasked with learning the “true nature” of the grimoire. He certainly finds the book, in the hands of an eccentric human doctor who claims the name Vanitas and “specializes in vampires.”
The Case Study of Vanitas Episode 1 starts out incredibly strong. Faithful to the source manga, Mochizuki’s steampunk Paris is brought to life through both sight and sound. The characters can turn from chibi, exaggerated comedy to sinister on a dime and it WORKS. Mochizuki’s stunning art has been translated to animation so well. The wide-shot visuals and tiny character details are each given their frame in the spotlight to mesmerize. Additionally, more of the horror elements around curses are portrayed in a twisted storybook art style (think witches in Madoka Magica). Everything flows like a symphony, and if you listen to the score of the episode alone you might feel like you are sitting in a concert hall.
Much of The Case Study of Vanitas Episode 1 is an introduction, a packed one, but one of the main characters doesn’t even introduce himself until the end. Viewers can tell quickly by the opening credit sequence that the true heart of this series is going to the be relationship that develops between Vanitas and Noé, as Noé tries to learn more about the book and this human who doesn’t outright shun vampires. The lore in the show is fascinating as well, providing just enough of a twist to the standard vampire fare to feel fresh and bold. The idea that someone’s core of life lies in a “true name” that cannot be given to others lest it be corrupted opens the door for juicy symbolism.
The Case Study of Vanitas Episode 1 is a knockout premiere in the summer anime season. Jun Mochizuki’s storytelling chops are back in full force, and this time backed by stellar animation and production work from Studio Bones. The lore is intriguing, and the use of music, detail and a twisted storybook art style for more horror elements never miss a beat. Put this on your watch list.
The Case Study of Vanitas is streaming now on Funimation, with new episodes premiering Fridays.