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Vanitas no Carte — In The Event of Rusty Hopes

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This is it pretties. The moment we've all been waiting for.
A week ago Mochizuki Jun's new series, Vanitas no Carte began serialization in the Gangan Joker magazine, and it's first chapter was all but disappointing. I bring you today a post on speculations and first impressions, as well as a summary of all the new terminology that's being bashed into our little brains in this 80 page long chapter.
Note that though I originally had read the chapter in Japanese, because many will be more likely reading Yen Press's official kindle release I've decided to read this translation and make use of it in this post to make it easier to understand. I'm also going to assume everybody reading this is probably a Pandora Hearts fan, so the there might also be one or two spoilers to the series.


Have you read the official release yet?

First of all, you're going to need to read the first chapter to read this commentary. You can find out more about where to purchase this first chapter for just less than $3 here! Many people are under the mistaken impression that Yen Press's release of The Case Study of Vanitas is only available in the US & Canada.... It isn't! It's available in Europe too!! In fact, in order to prove this to you I bought it myself!!!

It's available on:

I've just linked half of Europe directly to the product, there is literally NO EXCUSE for you not to support the release!! It's 2.99 miserable euros a month!!!!!!!! (you can give up a coke or two to read Vanitas, can't you?) They'll be releasing the chapter the same day it comes out in Japan, so come on guys... buy it! I may not read translated manga any more, but like all of you I suffered the pains of having to wait for my favourite mangas to get translated for many years. Heck, it doesn't even matter whether I can read Japanese or not, because unless someone posts the raws somewhere or someone sends them to me I'd have to wait for the volume to be released, and my fangirl heart just isn't ready for that!
This here is the beginning of how all those living in the west or outside of Japan can walk out of happily, because if this project is sufficiently popular it's likely it won't be the last one where we get translations the day of the release. It's cheaper than buying the Japanese magazine (literally, the Japanese magazine is 590¥ - 5$ - 4.50€) and you'll be supporting the mangaka, what more do you want?
So come on peeps, buy it!! 


 That said, lets get on with the actual commentary.



Quick Summary

We're in the 19th Century in an alternative steampunk world where long, long ago vampires fought a war against humans that caused their extinction. However recent attacks cause suspicion within the masses that vampires are very much alive - some say it's true, and others think vampires are just a fairytale altogether...
Enter Noé, a young vampire aboard La Baleine, an airship bound for Paris. He is on a mission to find the cursed legendary Book of Vanitas. As he begins to approach his destination a strange man who calls himself Vanitas, who coincidentally is in possesion of such book, crashes through the airship's windows to "cure" a vampire that has lost its sense of self abroad the airship. The 80 pages long chapter ends with a prequel narration of a Noé from the future foreshadowing the death of Vanitas at his own hands.

Terminology 

A huuuuuuuuuge amount of new terms have already popped up in this new chapter, so first of all, to help us all gather our thoughts, I've decided to make a list of all the new terms and what we know about each of these words. I'll be noting down both the original terms in Japanese and the translation Yen Press decided to go for!
The order: Japanese term, followed by special furigana reading in parenthesis if ther is one, followed by romanisation in italics, followed by the official English translation, followed by definition after the hyphen.

  • 空游ぐ鯨号 (ラ・バレーヌ) (ra bareenu) [ La Baleine ] — The airship (飛空船) Noé rides to get to Paris. Its name means "The Whale."
  • 星碧石 (アストルマイト) (asutorumaito) [ Astermite ] — Written with the kanjis for "star," "blue"/"green," and "stone"/"jewel." This kanji combination does not exist, thus the furigana is the only reading. Not yet much is know about it, but it seems to be a stone that serves as the driving force for steam engines.
  • 吸血鬼 (ヴァンピール) kyuuketsuki (vanpiiru) (French pronunciation for 'vampire') [ Vampire ] — The vampires in our story. Apparently they are able to very easily control their thirst for blood, except for when they use their True Name. 吸血鬼 Kyuuketsuki is the standard Japanese word for vampire, written with the kanjis for "suck," "blood," and "demon."
  • 真名 shinmei [ True Name] — It is the "formula" (構成式 kouseishiki) that shapes a vampires "very being," it is their life itself. (吸血鬼の存在を形作る"構成式"、即ち、命そのもの.) It uses the kanjis for "true" and "name" (the translation couldn't be any more literal.)
  • 禍名 magatsuna [ Malnomen ] — Written with the kanjis for "calamity"/"misfortune" and "name." The remains of a vampire's true name after being wrapped by the maladies.
  • 改竄式 (病魔) (byouma) [ Maladies ] — Details have not yet been revealed, but it seems to be whatever causes vampires to lose their True Names. Maladies is a plural French word meaning "diseases." It is also used in the English language, though the singular in English is "malady", whilst the singular in French is maladie. Interestingly enough, the furigana for 改竄式 kaizanshiki, written with the two kanjis that form the word "alteration" followed by the kanji for "ceremony"/"method," is in fact byouma. We only see the hiragana for byouma, but it must be referring to the word 病魔, written with the kanjis for "disease" and "demon"/"evil." It translates as "demon of ill health" or simply just as "disease."
  • 逆演算 gyakuenzan [ Inverse Operation ] — The method through which Vanitas makes use of the Book of Vanitas to interfere with vampires' true names and "remove the irritant" (the maladies.) The translation is pretty much literal: 逆 gyaku (inverse) and 演算 enzan (operation.)
  • 狩人 (シャスール) kariudo (shasuuru) [ Chasseurs ] — They seem to be some manner of vampire "hunters" (狩人) working for the church. Chasseur is the French word for "hunter."
  • 処刑人 (ブロー) (buroo) [ Bourreaus ] — They seem to be vampire "executioners" (処刑人.) 処刑人 doesn't seem to have an official reading, though it is written with the word 処刑 shokei (execution) and the kanji 人 (person,) so the meaning is clear. Bourreau is the French word for "executioner." For now the only difference between the bourreaus and the chasseurs is that the later work for the church.
  • 蒼月の吸血鬼 sougetsu no kyuuketsuki [ The Vampire of the Blue Moon ] — Title of a bed time story that narrates the legend of a vampire named Vanitas born under a full blue moon, a symbol of misfortune.
  • ヴァニタスの書 vanitasu no sho [ The Book of Vanitas ] — The name of the cursed book that appears in The Vampire of the Blue Moon. It is a creation of Vanitas "imbued with the power to interfere with vampires' true names." According to the legend, once it is opened "a curse more terrible than death" will befall all vampires, and whoever holds it will "become the one who will destroy all vampires." 


The context 

I have to say MochiJun's new blend of narrative elements is rather interesting. Steampunk is a genre that usually lies on the more scientific side of narratives (I like to direct people unfamiliar with the genre to the anime film Steam Boy, it's a smashing film,) yet she has decided to include the fantastical element of vampires as a plus. Whether the stempunk element will be just decorative or eventually have a heavy influence in the story as a whole is something we're yet to see, but this interesting mix has proven it can work out in this first memoire. The Book of Vanitas itself seems to incorporate mechanical elements, so I'm leaning towards thinking that MochiJun will eventually be making use of the steampunk theme for something other than her gorgeously detailed drawings.
As for the vampire genre, I feel like I should be sceptical about it because of how overrated and overused this genre has become in young adult literature (especially since the Twilight boom,) but at the same time we're talking about Mochizuki Jun here... I thought it strange that she had decided to go for something so mainstream when Pandora Hearts was such an unusual manga, but Vanita's no Carte's first chapter has proven that this vampire story still has Jun's unique sense of storytelling and creativity. The old legend of a vampire that curses all of his kin; true names - doors to the soul; the blue full moon, a sign of misfortune... there is so much potential and so many things to be explained! I want more!!

The characters

I wasn't expecting much in this first chapter, but MochiJun sure has delivered. There was always a chance future characters are a rehashing of old Pandora Hearts characters, but for the time being that doesn't seem to be the case (and I highly doubt someone as talented ins storytelling as MochiGenius will be recycling character traits.) Vanitas (the vampire doctor, not the tiny vampire in the story) is immensely interesting. Not just because of how usually energetic he is, but because he seems to be obsessed with saving vampires.
Double-spread in chapter one of Vanitas no Carte by Mochizuki Jun, screenshot of Yen Press's kindle release in English. 

Whatever his reason might be, Vanitas doesn't seem to give a rat's ass whether vampires want saving or not, and he's very intense about it. Look at that stare, those maddened eyes, that blood splatter... there is no composure, no serenity. A protagonist completely opposite to Oz, who always managed to keep his cool. There's something wrong with Vanitas, and though his mission may seem noble, this double spread (as well as Noé's ending narration) hints that there is a very dark side to it. It'll be most interesting to see if he'll be the saviour or the bringer of doom. 
I'm also quite intrigued by Noé - he seems like a very unusual young man. It has already been pointed out to us he is rather unusual for a vampire, not dislike the Blue Moon despite it being a symbol of misfortune to his race. He also has a very adorably childish side to him, yet he seems composed and very clever. I love how infinitely curious he seems, and how genuinely impressed with Vanitas he is. But I think what I like most about him is the fact that he owns a persian cat with heterochromia, what a way to steal the spotlight!!! To top it off, Vanitas and Noé have a very good chemistry going on (I can already see the fujoshi screaming,) and so far all we've seen them do is fight each other and fall out of an airship together - imagine what's to come!!

Speculations and Questions


The Book of Vanitas

The Vampire of the Blue Moon, the story Noé tells us about, states that Vanitas, after being persecuted by his own kin, crafts the Book of Vanitas and points out that "a curse more terrible than death will befall" all vampires were the book to be open, and that this book has the power to interfere with vampires' true names. We've already seen that the book does indeed poses the power to interfere with vampires' names, as we've seen Doctor Vanitas use it to cure Amelia, but my speculation is that someone must've found and opened the book, thus releasing the curse (the maladies,) which is what is currently driving vampires mad and causing their names to become malnomen
However! Noé's master sends him a letter urging him to leave for Paris immediately in search for the book of Vanitas to "learn it's true character." Could this be implying that the story of Vanitas the vampire has been twisted through the ages, and that the book is in fact not evil? (this teacher dude probably knows something, MochiJun has a thing for drawing pivotal plot twist characters as faceless when they first appear...........) 

Vanitas

Most of my questions regarding Vanitas revolve around how the Book of Vanitas came to be in his possesion and in what way he inherited it and the name "Vanitas." The story Noé tells us of Vanitas the vampire seems to have happened long ago enough for people to thing it is nothing but a children's' bedtime story, so in what way was doctor Vanitas chosen to inherit the book? To top it off he's not a vampire, but a normal human being. What's a human doing interfering with vampires, and why is he so driven to cure them all? Questions, questions, questions. However what's most intriguing is actually his name, Vanitas. A quick search through google directs us to a wikipedia page that explains that,

In the arts, vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with still-life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods. The Latin word means "vanity" and loosely translated corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. 
 Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit (decay); bubbles (the brevity of life and suddenness of death); smoke, watches, and hourglasses, (the brevity of life); and musical instruments (brevity and the ephemeral nature of life). Fruit, flowers and butterflies can be interpreted in the same way, and a peeled lemon was, like life, attractive to look at but bitter to taste. 
We all know Mochizuki Jun is very fond of symbolisms and motifs - red eyes are yet again an element of her manga, chains and thorns seem to be recurring motifs, and it looks like misfortune will be making an appearance yet again. Heck there's also been a lot of drawings of gears in this chapter, which makes me suspect MochiJun might be centring her story around fate and destiny this time around too (and that poster with Vanitas and Noé surrounded by chess pieces? HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS.) The use of "vanitas" as the protagonist's name is undoubtedly not a coincidence, and so far we've already seen that Vanitas wears an hourglass as an earing on his left ear... perhaps MochiDevil thought the ending narration wasn't enough to convince us this guys is going to end up dead, so she decided to add some icing on the cake and make him carry an effing symbol of death on him. Lovely. We better watch out for skulls and rotten fruit and other disgusting things too. It looks like Vanitas no Carte is out to teach us life ain't pretty and shoot down our hearts.

Photo of the last illustration in the Pandora Hearts artbook "There is." that I posted on tumblr shortly after the artbook went on sale.

Poster included in Gangan Joker's 2016 issue 1 where Vanitas no Carte began serialization.
Noé's bishop appears shattered, where as Vanitas's queen appears shattered.
The are holding each others' king pieces in their mouths.

Preview drawing released before the first chapter, full of suspicious gears, with a suspicious Red Moon, in a suspicious looking tower, with Vanitas holding suspicious looking chains, suspicious suspicious suspicious.

The Great War & Vampires

(If this turns out to be another Sablier Tragedy where everything you think you know turns out to be a lie I will throw myself off a cliff, I swear.)
  • What happened and why? Why did war break out? 
  • How long ago did this war take place? 
  • Did vampires and humans coexist peacefully before it? 
  • Why do people believe vampires are extinct? Are they in hiding? 
  • Noé tells Amelia vampires are forbidden to suck human blood... did they establish a code to avoid contact with humans?
  • Who's blood do they suck then????????????? 


Where's the rest of the female cast?!

Probably on it's way...

I'm hoping Amelia wasn't just a first chapter thing and that she'll stick around too, she was incredibly sweet and cute, and Murr loves her. If a cat loves you, you must be blessed by God. 

A story being told?

As Pandora Hearts came to an end with it's 104th chapter it was relieved to us that the voice in off narrating in the very first chapter was in fact Gilbert, who had decided to write down everything that happened after Alice and Oz disappeared. There's nothing really there that tells us that he wrote everything that happened before too, but the point is that right at the end of the story there was some manner of story-telling narration going on. Back when the title of the series was revealed and everyone was trying to figure out what the title meant, I pointed out that the word 手記 shuki, though it did mean "card" or "note," was more commonly used as "memoires" in Japanese. But the subtitle in katakana, carte, (カルテ) forced me to believe it was probably going for the first meaning. Interestingly enough, the French title that appears on the cover of the Gangana Joker's 2016 issue 1, where Vanitas no Carte began serialisation, has the title Les Mémoires de Vanitas plastered in big pretty letters. 

So though Yen Press has decided to title it The Case Study of Vanitas, the original title translates more accurately as Vanitas's Memoires. The last few pages in the first chapter of Vanitas no Carte blatantly state end Vanitas and Noé will meet, narrated evidently by a Noé from the future. My speculation is that the story we are to witness is a retelling by Noé, an account of his personal life and experiences placing special emphasis on Vanitas... thus making it Vanitas's memoires rather than his. In any case, the translation of the title as "case study" still implies this, as a case study is a "published report about a person, group, or situation that has been studied over time." I'm assuming the reason why the subtitle for shuki was carte was to imply this double meaning: it is a study of the man named Vanitas, yet at the same time it is a retelling of his life. 

 Last but not least, 
「その旅路の果てに、彼をこの手で殺すまでの物語」
"And how at the end of that journey...I would kill him with my own two hands."
⇪ 
I demand an explanation for this. 
Why? How? Where? 
(It was Noé with his own two hands in the studio!)

Conclusions

Mochizuki Jun has delivered. She's cut no edges for this chapter, and I am beyond impressed with how solidly she has managed to set down the foundations of a new story. The drawings are gorgeous as always, and I think I've left pretty clear I'm enchanted by the new setting. I'm very excited to see what steampunk Paris looks like, that should be interesting. I can't wait for the next chapter to come out!! 

Till the next 22nd, my pretties. I don't know if I'll be posting loooong commentaries on each individual chapter that comes out like this one or the ones I wrote up for individual chapters of Pandora Hearts (keep in mind PH was coming to an end and I'd been obsessed with it for 8 years,) but this won't be the last post on Vanitas no Carte you'll see around here. Feel free to share your thoughts and theories in the comment section below! I know many of you are very excited over this release and that I still have quite a lot of Mochizuki Jun followers around the blog. For now I leave you with a sketch of Vanitas being overly dramatic found right at the end of the artbook "There is," also a photo I posted on tumblr back in the day when the artbook was released. 
 Ain't he sexy though?
Posted on: 31/12/2015



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2 comments:

  1. Tuve la oportunidad de finalmente leer el capitulo 1, ¡y me enganchó rápidamente! Le tengo mucha fe a la nueva historia de MochiJun-sensei y, como siempre, el arte es una delicia para los ojos.

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    1. Yo también tengo la sensación de que este manga va a ser muy bueno, aunque en parte es porque Pandora Hearts me dejó fascinada y tengo mucha fé en Mochizuki Jun... espero que no nos decepcione!!

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