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Vanitas no Carte — Other World, Night of Sneering Masks & Sinking in a Pool of Blood

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In which Laura screamed.

[WARNING!] This post contains spoilers for chapters 6, 7 and 8 of Vanitas no Carte!


Was too busy to write a post when mémoire 7 came out, so now that I'm back in Japan here goes one for mémoires 6, 7 & 8. As always this is going to be a veeeeeeeeery image heavy looooooooooooooong post with just me pointing at stuff and going "????????????"

Memoire 6 「Altus 異界」(Altus - Other World) 30p
Memoire 7 「Bal maque 仮面が嗤う夜」(Bal Masqué - Night of Sneering Masks) 46p
Memoire 8 「 Louis 血だまりに沈む君の」(Louis - Sinking in a Pool of Blood) 48p



Will be refering to human Vanitas as H.Vanitas and vampire Vanitas as V.Vanitas from now on, for clarity's sake.

Terminology

The order: Japanese term, followed by special furigana reading in parenthesis if there is one, followed by romanisation in italics if I consider it necessary, followed by the official English translation, followed by definition after the hyphen.
Terms with a red flag  have appeared before, but now have new information!
  • アルタス arutasu [ Altus ] — The vampire world.
  •  星碧石 (アストルマイト) (asutorumaito) [ Astermite ] — A mineral created after "Babel". It is believed to have been created when the constitutive formula of coal was rewritten.
  •  血を暴く牙 (アルシヴィスト) (arushivisuto) [ Archiviste ] — Archiviste's are forced to see a person's memories when they drink their blood for the first time. Noé, an Archiviste, can change the depth and detail of the memories he sees at will. Dominique's quick explanation suggests Noé can still see the memories of that someone next time he drinks their blood if he wishes to, but doesn't have to.
  • 自動人形 jidouningyou [ Automaton ] — Machines capable of operating on their own, carrying out a verity of functions. 
  •  混沌 (バベル) (baberu) [ Babel ] — "Babel" is a disaster brought upon after the alchemist Paracelsus attempted to test his "World Formula" Theory. He conducted an experiment that interfered with a large scale world formula, which brought about the disaster. Babel brought down a host of cataclysms upon the human world. Once the storm passed, people noticed the world now harboured vampires, Astermite, and luminescent flowers of a kind never seen before.
  • 構成式  kousei-shiki [ Constitutive Formula  ] — Written with the kanjis for "composition" and "formula", so far a subject's "constitutive formula" seems to be what decides the makings and characteristics of it.
  • 所有印 (マーキング) (maakingu) [ Mark of Possession ] — A mark vampires leave on those whose blood they suck. It is a show of force, a statement intended to repel other vampires and label someone as their own prey. A mark of possesion appears when a vampire embeds a portion of their power in someone else, so that anyone that sees it will know their difference in power at a glance. The real reading in Japanese would be しょゆうしるし, shouyuu shirushi, written with the kanjis for "possesion" and "marking". The furigana, however, reads "marking" in katakana. Evidently the English translation comes from the kanji meaning.
  • 人間狩り ningen-gari [ Human-hunt ] — As the name suggests, it is the action of hunting down humans. Veronica's speech in mémoire 8 suggests it was a practice long ago to hunt down humans who meant vampires wrong.
  •  境界 Kyoukai [ Boundary / Border ] —  A distortion in space that links this world with Altus, the other world where vampires live. Borders are believed to have been generated all over the world by the experimental accident known as "Babel". Only vampires are able to cross them. If humans attempt to cross, they become unable to return to either world, but if they are touching a vampire as he crosses, they can get through.
  •  吸血鬼 (ヴァンピール) kyuuketsuki (vanpiiru) (Romanian vampir, meaning "vampire") [ Vampire ] — A new race created after "Babel". It is believed they are the result of humanity's constitutive formula being rewritten. According to Noé, most vampires hate human technology.
  • 「世界式」理論 sekai-shiki riron [ "World Formula" Theory ] — Proposed by the great alchemist Paracelsus, this theory proposed that just next door to the world where humans lived lay a domain where the whole of this world had been replaced by "formulas". Paracelsus believed if the if the world's "constitutive formulas" could be rewritten at will, it would be possible to rid the human world of its rampant ills and to guide people to happiness. According to Noé's teacher, very few humans still know about the "world formula".


What we know of the world thus far:

  • As Paracelsus really did exist, we can assume the world in VnC is a parallel universe where everything up until "Babel" shares our same world history.
  • Paracelsus was born in 1493 and died in 1541, thus "Babel" must've happened sometime in the first half of the 16th century.
  • There was a "great war" between humans and vampires that must have taken place after Babel, between the 16th and 19th centuries.
  • Humans generally believe vampires no longer exist, but the truth is they live in a parallel world known as "Altus", that, judging by the fact that an "Altus Paris" exists, most likely shares the same geographical features as the world we know.
  • Vampires travel from one world to the next through "borders".
  • Everything in the world seems to be affected and controlled by "formulas" (whatever those are, because we're yet to receive an official explanation).


Characters

H.Vanitas


Bro-ho-ho... Vanitas, you are so messed up. H.Vanitas declaring his hate for V.Vanitas wasn't particularly shocking, as I think we all saw that one coming, but the intensity with which he despises him and the idea of people misunderstanding his actions as respect towards him came as quite the punch in the face. Heck, even Dominique draws back at the sheer force of H.Vanitas's hatred (or is she feeling Vanitas's power in him, even without showing her his mark of possesion?).
I feel like we now have an explanation for H.Vanitas's very uncharacteristic reaction in mémoire 3 when Noé tells him what he saw was "overwhelmingly right". The truth is, it's not. His actions are not heroic, and they are most definitely not rightful. They are born out of revenge and despise. H.Vanitas doesn't care about vampires - he doesn't care whether they rot away, or whether they suffer a fate more cruel than death. The only reason why he wants to stop the curse from spreading is because this is the opposite of what V.Vanitas wanted, and doing so would be going against him. His lifeless, uninterested stare in mémoire 3 somewhat resembles his passive look in mémoire 8 when he tells Jeanne there's no particular reason why he's letting her bite him.
My only guess at this scene in mémoire 8 is that there's just nothing left in H.Vanitas's life at the moment... nothing but revenge. It very well could be the only reason why he's even alive, the only thing he lives for. I find myself terribly intrigued by his past, and wonder if when he said he'd been to Altus many times before he meant he'd visited on his own, or with V.Vanitas. Just how deep was their relationship? Was there betrayal, or was there just hatred from the very start? Heck, is V.Vanitas even dead, what with how long vampires seem to live?
Questions questions questions. It's always questions when it comes to H.Vanitas. Now that we know the glove on his right arm hides the mark of possesion on his body, I can't help but wonder even more about those scars on his left arm...


Jeanne & Luca

We're still running around in circles with these two, but after Luca's apology to Noé it very well seems they'll be joining "this"(?) side of the conflict. Luca (who's real name seems to be Lucius, ルキウス) appears to have been searching for his uncle before he bumps into Noé, and after Charlatan's minions go after him I'm back to wondering who on earth he is.
More importantly, what is going on with Jeanne??????? Σ(・Д・)!? She's taking medicine to stop the symptoms of "something" that seems to be awakening her thirst for blood, but what is it? Evidently she's not a curse bearer, as H.Vanitas would've "cured" her with the Book of Vanitas were she one... so what other possibilities are there left? Does it have to do with the fact that she was recently awoken from slumber by Lord Ruthven?


Marquis Machina & Veronica

We'll be talking about the parallelism between the bal masqué and Charlatan's parade later on, but the highlight of this magnificent ball was, to me, its host: Marquis Machina (マキナ候).

Boy I do wonder what someone named "maquina" could possibly be into in a steampunk story, gee I just don't know...

This silly little man in a diving suit-like attire seems like the sort of man I can be best pals with. In mémoire 7, Noé gets separated from Domi and Vanitas when he stumbles upon an automaton and gets distracted, noting how odd its presence here in Altus is when vampires, as a rule, hate human technology. Marquis Machina seems like a funky guy into funky things, and I'm really hoping to see more of him.
Likewise, I find Veronica (ベロニカ), Dominique's older sister, very intriguing.

It's hard to miss Veronica's kitsune costume, what with the mask she is wearing and the fox tails on her back, as well as her very misandristic and misanthropic attitude towards Vanitas. Evidently Veronica belongs to a very possibly large faction of vampires who do not like humans, and there's a high chance her tastes are even more questionable than Dominique's, judging from the snippets of information Domi dropped in before mémoire 8 —where she lets in it was her sister who gave her the collar she attached to Noé in mémoire 6, and points out the torture devices belong to her too in mémoire 7 ( ̄︶ ̄;)—.
We're back to seeing those constellation-like thunder bolts when Veronica releases her powers, mirroring what we saw when Luca lost his cool in mémoire 4. I'm pretty much convinced that this is the visible manifestation of formula alterations, but I'm still fixated on the "stars are suspicious" idea that I spoke about in my mémoires 4 & 5 post.
Either way, I'm a bit puzzled by Veronica's appearance at the party, and I'm questioning how involved she is with Noé's past when she doesn't appear to be one of the children in his flashbacks...


Dominique, Noé, and the beheaded children

Apparently "Domi" is for "dominatrix"
*da-dum tsss*

Dominique has quickly become one of my favourite characters in VnC ever since her appearance in chapter five. I was very confused about her gender, but it turns out that despite her masculine attire and speech (Dominique why are you using boku staph), Domi is very much a woman. Though her being Noé's fiancée has turned out to be a farce, her close relationship with Noé has me squealing. Their steamy vampire bite scene in mémoire 6 had me crawling up the walls, but is it strange for me to ship them as very close, platonic lovers? The idea has made its way into my head and built its nest there. How can they be so terribly cute together?!
However, the great big bomb to Domi's character wasn't her sadist tendencies —which sort of had me thinking of Ada's love of the occult—, but her brother Louis (ルイ), older by a year... the boy I've taken to calling the "little shit" in my posts (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Ohhh bro... you were so close to fooling me, so close!! I almost thought of you as sweet and adorable, you little shit (ಠ ∩ಠ). And so, the puzzle pieces are slowly coming together. Now it's become pretty obvious that bloodied page in mémoire 2 wasn't just for added dramatic effect, and it explains why Noé looked so shaken after dreaming with Louis:


But the more pieces MochiJun adds to this puzzle, the more evident it is becoming that the picture is much bigger than it appeared. See, after mémoires 6 & 7 I was completely convinced Domi was the "little shit" from Noé's flashbacks. In fact, everything pointed towards that direction when Noé's flashbacks of his time with Louis where mixed and overlapped with his conversations with Domi:

Heck, it appears that Noé has mixed Domi and Louis in his memories, and the very violent introduction of Louis's character hints that he may have possibly forgotten, until now, who he was. So the question is, where does that put Domi? Are her tomboy-ish actions part of the deal, where she's changed her speech patterns and manner of dressing to further help twisting Noé's memories of Louis into memories of her? After all, as a child she appears to have dressed as a girl. So is she playing along with Noé's situation to avoid hurting him, or is there a bigger reason why she didn't deny it was her who taught him how to dance? Or is it perhaps really Domi whom Noé remembers in those flashbacks, already posing as her older brother Louis?


Additionally there's the mystery of the beheaded children (if ever a title was creepy...). I find that there's still one boy in Noé's flashback that still hasn't made an appearance (a black haired boy, one of the two possible Fred's in the vignette), but that might just be me looking too deep into it. The real problem here is how they all ended up dead, and whether Noé had anything to do with their bloody end. According to his inner monologue, Louis was executed as a curse bearer, and as far as we know Mina was one too. We can assume, thus, that this scene in mémoire 8 is a flashback to the moment Noé arrived at the scene.
But there's a huge blank in between. We have seen, from the reaction of the guests at the ball, that so many curse bearers appearing at once isn't normal. We can assume all the children where beheaded for being curse-bearers, but such an assumption feels rather out of place. What happened between Noé discovering Mina was a curse-bearer and this bloodbath? Charlatan's clear knowledge of who Louis was seems to confirm that he at the very least really was a curse bearer, but that brings into question the nature of Charlatan's "powers" and "identity".


Charlatan

「私達の名は シャるラタン…♡」
"Our name is Charlatan ♡" 

In case you didn't find Charlatan creepy enough yet, MochiDevil decided she'd add a bit of extra nightmare essence, you know, in case you're still sleeping believing you're safe. Charlatan's use of the personal pronoun "our" and his recognition of Noé, whom he has seen through "another's eyes" (namely, Louis's), seems to be highlighting that Charlatan is a conglomerate of "entities" that have come together to become one. Unfortunately for our feels, so far it seems that these many "entities" might actually be the stolen/wrapped true names of curse-bearers.
Now, if true names are "stolen", this theory would make a lot of sense. Unfortunately MochiJun has a tendency to not be consistent with the words she's using to refer to what happens to a name when it becomes a "malnomen". Either way, assuming curse-bearers attacked by Charlatan become part of Charlatan too, at what point do they join him/her? Amelia is evidently still herself after H.Vanitas saved her, yet Louis is dead, so does that mean they only come to him if they die?
Additionally, the fact that Charlatan's shady shape-shifting mass resembles the depiction we have so far seen of V.Vanitas has a very odd alarm going off in my head:


I wouldn't go as far as declaring Charlatan and V.Vanitas as one and the same, but the fact that MochiJun decided to depict them both with very similar obscure, empty and cracked facial features has me thinking they might be related someway or another. Which could make a lot of sense, seeing as in the book The Vampire of the Blue Moon Vanitas, after being persecuted, swore vengeance on vampires born under a crimson full moon by stating that "a curse more terrible than death will befall [them]" once the Book of Vanitas was opened. Assuming this children's book holds some truth to it —which we know it does, as the Book of Vanitas does indeed exist, as did V.Vanitas himself—, then Charlatan could very well be the "physical" (sort of, because he's more like a smokey load of... dark sand?) manifestation of V.Vanitas's curse.
The matter of his name's origin, however, still remains unresolved, so I'm leaning towards thinking he might not actually be the curse, but rather taking it upon himself to deliver it as and to whom he sees fit. One last detail that bothers me about his character, though, is his slightly effeminate speech —Charlatan adds わ (wa) as a sentence-final particle every now and then, a speech pattern usually only attributed to women in Japan— and womanly appearance in this one vignette:
As he speaks to Noé upside-down, Charlatan displays, for the first time, features resembling those of a human being. Eyelashes, a distinct, soft nose and lips, and heck, the swirls in the background even look like hair. What's most surprising is these features are very feminine. Now, Charlatan has, by when this vignette rolled on, already begun to figure out who Noé is, so he very well could be taking on Louis's appearance, which would further add to the theory of all curse-bearers coming back to add to his being, but it doesn't take away how eerie this scene is.
Moreover, did anybody notice that very conspicuous cross that spider-demon-mask dude was wearing? The guy Charlatan just sort of floats out of?
If you remember my second thoughts post on the series, that covered mémoires 2 & 3, you'll remember I spoke about possible different factions within this fictitious world MochiGod is carefully crafting. One of them is the church, for whom the chasseurs seem to be working for. This arachnid man could very well be a chasseur, which leads me to question whether the church is trying to use Charlatan / V.Vanitas's curse in their benefit.


Story, motifs & themes


Memento mori, vanitas & medicine 

It wasn't hard to miss the similarities between Charlatan's parade and the bal masqué, especially with Noé pointing it out. It becomes even more suspicious when in mémoire 8 Charlatan and his "minions" turn out to be amongst the guests. However, setting aside this very alarming parallelism, what stands out the most is their uncanny resemblance to the Carnival of Venice, and its very distinct use of plague doctor masks.
For those unfamiliar with this "costume", it's important to note that the mask was developed during the 17th and 18th centuries, despite the plague ravaging Europe in the 14th century. Its hollow beak was filled with herbs, that were supposed to purify the air and prevent doctors from breathing in the miasma around them. Charles de Lorme, chief French physician to Louis XIII, is believed to be its most likely inventor. The attire itself was supposed to act as a type of biohazard suit, if you'd like to put it that way. What's particularly interesting is that the plague doctor mask is more often than not nowadays associated with the Carnival of Venice as a Medico della Peste (lit. Plague Doctor in Italian) mask, and its popularity is often seen as a memento mori.
Paired with the ominous bone chandelier that resembles the one in the Sedlec Ossuary —props to my very 物知り friend Ditto for pointing that out—, as well as the skull-head decorations within the ballroom, it inevitably links into the vanitas theme that has been so very present from the get go. As I discussed in my comment of mémoire 1, "vanitas" is the artistic genre in still life of memento mori, in which skulls are the most blatantly obvious right in your face reminder of death.
As if these points weren't enough to link the plague with MochiFuckWithYourFeels's story, it's worth highlighting that Nostradamus —the French apothecary and seer— and Paracelsus —the German physician and astrologer that as an alchemist proposes the "World Formula" Theory in the VnC universe— are two of the most famous plague doctors.


Deadly sexy

I used to think Noé's expression in mémoire 1 when Amelia bit him was due to the pain it caused him and the fact that she is pretty much sucking his energy, but after witnessing Jeanne bite Vanitas it's become evident that having a vampire bite you might actually feel reaaaaal good.

Gee Vanitas, finishing before a lady is extremely rude.

I don't know if it's my very dirty mind spinning stories here all on its own, but this scene felt extremelly erotic. From both the way it is portrayed and H.Vanitas's overwhelmed expression, I can only assume being bitten by a vampire is an extremely exhilarating and sexually stimulating sensation. Pandora Hearts wasn't exactly a walk in the park manga lacking in mature themes, but I can definitely tell MochiTroll has bumped up the age bar with Vanitas no Carte. I'm starting to see why she swapped over to GanGan Joker, and I'm looking forward to seeing even darker and more complex themes in this new series. I believe we're barely scratching the surface right now!


Love triangle

I wasn't taking this too seriously when the series started, but boy, you've gotta be blind not to notice how aware Noé is of Jeanne. When Domi tells him in mémoire 6 Lord Ruthven will be at the ball she's been invited to, Jeanne is the first thing that crosses his mind. Likewise, when he bumps into Luca in mémoire 7 he does the exact same thing: wonder whether Jeanne is here with him. As if adding a cherry on top of this cooking romance (which Noé is too pure and dense to notice), Noé immediately recognises Jeanne when she jumps in to save Vanitas from the falling chandelier in mémoires 8.
With Vanitas openly declaring his "love" ('fetiche' I'd say is more correct) for Jeanne I can't help but wonder where this awkward situation will lead us to...


Conclusions

That's all for today, my pretties. Believe it or not I actually had a few other things I wanted to mention, but this post is already so fucking long I decided to spare you all from making it bible-lengthy. I'm once again seeing a lot of similarities with Pandora Hearts, what with the void between Altus and the human world reminding me of the space between the Abyss and the regular world. I'm even more convinced that MochiJun is playing with her status as a writer and suggesting this is one of those worlds within the same universe as PH now that it seems world history in VnC up until Babel is similar, if not identical, to ours.
Mémoire 9 was incredibly intense and enlightening - I feel like we're finally beginning to dive deeper into the characters. I'm really liking where MochiDevil is taking the story so far, and I'm really excited to see all these new darker themes she seems to be introducing. I very much squealed when in mémoire 6 Noé saved Vanitas from falling into the void and panicked so visibly when he realised what he was doing - I know a lot of people are already shipping these two, but for now I'm sailing a bro flag on my little boat. Hopefully we'll be getting more of our fantastic duo in the next chapter too!!

Feel free to comment and discuss! I think I'll be swapping to monthly commentaries from the next chapter on, mainly because it means I can avoid writing essays and boring people to death with them. Until next time, my lovelies


Posted on: 27/07/2016



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4 comments:

  1. I HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT THIS PIECE OF ART OMGASDASD i need to read it <3 ty for the amazing summary, the elements of the Manga still amaze me... so much elements from a part in Europe history that i love

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  2. ah! i forgot to mention that i dont think Noe just arrived at the bloody scene, i think he witness it and was shocked... or maybe something took hold of him and had to defend himself? i saty so because of the blood stains in his clothes...i dont think JunM sensei would put such an elaborated blood stain without reason...you dont get sprayed like that holding a corpse, UNLESS you were RIGHT NEXT TO IT when the person was killed... maybe am right, or maybe watching too much CSI is afecting my mind lol

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    1. I'm thinking he probably witnessed it too, especially because the memory seems to be haunting Noé. It's also very probable, judging by what Louis said to Noé, that Noé killed them himself. However because he didn't seem to have any memories of Louis I feel like I can't trust whatever flashbacks Noé has now...

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  3. OH MY GOOOOSH. My shipper heart. Good thing I read this, I run out of good manga to read and this...is just awesome. A good romance would be nice in this manga and definitely ship Jeanne X Vani. Awesome of you to notice such things btw.

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