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Comment: Vanitas no Carte 19 ~ 21

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*drops off the map for four months* WHAT'D I MISS?

[WARNING!] This post contains spoilers for chapters 19, 20, and 21 of Vanitas no Carte! (duh)


Mémoire 19 「Serment 呪縛」(Serment, Spell-bound)
Mémoire 20 「Serment 約束ー前編ー」(Serment, Promise - Part One)
Mémoire 21 「Serment 約束ー後編ー」(Serment, Promise - Part Two)
«Serment» Part Two was originally published as "Mémoire 20" in the GanGan JOKER, but was later fixed for the tankobon release and appears down as "Mémoire 21". I've edited this post accordingly to fit that amendment.

So before Mèmoire 22 rolls on tomorrow and the chapters pile on and my reviews end up turning into a biblically long essay (as they tend to), it's time to get my thoughts on M.19~21 out of the way! For those of you who might not remember what happened (because I'm so late to the game) MochiJun split Mémoire 21 & 20 («Serment» Parts Two and One) into a short 13 page prequel published in GanGan JOKER's issue 9, and a main chapter of 44 pages published in issue 11. I'll be treating these two as the same chapter for this post, as they were clearly planned to be one chapter originally, so every time I say "M.21" assume I'm talking about M.20+21.
Incidentally, before I dive into my comment! I'm not sure this has made its way around yet, but in the omake page for Mémoire 20 MochiJun made a little comment celebrating the publication of the French edition of Vanitas no Carte. In it she explains that the treason why "Riche's" name appears as "Trix" in this edition is because "Riche" is actually supposed to be short for "Beatrice," katakanised as ベアトリーチェ —Beatorichein Japanese, emulating the Italian (not the French) pronunciation of the name.
Seeing as "Laurent's" name has been changed to "Roland" —as many suspected from a while back his name should have been— it's hard to say whether romanising her name as "Riche" is another mistake or an attempt to keep its Italian flavour. I'm going to be referring to Laurent as "Roland" from now on, but will stick with "Riche" and any other names for as long as Yen Press keeps using them so as to not to confuse English-edition readers. Also,
DID YOU JUST CALL BEATRICE USHIROMIYA YOUR SENPAI, RICHE??

That's said, let's get this party started!

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!
  • ⚑ 処刑人 (ブロー) (buroo) [ Bourreaus ] — Bourreaus are vampires who, somewhere down the line, had an ancestor who committed a great crime. In order to atone for that they are compelled to hunt their own kind, and are and object of hatred in every era.


The Sun Tower


At last! The Sun Tower has made its debut!! Those who have possibly been following my erratically inconsistent not-so-monthly posts (sorry) on this series, or have gone back and read my previous posts (thank you!!), might remember the speculation I made about that suspicious tower seen in the background as Noé and Vani raced over the rooftops of Paris in M.3 possibly being the Sun Tower project by Jules Bourdais that never ~got to see the light~ (ha-ha, get it? Cos it's a Sun Tower? I'm so funny). (If you want to read more on that, check out my M.4+5 comment).With MochiJun confirming it is indeed the long forgotten "Tower of the Sun" (太陽の搭), not only do we now know the story takes place sometime shortly before the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris, but the questions about the tower have been reduced to two:
  1. What is its purpose? There is no way on planet Earth, Mars, Venus, or every other cosmological object in the universe, that MochiGod has crossed Gustave Eiffel's Eiffel Tower off the map for no reason. This thing here has a purpose, and I bet my knickers its going to be big.
  2. Is it the structure Noé and Vani find themselves in in this early illustration?

My original thoughts on the possibility of this illustration taking place inside the tower still stand: there's really nothing that immediately confirms this theory of mine, so you're welcome to disregard it. The rooftops are too low, and additionally though the windows do have similar shapes, because Noé is in the way it's hard to tell if that "window" that encompasses the red moon is key-hole shaped like the ones on the Tower of the Sun. So is it or is it not? Je ne sais pas.
Vani compares it to the Tower of Babel, a comparison one Pierre Giffard already drew in 1885 in his article Le rétablissement des Tours... de Babel. No doubt Monsieur Giffard's analogy was supposed to portray the tower as  the pinnacle of architectural achievement, what with the Tower of Babel supposedly becoming an impossibility when God decided to fuck mankind over by making everyone speak different languages — thus impeding the smooth construction of the tower— but Vani seems to view it in a negative light. The tower of Babel was supposed to be a tower that reached Heaven. Perhaps his distaste for it stems from a distaste of mankind's tendency to reach beyond its station, an idea we could link back to Moreau attempting to create vampires (playing God), or the fact that Paracelsus was toying around with the Principles of the World (again, playing God) when, you know, he caused a cataclysmic event that almost killed everybody. Fun times.
Back to the sun dildo tower. The tower in our world was supposed to measure 300 meters, with an extra 55 meters in the form of an illumination structure at the very top Giffard baptises in his article as the «lanterne-soleil» (sun-lantern) or the «pseudo-lune» (pseudo-moon). Because what we see in the illustration is not the sun but a red moon, the moon under which vampires are born, I've been referring to this tower as the "moon tower" in my reviews. I haven't entirely given up on the idea that it's related to the moon somehow, especially when Monsieur Giffard called it a «tour-soleil-lune-phare monstre», a "sun-moon-tower-lighthouse monster" in his article. It's a little too early to make any assumptions on the magic sun dildo. The only speculation I can think of right now —and it's one tied to the assumption that the illustration is, indeed, set in he tower— is that it'll somehow be used together with the red moon to produce a specific result. After all, the original plan was to strategically set up giant mirrors around Paris that would reflect the light from the tower and bathe the city in light. Who's to say you couldn't do that with the light of the red moon to accomplish some evil plan to, idk, turn everybody into vampires? If only we had an evil mastermind that could fill in that role, hmmmmmmmmm.

(don't forget Ruthy's also an astronomy fanboy!)


Dr. Evil Lord Ruthven's machiavellian plans


Oh boi Ruth-shit, if this one wish turns out to be the reason why Noé ends up killing Vanitas at the end of the series or some other story you are going down boi, very deep down.
I really admire how MichiJun has structured these two chapters and titled them both «serment», meaning "oath". Though we have a whole lot of other information being swung around, the focus in this duology was Ruthven's hold on both Jeanne and Noé, and in adding Jeanne to the bucket I can't help but question just how many people Ruthven could have under his control right now, in this way. Jeanne is a pretty powerful individual, which must mean that Ruthy overpowers her, and begs the question: how can he be defeated? MochiJun was never an author to give in to shonen manga tropes where MCs have to level up or step up their game with flashy new moves baptised with embarrassing names to defeat their once vastly superior enemies, so it's unlikely we'll be seeing a power struggle to the top in the literal sense. However with vampires having magical powers of sorts, it makes you wonder how defeating Ruthy without some violence could be possible...
Which forces me once again, in light of Ruthy's new display of shonen-antagonist overpower, to consider what exactly "vampire powers" entail. What we know from previous chapters is the following (recovered from my M.9-12 and M.14+15 notes):
  1. Vampire fangs inject a substance that is similar to an aphrodisiac, but the substance acts differently depending on the vampire's own powers and the affinity with the quarry. We've seen horny boi Vani get turned on a few times by this "aphrodisiac" when he is bitten by Jeanne.
  2. Vampires can "bend". Vampire eyes can interfere with the "world formula," provoking phenomena that could be termed "magic." Veronica commanded ice, Luca produced flames, and Ruthven had black flames.
  3. Because they can interfere with the world formula they can also manipulate their abilities. Eg, Noé can harden his body when he fights and hang from the ceiling like Spiderman.
My question is, is Ruthven's ability to "hypnotise" his victims when he bites them and erase their memories of being bitten an effect of the substance in his fangs, or of him interfering with the world formula? Methinks it might be a mixture of both. Moreover, is the fact that he asks Noé to only obey →one← command a result of certain limitations on his hypnotic power, or because he truly just needs Noé to accomplish a specific task he already has in mind? Are those few final frames when he tells Arachno-Wolverine that they "can get rid of [Noé] whenever [they] wish" hinting that this order Noé is sworn to follow might be used to compel him to kill himself if he poses a threat?

This leads me to consider Ruthy's possible motivations or stance in the overall picture. He was supposed to kill Noé after this encounter, but in the end tells Arachno-Wolverine that he's "changed his mind". What could have possibly made him decide Noé was valuable to him alive? Is it because he really has a specific task in mind he wants him to perform, or is it because he finds Noé momentarily endearing when he reminds him of his pupils from old? Ruthy's justification for his actions is that as long as they don't know what the Shapeless One (i.e. Grandaddy de Sade, A.K.A. Sensei, who's apparently older than the pyramids) had in mind when he adopted Noé they can't lay a hand on him, which makes you wonder, in turn, about the reputation Granddady de Sade must have for a man like Ruthven to want to keep tabs on him... we now know nobody knows when he came into existence as a vampire, that he doesn't give a tomato salad about status, is BFFs with the Queen, likes to frolic around in the wild, and also handed all his lands to a child he adopted? (So does that meant Domi isn't actually related by blood to this man? Quite the altruistic chap, if I may say, seeing as he evidently has a habit of picking up homeless children.)
It's hard to keep from breaking the scene apart when it's all we've got to try and guess Ruthy's motivations (other than that scene with the child in the lab in M.18, what even was that about? Is he resurrecting his pupils?? Is that what it is??? He's not Dr. Evil but Dr. Frankenstein????), but the few pages where he speaks about his pupils and their deaths intrigue me. He briefly tells Noé about his time as a teacher, then drops the tragic-past bomb, and then...
...subtly procedes to touch his eyepatch upon flashbacking to what appears to be the fire and smoke scene M.19 opens with. If this is a subconscious gesture, then in all likelihood the need for the eyepatch is linked in some way to the death scene of these pupils of his. Judging by the bloody, fiery scene M.19 kicks off with —which sure feels like it could be the moment when he discovered his "precious" students were killed— it might actually be a facial burn, not a missing eye. It would explain why the patch doesn't just cover his eye, but near half of his face. If it is then there's no need to feel self-conscious, Ruthy. I mean, you've got plenty of nakama in that department. Have you watched Phantom of the Opera? Or The Heroic Legend of Arslan? No? How about Avatar: The Last Air Bender? Boi you can even control flames, I bet you'd get along stupendously with a certain character in that last one! *shots fired*
Back to the case: It seems Ruthy was sharing his knowledge with these youths in order to "build a better future". It's a rather unspecific declaration, but it seems to be hinting that he wanted to work on living peacefully alongside mankind. His exchange with Noé in M.19, however, appears to show that he now thinks otherwise. When he asks Noé "Are you a friend of the vampires? Or do you side with the humans, against us?", the way he frases the question presents a clear dichotomy: a white-or-black, yes-or-no, here-or-there answer. To Ruthven, there is no in-between, no neutrality in this conflict. Noé is either with them or against them. He's either on their side or with the enemy (in the original Japanese he specifically calls them the "enemy", 我々の敵). Noé's declaration that someone's "race" (vampire/human) is not what defines his understanding of "enemy" is what prompts Ruthven to decided that he "won't do" (「君は駄目だ」, "you're no good."). What it is Noé "won't do" for is, most unfortunately, left hanging for us to speculate on (thanks for the torturous intrigue, MochiDevil).


Jeanne & Vani

Though I love me some vampire erotics and steamy blood-sucking scenes, Jeanne's dorkiness in M.21 cleared my skin and added five years to my lifespan. And her's and Domi's instant kick off as accomplices and friends? All hands hoay, suckers! there's wind in our sails and we're heading straight to lesbian-vampire land!!
But tackling the more serious aspect of the chapters: I'm most intrigued by how clearly important Luca is to Jeanne. So much so that it isn't until the possibility of her loss of control killing him crosses her mind that she stops. Luca appears to have some feelings for Jeanne, if undefined, but I suspect that at the very least Jeanne's feelings are not of the romantic sort. Whatever would have happened to Vani had she not regained control of herself? ("death by sucking" sounds a bit like an R18 headline you'd want to avoid).
And talking about death, let's talk about the killer-line in M.21. Literally, the killer-line.

Oh boy, what even? Vani's twisted love ideal is being the one who kills Jeane when/if she reaches a point of no return where she could possibly harm Luca. This is where I'd be bolting in the opposite direction and sailing my way to Tibet on my nope ship. This declaration is all kinds of messed up and, truthfully, had me staring at the pages like "wtf bro :)", yet at the same time  it is unexpectedly trust inspiring. He won't beat around the bush — if Jeanne is about to harm Luca, he will kill her, thus sparing her the terrifying experience of hurting someone whom she deeply cares for. As twisted as it sounds, it's oddly heroic.
Which leads me to consider why he's obsessed with making sure he's the one who kills her. Is it because he thinks that this is what 'salvation' would be to Jeanne? Let us not forget that Vani has stated he has no interest in those who would fall for him, so if he doesn't expect his love to come to fruition and bask in Jeanne's affection, perhaps being the one who is able to kill her and offer her solace is his equivalent of a happy marriage. So what if, say, Noé kills her? Would that open a ridge between them?? Is that the ride you're taking this love triangle on MochiJun?!
Could Jeanne actually fall for Vani, though? M.21 had her tripping at every bit of kindness he showed her, and after their "date" was over she seemed incapable of saying "I love you" without drowning in embarrassment, despite her telling herself she was lying. Is Vani's judgement that she could never possibly fall for him incorrect, or are we walking towards a future where she considers him a trusted friend?


Mikhail / Nº71?


It always pleases me when something I wasn't expecting happens. Now, I don't want to say that Misha is definitely Nº71, because it hasn't yet been confirmed, but...

My speculation last time I wrote a VnC post was that Nº71 was either dead, or hadn't seen Vani-chan in a long time. Despite my enthusiasm, I find it strange that Nº71 should have a strong enough hold on Vani that we'd see reactions like the ones we saw in M.18, even though he's not dead. It's not that Nº71 couldn't possibly be alive, but the way Vani keeps conjuring him in his mind to manifest his guilt (or a semblance of guilt) is rather haunting — you'd naturally assume he was dead, and that it was Vani's fault.
I'm not trying to imply that it's Nº71's actual ghost haunting him, incidentally; just that his image is what Vani's mind is using to evidence his feelings.
HOWEVER MIKHAIL. This boy, Mikhail. His eyes are the same colour as Vani's, and if Dr. Moreau's theory in M.17 proves true and this eye colour is somehow linked to Gandalfina Vanitas (A.K.A. The Vampire of the Blue Moon) then chances are this boy also has some connection to her. Judging by his character design, he is very likely to be Nº71.
Which, as usual, leads me to a series of questions, some of which are travelling over from my M.17+18 comment:
  1. What happened between him an Vani that he (Nº71) would appear so disappointed in him?
  2. What is it that Vani promised him that he didn't fulfil?
  3. How did he lose his arm/hand?
  4. If Misha is N71, does Vani even know he's alive?
A very interesting theory floated my way on tumblr that suggested Misha could be the one creating the curse bearers by using a second Book of Vanitas. I suggest checking this theory out, because it seems incredibly plausible to me at the moment. The only point that bothers me with this theory is that in M.13 Vani suggests the cause of the sudden increase in curse bearers lies with the Queen, and Luca's reaction seems to suggest that's exactly what's going on. However it's hard to discern what Luca freaks out about exactly in that moment, as it never truly gets specified — does he freak out because Vanitas has hit the mark, or because they can't let anybody know the Queen is shrivelled up like a raisin and thus he can't possibly let Vani meet her? And if his reaction stems from Vani hitting the mark, is it really because of the Queen's condition that curse bearers are appearing, or is it just that Luca thinks that's the cause?


Conclusions

The story is picking up once more, and though It's been quiet in the fandom these past few months because MochiJun had to skip an issue to recover from her cold, I find that the «Serment» chapters have been incredibly exciting now that we have a clear enemy. I don't dislike the approach MochiJun is going for with Lord Ruthven, where we, as the audience, know he's the evil mastermind behind the hurdles our protagonists are facing, but the characters themselves have no clue. It makes the chase intriguing, and allows for us to sneak a peak into the minds of our antagonists.
I also feel that with M.21 the steampunk theme, that has so far felt dormant, is starting to finally come through a bit more. I hope in tomorrow's chapter MochiJun unveils more information on Misha, but above all I honestly just want to know what's going to happen to Noé.

Well my lovelies, this is where I leave you. Thank the gods we're getting volume & magazine cover & chapter illustrations all in one go with the release of Mémoire 22 and that I decided it was best for all if I posted my M.19~21 thoughts separately, because if I hand't you would've been in for a muuuuuch longer ride. And well, thank the gods anyway, because asdfghjkl new MochiGod illustrations are on their way!!

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Posted on: 21/11/2017



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