Episode 21 – Case Study of Vanitas Season 2

Just when you think someone’s past can’t possibly get any more tragic, anime is there to remind you that there’s no such thing as “rock bottom.” In the case of this episode, it’s less that we couldn’t imagine anything more tragic than Louis and more that we’d only seen the tragedy through Noé’s eyes, when Louis’ death affected more people than just him, and one other very, very specifically: Dominique, his sister. Nothing highlights that more than seeing older sister Veronica come sauntering into Domi’s room after Louis’ death wearing white, at least if you’re up on your Victorian mourning conventions. Generally, the socially expected length of mourning for a sibling was six months, the first two in solid black trimmed with crape, and white linen collar and cuffs, before transitioning to two months of black silk with white lace, and finally two months in gray , purple, and violet with white trim, per the 1879 book Our Deportment. That Veronica is wearing all white (the color of brides in a world after Victoria’s wedding) while Domi is still dressed in full mourning is shocking, and it perfectly sums up her feelings about Louis’ death: she simply doesn’t care.

As she goes on, explaining callously to Dominique that Louis was actually her twin and was meant to have been killed at birth because twins are bad luck in vampire culture, we can see Domi crumbling as her entire world suddenly both collapses around her and begins to make horrible sense. Louis didn’t live with their grandfather in the isolated manor because he was ill; he lived there so that no one would know that the de Sade family allowed a twin to live, and because the choice of which twin was so arbitrary, it’s not hard to see why Domi in her fragile state might begin to feel like the wrong one died. Add to that Noé’s extreme (but valid) reaction to seeing his friend beheaded and then confusing Domi for her brother and you have not only a recipe for one very disturbed young lady, but also one who internalizes her increasing certainty that she ought to have been the one to die, which manifests in her cutting off her hair and beginning to dress like her deceased brother. She may have been forced to change a little bit later on, but her preference for men’s clothing is suddenly much more than just a fashion choice; it’s a reminder that she wishes that Louis was here instead of her.

That certainly makes her ripe for Mikhaïl’s plots. It’s all too easy to take advantage of Domi’s buried death wish and her certainty that Noé would have preferred Louis to her. (Interestingly enough, Domi’s continued mourning is in just as bad taste as Veronica’s non-mourning by the standards of the time period; according to the same 1879 etiquette manual I cited earlier, “in fulfilling our duties to the living, we best show the strength of our affection for the dead.”) What somehow makes it worse is that Mikhaïl is clearly taking advantage of Dominique’s feelings and insecurities because she happens to be handy. He’d probably have used Jeanne just as quickly, since the person he’s actually trying to get to is Vanitas, his erstwhile older brother. In fact, he only wants Noé so that he can confirm something using his Archiviste blood – he wants to know why Vanitas killed their “father”…something he’s shocked to realize that Noé was unaware of.

In some ways, Mikhaïl emotionally manipulating Noé into using his family skill to learn about Vanitas’ past is the cruelest action in an overall vicious episode. That’s because he’s playing with Noé’s entire sense of who he is – someone who respects his friends and always tries to do the right thing. We saw that amply demonstrated in the Gévaudan story arc and last season, and we also know that he’s largely respected Vanitas’ desire to keep his past to himself. Mikhaïl’s taunting combined with his control over Dominique both force Noé into complying with his demands, biting the boy to reveal his and Vanitas’ shared past. (Whether his blue tattoo has spread farther than Vanitas’ and therefore may be a contributing factor to his behavior is unclear but worth contemplating.) This stands to have major repercussions for Noé’s and Vanitas’ relationship, because there is no guarantee that Vanitas will really be able to take Noé’s situation into account. The territory is growing horrorfraught, even without thes of little Mikhaïl witnessing his mother’s death and describing it in terms straight out of the children’s book in my collection, 1884’s The Girls at Quinnemont by F. McCready Harris.

And since we’re on the subject of terrible children’s entertainment, it’s so fitting that all of this goes down at a carnival, a setting I’ve found disturbing for years thanks to the first Care Bears movie. But unless Murr has a surprise up his metaphorical sleeve, I think it’ll take more than some brightly colored animals to save Vanitas, Dominique, and Noé from this show.

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The Case Study of Vanitas Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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