I hope you all enjoyed that comedic episode a few weeks ago, because this is the second in a row to be perfectly brutal as the threads of Vanitas’ past are woven together to form a terrible tapestry. We knew before that he’d been acquainted with Dr. Moreau before he and Noé bumped into the not-so-good doctor beneath Notre Dame, but knowing and fully understanding the horrors of Vanitas’ childhood are two very different things. Poor Vanitas has been yanked around for most of his life: blaming himself for his mother’s death in childbirth, he set out to become a Chasseur after his father’s murder by vampires only to have Dr. Moreau fake his death so that he could be used in his grim experiments. Then, in an effort to save Mikhaïl from Moreau’s depredations, he offered himself up – and learned that Moreau had been injecting him with the blood of the very creatures he hated enough to try to eradicate. At that point being rescued by the Vampire of the Blue Moon seems to have felt less like being saved and more like another one of life’s cruel jokes, making him indebted to a monster.
Of course, as he tells his new parent, by that point he’d figured out that humans were far more monstrous than any blood-sucking beast. That can’t have been an easy realization, and that issue seems to be at the root of his behaviors both now and in the past. He desperately wants to protect Mikhaïl but knows that he can’t by himself (he looks to be about twelve years old), he needs an adult he can rely on, but he can’t bring himself to trust any of them, and as we’ve seen with Jeanne and Noé, he really does want to be loved, but he’s afraid of what that might bring, because after all, the last person who loved him sacrificed himself right in front of Vanitas’ eyes. It’s a study in childhood trauma and how it can carry over into our adult lives, and who would ever have thought that Noé and Dominique would come out the better-balanced individuals after what they experienced?
Granted, no one was injecting strange substances into them, at least as far as we know. (Whether or not Mur is spying on them for someone else remains up in the air.) Meanwhile Vanitas and Mikhaïl have had their physical beings tampered with, and one of Moreau’s coworkers even said that Mikahaïl was far too young for the sort of experiments the doctor was on him. That makes it not all that strange that the younger boy would suffer from his injections sooner than Vanitas; his younger, smaller body simply couldn’t hold up as well. At this point I think we have to assume that he was turned (or the series’ equivalent) in order to save his life, but it seems to have had some less-than-good side effects, namely what appears to be the loss of his sanity, or at least the breaking of his moral compass. Did his earlier experiences being prostituted by his mother contribute to this? I’d say it’s likely, especially given the way he jumped on Noé last week, which was decidedly sexual. But something went wrong somewhere along the line, and Vanitas seems to have known that for a while now.
Time has been an issue for so much of this season. The Vampire of the Blue Moon tells the boys under their care that their time is limited due to Moreau’s experiments, and the fact that Vanitas’ hourglass earring began as his parent’s bracelet charm is certainly an interesting way to show how the idea of limited time has been passed down. Vanitas refused to be turned, but he wears the Vampire’s charm and gloves (or gloves to make his hands look like theirs), so he’s clearly making an effort to align himself with them, even if he’s conflicted about it. How he went from hating vampires to wanting to save them remains unclear, but it will be interesting to see whether his priority in the moment becomes saving Noé or punishing Mikhaïl. Neither response isn’t likely to fully relieve his emotional suffering, but it’s hard not to hope that whatever choice he makes turns out to be the one that allows him at least a little relief. At this point, he deserves it.
The Case Study of Vanitas Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.