If you needed a reason not to trust cats, this episode might give it to you. Nothing is explicitly stated, but there’s an impressively strong implication that Murr, the grumpy fuzzball who has accompanied Noé this whole time, is actually his teacher, Dominique and Louis’ grandfather, a Marquis de Sade himself. Although he says that the form Vanitas has met him in before is that of the Comte de Saint Germaine, there’s plenty to indicate that he’s holding back a very important truth, which we see in three main ways: his eyes are the same colors as Murr’s , he calls everyone “kittens,” and in the last scene we see of Murr, he’s walking with a black kitten wearing a blue ribbon…after Monsieur le Comte has taken Mikhaïl away with him.
Yes, Mikhaïl turns up again in battered human form to make one last plea for Vanitas to join him, and yes, “mes chatons” isn’t outside the realm of possibility for a vaguely unsettling pet name, but it makes so much sense if he’s actually Murr. He has to have been following Vanitas’ and Noé’s every move to step in when he does, influencing them in subtle ways to steer them to the moment of confrontation with Mikhaïl, or at least making sure that they didn’t do something silly like die before his plans come to fruition. Whether or not he’s been counting on our heroes forming a bond is up in the air, but if he was, he seems to have known Vanitas better than Vanitas knows himself. It’s clear that he’s playing a long game, even if what exactly his goal is still uncertain.
But if this final confrontation does anything apart from solidify Noé’s and Vanitas’ relationship, that would be to finally make Vanitas start moving forward again. The best symbolism of that is in the final ending theme, where rather than stopping to look back, Vanitas keeps moving forward down the beach with Noé, indicating that he has at long last put the past behind him. His hourglass earring also plays a role, as it has this entire season; the close focus on it when Vanitas explains to Mikhaïl that the dead cannot come back is indicative of the fact that he knows that Luna’s time has run out. He can’t just flip over the hourglass and bring them back, and perhaps keeping the hourglass charm was his way of remembering that. Time comes for us all, and if Vanitas has been devoted to preventing it from running out of curse-bearers’ glasses too fast, he does that because of the one whose time ran out too soon. He doesn’t have the childish optimism of Mikhaïl. Instead he’s been stuck in anger and regret, and it was Noé and Jeanne who helped him out of it, making him feel things he’d relegated to a box in the corner of his heart. It’s not that his goal has changed, but rather that he’s got a clearer view of it now, and when he takes Noé’s hand at the end, that’s him accepting that he has to keep moving forward.
Dominique has a similar moment of self-realization when she’s stuck in the grayscale confines of her own mind. She could easily have become another Mikhaïl, but instead she makes the choice to finally take a step out of the past. She’s back in mourning when we catch a glimpse of her in the dining room with Jeanne, but maybe this time she’ll come out of it naturally, as herself rather than as someone who thinks she needs to give her dead twin’s life meaning by living for and as him. Domi deserves to be happy, to have people she loves as herself, and to be her own person. As a child she couldn’t process Louis’ death; As an adult, and with the help of those who love her, she may be able to start living again – as Dominique de Sade rather than as a shadow of her brother.
Do I wish there was more? Yes, of course, but we’ve caught up with the manga now and I’d rather wait years for a third season that could follow it as faithfully, because this has been both an extraordinarily good adaptation and a strong story that I want to see continue as the author wrote it. For now the sun has risen after the rain and we can feel secure that Noé, Vanitas, Jeanne, and Domi will all keep moving forward. It’s a good place to stop – especially since we know that the story is far from over.
The Case Study of Vanitas Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.