the case study of vanitas anime

the case study of vanitas anime

The Impact of “The Case Study of Vanitas” Anime

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1. Introduction

Anime is a medium in which genres do not dictate the age group they cater to. It seems that recently, due to the surge in anime’s popularity, the line between children’s entertainment and adult entertainment has become rather blurred. The 2015 anime Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis is a prime example of a children’s oriented anime with adult themes. The art style and setting are incredibly fantastical, comprised of demons, gods, and humans; but there are frequent occurrences of graphic violence, strong language, and adult themes almost reminiscent of Game of Thrones. This slight shift in execution could be taken as a reduction of expectations for children’s intellectual capabilities, or an increase in the belief that children are being exposed to adult media regardless; therefore, it is alright to cater to adults with children’s entertainment. Vanitas no Carte falls into the former category with a recommendation for a teenage audience. This essay is aimed to explore how the modernity of the 6th district setting is achieved through fantastical and historical aesthetic and themes, which establishes the target audience through the viewer’s interest. The central narrative and genre aimed towards an adolescent audience will be analyzed; followed by the effects of adult themes through a possible exposure to deeper meanings beyond the superficial, and the outcome of themes on the portrayal of child characters. The nature of the show’s thematic complexity and how it is executed will be compared with the complexity of adult and general audience media, to determine to what extent the series acts as a stepping stone into more complex thought for children; and what the series may offer for older audiences and pre-existing fans of much more complex shounen and/or general audience media.

2. Plot Summary

The beginning of the story is set in Paris in the 19th century. Noé Archiviste is a vampire hunter who is traveling to Paris in search of The Book of Vanitas. Along the way, he is attacked by a vampire driven insane by The Forbidden Grimoire, also referred to as The Book of Vanitas, which contains a curse that is affecting vampires worldwide. Noé is saved by an eccentric young man by the name of Vanitas wearing clothing with the same crest as The Book of Vanitas. Vanitas cures the vampire by placing a fake name on him and consumes his blood in order to recreate a door through the boundaries of time and space and send the vampire to the place he truly belongs. This action puzzles Noé due to the fact that only vampires drink blood and it is supposed to be the only method of truly killing a vampire. Later, it is revealed that Vanitas is, in fact, a human who possesses a grimoire also named The Book of Vanitas, which is said to have been created in mockery and spite of The Book of Vanitas. This grimoire contains the true name of the vampire who was once known as The Accused One and has the power to manipulate curses. The two form an uneasy alliance as they try to uncover the secrets and truths of both The Book of Vanitas and the incident related to The Accused One. They then meet Jeanne, a vampire in search of The Book of Vanitas in hopes of curing her teacher, Luca, who was corrupted by The Forbidden Grimoire. The plot later takes the characters to a party hosted by Lord Ruthven, a man influential in the political world of Paris. It is there that Noé and Vanitas save a child vampire by the name of Domi and defeat Lord Ruthven, who was plotting to use her as a tool to end the war between humans and vampires.

3. Visual Appeal and Animation

This type of engagement is usually attributed to excellent animation quality and attention to detail by the creators. These two qualities are what gain the most viewer interest and create a strong platform for further series development. In generating and continuing with the ‘buzz,’ maintaining animation quality is crucial to ensuring viewer loyalty and piquing the interest of potential new audience members. For ‘The Case Study of Vanitas,’ to keep the viewers engaged and, more importantly, cater to the already existing fan base, maintaining the animation style both throughout season 1 and between seasons is crucial. It is unlikely that a significant change in the visual style will go well with audience members who are attached to a certain aesthetic. Like ‘Pandora Hearts,’ ‘Vanitas’ is also a dark fantasy story, and the attempt to cater to the same audience can be described as ‘fishing in the same pond.’ Changing the animation to something significantly different can be interpreted as the creators trying to draw in new viewers by steering the series in a different direction, risking the alienation of already engaged audience members. In order to keep the current fan base and guarantee their continued interest for series to come, maintaining high-quality animation is required. Further engagement with the audience can occur through the use of visual elements to foreshadow future events and character development. In the first few episodes of an episodic series, attention to detail can lead fans to create theories and predictions as to the significance of certain elements, giving a sense of involvement with the future plot. This involves providing the viewer with ‘bread crumbs,’ small pieces of information that should theoretically be overlooked but intently observed fans can use to piece together the bigger picture. An example from ‘Vanitas’ would be the clock in the upper levels of Count Orlok’s mansion, which only appears for a few minutes in episodes 2 and 3. This clock has little bearing on the events of those specific episodes, and with only knowledge from the anime, it is difficult to predict its significance. But by using this element from the earlier parts of the manga, attentive fans may link it to later events and draw further interest toward the series’ progression. In essence, the use of thought-provoking visual elements can create a ‘want’ for the viewer to go back and re-watch previous episodes to see what they may have missed, keeping the series fresh in their mind until the next episode release.

4. Character Development and Themes

Personifications of the seven deadly sins to mirror the internal struggle of the characters also add complexity to the story. Vanitas clearly embodies Luxuria, or lust, when he is afraid to drink Noe’s blood after learning he is human. He craves Noe’s blood but is afraid to have it, as drinking human blood is a sin for a vampire and can condemn his soul to the netherworld. The traditional view of the assigned sin is a strong desire for fleshly pleasure, so it may be assumed that Vanitas is battling feelings beyond his control, which could lead to a romantic escapade with Noe. Noe is Gula, or gluttony, as he is a human drawn to drink the blood of his vampire friend in order to momentarily erase his tragic memories. Time will tell if Noe can control his urges, for Gula is often portrayed as excessive, cannibalistic, and sinful. Dominique de Sade, a secondary character thus far with a dark side, perhaps supercilious, was shown acting in a manner similar to one of Prudentia, or prudence, which is the king to the queen that is Douleur, or sorrow, in showing off an action in the best interest for someone and may not be the right move to take. These allegories give much room to move in developing the details of their actions and the long-term effects they will have on others and themselves. They may be the best strength of the series.

5. Cultural Significance and Fan Reception

No official international viewer data has been released, but a big western fan base can be speculated based on all the reviews, fanarts, and number of culture references that Vanitas no Carte has in the West. Even twitch streamers and YouTubers are covering and talking about the series in English. The popularity of fansub groups and being picked in multiple western streaming platforms under Aniplex has made the series more accessible than its original predecessor, Pandora Hearts.

The sales for the animation related merchandise is forecasted to be high. At the time of the series, Vanitas and Noe associated merchandise were priced in the higher end of the spectrum compared to other series. Even unofficial merchandise such as doujinshi is more pricey. This is also supported by financial reports, where there has been a significant increase of anime consumer CD sales and royalties, which is unique as current trend shows decrease in physical media and an increase in streaming counterparts. Currently an event called “Noé’s Ark Exhibition” is being held at the Yoyogi Animation Gakuin until this December and boasts 41 pieces and dropping cost for the event exclusives and co.

The series has gained popularity in Japan and in the West despite the number of volumes being few. Even before its broadcasting, the series was already creating a larger fan base. This popularity can be attributed to the original set of Vanitas no Carte, which is also supervised by Mochizuki Jun, that was freely distributed by Yenpress at Anime Expo 2016. There are also previews of the first episode, which increased anticipation when the characters and themes performances are accepted more compared to the original series. A successive tweets by Mochizuki have also given more depth about the characters and events of the world, creating further anticipation by the fans.

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