Once there was a vampire named Vanitas. The circumstances of his birth made him an outcast in vampire society, and in order to take his revenge, he created a cursed grimoire called the Book of Vanitas. Because of its ability to warp a vampire’s true nature, any afflicted vampires, “cursebearers,” are executed. When the Book of Vanitas appears in Paris, a young vampire named Noé sets out to see the book, only to discover the grimoire in the hands of a human who calls himself Vanitas. After Vanitas uses the Book of Vanitas to restore a cursebearer, Noé decides to ally himself with Vanitas, who intends to use the book to save vampires.

The story begins with Noé’s trip to Paris and his exciting first encounter with Vanitas. After Noé is swept into Vanitas’s mission, the story takes off, filled with exciting events such as chases, balls, and fights. The reader learns about the world and its characters through the plot, so the story isn’t bogged down by lengthy explanations. Over the course of the first two volumes, Noé’s and Vanitas’s reactions to the world and their decisions solidify their personalities. While creator Jun Mochizuki focuses her attention equally on each character, the impulsive and forceful Vanitas frequently overshadows the sweet and naive Noé. Mochizuki also keeps readers’ interest by offering tantalizing instances of foreshadowing; one puzzle that remains unsolved is Vanitas’s true intentions toward the vampires, and Mochizuki has left some tasty hints that will have readers guessing.

The strong pacing and engaging characters make for an exciting story, but the setting remains a little confusing. Mochizuki’s artwork is expressive, and her use of shading and linework pulls readers into the story. Her detailed illustrations portray a fantastical, steampunk-esque Paris where the vampires reside in a parallel world, as they are tightly regulated in the human world. While Mochizuki develops the vampires’ powers and culture to some extent in the second volume, the basic premise characterizes the vampires as a relatively isolated and weak people—a characterization at odds with the fact that the vampires clearly demonstrate how powerful they are. For example, Noé carries Vanitas with ease, and other vampires display magical powers while humans (with the exception of Vanitas) do not. Hopefully, later volumes will expand upon this relationship between vampires and humans.

The Case Study of Vanitas should interest teens and adults looking for a fast-paced fantasy series, as well as readers who enjoyed Mochizuki’s previous series, Pandora Hearts. Yen Press gives this series a rating of Older Teen for language and violence. While there is little inappropriate language in the first two volumes, the second volume is much gorier than the first: one of the characters gets beheaded, and while it is nowhere near as gory as portrayals in other stories, the victim is young. Both volumes also have some scenes in which characters—usually Vanitas—try to manipulate others, a decision that gives the series a darker, more mature tone. In the second volume, there are also some scenes with BDSM undertones, although nothing ever gets explicit. With that in mind, this reviewer agrees with the series’ Older Teen rating.

The Case Study of Vanitas, vols. 1-2
by Jun Mochizuki
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780316552813
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780316471688
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!