Vanitas no Carte – 24 (Fin) – Je l’ai choisi pour me tuer.

Last week’s cliffhanger is promptly resolved, as Vanitas ends up on top of Noé, but just can’t quite kill him. His blade remains an inch from Noé’s throat, which may as well be a mile, for it is a distance Vanitas simply cannot move, despite having just hypnotized himself to kill all vampires.

Because Noé won’t drink Vanitas’ blood and Vanitas won’t kill Noé, Misha decides to use his book to zombify more random Parisians, but things go pear-shaped when the book seemingly overloads and starts to devour Misha himself. He’s like the kid who stole his dad’s car, and ends up putting it in a ditch.

The clear unsung hero of this whole ordeal is Dominique, whose strongest side is able to overcome Misha’s control over her weakest side. The one thing she’d never do is hurt Noé, which means she can’t let herself die, since that would hurt him deeply. With color returned to her life, Domi flashes her gorgeous ice magic powers and neutralizes the zombified people and is even able to briefly restrain Misha.

Vanitas draws nearer when Misha calls for his big brother, but it’s just a trick to lower Vanitas’ guard. Fortunately, Noé is faster than Misha, blocking his killing strike, breaking his prosthetic blade and slashing his face, sending the boy into a tantrum. That’s when daddy comes…or rather granddaddy.

Of course, this gramps isn’t Misha or Vanitas’ gramps, but Domi and Louis’—the former Marquid de Sade, AKA The Shapeless One, AKA the Comte de Saint Germain (who is, of course, a real dude from history…and also, judging from the eyes, might be Murr?!). He’s the one who saved Misha’s life and gave him both a metal arm and the idea he could bring his father back. He’s apparently not done with him, as he takes Misha away through a tear in reality.

After that, the opening theme plays as an insert, and Noé awakens in bed to a cheerful Amelia informing him everybody’s safe and sound, and Vanitas is, of course, perched up on the roof. Noé goes up to meet him, and the two are soon joined by Misha and his metal dog. Vanitas says he, not Misha, was responsible for Luna’s death, and it was a mercy killing, for Luna was about to go completely out of control.

When Misha reaches a hand out to once again ask Vanitas to join him in trying to bring Luna back, Vanitas declines. He doesn’t care if using the books is slowly changing them into “something not human”; if he’s going to be killed, he chooses Noé to be the one to do it.

Misha makes sure to tell the two that Domi didn’t kill anyone—Domi is kind, and Misha likes kind people and thus doesn’t want her unjustly punished for her actions at the fair. Then he bounds off on his metal dog, leaving Vanitas, Noé, and the morning sun peaking through the Parisian clouds.

Vanitas is eager to investigate what Saint Germain is up to, but other than that it’s business as usual, with him continuing to serve as a doctor curing vampires of their curses. But while he’d performed these duties for years without anyone by his side (save those dhampirs from whom he’s kept a certain distance), now he has Noé, Jeanne, Domi, and others willing to help him help others…and keep him alive.

While it didn’t hit quite as hard for me as the conclusion of the previous Chloé d’Apchier arc, this was still a strong finale that helped Vanitas take a step out of his dark past and into a more hopeful future, while galvanizing his bonds with those who wish to share in that future. And there seems to be plenty of potential story material for a third season if Bones so desires.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 23 – La Liberté de la Solitude

We’re into Unstoppable Force vs. Unmovable Object territory, with seemingly no good outcome that can emerge from Vanitas and Noé fighting. If Vanitas gets through Noé and harms Misha, Domi will jump to her death. But Vanitas doesn’t care. Neither Noé nor Misha have the whole story, and Vanitas is resolved to keep it that way—Noé and Domi’s lives are expendable to him.

This enrages Noé, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that Vanitas is intentionally provoking him to throw him off and force him to use too much of his strength. After all, he can’t get Vanitas’ memories from his blood if Vanitas is dead. The last thing Noé wants is to kill Vanitas, but he can’t lose Domi, either. It’s just a shitty situation all around…Thanks OMisha!

Vanitas’ little brother also tells Noé that Vanitas has hypnotized himself for one purpose: killing anyone who tries to suck his blood. Whatever genuine feelings of friendship or love for anyone or anything have been temporarily taken out of the equation, which combined with his considerable Chasseur skills (not to mention the freaking Book of Vanitas) make him extremely dangerous.

Unfortunately, it also saps his agency. This isn’t the Vanitas we know doing and saying these things: he’s basically in Fail-Safe Mode; his will and ego replaced by a rigid set of directives. He did to himself what Misha did to Domi, but Inner Domi throws a little wrench in Misha’s machinations by jumping without him telling her to, in hopes taking herself out of the equation will keep Noé from getting hurt.

Physical harm aside, nothing would hurt Noé more than losing her, but fortunately she’s unable to follow through on her suicide attempt, as Jeanne arrives and snatches her out of the air. She isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but her orders from Luca are to keep Domi safe, and she’s going to do that. Even if Misha is able to nullify her main weapon and Domi is still under his spell, Jeanne’s intervention allows Noé to focus on Vanitas.

Vanitas may go on about how Noé knows nothing about him, and that might’ve been true when they first met, but Noé is confident he’s been with Vanitas long enough to know what kind of person he is. For instance, he knows Vanitas considers solitude to be freedom, which is why he vows never to set Vanitas free.

That seems to break the hypnotic hold Vanitas placed on himself, but the episode ends abruptly without revealing the result of their fall. I understand having to save something for the finale, but it felt less like a cliffhanger and more like the episode just…stopped. That said, the second half should be something.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 21 – Jetez un Coup d’oeil sous la Peau

This week segues nicely from the parting reveal of Domi as the culprit in the latest vampire attacks to the heartbreakingly tragic past events involving her, Louis, and Noé, this time from her perspective. In the aftermath of the bloodbath that claimed both Mina and Louis, Domi weeps at Noé’s bedside, blaming herself for involving Noé in trying to save Mina. Her sister Veronica lives up to the family name, pretending she never had a brother, and revealing that Domi and Louis were twins.

Veronica further twists the blade by saying the twin chosen to live was made on a whim, and thus wonders whether the right (i.e. more useful) twin was spared. Noé comes to and mistakes Domi for Louis, inadvertently compounding her belief that everyone would’ve preferred if she had died instead of Louis. She cut off all her hair and started dressing like Louis, trying to be what everyone wanted. Seeing her in this sorry state, Noé vowed to protect her at all costs from the darkness of their past.

Unfortunately, that past has re-surfaced thanks to the cheerful and mysterious white-haired lad, who introduces himself as Mikhail when Domi is out searching for Jeanne (presumably while Jeanne and the others were in Gévaudan, though I may not be right about that). Mikhail seems uniquely suited to bring out the pain in others, and uses it to take control of Domi.

Noé receives a note from Mikhail and arrives at the grounds of this world’s 1889 Exposition Universelle after dark, and finds Mikhail in front of a carousel and Domi standing atop a Ferris Wheel—two machines invented to imbue their riders with fun and joy. A third machine: a metal dog automaton, guards Mikhail, and he whips out his version of Vanitas’ book. Mikhail says if anyone harms him, Domi will jump, and introduces himself as Vanitas’ little brother, AKA Number 71.

Mikhail is here for one thing: Vanitas’ memories. He used Domi as bait to bring Noé to him, and will now use Noé to drink Vanitas’ blood and thereby gain those memories, including learning why Vanitas killed “father that day”. That Vanitas killed his dad comes as a shock to Noé; Mikhail can tell and concludes that even after all this time Noé must not know a damn thing about Vanitas. That’s hard to argue: it could be everything Noé knows is simply what Vanitas wants him to know.

Mikhail remedies that by pulling his shirt down (revealing the same spreading blue  malady that affects Vanitas) and offering his own blood for Noé to drink, making it a demand when Noé hesitates. When Jeanne learns Domi hasn’t been seen in three days she rushes to find her, but by then Noé’s fangs are already in Mikhail.

We flash back to Mikhail’s past, when she was in custody after her mother, a prostitute was found dead. Mikhail’s mom presented him as a girl and offered him to her best customers. He runs into a badly-wounded but still chipper Roland, who tells Mikhail he has a new home from this day. Roland is called away by Olivier, and Mikhail is suddenly grabbed and chloroformed.

When he comes to, he finds himself before the Marquiss Machina, and a boy he calls “Number 69″—a young Vanitas. Thus begins Noé’s long-awaited journey into his best friend’s murky past…but will they still be friends when Noé returns from that god-forsaken place? I see now why last week was so pleasant and lighthearted—it was a momentary breather the torrent of sadistic dread dished out in spades by this episode…and it’s only the beginning.

Vanitas no Carte – 20 – Juste Comme Vous Etes

This week is mostly an epilogue to the now-concluded Gévaudan arc, with both Vanitas’ and Jeanne’s associates dealing with the sudden reality that the two are now madly in love with each other. But because Noé is a big pretty dummy, he assumes something awful has happened to Vanitas, like a curse.

Vanitas’ half of the episode plays out much like one of my favorite bits from Kaguya-sama: Love is War (as reviewed by Zane) in which Kaguya is utterly convinced she has holes in her heart causing plain old lovesickness; her brain unable to comprehend what the heck her heart is even doing.

When a panciked Noé lists Vanita’s familiar symptoms, Orlok and his attendants throw them both out of his office without explanation—why bother explaining if these two are so dense they can’t see what’s blindingly obvious?

Vanitas runs off to contemplate things on a bridge, wallowing the whole time in unceasing affection for Jeanne. When a man walks past, explaining to his lover the very same symptoms Vanitas has, he still doesn’t quite get it, and runs of in a huff.

While running he happens to trip on a man sitting outside a café, who happens to be Roland, who invites him for a cup of joe and introduces him to Olivier. Desperate for advice, Vanitas asks Roland if he has any romantic experience; Roland says the guy he wants is Olivier, whom women love and men want to be. The two off-duty Chasseurs humor Vanitas by accepting that he’s talking about “a friend of his.”

This “friend” is experiencing this unyielding aching in “their” heart, preventing them from sleeping or thinking straight. But Vanitas is so out of sorts he dispenses with the “my friend” thing altogether. When Roland suggests that from what he’s heard, the woman feels the same way for him, Vanitas believes that to be ridiculous…why would anyone love him?

Meanwhile, back at Oriflamme Castle, Jeanne gives her report to Master Luca, hastening to add she left Gévaudan without learning where Chloé was bound, in case she were questioned later. She also reports that she now knows the sort of person Vanitas is, and how she can’t get him out of her mind. Just as she shines for him, he shines for her, the revulsion totally gone.

Luca can’t believe what he’s hearing, and is also quite a young man inexperienced in such matters, so he drags the blushing Jeanne to Domi, who is just aghast by this heretofore unseen version of Jeanne. Domi can understand her falling for her Noé…but Vanitas? She and Luca take her to the garden to discuss things “rationally”, but the more Jeanne speaks on the matter, the more it’s absolutely clear she loves Vanitas.

She even makes it quite clear she might not be able to stop herself from pouncing on him and consummating their love the moment she sees him again. While older than Luca, this passion is far beyond Domi’s tender slow-burn romance with Noé. Domi, true to her upbringing, says letter-writing is the first step to courtship, but Vanitas and Jeanne have already gone further than that.

Jeanne is also taking after her mother, and the way she kept pushing her dad down until he was hers, like a lioness bringing down a wildebeest. As shocked as Domi is, she is glad to see this side of Jeanne; a Jeanne that doesn’t need to be protected; who got back up after being trodden upon by her past. But her thoughts also go to a darker place without warning…more on that later.

That night, Noé joins Vanitas on the rooftop watching Paris glimmer and sulking. He tells Vanitas that Orlok’s attendants reported a new string of vampire attacks in the city that might spell a new curse-bearer on the loose. Alas, Vanitas is still in no emotional state to think about the next “case study”.

That said, Noé feels he has to say something, and that this time is the right time to say it: back in Gévaudan he met someone (Astolfo) who hated vampires with all his heart. He believes here but by the grace of God—or “the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings—goes Vanitas. He’s just glad Vanitas wasn’t the vampire-hating Chasseur he had to face down in that forest. He likes Vanitas “just the way he is”. And if Vanitas can be liked, he can be loved…and is, by Jeanne!

As for that weird moment when Domi got fixated on Noé in her thoughts, well…looks like she’s the culprit in the nighttime attacks. But it isn’t by her will: she’s being controlled by a young-looking cheerful curse-bearer with short white hair. This person is frustrated that Domi has not brought them Noé, and so is moving on to Plan B: using Domi as bait. Looks like we have our setup for the remaining episodes of the cour.

While the Gévaudan arc was a nifty and action-packed piece of time and reality-bending drama, I’ve been on record as saying I’m just as happy (if not moreso) by looser episodes like this where everyone is simply hanging around. Vanitas’ obliviousness and the reactions of the people he and Jeanne interact with make for great comedy. Of course, as the last moments show, the fun could only last so long…

Vanitas no Carte – 19 – Quelqu’un avec qui se Blottir

The prison Chloé has found herself in for centuries was never entirely of her own making. Its bars were forged in part by her love of her father, and his lifelong devotion to returning her to human form. As much as she loved her father, the human Chloé d’Apchier he loved was gone and could never come back. Because of this, the vampire Chloé always felt alone, even before her father and the rest of the d’Apchiers died.

Astolfo is also in a prison, albeit one that doesn’t also hold everyone else: his anger over being betrayed and grief over the slaughter of his sister and family set him on a laser-stright “Kill All Vampires” path. Noé may have suffered equal or greater torment, but has Vanitas by his side to tell him not to lose himself in that rage, even if he can’t back down.

…But back to Chloé, who only got more and more sympathetic and compelling as her arc progressed. Within the prison built in part by the loneliness of a father who couldn’t accept or love what she’d become, she chose to stay there, but now that it’s crumbling around he she has a choice: stay within its bars and vanish into oblivion, or take the hands of the two people who do love her for who she is—Jean-Jacques and Jeanne—and let them pull her to freedom. Chloé wisely chooses the latter.

As J-J and Jeanne pull her from the black cage, Vanitas uses the book—and begs for Luna’s strength—to obliterate that cage and the false world of endless winter around it, as well as reveal Chloé’s true name: Canorus, “she who makes music with snow flowers.” As the cursed world vanishes to reveal blue skies and patches of astérique flowers, Astolfo finds some relief in the arms of his senpai, Roland.

Chloé finds herself in one of these astérique patches, and her first action is one of anger, slapping and then uppercutting J-J for letting himself get so brusied and bloodied. But once that passes, her eyes fill with tears of relief and joy. The flowers remind her of when she looked up at the sky with lil’ Jeanne, thinking if she could die, it would be on that day. But now she wants to live, and J-J is there to love, accept, and be there for her, warts and all.

Seeing Chloé and J-J embrace, Jeanne’s thoughts turn to Vanitas, and when she finds him, she can’t hold back her relief, gratitude, or joy. Their relationship may have started out fraught, but all Vanitas has done since then is what he said he’d do. She thought Chloé was beyond saving, but he showed her there was another way. He also saved her from the regret of not having saved Chloé befoe. Jeanne celebrates by lustily drinking Vanitas’ blood, and then planting a pure yet passionate kiss on his cheek.

Nobody may yet live happily ever after. There’s the looming threat of Ruthven’s control over Noé to kill Vanitas, Vanita’s spreading affliction, and the consequences for Chloé, Jeanne, and others by the powers that be. But right now, none of that matters. Jeanne’s radiant smile says it all—Everyone can relax, at least for a little while, with the clear blue sky above them the pale blue flowers below, and the ones they love beside them.

When Vanitas and Misha were little, Luna told them that everyone, be they human or vampire, is alone, and most of them go their entire lives never understanding themselves. That’s why they reach out for someone to snuggle with and keep them warm in a cold world; who will accept and love them for who they are, and thus no longer feel as lonely. Chloé and Jean-Jeaques have each other, while Vanitas now has two such someones in Jeanne and Noé.

Vanitas no Carte – 18 – Souhaiter de L’aide

Things start out strong this week, as Vanitas professes his love for Jeanne as he breaks her out of her prison of despair and asks her what she wishes for. The sight of her parents’ heads on stakes instilled in her a self-imposed ban on hopes, dreams, and prayers, but it’s not too late for her, or Chloé. All she has to do is tell Vanitas what she wants…and she wants help.

From there, we’re taken back in time yet again to cover the backstory of—Astolpho Granatum? Is that his name again?—who once had a kind heart and, encouraged by his little sister, even helped a wounded vampire in the woods. His mother told him that his kind streak was a strength and not a weakness, and the fact he and his sister become friends with the young vamp lad seem to bear that out…

…Until the vamp lad and his friends murder and eat Astolpho’s whole family. Ahh, so that’s why he hates vampires so much he’ll try to kill them even if he has no context about who they are or what they’re trying to do…like Noé in the present situation. I appreciate the attempt to make Astolpho’s position more understandable, but I’d be lying if I said an Astolpho backstory was a priority in this arc.

As for Chloé, she seems to be enjoying her new existence outside of her corporeal body, merging with the closed world she created. If everyone in that closed world ever wants to get out, they have to reverse it somehow. That task falls to Vanitas, the only one who can apparently figure out her organ-like Alteration Engine, while Dante and Johann track down his book, which he’ll need to close the deal.

Vanitas’ gambit succeeds, as he manages to play the same tune Chloé used to turn Naenia tangible, thus returning Chloé to the physical world. Jean-Jacques seals the deal by embracing Chloé, telling her all she’s doing to make the world safe for him is for naught if she’s not there to share it with him. Just as Vanitas loves Jeanne, J-J loves Chloé, an won’t allow her to sacrifice herself for his or any other greater good.

Speaking of Jeanne, she comes crashing through the walls of the already shattered library just in time for Vanitas to catch his titular tome and begin the process of saving someone who can still be saved. Whether the drugged-up Astolfo will try to interfere remains to be seen, but I for one hope Chloé isn’t cured of her curse just to be slain by his hand.

Vanitas no Carte – 17 – Voler Trop Près du Soleil

With her fully operational Alteration Engine, Chloé is able to give Naenia a physical form…so she can choke the bitch out for what she did to her beloved Jean-Jacques. As she says, she’s a terribly jealous woman, to the point she’ll change the rules of space and time just so she can get her hands around a solid neck of the non-corporeal devil dwelling on her shoulder for so long.

Naturally, this backfires, when Chloé, in her desperate desire to uncover who Naenia truly is, ends up awakening Naenia’s memories of who she is: the first vampire of the crimson moon, Queen Faustina. The tables are suddenly turned, as Chloé is overpowered, the Beast tamed, her Engine stalled, and her castle and the lands around it shattering into shards floating in a purple void.

In the midst of this chaos, Vanitas falls, and Noé leaps after him, something Jeanne didn’t do when Chloé leapt off the cliff. Naenia’s voice tells him he’ll “never reach” Vanitas and that there’s no hope, but Noé does his best to ignore it, and ends up beside Vanitas once more. They’re soon joined by Roland, who comes out of nowhere with other Chasseurs to protect the unwitting townsfolk.

Speaking of Jeanne, the final act of the episode centers exclusively on her journey from vampire whose loving parents were beheaded as traitors to her conversion into a Bourreau—an unthinking, unfeeling tool. The only problem is, when sent to kill Chloé those thought sand feelings all flood back. When she fails, she’s sent into a long slumber until “the war ends and all can live in peace”.

Jeanne laments that all she can do now is her duty as a bourreau, finishing what she couldn’t finish by offing Chloé. But awakening her from her forced stoic trance is Vanitas, who stands before her and says it’s not too late, either to save Chloé or herself. By restoring Faustina’s body Chloé rent the very fabric of the world. Now it falls to others to try to piece that world back together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 16 – Mettre Fin au Cauchemar

Vanitas no Karte always knows the right time for a moment of goofy levity, such as when Vanitas & Co. discover the same soldiers the beast already slew, leading him to conclude they’re in a looping closed world created by a curse-bearer. Jeanne uses her gauntlet to launch herself into the air and towards Chateau d’Apchier to fight the beast, as is her duty. She wasn’t counting on Vanitas hitching a ride!

As he’s walking in a corridor with Jean-Jacques, Noé suddenly doesn’t feel so swell…turns out his food was drugged. Likely expecting more visitors, J-J wants him to sleep things off until things die down. But first he wants him to drink his blood, so that in case anything happens to him, at least one person will remember not the legends, but the truth of who he and Chloé were.

Noé thus travels down memory lane through J-J’s eyes, as he flees his home and abusive father, gets lost in the woods, and encounters the Silver Witch, only to find that they’re two peas in a pod: vampires who have done nothing wrong but have still been scorned and abandoned. The two become fast friends, and J-J devotes himself to her entirely.

The townsfolk of Gévaudan don’t give up the hunt for the “Beast”, and  Chasseurs and Bourreaus soon come to force the issue. Knowing that Chloé isn’t responsible for the deaths but not knowing who is, J-J decides the only way to protect her is by becoming the Beast. Like Chloé, the scarred and world-weary J-J was all too easy a target for Naenia’s manipulation.

One night, J-J ends up badly wounded, including from his own father, who joined the hunt for the Beast. Naenia lures Chloé out of the castle to save J-J, but the two end up cornered by Jeanne, who seems ready to do her duty here as she does in the present. That is, until she gets a good look at her big sister, her eyes fill with tears, and she hesitates.

The thing is, at this point Chloé wants death, and is happy that Jeanne will be the one to deliver it. When it’s clear Jeann won’t do it, Chloé leaps of the cliff with J-J in her arms, only to be caught by Naenia, who promises vengeance in exchange for Chloé ‘s true name. Now we’re up to speed!

Vanitas, on the other hand, isn’t, but as Jeanne fights the Beast, he finaly reunites with Noé. When he learns that Chloé became a curse-bearer willingly for vengeance, Vanitas deems Chloé unsuitable for treatment—no point saving someone who doesn’t want to be saved, right? But Noé insists, and Vanitas agrees to treat them—provided Noé can inspire his help.

Vanitas reaches the library and finally meets Chloé, telling her he’s there to save her and demanding his book back. In the funniest gag of the episode (and indeed the season so far), Chloé pleads genuine ignorance. She liked the shiny jewel on the book, but when she couldn’t rip it off she just tossed the book…somewhere among the literal mountains of books. Yes, in this arc the titular Vanitas no Karte is naught but a MacGuffin…which rules!

As for what exactly Chloé is doing with her newly operational, keyboard-controlled Alteration Engine, Naenia claims she’s going to use it to wipe Gévaudan and its environs from the face of the earth, a potentially fatal bit of tampering with the World Formula Vanitas cannot allow.

But Chloé, it would seem, had other plans that even Naenia didn’t know about. To whit: Chloé uses a command “Perpetuate Existence” to give Naenia a physical body, which is to say, imprison her within one. Is Chloé officially showing her colors as someone who doesn’t want the world thrown into chaos, but rather wants to end Naenia’s reign of chaos? I am very intrigued to see where this goes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 15 – Onze Pour Toujours

Noé is outraged to find Naenia, who killed his beloved Louis, lingering so close to Chloé, to the point he lashes out and makes a mess of supper. But having been on this earth for so much shorter a time than Chloé, he can’t hope to understand why she not only doesn’t mind Naenia’s company, but gave up her true name willingly. For the crimes of crass insolence (and wasting food, something Chloé adorably can not abide), Noé is smacked across the room.

He comes to in the kitchen, where he apologizes and introduces himself to Jean-Jacques. J-J lives such a sheltered existence as Chloé’s attendant, he’s never once even shaken hands with anyone…until Noé. Noé makes clear to J-J that Naenia is his enemy, not Chloé, but all that matters to J-J is that ever since Naenia arrived, Chloé no longer cries every day. He won’t let anyone do anything the Naenia that might make Chloé weep again.

From there we launch headlong into Chloé’s history, which began around 1550, making Chloé well over three hundred years old. When she suddenly became a vampire, her father, Lord d’Apchier, gathered mages and alchemists the world over to study the World Formula and restore his daughter’s humanity. They failed, and her father passed away, but his wish to gain the power of God became a legacy that future d’Apchier generations continued to carry.

All the while, Chloé lingered within the walls of the d’Apchier castle, forever eleven. At one point, she met a young(er) Ruthven, who became her first and only friend. Back then, he was on the side of neither vampires nor humans, but sought to end the struggle between them and forge a lasting peace. I gotta tell you, I liked this younger, more naïve Ruthven to the one who has basically brainwashed Noé to kill Vanitas on command!

It’s also thanks to Ruthven that Chloé met lil’ Jeanne, the closest thing to a true little sister she ever had. By wandering off into the forest Jeanne motivated Chloé to finally leave the castle walls and explore the world outside. Jeanne led her to a bed of blue roses that grew even in the snow and frost. But while these new experiences were powerful and tempting, Chloé could not abandon her family or its long-standing mission to complete the Alteration Engine.

One year/decade, Ruthven returned a changed man, consumed by darkness. He lost and eye, and had become disillusioned by the prospect of peace between humans and vampires. Driven by unchecked ambition, he drank some of Chloé’s blood and attempted to use his power to compel her to obey him, such that he could command the power and knowledge of House d’Apchier. He failed and retreated in shame, but the damage was done: Chloé lost her first friend.

She continued her work on the engine for many years, often returning to the flowerbed Jeane had shown her, slowly becoming consumed by lonelieness. Then Naenia arrived, promising not only companionship, but the opportunity for her wish to be granted. All it would cost is her true name, and the Alteration Engine could be completed. Chloé started to experience nightmares that may or may not have been actual waking events of violence. She even dreamt of slaying her beloved Jeanne.

But when we return to the present, apparently all of that torment was worth it to her, as she activates the Alteration Engine situated in the middle of her gigantic library. Perhaps the Book of Vanitas was the last missing piece to unlocking her success and achieving the wish Naenia had granted.

If nothing else, now that we know a lot more about Chloé, I can empathize with her centuries of solitude and suffering, and desire to restore what all those years had undone. Even if he can get his book back, how will Vanitas “save” someone who chose to be condemned for the sake of her family’s legacy?

P.S. As Vanitas, Jeanne, Dante, and Johann make their way to rescue Noé, Dante confesses that he was given a mission by the “Marquis Machina” (a kind of steampunk Dr. Robotnik) to investigate whether the Alteration Engine really existed. Machina’s real name is Sir Francis Varney, who takes his name from an 1840s serial fiction called Varney the Vampire, which influenced Bram Stoker’s Dracula and was the first work to depict vampires with sharp teeth.

Vanitas no Carte – 14 – Nu au Coin du Feu

Jeanne’s complex relationship with Vanitas gains a new layer as she rescues him from dying of exposure, finds a cabin, and orders him to disrobe. The two sit by the fire together, naked under a blanket. While she’s most often disgusted by his usual arrogance and terseness, she can’t help but find this vulnerable side of him refreshing…even cute.

On the surface, nothing she does for Vanitas is with romantic or amorous intent—even feeding him water with her mouth—she’s just helping to save someone who helped her. But it’s impossible to ignore their history together thus far—all their scenes here are sexy as hell. Vanitas even tells her that they want different things: he wants to save the Beast and she’s been ordered to execute it.

That makes them foes in this enterprise, and she’d be better off letting him die. Of course, Jeanne isn’t going to do that. Instead, she tells Vanitas why she feels responsible not just for getting Vanita’s wounded by a poisoned blade, but for the whole Beast of Gevaudan affair. When she was a little girl, she met the vampire Chloé d’Apchier while left in the care of the Marquis d’Aphcier. Chloé was like a big sister and Jeanne loved her, but that no longer matters: she’s killed scores of people, and must now answer for it.

The reason Jeanne is here is that she failed the first time, but Ruthven gave her a second (and probably last) chance to do it. The next morning, when Jeanne is far more flustered than the fully-recovered Vanitas by the previous evening’s activities, she finds him speaking with Johan, and eventually Dante shows up as well. After threatening both Dhams to tell him everything about this Beast situation, he bids the four of them make haste to the castle to retrieve Noé.

Vanitas is right to worry—Noé wakes up in an unfamiliar bed with the tiny vampire lying on top of him sucking his blood. Despite Chloé being tiny, Noé is so weakened from the battle that he can barely move, leaving him completely at her mercy. If she wants another taste of his blood (and the memories it reveals—though that’s not touched upon here), there’s nothing stopping her…

Except for her attendant, Jean-Jacques, who scolds her for sucking someone’s blood without their consent while also expressing deep loathing for the owner of the other neck she bit. That said, JJ presents Noé with a safe-and-sound Murr and his freshly cleaned and mended clothes. When Noé meets Chloé and JJ in the banquet hall, they’re accompanied by a troupe of musical automatons…along with Naenia.

It addition to being its usual sexy self, this episode of Vanitas added texture to what had initially been labeled a simple mission of kill-or-save the Beast. Chloé is an intriguing potential antagonist, but despite her apparent alliance to Naenia doesn’t come off as pure evil; she was kind to Jeanne, after all.

Instead, as is typical of ancient vampires, she seems to float over everything and everyone, seeking nothing but entertainment and satisfaction out of this scenario…a balm for the ennui of the centuries.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 13 – La Bataille D’Argent

I did not watch the Episode 12.5 recap of the first twelve episodes, instead catching up by reading my write-up of Episode 12…only to find it full of typos and grammatical errors! I do apologize for that; it’s all fixed up now.

It’s now Winter where I live, and freezing more often than not, so it’s only appropriate for Gévaudan to be cold as well when Vanitas and Noé arrive—with Dante and Johann tagging along. As is his wont, Noé gets separated from the others in the deep Silver Woods. Then, quite suddenly, the forest becomes a winter wonderland.

When Vanitas and the others spot vintage dragoons hunting the great beast (well, trying to anyway)he deduces that time has somehow rewound to the 18th century, when the King sent his best soldiers in to take care of the storied wolf. Unfortunately for those soldiers, they’re in the way of the Chasseur and Garnet Paladin Astolfo Granatum, who unlike Roland seems to be a bit of a sadist, and doesn’t consder it his job to protect humans, only hunt vampires like Noé. He’s not bad, either, as Noé isn’t fast enough to avoid getting cut.

Their duel is interrupted by the great wolf itself, and it’s not long before Jeanne shows up out of nowhere to battle the beast. Vanitas wants to save the Curse-Bearer who is in the form of the wolf. If Jeanne kills it, that won’t be possible. The thing is, Jeanne doesn’t care. She’s a bourreau, and considers it her job to destroy curse-bearers and eliminate the threat they pose—nothing more or less.

Once Vanitas and Noé reunite, Vanitas can tell that Noé was holding back in his fight with Astolfo for whatever reason. Vanitas in turn employs his inimitable gift for shit-talking by getting Astolfo extremely pissed off, and thus not at his sharpest. You have all the skills and talent in the world, but if you’re off-balance emotionally you won’t be able to fully summon those gifts.

Jeanne continues to battle the wolf, calling her “Chloé” and trying to get a dialogue going. When that fails, she re-commits to destroying the wolf. When she’s stopped by Noé, she warns the lad that if he gets in her way she’ll kill him too. That’s when Charlatan’s Naenia, who felt left out, shows up and creates an illusory world around everyone.

Some, like Astolfo, are unable to fight against the illusions and madly lashes out at Jeanne. But others, like Vanitas, can keep their heads, and he comes between Astolfo and Jeanne, paying back the favor when she saved him earlier. Sick of Naenia’s games, he whips out his titular Karte, only for someone to snap its chain, separating the book from its owner.

When the diamond dust settles, some dude with unkempt dark hair picks up the book, with Vanitas nowhere in sight. The man walks over to the silver-haired woman with azure eyes we caught a glimpse of back in episode 12; the Chloé Jeanne spoke of. Clearly she’s the Woods Witch referred to several times earlier in the episode, and if taking the Karte from Vanitas was the plan all along, then it went off without a hitch!

It’s a hell of a stirring start, introducing a new wintry woodsy setting, new characters, and big new stakes. All the while, the killer directive programmed into Noé looms over everything. Also, while I fully expected the OP and ED to not live up to their Part 1 predecessors, I’m please to report they both slap just as much! Vanitas no Karte hasn’t skipped a beat.

Vanitas no Carte – 12 (Fin) – The Beast Lives

Vanitas and Jeanne end their bloody makeout session, neaten their clothes, and return to the streets, and when Vanitas asks why she was permitted to spend the day with him, it becomes immediately apparent that Jeanne was unknowingly serving to distract him while Ruthven helped himself to a Caffè Noé. Specifically, he keeps Noé alive so that one day, he can give him a command and he’ll obey it without question…even the command to slay Vanitas.

Roland may have lived his entire life believing that vampires were an enemy to be eliminated, but his encounter with Noé changed his mind about that, and we find him digging into books in a cozy little church library. His comrade Olivier warns him against digging too deep into forbidden topics, but then Roland warns Olivier that there isn’t really anyone who can stop him from discovering the truth. He can’t believe in things he knows not to be true.

Speaking of which, once Vanitas returns to the hotel to find Noé right where he left him, the two are visited by Dante with news: The Beast Lives. Specifically, the Beast of Gévaudan, a wolf-like abomination that slaughtered women and children in the Gévaudan region in the 18th century. It’s believed to be a curse-bearing vampire, so Vanitas is just the man to hunt the beast down.

While Vanitas and Dante chat, Noé is distracted by Vanita’s ridiculously sweet-smelling blood. Combined with his fatigue and hunger, he begins to ask if he could have but a small taste. Vanitas responds deadly seriously by promising Noé that if he ever tries to drink his blood (and therefore see the memories from his past), he’ll kill him. Daaaaamn.

This creates a friction between the two that lasts through the night until the next day, when the two head out to board the non-Mugem Train to Gévaudan. Noé apologizes, Vanitas half-jokingly offers to let him lap up any blood he spills (he can only read memories from blood straight out of the taps) and the two share an easy laugh. They thus make up just in time for a train ride that Noé is super excited about, the way a kid—or me—would be about such a train! Trains are awesome.

After the credits, we get a lovely but ominous birds-eye view of a snowy landscape not too dissimilar from the countless wintry vistas we were treated to in Golden Kamuy. Only here there be not bears nor naked Russians: but Charlatan’s apparent Boss: an ethereally beautiful lass with silver hair and piercing azure eyes poetically declaring how she’ll “make my song of vengeance echo across the land”. My guess? She’s the Beast!

While there were some nice tense scenes between Noé and Ruthven and Noé and Vanitas, and their little fight and make-up sequence was a subtle, quiet little marvel of character work, but I’m not gonna lie: not a lot actually happened this week. It was but table-setting for a feast that won’t take place until Winter 2022. But the dishes and silverware look great…just in time for a giant wolf to smash it all!

Vanitas no Carte – 11 – Jean d’Ate

Armed with the notion that Vanitas will despise someone who professes their love for him, our favorite easily-flustered vampire knight decides to ask her blood buddy out on a date, hoping he’ll end up in the palm of her hand. Predictably, this doesn’t go remotely how Jeanne hoped.

After all, it’s hard to pretend to have affection for someone when you are truly drawn to them, no matter how much you don’t want to be. Such is Jeanne’s plight: whether due to the lure of his delicious blood or the fact she simply adores a bad boy, she’s genuinely excited about the date, especially as it allows her to tour human Paris.

Meanwhile, Lord Ruthven, whom we know is up to no good, gets Noé out of bed so they can have a nice friendly chat at the Lord’s favorite human café, the entirety of which he rents out for such a purpose. While initially apprehensive, Noé soon settles into an easy rapport with Ruthven, to the point he reminds him of his teacher, the Shapeless One.

Throughout Vanitas and Jeanne’s date, Domi is diligently following and observing with opera glasses. She originally committed to doing this because she thought she’d derive some entertainment from it, only to find it looks like an ordinary date. It’s also funny that Dante tags along, and the more bored he gets, the more he resembles Cartman.

It’s atop Paris’ highest hill—from one gets a good look at the Sun Tower that takes the place of the Eiffel Tower in this alternate steampunk world—where things turn from a fun dawdle to Serious Business.

When a boy scrapes his knee and Jeanne gets one look at the blood, she’s ready to pounce on the lad, but Vanitas stops her, having her bite his arm instead. Dante tosses a smoke bomb so they can get away safely, but it’s close call—and a revealing one too, when it comes to Jeanne.

The pleasant, cordial café date also takes a turn when Ruthven asks Noé straight-up whose side he’s on: humans or vampires. At this point Noé is only on the side of those he cares about, which includes members of both groups. This is the wrong answer, and he fails Ruthven’s “test”.

The Lord grabs him and sucks his blood ravenously. Could this be how Noé ends up killing Vanitas, as he said he would back in the first episode: while under the thrall of Lord Ruthven?

Vanitas takes Jeanne somewhere safe, where she proceeds to seductively suck on his blood in another one of their hot-and-heavy scenes. Vanitas takes the opportunity to ask once again whether Jeanne is a curse-bearer, which Jeanne doesn’t confirm or deny.

Even so, when she stops drinking his blood and starts to shed tears that fall on his face, Vanitas promises her that whatever she is, he promises to kill her if she ever becomes a threat to her beloved charge, Luca. Of course, if he can find a way to release her of whatever is slowly sapping her sanity, I imagine try that method first!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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