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

Vanitas no Carte – 10 – Into the Maw

Upon entering Dr. Moreau’s laboratory of torture and death, Vanitas makes sure to play nice, pretending to be reuniting with his old pal. As long as they’re chatting all friendly-like, Moreau is no threat. The good doctor recalls that unlike the other children, Vanitas (or rather “69” never cried no matter how cut up or battered he got, but he’s probably got a selective memory.

Soon, the casual conversation over coffee becomes a bit too much for Noé, who slams Moreau against the table once he’s heard enough, ruining Vanitas’ plan to keep things nice and copacetic. Then again, Moreau wanted to gouge out one of Van’s eyes so he could study it, so you can’t blame Noé or Roland for wanting to mop the floor with the guy.

Unfortunately, Moreau slips away before he can divulge the “exalted one” with whom he’s currently collaborating. Spider, one of the members of Charlatan, drops in to whisk Moreau away, while one of Moreau’s most deadly experiments breaks out of its cell, looking every bit like Spirited Away’s No-Name, and with just as big an appetite.

Because this Prédateur is a monster made of shadow, Roland and his underlings’ weapons have no lasting effect. Vanitas gets slammed hard against a wall and starts to give up hope, but Noé, who doesn’t know as much about the beast as Vanitas apparently does, insists they can defeat from the inside it if they work together.

Sure enough, Noé provides cover with his fists and legs while Vanitas uses the Memoir to heal and release the child from his curse. The Prédateur turns to stone and crumbles, leaving only Vanitas, Noé, and the rescued child. After Noé admits he grossly underestimated how close they were to dying, he and Vanitas break out in spirited laughter.

Hearing a human and a vampire charms Roland so much, he decides to let Noé and Vanitas escape, using his authority as Paladin. He admits that vampires had nothing to do with this incident, and if anything, it was the Chasseur’s mess for letting Moreau operated under their noses. But more than anything, befriending Noé has turned everything Rolly believed about vampire relations on its head. No doubt he can be a valuable ally in the future.

When Vanitas and Noé finally make it back to the surface, they take a few minutes to rest, with Vanitas leaning against Noé unexpectedly. Noé wonders if it was Vanitas’ duty as a doctor and the presence of a curse-bearer that kept him involved with this incident, of if he uses his crusade to save all the vampires whether they hate him or not as a crutch to get through his days.

Clearly Vanitas suffered a good deal of trauma by Moreau’s hand; I just with Moreau wasn’t such a goofy caricature of a mad scientist. But Vanitas also seems to bear a good deal of guilt for what happened to his white-haired little brother, “Number 71”. Noé notes that while Vanitas is hell-bent on delivering salvation unto every cursed vampire, he may just be the one who needs salvation most of all.

As for Lord Ruthven apparently putting out a hit on Noé for what happened to Moreau’s lab, well…I guess I should have known a dude that powerful and mysterious was up to no good.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 03 – Blood Laid Bare

Vanitas looks like he was in trouble when he was up against Jeanne the Hellfire Witch, but he employs his usual boisterousness to buy sufficient time for Thomas Berneux paralysis to wear off so he attacks Jeanne for him. Then, with his associates and a neutralized Jeanne, and Orlok’s butler and maid bearing witness, transforms Berneux back into a human.

After that Vanitas turns his attention to Jeanne, who insists she can still fight. He then employs another gambit: having Noé nab Luca and cover his mouth, making it look like he’s a hostage. Vanitas revels in his correct assessment that Luca is Jeanne’s weakness, then wall-slams and kisses her in her weakened state which, well…kissing people who can’t physically resist you ain’t cool!

At least it’s not supposed to be cool; everyone makes it plain Vanitas is a big ol’ jerk. He’s definitely a rascal; you could also call him a scoundrel and I doubt anyone would complain. As for Berneux, he doesn’t last long in his restored human state, as he’s seemingly killed by the one who turned him into a curse bearer to begin with.

Back at Orloks, Amelia’s execution is “postponed” for the time being, on the condition that she works, and Noé and Vanitas live, at a hotel he owns in the city so he can keep an eye on the three of them. Now that he knows the Vanitas no Carte isn’t bunk, he’s loath to let go of such a valuable curse-bearer-exorcising resource.

As for Berneux’s demise, Vanitas chalks it up to “Charlatan”, a monster (possibly a vampire) of dubious corporealness who has been going around town creating curse-bearers to expand his whimsical parade of death and destruction. Noé, revealed by Orlok as a member of the Archiviste Clan, has the ability to read the memories of those whose blood he drinks.

He does just that with Amelia to confirm how she was changed into a curse-bearer, and…goddamn, is it an unsettling, fucked-up little sequence. He wakes up screaming from watching Amelia’s memory of Charlatan glomping her head. But now that he knows who’s responsible, Noé isn’t going to rest until the shithead’s dust.

If that means having to continue to put up with a jerk like Vanitas, so be it. Not long after his memory-reading session with Amelia, his betrothed childhood friend Dominique de Sade struts in, dazzling the stage like a Kill la Kill character. Kayano Ai gives a playful arrogance to the role, and her little steampunk droid Kreisler (or Chrysler, if you prefer) provides a steady cloud of rose petals for added effect.

We learn that “Domi’s” gramps is Noé’s teacher, and that the House of de Sade is known for its rude behavior, but also the power and wealth to back it up. Domi wants Noé to be her escort for a masquerade ball in Altus, the city ruled by the de Sades. No doubt she wants more than just a date; she overheard the situation with Charlatan, and there’s people she wants Noé and Vanitas to meet.

Noé, Vanitas, and Domi reach “the barrier”—elegantly and ominously described as “the product of an experiment gone wrong long ago, or so it’s said”—the bridge between regular, mostly-human Paris and “Altus Paris”, which is frankly way more badass looking with its blood red sky lined with spider web-like lines and towering castle (no doubt the domain of the de Sades).

Humans cannot cross the barrier, but Vanitas is different. He can make the crossing as long as he’s touching a vampire while he’s doing so. He actually took quite a risk in simply leaping into the barrier without telling anyone. Noé just so happened to be close enough to take his hand and catch him, and Vanitas probably expected him to do that.

These three colorful characters in an even more colorful setting should make for an excellent, intrigue-filled fourth episode. Until then, this outing very successfully established the threat (and creepiness) of the Parade of Charlatan, as well as Domi de Sade’s general awesomeness.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 02 – A Matter of Application

I’ll admit it: I missed the airship this week. They didn’t show as much of it as I would have liked even last week, just as they don’t show quite as much of Steampunk Paris as I’d like. That said, what we do see impresses “country bumpkin” Noé once he and Vanitas are released from jail on the orders of Count Orlok, a vampire charged with maintaining the human-vampire balance in the city.

While Orlok claims the Book of Vanitas to be a bunch of hooey, he’s also stolen the book, and intends to execute Amelia and “rake Vanitas over the coals” for his role in abetting her escape. Noé, clearly has strong feelings about “curse-bearers”, or vamps born under a blue moon based on flashbacks involving a childhood friend who became one.

Noé is having none of Orlok’s games, and smashes his desk to splinters with a kick to get his attention. He insists the book be returned to Vanitas so the two of them can apprehend a vampire who has been murdering humans in Paris, bring him to Orlok, and show the count firsthand how the book can save vampiredom.

After a conversation on their target, one Thomas Berneux, over rooftops with those awesome airships floating impossibly in the sky, the two soon find Tommy in the middle of trying to take his next victim. Noé gives Vanitas the opening he needs to use the book to temporarily paralyze him. Everything is going smoothly…until two new faces arrive.

They are the pint-sized Luca and his “chevalier” Jeanne (clearly taking after d’Arc), who are convinced Vanitas is using the book to create curse-bearers, not cure them. Clearly they’re misinformed; while the book can be used for such a nefarious purpose, Vanitas uses it to heal, not harm.

The thing is, even Noé is no match for Jeanne, who isn’t interested in talking things through, so the pair have to make a run for it. But as much as he claims to dislike Vanitas, as long as he keeps committing “resoundingly righteous acts” such as saving Amelia, he’ll keep protecting him with his not inconsiderable vampire strength and speed.

There were a couple nice bursts of action and Vanitas and Noé continue to be a hoot to watch, it can be hard to keep track of the show’s ever-expanding glossary of names, positions and terms, and thus hard to get too deeply invested. It’s as if Vanitas no Carte is so intent on setting up its many and varied game pieces on its ornate board, it forgot that the game actually has to start at some point!

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