The Case Study of Vanitas vol. 2 – Jun Mochizuki

4 out of 5

This book is just entrancing; it’s the perfect example of a text that feels very deep, but isn’t necessarily meaningfully deep. Which isn’t meant to be a bad thing: I think that level of immersion is perhaps what draws people to fantasy like Lord of the Rings and the like, but where I get lost in the minutiae of those worlds, Jun Mochizuki is constructing Vanitas’ human / vampire lore in a really slick, easy-to-understand fashion that doesn’t clip its potential depth. A lot of series that try this end up showing the borders of the creator’s imagination early on, requiring patchwork info to be added on as lore gets stuffed in along the way; while I don’t mean to suggest that Mochizuki knows every in and out of this series, they’re presenting it such that, firstly, it feels organic to the story – not pausing just to inform the reader – but is open enough to allow for a ton to be added without contradicting what we’re learning. I think the mystery of the tone and characters are part of this spell, which is another unique touch: the mystery is not the point, rather just an affect of character’s spotty memories and the discrepancy between how they present themselves to others versus glimpses we see from their pasts, alongside the dripfeed of lore we get as to how vampirism came to be… The “point,” rather, is kinda sorta to track down these blue-moon cursed vamps, with Noe and Vanitas odd-couple teamed up to do so, and figuring out how this Charlatan mastermind type is involved, and in volume 2, that takes our duo (plus another figure from Noe’s past) to the vampire world – surprise, that exists! – and a masquerade ball.

The art is beautiful throughout, and I’m pleased to find that I have either adapted to Jun’s style or its changed up enough that the action scenes no longer feel cluttered – every beat is followable, and both action and drama flow across the page. The one knock to this is that I still can’t quite get settled on the (in my mind) over-use of chibi comedy. The lushness of the art plus the alternating tone reminds me somewhat of Golden Kamuy, but in that series, the use of chibi is more targeted. In Vanitas, Jun will stick in that mode for long periods, and it often feels like a scene would have more impact – perhaps adding that depth I’m saying the series may not have – if done “straight.” But regardless of that, it’s more that it constantly takes me out of things, as it doesn’t feel effectively applied. It’s cute, and often funny, just the transitions back and forth are imperfect.