Setting: Steampunk Paris. Characters: Vampires. Format: Manga. Sounds awesome, right? That's because it is. I am a huge (as in, obsessed, possibly addicted) fan of the Pandora Hearts manga series by Jun Mochizuki. It's what made me realize that Jun Mochizuki is the gold standard when it comes to shonen manga. Not only is her artwork stellar, but she knows how to write deep characters and intertwine multiple story arcs at the same time. That alongside her creative plot twists and intricate world-building has shown her to be the best of the best.
So, when I realized she was coming out with an all-new series, I was excited. Excited being a way-too-subdued descriptive word. The book showed up on my doorstep courtesy of Yen Press and I started reading without even perusing the synopsis.
It was everything I've come to expect of Mochizuki. The Case Study of Vanitas is a perfect example of her talent.
Vampires are beginning to lose control. A clockwork grimoire is said to have cursed vampires to spin out of control, attacking innocent people in a way that used to be unheard of.
Noe's initial plan was to follow his uncle's instructions: hunt down the grimoire and discover its true nature. Of course, he's not completely clear on how to "discover its true nature." Or what that even means.
But then he meets Vanitas, the man in possession of the grimoire. Vanitas knows how to wield the grimoire, but there's a catch: He's a human. Who has taken on the name of one of the most infamous vampires in history.
Noe's plan switches courses: Team up with Vanitas so that he can study the grimoire as it is used to save curse-bearers. Perhaps, in doing so, he will learn its true nature.
But as curse-bearers manifest and vampires spurn Vanitas's help, Noe's plan begins to spin out of control.
Two volumes into the series and the character development and emotional investment is already strong. Similar to PandoraHearts, this is a dark plot with oddly funny and cute moments. It's a clever balance that is difficult to find, yet this series pulls it off with ease.
However, my absolute favorite aspect of these first two volumes (aside from the artwork, which I'll get into later) would be the vampire society. It's very well developed and doesn't fall into any of the usual tropes. The class system within the vampire race is excellent and the history, though only hinted at, seems very rich. It's a world that immediately drew me in. I mean, vampires in steampunk Paris with a magic element? Heck yeah! Sign me up.
The world-building was made all the awesome-er by Mochizuki's excellent artwork. Have you ever opened up a manga and just...
Because that's how I felt when I looked at the artwork for this series. And I that's how you'll feel, too. It's the definition of stunning: From the characters to the amazing steampunk setting.
But the art could also go from gorgeous to hilarious over reaction (is there a term for this style? It seems exclusive to manga and anime and I'm sure there's a word for it, but I don't know what it is). I'm in love.
Volume 3 cannot be released soon enough. If you enjoy original vampire stories, The Case Study of Vanitas is an absolute must-read. Even if you don't like vampire stories, this manga has so many other elements to it (magic, great characters, amazing artwork) that I'm sure you'd still enjoy it.
Have you read this series? Or any other series by Jun Mochizuki? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
This manga was supplied to Constant Collectible by Yen Press in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.