Vanitas no Karte Part 2 Review

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Synopsis

Vanitas no Karte Part 2 is about Vanitas and Noé Archiviste head out to the town of Gévaudan in search of the “Beast,” an enormous wolf-like creature that has slaughtered hundreds of people. Suspecting that the Beast is a curse-bearing vampire, Vanitas primarily aims to heal it using the powers of his grimoire.

Along the way, the two get separated and suddenly travel back to the past—to the exact moment the Beast is lurking in the woods. After a battle against the gigantic wolf and a vampire hunter, Vanitas decides to team up with Jeanne in order to find Noé. Despite being allies, Jeanne’s goal is the opposite of Vanitas’, as she was tasked to kill the Beast—suspecting it may be someone she used to know.

Meanwhile, a severely wounded Noé is picked up by the mysterious Chloé d’Apchier and her servant. Like Noé, Chloé is a vampire whose existence was erased from the public’s knowledge. She has been a guardian for future generations and once tried to find a way to become human again. While Noé is grateful to Chloé for her hospitality, little does he know that she might be siding with forces far more dangerous than the Beast itself.

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Review

I want to start this review, by saying. Why aren’t more talking about this show? You wanna talk about squeals that just hit every mark and point, then you have to be talking about Vanitas no Karte part 2. This is the sort of show that will keep your attention from each and every episode, keeping you on the edge of your seat for each and every moment of it. You honestly need to see this anime. If you haven’t sawed the first season, watch that first, then come back to this and start it. Seriously, you won’t regret such.

There’s something to be said when a series makes you uncomfortable…in the good way. Or make it possible to laugh so heartily in one scene before triggering your flight or fight response in the very next scene. Maybe it’s just me, but that about sums up my experience with watching this show.

Story

As the story continues for our unlikely duo of Noe and Vanitas, new characters come out from the fray and end up as folded parts of the narrative. With a call for the elimination of the Beast of Gevaudan, the story that unfolds digs up some unsightly memories for our main cast as ugly or long forgotten truths start to resurface and corrupt the fragile relationships that have been built so far.

My last look into the story of Vanitas no Karte had me perplexed at where the story was going to go, but hopeful that I was going to get the answers I wanted. While I don’t necessarily think I got everything answered, I got pretty damn close. Compared to its first cour, this second ‘season’ really likes to poke at and dig into the stuff that I wanted to see before. Knowledge of the enigmatic Vanitas as well as a further looksee into the pasts of Dominique and Jeanne become prominent story beats in the narrative as the weight of their characters becomes ever more present in the narrative. Which I think does well to flesh out their characters (and traumas more). Again, character study is the theme this time around, as entire episodes are dedicated to explaining the pasts and other various aspects of the show’s characters. And why their emotional attachments lie where they are.

It again touches on the topic of how the negative aspects of our lives affect how we live. The chilling grasp of our regrets and traumas chaining us to events and memories that we want to forget. Drowning ourselves in a false hope of moving forward when all this selfish desire is doing is forcing us to run away from our problems. Dramatic and quite raw in its presentation, I feel like this season just elevated this part of the story so much more as the visceral imagery and topics shown in the characters’ backstories paint really grim pictures at how their twisted motivations became what they are. It really doesn’t let up, and this being one of the series’ boons (as well as Mochizuki Jun’s signature at this point) is why I think Vanitas no Karte is so captivating to watch.

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That being said, the story quality in terms of pacing is where I think this presentation starts to break apart. Particularly in the section regarding the Beast of Gevaudan. Vanitas no Karte is by no means a simple series to digest. There are so many moving parts, character motivations, and raw human emotion that’s being portrayed here. On top of an entire world populated by a variety of vampire, human, and magic laws that build up the background. And we have…12 episodes to talk about it. Suffice to say, the show is very dense, and at times I felt like either something was missing or I had to stop and rewind a bit just to fully understand why and how everything was being done. At the end of the day though, I don’t think I still got it. Now this may just be a part of me not understanding everything, but I’m willing to bet that the show runners struggled in some way to make everything fit and stuff had to be cut. Especially since they apparently progressed the series up to the point of where the manga currently is, so…that’s pretty fast all things considering. Because of this, I think the pacing in Vanitas no Karte is quite wonky and breaks apart at times. Not at all helped by the fact that rushing something like character breakdowns, a notoriously important story element that cannot be rushed, can make certain scenes or moments feel cheap or less impactful.

In spite of that though, I don’t really have many qualms about the story. Sure there’re confusing aspects of the story…as well as a lot of ‘NOPE’ that triggers my fight or flight response, but I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with this show. I would hope that there will be a sequel season sometime in the future. Because there’s something awful to be said about shows that end just when they’re about to get good. And I really don’t want Vanitas no Karte to be one of those shows.

Characters

Vanitas at last getting a backstory episode was uh…not as impactful as I wanted. The enigmatic part of his character is still present since I’m pretty sure we’re still missing a chunk of his backstory, but I will take the nice helping of information I got anyway. My opinion on Vanitas has not changed since the first season since he still kind of carries the same role of annoyingly cryptic bastard that’s occasionally helpful, but doesn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart. My expectations going into this was really if we were going to get a revelation to his backstory or if he was going to change in any significant way that would put a positive spin on his character…and we kinda got half of that. In spite of that though, my verdict really is to just call him a good character. He certainly carries a lot of narrative weight, but does so in tandem with the rest of the cast instead of being the sole provider. Something that’s helped by the fact that he definitely has a standout personality that makes him memorable. With the backstory we did end up getting at least putting in perspective some of his character traits and why he acts the way he does. Does it answer everything though? Absolutely not and I still don’t know what the deal with his terrible personality is. We might get the answer to that in time, but for now, not having it just kind of makes him an irritating puzzle to figure out.

Noe by comparison kind of gets the short end of the stick with most of his attention being put more towards trying to push his character beyond his traumas instead of sullying on them. It’s certainly refreshing in a cast that relies so heavily on what hurt them in the past. But even if it is a standout trait, Noe himself…doesn’t really get that much attention. Because the narrative this time is so centered on what affected people in the past, he kind of just takes a backseat or is put in front of the audience’s view to deal with someone who clearly has a lot going on. A helpful role for sure, but not one that has so much narrative weight that it drastically affects anyone he’s fighting or himself. His little bit of introspection is nice though, so I’ll give him that as an upside.

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Chloe and Misha are our two standout characters by virtue of being new faces in the narrative that each take up half a season each. (Maybe Misha less so, but he definitely shook things up quite a bit.) Each is slapped with a rather hefty backstory that almost immediately puts their motivations and character in perspective. Personally…I’m not really that much of a fan? It doesn’t break up the narrative as much as I thought it would, but it certainly breaks up pacing since important action or story beats stop in their tracks to give a lot of story context before we can progress forward. For me, story writing like this feels a bit forced since it’s made solely to get the audience to care about the immediate character we’re talking about instead of folding the backstory in a more natural way even if the backstory is good and adds really helpful context. Especially since this kind of stuff eats up a lot of runtimes and adds more to the overall density of the story’s presentation. Astolfo also falls into this category, but less so since he kind of just shows up as a part of the narrative at the moment but isn’t as heavily focused as the characters listed above.

Much of the recurring cast like Dominique and Jeanne, as well as other lesser known characters get somewhat thrown to wayside, but less so than I initially expected. They mostly take a backseat to what’s going on, but for the girls in particular, participate in the plot ever so slightly in their own way through you guessed it, more backstory. (Admittedly I may be making the story and characterization sound worse than it actually is. I swear, the characterization is perfect. It’s just entirely told through backstory.) The most I can say about the rest of the characters is that the show up in snippets that matter to their character and form relationships with other relevant characters, but do little else beyond that. The girls certainly get some character development, but something about the way their characters were approached in the story feels a little cheap to me. Maybe it’s just because they didn’t get as much time devoted to them, but they lacked the oomph that I expected them to get in the story even if the nuggets of info that we ended up getting about them were actually pretty good.

Aesthetics

With Bones once again taking the reins of the series, Vanitas no Karte is no less spectacular than it was in its first season…and might actually be more harrowing to watch. Indeed, Mochizuki Jun’s visceral imagery and pained emotions are audibly painted on the screen. But something about this season feels harder to watch. Maybe it’s because the sexual imagery/forceful contact is painted as even more of a bad thing than the previous season. Or the fact that the characters this time often look even more dead inside with more disheveled or mentally exhausted appearances for the characters taking center stage as the traumas of past events resurface for this cast of broken individuals. It’s all very…uncomfortable to watch. And I felt really queasy at times watching this because the atmosphere in Vanitas generally feels really heavy what with the sense of dread and a desire to end one’s life taking over the psyche of multiple characters in this series.

That being said, the show still does have its lighthearted moments and often come at the cost of some hilariously drastic whiplash that I don’t think I can recover from. The deformed chibis with how Vanitas physically abuses and yells at people complimented by ludicrously simple frames for comedic purposes are just…fantastic. It’s such a nice (and dramatic) contrast to what’s normally on-screen that for a second I forget the show that I’m watching, and I can just have a laugh. Plus this shit just comes out of nowhere, so you can’t really anticipate it until it happens.

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Little Green Monster’s “Your Name” is a good song. But it is not as good as the first op, I’m sorry. It’s more of a yearning ballad that focuses more on its vocals rather that its choice of instrument. While it has that nice mysterious beat to it at the beginning I really don’t think it’s that standout of a track when the first opening last season just absolutely killed it in the memorability factor for me. Similarly, Mononkvl’s “salvation” just isn’t that interesting for me. It’s a similar ballad-style song that just doesn’t do it for me. Like it sounds nice and all, but nothing about it really makes me search it out to listen to it again. I’d say that OP wins out this time, but neither songs stand out that much to me, unfortunately.

Overall

Between the first season of Vanitas and now, I’ve read the entirety of Mochizuki Jun’s previous work, Pandora Hearts, in its entirety. So coming back to Vanitas with fresh eyes on understanding the kind of story this woman is capable of…well I can certainly see the similarities.

The raw emotion of how negatively the human psyche reacts to trauma and how desperately it will cling onto the things that it perceives as pillars of safety is a fascinating topic that flows effortlessly into the narrative of this series. While real life certainly isn’t going to devolve to the point of people being so broken that they’ll only become dangerously suicidal, it does bring up an interesting narrative point at how toxic and twisted the bonds and memories we have can become if we chain ourselves to them. (Which chains seem to be something Mochizuki Jun is fond of I’ve learned.) Presentation aside, the narrative beat that the story revolves around is so well done that I can’t really say anything bad on a narrative level about this series. Technically though, I’ve definitely got my issues. But the core is good enough that I’m willing to forgive a few blemishes here and there because I’m sure there are some things behind the scenes that caused those issues to appear. Either that or because she’s so annoyingly cryptic about making a domino effect that she’s just waiting for the narrative to reach a tipping point before letting everything fall apart and for all to be revealed.

I certainly hope that this series gets another season some time in the future because there is so much potential for good stuff here, and I don’t want it to end. Read the manga endings were annoying ten years ago, and they’re still annoying now. So if you have any mercy on me, Bones, you’ll at least say “Hey we’re gonna do another cour” later in a year or so. That’s all I need.

And because I held my judgments until I knew a bit more to the story, I can definitely say that Vanitas no Karte is good… for the right audience. While the show is very good, I will say it has a lot of sections in it that would have issues doing well for a broad audience. Quite frankly, if you’re not interested in the complex interpersonal relationships of people, male and female, interacting each other in ways that are a wide spectrum of gray, then I don’t think this show will be for you. There is a lot to take in with Vanitas no Karte, all of it not very PG with even less of it being happy in most contexts. But if you’re willing to break past those relatively uncomfortable topics, you’ll be rewarded with a series that isn’t afraid to tackle the issues of its characters and how ugly and hard it is to climb over those traumatic mountains.

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Synopsis Vanitas no Karte Part 2 is about Vanitas and Noé Archiviste head out to the town of Gévaudan in search of the "Beast," an enormous wolf-like creature that has slaughtered hundreds of people. Suspecting that the Beast is a curse-bearing vampire, Vanitas primarily aims...Vanitas no Karte Part 2 Review
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