Book Review: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 4

August 23, 2018

The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 4 cover

I hope that everyone is still doing well, while making sure that their weekend plans are finalized.

Things are still going fairly well here, as I can still do what I like.

Recently, I received the last couple of books I was expecting this month, and of the two I got, only one remains.

Today, I will be reviewing that last remaining title, which is called The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 4 by Jun Mochizuki.

As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, I will not go over it again.

After getting inside the stronghold of the vampire hunters, Vanitas and Noé get pursued by the hunters, and they must figure out a way to bring an end to the vampire disappearances, with the main objective being to find Dr. Moreau.

However, when they finally meet the mad scientist, they find out that other people are involved, including Charlatan, and a simple question from the mad scientist causes Vanitas to be haunted by the past.

While I have been away from this series for a while, no thanks to the fact that no more than 2 volumes get released each year and I decided to ignore Yen Press's monthly releases, that does not mean that things cannot be enjoyable, especially when I follow another series that only sees one new volume released each year.

And after reading this volume, I must say that I kind of liked it.

From the moment that I opened up and started reading this volume, I found myself so engrossed that I did not want to stop reading for any reason, though not exactly perfectly.

As I have said numerous times already, one of the most important things that a work of fiction must do is draw the reader quickly, so that they can get that temporary escape from reality that they seek.

While this can be accomplished in many different ways, depending on the genre and medium, the best and only real way to accomplish this in a serialization, like manga, is to pick up at point where things left off, and this is how this particular volume approached this.

Even though I am not completely happy with the beginning, because I was scratching my head a bit like I was when I read A Certain Scientific Railgun Volume 13, as I could not really remember what was going on, I found out that things made perfect sense when I glanced through my copy and my review of the previous volume, and helped to not make me feel so lost by starting off with the Vanitas we know meeting Vanitas of the Blue Moon, as was revealed in this volume, though I still had no idea what I was seeing.

Seeing as the previous volume ended with their meeting, albeit in a flashback, this was the best possible way for the first chapter to begin, and, as expected, both Jun Mochizuki and Square Enix, or whoever they had put this volume together, made a great choice on how to start the first chapter and the volume.

If the neither the volume nor the first chapter found inside had started off at this point, I would have probably been satisfied, as there are a few other ways that I could see this working out well in pulling in the reader, but I would have mostly felt I was just as lost as had felt when I read the beginning of the thirteenth volume of A Certain Scientific Railgun.

Fortunately, both Square Enix and Jun Mochizuki did not cause that kind of confusion, and it makes me want to give them a good round of applause for a job well done.

Hopefully, the future installments in the series will be able to start things off just as well as this one did, because that give the series the good impression it deserves in a world where many, including yours truly, are tired of seeing vampire, but because the people at Square Enix, or whoever they had put this volume together, are only human like us, I am ready to pounce on them when they do something stupid.

I also liked how it the experiments conducted by Dr. Moreau were delved into a little.

One of the things that I really liked about Jun Mochizuki, and also a big reason why I consider the mystery genre as it's own genre, rather than it being synonymous with detective fiction and crime fiction, like the rest of the world believes it to be, is how she can provide answers, while at the same time leading me to have more questions about what is going on and what is the real truth, which was something that happened quite a bit in her previous work, Pandora Hearts.

In this series, she continued to do the same thing, by making me wonder if Vanitas of the Blue Moon was really the despicable vampire that everyone thought the were, by having Vanitas, the protagonist, claim that he wants to save vampires, and, as recently as the previous volume, shows Vanitas of the Blue Moon with the children saying, "What cruelty…and wrought upon such young children…".

From seeing these moments, even in a flashback, I wanted to know what kind experiment Dr. Moreau was doing, as well as why Vanitas thought Moreau was possibly involved, other than a button with project number.

While not all of those questions were answered, seeing as mystery series like this depend on having questions presented to keep the reader engaged, it is revealed that Vanitas was a former chasseurs and a subject in the experiments to create reinforced humans that was mentioned in the previous installment and what is seen in the lab, as well as the mad scientist's reactions, suggested that his experiments were pretty horrific to the point where I do not even want to imagine what Vanitas went through.

If Jun Mochizuki had not started to delve into things, I would have been disappointed, because she made her self come off as great writer in her other works that seems to know how a mystery series that cannot be classified as either a work of crime or detective fiction should be handled.

Thankfully, Jun Mochizuki did not forget why her other works were so enjoyable and continue to go about things in a similar manner, which makes me want to give her a good round of applause.

Hopefully, Jun Mochizuki can keep this going right up to the end, like she did in Pandora Hearts, because I am sure that her fans would want to see this series succeed as much as I do, but because Jun Mochizuki is human, like the rest of us, I do not doubt that she might slip up, just like Agatha Christie and so many other writers started to get worse as their careers neared the end, so I am ready for the day I will have to tear into her, as much as I do not want to.

Another thing that I liked was how Vanitas chastised Noé for his idealism.

While I view much of society to be good and much better than the reality that our current civilization hides us from, the one thing that I really hate is how people think that things like chivalry and peaceful negotiations are always the best method.

However, things do not always work out like that, which means that all of us, including myself, have to have the resolve to do things that we do not necessarily want to do, because that is the only way we or those we care about the most can continue to survive, regardless of what society as a whole believes.

And the pages of this volume go into some good reasons why on the most basic and obvious level that a manga like this can.

For example, when Vanitas and Noé are attacked while running, Vanitas attacks a woman, who had an arrow pointed at him, and Noé tried to rebuke him, to which Vanitas replied that it gender does not matter if somebody turns a weapon on him and that he cannot defend himself if he does not have an intent to kill.

Now, I am not exactly in the kind of situation in which I can be merciful, if faced with an attack, like many people would like me to be, but I have to agree with the sentiments Vanitas expresses, because if a man lets a woman kill him, because men are never supposed to attack a woman, there is no guarantee that that man's children and those that depend on him would be able to remain safe, just like there would be no guarantee that a child would be safe if their mother died.

In the case of this series, if Vanitas died here, there would practically be nobody that could help the vampires, because nobody really understands how to use the book of Vanitas, except for maybe one other character that is mentioned in the volume, which means that the vampires will continue living in fear, not to mention that we, as the audience, will not really be able to learn the true purpose of the book.

If Vanitas had given into Noé's thinking, I would have been made at Jun Mochizuki, because Vanitas comes off as a person that does not necessarily follow societal norms, and by having him do an about face, it would have made his character seem unbelievable.

The thing that really made this a nice sight to see though was when Noé got on Vanitas's case once again for creating a hostage situation.

After explaining to Noé the reason when chivalry and gentlemanly behavior is not always the best policy, Vanitas decides to use the woman as a hostage instead, Noé become mad and tries to convince Vanitas to clear up the misunderstanding, to which Vanitas says, "You're always saying things like that! That's why you lot are weak! You have all this power, yet you handicap yourselves until it destroys you."

This really resonated with me, because our current society favors assertiveness, but because of these rules we apply to ourselves, as well as our own desire not to cause other people to suffer, we are creating people that do not have any guts to do what is necessary and things end in death or failure, just like how a struggling comic book shop shut down because they thought their ideals would prevail over customer demand and a publisher they did not like, according to a post by John F. Trent on Bounding Into Comics.

This is why we need to see the good and the bad in people, and is also a reason I do not everything that my peers and elders would want me to, like attempt to help people, before finding out what would really help them, and seeing how Vanitas would do things in the most effective manner, it helped to solidify Vanitas as the kind of person that I thought he was, as well as brought out an emotional moment, even if it was not as meaning as the scene of Oz Vessalius standing up to his father in volume 22 of Pandora Hearts.

If this exchanged did not happen, I would have been disappointed, as I would not be seeing how Noé's character develops to the kind of character that I expected him to behind from the start from the first volume, which explicitly states that Noé will eventually be forced to kill Vanitas after going through a ton of hardship.

Fortunately, Jun Mochizuki remembers the words she wrote down in the beginning and started make some strides to the point where I can believe that Noé would end in a situation where Vanitas's death would affect him, which makes me want to give her another good round of applause.

Hopefully, the bond between these two characters will develop will get fleshed out in the future volumes, because I am expecting to see something great, but I am aware that it might just be possible that this series will fail to live up to the greatness of Pandora Hearts, so I am definitely ready for when things take a bad turn.

There were two things that I liked the most though.

First, I liked how Vanitas started to suffer a breakdown and became haunted the past.

Back in the beginning of this series, when Vanitas was introduced, he seemed like a strange individual, who had possession of a book believed to be myth and shared the name of a vampire that was feared by vampirekind, and I was left wondering what his motivations were, as well as who the real Vanitas was, and that has remained quite bit of a mystery ever since.

However, some time after Vanitas comes face to face with Moreau, he asks Vanitas, whom he calls Number 69, about subject number 71, which catches Va,itas offguard and I am shown some panels featuring some of Vanitas's memories, where a boy plead for Vanitas to give him back his father, as well as a few panels with the same boy asking why Vanitas hates their father, to which Vanitas says in thought that Vanitas of the Blue Moon is a woman and that he will steal her power and use it to exterminate the vampire race.

Later on, we see the boy a few more times talking to Vanitas, even rebuking Vanitas for not keeping his promise.

Even though we do not exactly know whether this person is alive or dead at this point in the series, though his status is being hinted as alive in this volume, it makes me even more interested in finding out more about the current Vanitas, and why is really doing what he is doing, because I get the feeling that there is something that happened that he deeply regrets and that boy is involved.

Seeing all of this play out, I get the strong urge to continue with series to find out the truth about Vanitas, though it is not strong enough that I would ever get the individual chapters that Yen Press releases.

If Jun Mochizuki did not pique my interest in Vanitas and what exactly happened when he was with Vanitas of the Blue Moon, I would have been disappointed, because I would have felt like I would never get any answers, not to mention that it would feel like Jun Mochizuki would have forgotten the importance of making the reader focus on different things to the point where they cannot determine what info is the most important.

Luckily, she did not forget to do things like this, and it really got me interest in getting the next volume right now, even though it does not come out until 2019, according to the product page on Amazon.

The second thing that caught my interest, which stood out just as much as the moments where I wanted to know more about Vanitas's past, was how another group started to make their move and that they may have been around from the beginning.

While this is not something that is necessarily new for Jun Mochizuki, seeing as there were secrets hidden early on in each work from Crimson-Shell to this series, especially consider how the Baskervilles were so mysterious at the beginning of Pandora Hearts, Jun Mochizuki is still able to write things in a way in which it adds more to the mysteries of the world, and has me wondering what their motive is, as well as if they are good or evil.

If I had to say why it adds in something here, it would have to because somebody who had already been introduced started to make a move and made Noé swear to obey him without question for only one moment.

Later on, before the suggestion that subject number 71 might still be alive, Vanitas asks Jeanne if she is a curse-bearer, if she saw Charlatan, and bunch of different questions, there is a panel with somebody demanding Jeanne to swear to something, just like how Noé was forced to swear something in this volume, which causes Jeanne to wonder what she would do if she hurt Luca one day.

With how similar things were between what happened to Noé and Jeanne were, it makes me wonder if this group that showed up after Noé realized Charlatan and a few other threads connected were responsible for what happened to her, as well as if this will play a part in what causes Noé to kill Vanitas at the end of the series.

Seeing how it is still fairly early in the series, and it is nobody knows how long this series will be, except for Jun Mochizuki, her editor, and Square Enix, I kind of doubt that I will be getting any answers any time soon, but it still makes me even more excited to find out more about these people and what will happen the next time Vanitas encounters them, thereby making me even more interested in getting my hands on the next volume as soon as possible.

If Jun Mochizuki had not had an enemy group moving so soon, I would have probably been okay, as there are still plenty of other questions that give me an incentive to continue reading through this series, but I would not be getting the feeling that there is so much that is unknown as there is, and the connection that had been established in this volume would been wasted, which would have lessened my enjoyment with the volume.

Thankfully, Jun Mochizuki did not let something slip away, and made things even more interesting.

Hopefully, Jun Mochizuki keeps bringing more questions and interesting moments to the table as the series goes on, but because deliver gold on a consistent basis is next to impossible, I would not be surprised if things get less interesting.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out as much as what I already talked about.

Because my interest was captured quickly and held right up until the end, by picking things up right where the previous installment left off, a bit of light was shed on Dr. Moreau's experiments, Vanitas chastised Noé for his idealism and optimism, which might help to develop his character as the series goes on, Vanitas started to become haunted by the past, which revealed both things about his past and gave me more questions, and an enemy group seems to have cropped up that were active since the beginning of the series, this was a fairly decent read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, and one thing that can be inferred from what I already said, nothing really seemed to bother me too much.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering how there was so much to like, especially with all of the questions that cropped up in this volume, and nothing to really hate, unless you want to be really nitpicky, this was definitely worth reading.

I mainly recommend this to fans of The Case Study of Vanitas and Jun Mochizuki, as they will be able to enjoy this the most.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, but because it picks up where the previous entry ended, it would be better to read the previous volumes first.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider donating as little as $1/month to me on Patreon, or either buy The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 4 or preorder the fifth installment from Book Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so that I can continue following this series and possibly find more worthwhile reads for you guys to check out.

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