Vanitas no Carte is an alternate history fantasy show about a world where vampires live amongst humans in the 19th century. The story focuses on a young man named Vanitas who possesses the grimoire called The Book of Vanitas and uses it to heal cursed vampires. The vampire Noé Archiviste joins Vanitas in his quest to save cursed vampires. On the surface, Vanitas is a mystery fantasy drama, as it follows an almost detective show format of new clues unfolding as new characters are introduced.
However, if we look just a little bit closer, the subtext of the story is saying a lot more. Vampires have always had a sensual allure to them throughout history. Jun Mochizuki emphasizes this by giving every act of sucking blood a heavily sexual undertone. Through its characters, Vanitas no Carte explores concepts of love, desire, and salvation. Let’s focus on three central characters of season 1 of Vanitas no Carte to further explore these ideas.
Vanitas- The Nihilistic Desire
From the get-go, Vanitas has shown to have a certain madness to him. He takes nothing seriously and is unfazed by almost everything. With a constant playful grin on his face, he does whatever he pleases, however, he pleases to. He is impulsive and reckless and jumps headfirst into fatal situations with zero regards for himself. Upon meeting Jeanne for the first time, he immediately confessed his love to her and kissed her.
Vanitas’s attitude towards life and love likely stems from his traumatic childhood. As such he expects nothing good to come out of people or situations and pursues pleasure for the sake of nothing. In a very telling scene, Jeanne is struck by an uncontrollable thirst for blood.
Vanitas readily offers himself, knowing full well it may very well lead to his death. When Jeanne asks him why he’s doing it, Vanitas doesn’t have an answer for her. Vanitas may describe his feelings towards Jeanne to be a form of love but as viewers, we can identify it as a depressive nihilistic pursuit of danger for the sake of it.
Noe- The Curious Desire
Noe Archiviste is simpleton. Though empathetic and intuitive, Noe is often distracted by new things and new paths like a child. Noe has rigid morals and values set for himself that he follows to the bitter end. However, he is equally understanding of other people’s convictions and flexibility in morality, as seen by his acceptance of Vanitas and his ways.
Noe’s desires manifest in a very childlike form as well. While he himself doesn’t understand the nature and depth of his desires, he nonetheless seeks their fulfillment. He will get intrigued by his own emotions and those around them and try to understand them as a student does.
He’ll follow whatever new path comes his way to its exhaustion and get distracted when a new one comes. This explains his obliviousness towards Domi’s feelings for him while still being extremely close to her.
Jeanne- Submission to Desire
Jeanne is a fearsome fighter. However, she has lived a life of enslavement. Jeanne used to be a Bourreau, an enslaved vampire entrusted with slaughtering their kin when she was born a vampire during the War.
Before being put into a century-long coma by her lord, Lord August Ruthven, she slaughtered over a thousand other vampires. The War was done when she awoke, and she was appointed Chevalier of Ruthven's nephew, Lucius Oriflamme, as his bodyguard.
A victim of twisted fate, Jeanne suffers an unknown condition that leaves her uncontrollable craving for blood. As such, through no fault of her own, Jeanne is a slave to her desires. When Jeanne sucked Vanitas’s blood for the first time, it was a moment of pleasure for Vanitas. For Jeanne, the same was an agonizing experience. Though pleasurable, Jeanne had no control over her desires and hence was completely helpless in the situation.
As the story progresses and Vanitas builds a trustworthy relationship, Jeanne seems to give in to her desires more easily around Vanitas. Indicating that one can find immense pleasure under enslavement to their desires if they are in a safe environment.