「Noé―花の都にて―」 (Noe―Hana no Miyako Nite―)
“In the City of Flowers”
One of the things that drew me into this week’s episode was the setting. I enjoyed the whimsical glimpse into historical Paris with the old-fashioned cars, the bustling streets of Paris, and passersby in the shopping gallery. (I say historical because as commenters noted last week, some of the details are more steampunk than accurate 19th century. Case in point-ships floating in the air and cars (cars were not widely available until the early 1900’s). I don’t mind this though-it may be anachronistic, but it fits with the steampunk vibes.
The vampire aspect of the setting is cleverly carried through in some of the characters’ names. Count Orlock, the go-between for vampires and humans, shares the name and title of nobility with the vampire in Nosferatu-a 1920’s silent vampire film based on Dracula. The silver haired informer, Johann, may be named after Johann Weikhard Freiherr von Valvasov, who wrote the first vampire book in the late 17th century-before Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Other characters we meet, Jeanne and Luca, make it clear they are no friends of Vanitas. They takes the logical stance that since the book can manipulate vampire names, it must be the origin of the curses and Dr. Vanitas, the perpetrator. I would disagree with them- something beyond logic is occurring here and the explanation will not be so simple. Noé’s teacher seems to have insight into this. The phrasing of the teacher’s request to Noé is interesting-the teacher asks Noé to investigate it, not destroy it-an open-mindedness that points to the book’s secret as being something deeper than the popular view of it as an evil tome.
Noé gets to the heart of the book’s true nature vs. popular opinion-believing that just because the book can manipulate names doesn’t mean it causes the curses. Time and again, Noé returns to Amelia in his mind-wanting to save her from execution, holding her as the reason to Vanitas and his book. No doubt Amelia has now become a dear cause to him because she reminds him of someone else in his past.
Noé shows a curiosity of and compassion for these malnomed vampires that is unusual in a society where such vampires are executed. With the glimpse we get into Noé’s past with a cursed friend or family member doomed to die, it explains his interest in the book (other than what his teacher told him). Coming to understand the book might help him know what happened to his friend and show that she and others like her are/were not worthy of death.
The one whose motivation is not clear is Vanitas. With Vanitas, all I get are questions piled upon questions about his character, which makes him intriguing. Why does Vanitas, a human, have the legendary cursed vampire’s name and book? Why is he able to use this book of vampire magic? Why does he care so much about saving vampires from annihilation? It would make sense if he inherited Vanitas’ book through a family connection, explaining his ability to use the book and his passion for saving vampires.
What also is interesting is Vanitas not being not being a vampire himself but working closely with them as a physician. This gives him a unique perspective on this book compared to vampires raised in a vampire society believing the tome cursed. With his work, Vanitas knows the anatomy of the vampires’ bodies and names much better than maybe even Count Orlock, Luca, and their compatriots. I would trust Vanitas’ usage of the book over society’s condemnation of it. Vanitas’ perspective may be the key to allowing him and Noé to uncover the true secrets of the book in not judging the book by its proverbial cover. As much as Noé complains about his dislike of Vanitas, they are united in their belief that Vanitas’ book is not criminal like the other vampires make it out to be.